Nourish your hopes, but do not overlook realities

This is my first blog since the federal election where I had the honour of being re-elected as the Member of Parliament for Durham on a night that saw our Conservative government go down to defeat. I head into the 42nd Parliament as the MP for my hometowns and I am humbled and excited by this role. I will remain a strong advocate for our area and champion for the people and issues that deserve attention. This historic election campaign also warrants a few observations that I think are worth sharing.

First, for me the word that comes to mind for election night is Bittersweet. I won the trust of my community, but also lost the ability to continue my work for veterans and their families. I saw many of my good friends from Parliament go down in defeat in their ridings. From Atlantic Canada to Ontario to the West, many passionate and effective parliamentarians were defeated. These people are my friends and it pains me to see their desire to serve cut short. Most did not lose because of their own record but because there was a wave of change that swept many out of office before their time.

I have been looking back at my time as Minister of Veterans Affairs and while I am disappointed that I will no longer have this special role, I am proud of the exceptional work done by my team. My ministerial office was assembled from a group that included veterans, people from the public and private sectors and some top political aides. Everyone was there to help make progress for veterans and support my “Veteran-centric” approach. Many stepped away from the security of other jobs to help me with my mission and our team became very close.  I am incredibly proud of this team and all that was accomplished in a short period of time. We were able to modernize parts of Veterans Affairs and help create a new working culture with passionate VAC employees. We introduced and passed new benefits and supports through Parliament that are already helping injured veterans and their families across the country. I was able to use my position to shine light on issues I have worked on since I left the military a decade ago like mental health and veteran employment.  The experience meeting hundreds of inspiring veterans from across the country has enriched my life and will remain with me forever.

The Liberal Party ran a professional and almost error-free campaign and they should be congratulated on their convincing win. While their local campaign seemed at odds with the general tone of the national campaign, Justin Trudeau ran a generally positive campaign and performed well over a long campaign.  Our Parliament reflects the will of the people and they voted for a change in government. I respect that and will apply equal vigor to my new role in the opposition.

I have a final thought on the mandate the new Liberal government received on election night. People voted for change, but my experience knocking on thousands of doors in Ontario and several other provinces tells me that people did not want “change” to set Canada back. The Liberal campaign slogan was “Hope and Hard Work”, but their election promises and policies seemed more intended to respond to headlines of the day than to set a course for long term prosperity. Many of the Liberal promises are not supported by the majority of Canadians and will set Canada’s economy, security and role in the world back. Winston Churchill once said; “Nourish your hopes, but do not overlook realities”.  The new Liberal government nourished Hope throughout the campaign, but the Hard Work of governing means that you must have the ability to make difficult decisions when faced with the realities of the complex world we live in. It will be an interesting Parliament.

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