Liberal MP Rob Oliphant is his party's veteran's affairs critic, and he spent this past Friday's End of an Era memorial, which commemmorated the passing of Canada's last World War I veteran, in Halifax. I caught up with Oliphant after Question Period to ask him about his trip.
Q: Your trip to Halifax – how was that?
A: Halifax was a quick trip to take part in the Vimy Ridge commemorations. The leader was where in Ottawa at the National Ceremony, and most of the provincial capitals had one, but Toronto didn’t have one – there was no ceremony in Toronto. So I looked at the other ones and decided to go to Halifax because it’s probably the largest military base-city in the country with army, air force and navy as well as veterans.
Q: Now that you’ve taken on this critic portfolio, does going to these kinds of events have any kind of additional resonance for you?
A: It does. A couple of things have happened. One is that I get to talk to current soldiers, who are in the Canadian Forces, whereas I didn’t really have much contact before, and I’m pretty constantly impressed with their motivations, which I’m really pleased to see. They generally join the Canadian Forces to serve the country and to help people. I don’t think it’s just rhetoric, I think it’s exactly what they’re doing. The second thing is that these events, like the Vimy Ridge Day, largely attract traditional veterans from World War II or Korea, whose numbers are small but whose age is great, and it’s always a warm experience. You leave the House of Commons in kind of a world-weary feeling, and you meet these guys, and they’re really quite positive, and they’re really quite generous, so that’s good.
Q: It’s Day of Pink – you’re wearing your pink tie today. Do you have any particular sentiments around it?
A: During the break week, I had “Coffee and Conversation with Rob.” I had about five of them in the riding, public gatherings, which range in numbers from twelve people to forty at each of them. At one of the larger ones, which were about thirty-five or thirty-six people, several people brought their kids. It was in Flemington Park, and one of the young girls, who’s in Grade Five, said ‘Mr. Oliphant, what can you do about bullying, particularly around race and gender?’ That’s a direct quote. I took her aside and I said let’s talk about this. I talked about the fact that as a Member of Parliament I can model non-bullying activity, and I can talk to her principal about making sure that the school has appropriate policies are in place, but most importantly, I can help kids who are being bullied, to say stand up straight, remember who you are, and be proud every day. So that’s what I talk to the kids about when I’m with them – not knowing who gets bullied, but I’ll say there were days when I was bullied when I was a kid, and you stand up proud and say who you are and what you’re made of, and you do that. So I wore my pink tie today.