Reader urges MPs in large ridings to spend more time visiting constituents

by Phil Somers, South Frontenac

Inspired by comments from numerous residents of the former federal riding of Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington, I developed a petition to the House of Commons. These comments had the common theme that many residents had never seen their MP in their part of the riding in the 13 or so years that he had been their MP. The petition reads as follows:

PETITION TO THE HOUSE OF COMMONS IN PARLIAMENT ASSEMBLED

We, the undersigned residents of Canada, draw the attention of the House of Commons to the following:

THAT Members of Parliament represent all the people in their ridings;

THAT some ridings are quite large;

THAT some Members of Parliament in large ridings rarely, if ever, visit large parts of their ridings;

THAT many constituents of some large ridings have never seen their sitting Member of Parliament, despite needing to and wanting to;

THAT some Members of Parliament from large ridings spend extremely tiny portions of their travel budgets visiting their riding, including ridings where many constituents are complaining that their Member of Parliament never travels to their parts of the riding;

THAT constituents are entitled to have the opportunity of meeting with and speaking with their Member of Parliament to express their opinions and views, and to discuss issues of importance to them;

THEREFORE, your petitioners call upon the Government of Canada and Parliament to encourage all Members of Parliament to regularly visit all parts of their ridings, especially in large ridings, to ensure that their constituents have adequate opportunity to interact with their representative in Parliament.

After getting many signatures on the petition, I delivered it to the MP’s constituency office in Carleton Place. Eventually, on April 1st, 2015, the MP presented the petition in the House of Commons. I watched it live on CPAC TV, noting the irony that it was April Fools Day. With a twinkle in his eye, the MP said “Those of us who represent large ridings will understand the reasons why constituents would like to see us travel to all parts of our ridings as much as possible.” He obviously understood that the main focus of this petition was his riding and his own travels throughout the riding. The official government response to this petition pointed out that MPs are provided with adequate resources to visit their constituents, and those in large ridings are provided with increased travel allowances.

This MP places a high priority on not wasting any taxpayers’ money to visit them in their parts of the riding. He has reported a number of times that he spends little or no money on travel, even claiming to spend the least of any MP in all of Canada. Here is one example from his web site. “During the second quarter of fiscal year 2014-2015, [he] spent $0 in five out of eight expense categories – service contracts, travel, gifts, advertising, and printing – and his $33.14 in hospitality spending places him within the lowest-spending 20 of Canada’s 308 MPs that served throughout the full fiscal quarter.” Visiting and communicating with his constituents does not seem to be a high priority. Is it little wonder so few have ever seen him in their parts of the riding?

Let’s hope that the next MP in the newly-formed riding of Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston will be more interested in visiting all parts of the riding on a regular basis.