50 things I love about politics
50 things I love about politics

50 things I love about politics

"That's just politics!" So goes the saying. But what is "just politics?" With quite a different perspective, Pat O'Brien celebrates politics as an intensely human and personal pursuit.

Appears in Spring 2007 Issue: Things we love
March 1 st 2007

After twenty-five years in elected office—as a school board trustee for two years, city councillor for eleven years, and Member of Parliament for twelve years—I have many fond memories of politics and the political process. What follows is a list of 50 of the things I love about politics, although my list could be longer . . .

  1. Door-knocking, and engaging the voters face to face on their doorsteps. Interested citizens tell me their election issues, in spite of the attempt of some in the media to tell all of us what the issues are in the campaign, often incorrectly.

  2. Working very hard with a team of volunteers, men and women, young and old, to earn the right for one person to represent thousands of people in the elected forum.

  3. Relaxing with friends, old and new—volunteers all—and, with sore, tired feet, after a long day of campaigning, enjoying a good, cold beer.

  4. Attending all-candidates meetings and giving people honest, straight-forward answers to their questions.

  5. Telling insolent voters that I will not sell out my beliefs for their votes. Fortunately, this wasn't necessary very often.

  6. Feeling the incredible support of family, friends, and volunteers each and every day of a grueling campaign.

  7. Teaching eager but novice volunteers how to campaign successfully, especially by assuming nothing on the basis of a lawn sign.

  8. Praying for victory at church on Sundays when we do not campaign, but we refresh.

  9. Crossing off the days on the campaign chart especially as election day draws near.

  10. Voting for myself, in the sincere, but humble belief that I am the best person on the ballot for that particular office.

  11. Colouring in, at the end of the day, the streets walked by me and the candidate canvas team on the map of the electoral district.

  12. Always trying personally to outwork every opponent in the race, right up to election day.

  13. Celebrating victory election night knowing that, although I am the one in the spotlight, the victory belongs to many, many people. Relatively few Canadians ever enjoy this privilege, and I was blessed to enjoy it nine times in nine attempts, because of wonderful, dedicated volunteers, friends and family.

  14. The deep feeling of elation, gratitude, and humility as I thank my loved ones, my volunteers , and especially my supporters, all of whom were indispensable in making our team victory a reality.

  15. Pledging honest, hard working, accessible representation to all the people of my riding, supporters and non-supporters alike, and meaning it sincerely.

  16. The feeling of tired satisfaction on the day after re-election to a public office, when I reflect on the fact that people had my record to judge, and they democratically chose me again to represent them.

  17. The sense of closure when all the signs are down and the clean-up over.

  18. Reading the results in the media, even though I know them already. Somehow, this is a comforting verification of victory.

  19. Being sworn in to office with my wife and family at my side, and feeling so honoured to have this opportunity to serve, and make an important contribution to my community and country.

  20. Taking my seat for the first time after the election, as the elected body convenes to begin the people's work.

  21. Speaking as a Member of Parliament in the Parliament of Canada, knowing that I earned that right with the help of so many people.

  22. Voting in any elected forum when I play a role in making a decision that I truly believe is for the good of my constituents.

  23. Tackling a problem for a constituent and communicating a successful result often after much effort by my staff and myself.

  24. Being interviewed by an informed, professional, fair-minded media person, which is all too rare an experience.

  25. Stating my beliefs honestly, passionately, and respectfully on important issues of the day.

  26. Meeting elected people from other countries, and learning more about their nations and their issues.

  27. Travelling to other countries to represent Canada as the nation's spokesperson at important functions and meetings.

  28. Hearing the admiration of other people for the nation we are building in Canada.

  29. Working to help other nations achieve a better, more just, and peaceful future for themselves.

  30. Chairing a meeting of elected people who are co-operative, informed, and sincere in wanting to do their work well for the good of our people.

  31. Appreciating a good staff team who work hard to help me do my work as an elected representative.

  32. Interacting with the so-called "little people" on Parliament Hill: the shuttle drivers, the security people, the cleaners, the food services people, and treating them with the respect they deserve and appreciate. There are no "little people," only people.

  33. Showing the elected chamber to people who have never seen it, and explaining how it functions.

  34. Arranging a meeting and a photo with the Prime Minister for friends and volunteers, and seeing how much they enjoy the experience, and knowing that I am properly saying "Thank you" to them.

  35. Empowering a person or group of people by teaching them how to have their voices heard most effectively in the political debate they care about so much.

  36. Welcoming new citizens at Citizenship Court.

  37. Ensuring that a person who wants to vote but is experiencing problems, actually gets to cast a ballot.

  38. Teaching young Canadians about our political system in the hope that they will participate as adults.

  39. Laughing with my best elected friend, John O'Reilly, after the long work day ends.

  40. Returning home to my great wife, Evelyn, and our children, after each week's sitting in Ottawa ended.

  41. Enjoying those times when I don't have to leave home because the House is in recess, and I can concentrate on my constituency work.

  42. Almost every day on Parliament Hill, discovering some beautiful new detail in the buildings where I feel privileged and honoured to work.

  43. Fielding a tough, aggressive question in Question Period, and giving a good, snappy answer which bests the questioner.

  44. Representing the Prime Minister of Canada personally at any international function, and speaking to that effect, especially in honour of our war dead and surviving veterans.

  45. Increasing the recognition and appreciation of the incredible contribution of the Irish to Canada.

  46. Explaining the Canadian coat-of-arms to people in order to show that we have been a multi-cultural nation from day one, not a bi-cultural nation.

  47. Travelling extensively in Canada to get to know our awesome geography better, and especially our good and varied people.

  48. Meeting so many interesting people from presidents, monarchs, prime ministers, and celebrities to so many fascinating "regular' people in Canada, and abroad.

  49. Travelling as a Member of Parliament with the Prime Minister of Canada to the land of my ancestors, and doing some good work to help further the cause of peace and reconciliation in Ireland.

  50. Knowing that I have been able to do some good as an elected person, while staying true to my values and beliefs.
Pat O'Brien
 
Pat O'Brien

Pat O'Brien is a former Canadian Member of Parliament, serving as a Liberal M.P. from October 1993 to June 2005, when he resigned from the Liberal caucus to sit as an Independent until the last Canadian general election in which he declined to stand for re-election.

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