My wife and son became Canadian citizens recently. At the beginning of the ceremony it was announced that there would be 2 special guests attending. Those guests were “representatives” of two of our local Members of Parliament (MPs). I use representatives in quotations here for a very good reason which I’ll get to in a minute. Both representatives had speeches prepared for the 40 new Canadians being inducted during the morning session. During one of those speeches the representative announced that the (paraphrasing a bit here) “MP wanted to be here but couldn’t because some other politician was in town and they needed to make a joint announcement…”
Now Stephen Woodworth and Peter Braid might be nice guys. But I don’t think they made a very smart decision missing a citizenship ceremony and there’s a couple of reasons: a) they sent representatives that appeared to have rushed over from some other task (it appeared that it was a last-minute thing for them), and more importantly b) they’re missing out on the induction of 40 new voters and their families. I’ll expand on the first point first. While some of the group of inductees were not in formal ware, most people had suits or dresses. Canadian citizenship is a long process, it takes approximately 5 years to become a Canadian citizen and many people have to go through significant hardship to reach this important day. The representatives we saw from both MPs offices were dressed down enough that they looked like the event was an afterthought. The second point is perhaps more important, 40 potential new voters and their families. In my wife’s case we had 7 other Canadian born citizens in attendance. What an opportunity this is to really get to know a significant group of voters. From what I understand there was a second ceremony taking place later in the day (up to 80 voters/day). So up to 80 potential voters plus their families were ignored in favour of an “announcement with another politician.”
I think that I wouldn’t have really noticed if the representatives looked like representatives, well dressed, articulate and genuine. But it seemed more like one more thing on their long to-do list. Remember this is the culmination of 5 years of someone’s life, it’s a pretty significant event. You can bet that many of those new citizens are feeling pretty good about themselves. Then they meet some pleasant politician who congratulates them and makes them feel like they really are a part of the system. Which reminds me of one last thought. While studying for the citizenship test Stephen Woodworth’s name came up a couple of times because my wife and son needed to know he was the Kitchener MP for the test. Being able to put a face to the name (a magnate is not a very good representation of who you are) is important, people will remember you.
And if that single local politician was important enough why not bring him/her along? As a bit of an aside I remember when Stephan Dion came to town and I met both him and Elizabeth Witmer, our local MPP. I recall I didn’t think much of Stephan, but Elizabeth seemed very genuine and she’s proven to me her community involvement over the years. As one other family member stated they (MP’s) “chose a photo-op over this opportunity.” Whether that statement is true or fair it does represent the view of a number of your constituents and some of your new constituents. If there’s one thing I keep thinking about it’s the fact that this is 5 years leading up to this event for most (in some cases longer), it’s a great opportunity missed…