Parry Sound Muskoka MP, Tony Clement is featured in a new book on MPs that ventures out of the bubble of academia and Ottawa into their ridings where they connect with the people who elected them. Launched this Summer, Representation in Action asks the question whether MPs are trained seals or whether they have freedom to choose how they represent their constituents. Three authors shadowed 11 MPs from all the major parties; they were on the ground with them as they attended and travelled between events, held meetings or knocked on doors allowing for a more intimate view into the life of an MP.
Author Heather Bastedo shadowed Tony Clement, the only MP examined in the book that was also a high profile cabinet minister, at the time. “The biggest surprise, says Bastedo, is how committed he was to the riding. The guy is out there knocking on doors and listening. And he was a cabinet minister…they (constituents) know him and he knows them and in a world of very cynical politics getting back to some basics goes a long way.”
MPs were found to differ in how they connected with their constituents and represented them in Ottawa. They were both extroverts and introverts, some were Party, policy or Ottawa driven others built connections by understanding the unique character of their communities. Tony Clement is portrayed primarily as a service focused MP, adapting to the needs of Parry Sound Muskoka and reaching out to see how he can help. His activity in the riding is described as intense, providing important symbolic and real connections. Bastedo delves into how Clement’s political career with its share of victories and losses has shaped his emphasis on personal connections that may weather any fate his Conservative party may face.
Why is it important how MP’s choose to connect and represent their constituents? Bastedo says how constituents feel about their MP is often how they feel about government, it’s their connection to Ottawa and to democracy as a whole. “The difference in the ways MPs choose to represent often reflects their feeling about what being a good MP is, says Bastedo, but the key is they get to decide.”
Representation in Action – Canadian MPs in the Constituencies, Authors, Heather Bastedo, Royce Koop and Kelly Blidook
Published by UBC Press
Available on Amazon