West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country MP John Weston has pledged to have at least a part-time presence in every community in his riding — not easy to do with a limited budget, not to mention the largest riding in Canada by population and the fourth largest by area.
“There is a budget of $336,000 for each MP, which is all we have to rent space in Ottawa and at home, and to hire our personnel, everything,” the rookie Conservative MP said. “There are 125,000 people in this riding with diverse needs, not least with the Olympics coming and the world at our doorstep. One of my jobs as an MP is to ensure there are legacies, and that we deliver all the opportunities of hosting the Games.
“Other communities have their issues as well, and I look forward to meeting with local governments after the Nov. 15 election and getting a list of two or three priorities for those communities to take with me to Ottawa. I don’t want to leave any part of the riding unrepresented.”
Weston has hired a transition team to help him plan his next steps. He says there will be full time and part-time offices in his riding, as well as staff that will be available to the public. He hopes to announce office hours and contact information over the next few weeks.
“That’s one area where my experience setting up offices in Canada and Asia has been an asset, although it’s not something that really comes up in the campaign,” he said. “There is a lot of work you have to do to have a presence in your riding, and you have limited resources to work with, so that experience has really come in handy.”
Weston says he realized three days after the election that he would need a business plan to work from, as well as a transition team with a variety of skills and working experience.
As well, he will launch a new website shortly and plans to have a part-time IT person on staff in the future. He wants to use technology to stay in touch with his constituents and staff, and is looking at everything from e-mail to online calendars to video conferencing. When Parliament is in session, he will be in Ottawa three out of every four weeks, he says, and he plans to spend part of his time at home touring the riding and meeting with community leaders and constituents. The next session of Parliament sits on Nov. 18.
While Weston was not given a position in cabinet, he says he hopes to serve on committees. As well he hopes to work with whomever is named as David Emerson’s successor as minister responsible for the Olympics. More than half of all Olympic events, including events at Cypress Mountain and Whistler, fall within his riding,
“I expect by (Nov. 18) to be given assignments, which would be in addition to my first job of being the MP for the constituents of this riding,” he said.
Weston was elected with almost 45 per cent of the votes, and 11,000 more votes than runner-up Ian Sutherland of the Liberal Party. He also won the majority of votes in most communities of the riding, which he did not expect.
Whether you voted for him or not, Weston says he will work to represent everyone in a way that is consistent with his values.
He also knows that Canada has no appetite for another election, after three elections in the past four years. To be effective, he says he looks forward to working with other parties at every level, from the House to the committee level, to address issues like the economic crisis.
Weston has already been sworn in, and taken his first tour of Parliament. He also requested an office beside North Vancouver MP Andrew Saxton, which borders on his riding and shares many of the same issues.
“I’m excited to get started,” said Weston. “We have a lot of challenges, and everyone is feeling energized and ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work on the issues facing the country.”