Welcome to Parliament

Chapter 2: Desire to Do Politics Differently

Overriding nearly all of these descriptions was a stated desire to do politics differently. Few were happy with the status quo. For many MPs, this desire to approach public life in a new way echoed sentiments expressed when describing their motivations for running in the first place.

Many articulated a concern that the system was moving in the wrong direction and that politics were shifting away from citizens. “I ran on an unofficial platform but one that was very clear to me. It consisted of what I was hearing over and over again at the doorstep: ‘If we elect you, we want you to take our message to Ottawa, and not the other way around.’ That reflected, I think, the concern that the previous government simply didn’t listen,” one MP said.

Another MP put it this way, “To me, the whole point of Parliament was to create change, to create good change. It wasn’t to keep the status quo. I didn’t leave my family and my city and a life to let somebody else tell me what to do, or to roll along with the flow,” she said.

Several MPs described wanting to change how politics were conducted, or how politicians acted. “The challenge is to figure out how we break this cycle... [and to create] a tone that was at least grudgingly respectful,” said one MP. Another described how he hoped to lead by example, saying that he refused to engage in partisan bickering. “I’m not out there to smear people. I am from an immigrant family, and I took enough of that abuse when I was young. I didn't like it then, and I don’t like it now. I wouldn’t do it to someone else,” he said.

For others, this desire to contribute to a different sort of politics was linked to one of the unexpected findings in our first report: how many MPs described feeling as though they were outside the political mainstream. This outsider self-identification was articulated in a number of ways, including as a matter of personal identity or of a particular socio-economic status. It stood in direct contrast to the traditional public perception of a politician as a consummate insider.

So perhaps unsurprisingly, many MPs expressed a desire to bring their own variation of the outsider sentiment to Parliament. MPs, both male and female, noted the influence women had on changing the tone and substance of politics. “Women do thing differently,” said one female MP, noting several policy areas, such as old age security, that women had influenced. “I was told by people who were there before me… that Parliament has become more civilized [because of women’s participation],” she added. “Women bring a different perspective,” said another MP.

Many MPs articulated how they sought to bring their particular constituency—whether defined by geography, culture or status—closer to government. “My biggest concern was… [giving] people an opportunity to be part of our society,” said one MP. “I think there was a notion that somehow the average Canadian could take back Parliament and show that we can behave differently,” said another.

Some of the words mps used to describe their job
Word Cloud