Six Mississauga MPs ride the Conservative wave straight to Ottawa.
Words by Steve Pecar
Brad Butt has waited a long time for this opportunity. He doesn’t intend to let the moment pass him by.
Since entering politics at the age of 21, when he ran unsuccessfully for a seat on Mississauga City Council, Butt has been on the periphery of elected office. Now, at the age of 44, Butt could have rightfully claimed to have been the most experienced Mississauga politician to have never held office. That is, until now.
Butt, along with five of his colleagues, was elected to Parliament last month, riding the Conservative wave that swept through the city and most parts of the country.
“I guess you could say timing is everything in this business,” Butt says with some amusement. “I guess it was my time.”
But his comments might oversimplify matters. For Butt and the other successful candidates, dedication, hard work and running strong campaigns of their own made victory as much a part of the equation as did the personality of one Stephen Harper.
Still, as Butt, Wladyslaw Lizon, Stella Ambler, Bob Dechert, Eve Adams and Bal Gosal make their way to Ottawa, they go as a team, all Tories and part of the governing party. That could spell good things for Mississauga.
“This is my chance, our chance, to make a positive impact,” says Butt, the new MP for Mississauga- Streetsville. “It really is a rare gift to get elected. But now we have to turn our attention to living up to the expectations of voters. We intend to do good work and get things done.”
Yes, indeed, good work. But what good works can those who live in Mississauga look forward to and realistically expect to achieve?
It was just a few months ago that the City of Mississauga put two questions to all of the candidates running locally. The first had to do with a long-term plan for sustainable infrastructure investment, or, to put is simply, how will Ottawa pay for big things when they start falling apart? The second question focused on transportation and how federal politicians plan on keeping people moving. The responses to these questions were slow to trickle in, if at all.
While it may have been presumptuous of the City to expect federal politicians to answer to it, the question remains: What can we look forward to?
Butt acknowledges that the issues put on the table by the City are good ones and he believes that with a strong Mississauga caucus now in place, they can be tackled.
“I believe we have the clout to do something now, not just for Mississauga, but from a Peel perspective too,” Butt says.
Nobody knows these issues better than Eve Adams. As the Councillor for the City’s Ward 5 for the past seven years, Adams knows firsthand the needs of local constituents and expects and plans to do something about it.
“Infrastructure, day care, traffic; these are all issues we will be dealing with,” Adams says. She also throws in another one: Jobs.
“It’s what we kept on hearing about during the campaign,” says the new MP for Mississauga-Brampton South. “People are concerned about finding work or keeping the jobs they have. They want a stable economy and security.”
Wladyslaw Lizon, the representative for Mississauga East-Cooksville, may be new to politics, but he says he has spent enough time living in the riding, talking to residents and dealing with the issues to know that solutions are achievable.
Lizon says anyone that takes even the shortest commute knows that transportation and the ability to move people across the GTA efficiently is a matter that has to be addressed… and addressed soon. He sees cooperation as the key.
“Ottawa doesn’t hold all the solutions to this problem,” Lizon says. “All governments are going to have to play a part. The federal government will play a key role and hopefully I will have a role.”
Lizon also feels that with six Members of Parliament, Mississauga is in a stronger position to flex some muscle than it was just a couple of months ago when the Conservative held a minority government and this city was heavily represented by Liberals. He feels it is difficult for lone MPs to get much accomplished if they are not part of the governing party.
Stella Ambler of Mississauga South agrees and thinks her experience and that of her colleagues will certainly assist in cutting through red tape.
Her campaign was indicative of the winds of change as she knocked off long-time incumbent and “hardestworking person in Ottawa”, Paul Szabo.
Having spent many years working as a political staff member and most recently serving under federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, Ambler certainly has behind the scenes insight on how government works. She thinks this background will help her navigate through the obstacles presented at Parliament Hill.
“I know how things work, who to talk to, how to cut through the red tape,” Ambler says. “I don’t think the learning curve will be as steep because I have been there.”
Still, Ambler says it is easy to get lost in the politics of Ottawa and believes the riding and what residents back home in Mississauga have to tell her will be the key to determining strategy.
“We can’t forget who we’re responsible to,” she continues. “When we were knocking on doors we heard that people in Mississauga want a voice in Ottawa. I think we have that now.”
As the only Conservative in the local pool of Liberals that served in the last government, Bob Dechert will be the voice of experience of the Mississauga six. This time the Mississauga-Erindale representative is especially looking forward to returning to Parliament Hill now that he’ll be surrounded by friends.
He believes his role will be to give advice to the newcomers as they learn the ropes, but he expects them to be quick learners.
As well, because of the increased numbers, Dechert is certain that Mississauga will now have a stronger voice with decision makers: but what those decisions will be remain to be seen.
He says the government has a lot of priorities and it will be up to those elected to carve out a place and present their issues.
“I think we have some really good people from Mississauga that will make a difference in Ottawa,” Dechert says. “You have to work hard, know who has influence and get them to listen to you.”
One person who immediately will have influence is Bal Gosal. Almost immediately upon election, the new MP for Bramalea-Gore-Malton was appointed Minister of State for Sport, giving him a place in Cabinet, and the ear that could lend itself to local voices. He’s listening.
Gosal says he is well aware of the issues, in particular those concerning transportation, adding that more solutions must be found.
“We have to find more alternatives to cars,” Gosal says. “We need a system that can assist the most people.” Gosal acknowledges the federal government can lead the way on many initiatives, but that all levels of government working together can achieve the best results.
At the end of the day, that’s all any of us can ask for.