Where Were They? Highlighting MP Absenteeism

January 11th, 2012 - D. Stone

The NDP leadership race is on. It has been on for over a month now and a round of young and old candidates have stepped up to the plate. One of Jack Layton's biggest pet peeves was absenteeism amongst Canadian MPs. It was one of his strongest debate points against former Liberal leader, Michael Ignatieff. Since his death and the NDP's surge to prominence, few of the NDP leadership hopefuls seem to have lived up to their king's wishes.

Among the eight wannabe leaders, there is not one that has had fewer than twenty-five absences in the first fall session of the 41st parliament, except of course the two hopefuls who do not have elected seats; Brian Topp and Martin Singh.

Robert Chisolm, who recently dropped out of the NDP leadership race, citing his lack of French, had 42 absences in the first session of parliament. Paul Dewar has had 45 absences. Among the eight leadership hopefuls, Romeo Saganash has the highest absentee record at 65 missed votes. Thomas Mulcair is not far behind with his 57 absences. Not a single NDP leadership candidate seems as capable of showing up to vote on important bills as some of their peers, such as Yvon Godin or Joe Comartin who have only missed 3 or 4 votes, respectably. Among the NDP leadership candidates, Nikki Ashton has the fewest absences. Out of the top ten most absent candidates in the first session of the 41st parliament, 6 of them are New Democrats according to How'd They Vote (howdtheyvote.ca).

The highest absences in the House Of Commons belongs to Bloc MP, Maria Mourani, who has missed well over 70 votes in the first session. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, has missed under 20 votes, despite his busy schedule.

Bob Rae, who has missed nearly 50 votes in the first session has gone on record to say, “I'm on the road. I'm rebuilding the country,” when questioned about his absenteeism. He went on to further note that his absentee record is “not a meaningful statistic”, according to the Globe and Mail.

Romeo Saganash's handlers and campaign team have gone on record to say, “Romeo has been on the campaign trail nearly three months and has balanced that with a lot of time in his riding.” These types of excuses may leave competent, punctual MPs and Canadian voters with relevant questions. How could Mr. Harper travel to Washington, attend summits, travel across Canada, and show up to over 70% of the votes in the House Of Commons? Why can't other MPs show up to do their jobs while still campaigning?

Above all, there seems to be a deficit in personal accountability in Canada's parliament. While most Canadians are going to their jobs daily and having their pay cheques deducted to pay the salaries of their federal and provincial members of parliament, those same members of parliament are taking days off without any reasonable cause. Without giving too much credit to our Prime Minister, it must also be noted that he, too, was absent during nearly 50% of the previous session of parliament.

What is most disturbing in all of this is the attitudes and blatant arrogance of several MPs. From Bob Rae's defiance to Romeo Saganash's excuses, Canadians ought to take a much stronger stand against unwarranted absenteeism. Our members of parliament are our employees. Most of us would be reprimanded, fired, and jobless following only a handful of unexplainable absences – let alone over 70 in under one year. Such absentee records are disgraceful. They are a painful and insulting slap in the face for most hard working Canadians. As Canadians, and as employers, it is entirely up to us to act against such despicable behaviour and blatant disregard within the ranks of our parliament.


Relevant Links:  Globe & Mail