Continuing our look at our usual MPs in the final weeks of the sitting, I caught up with Liberal MP Rob Oliphant after Question Period today.
Q: What do you have on your plate for the last five weeks of sitting?
A: Veterans Affairs [committee] is winding up our study on the New Veterans’ Charter, so that takes a lot of my time right now, to try to figure out what’s wrong with the changes that were made in 2006, how we improve the lives of veterans, particularly new, younger, injured veterans – that’s my priority. That report we hope will be released before the end of the session, so trying to get that out. I continue my work with multicultural engagement, working with various communities around the country. The leader and members of our caucus will be travelling all summer, so we’re now setting up meetings and times, and making sure that communities know that we’re listening and we want to have a chance to do that. That takes up quite a bit of time. In the riding, it is the season for festivals, events, street parties, fundraisers, walks – every weekend, one day I think I have nine events. There is the UJA walk, the Aga Khan Foundation Walk, there’s a values-for-something walk, there’s Taiwanese Canadian events. The weekends are full of festivals and events and picnics, and in July I’ll take a week off to recover.
Q: Do you think the sitting will be extended because of prorogation, or will the oppressive heat of Ottawa's summer cut it short?
A: I have no idea. I’m ready to work.
Q: All the meetings that Michael Ignatieff had with cultural groups last week, was that part of your multicultural outreach?
Q: So that was the first taste of what we’re going to start seeing?
A: Yes. He’s out there.
Q: I can’t let you go without asking, you put out the release today about opening up your books on your expenses, and I know you sit next to Michelle Simpson, who has become the gold standard for MP disclosure – are you using her model for that?
A: I think my statements are quite different from hers. We have different work, different ridings, I have my critic responsibilities so you have travel and that kind of stuff. I use my accounting background to come up with a template that I think will answer the questions that should be answered. Hopefully people will look at it. Sometimes as an accountant you worry that you’re looking at it as an accountant, and other people ask different questions, so I put it out there. If it works, it works, and if people want more information, we’ll add more information.
Q: Do you think that this issue has become overblown – the Auditor General herself said this isn’t about the individual receipts of MPs, but the broader operations of the House of Commons, the 85 percent of expenditures that aren’t MPs expenses?
A: The media are making the issue, not me. The reality is I think that MPs as a group are an honest group. I think MPs are public servants, they’re trying their best. I think they work hard. I think there’s a sense that MPs are not under control – I think they are. I think full disclosure will ease that. If we drop the temperature, let’s get on to talking about a fifty-billion-dollar-plus deficit, let’s talk about a billion dollars for security for the G8/G20, let’s talk about maternal health and reproductive health in Africa, let’s talk about internally displaced people in Sri Lanka, let’s talk about the issues we need to talk about.