First session brings sleepless nights to rookie MP

The NDP filibuster against Canada Post back-to-work legislation brought more than just late nights and no sleep for first-time Conservative MP Dan Albas.

  • Jul. 12, 2011 7:00 a.m.

The NDP filibuster against Canada Post back-to-work legislation brought more than just late nights and no sleep for first-time Conservative MP Dan Albas.

At some point in the almost 60-hour process, the Speaker of the House of Commons Andrew Scheer required a brief break, but with none of his deputies or vice-chairs available and tradition dictating that as long as the mace is in front of the Speaker’s chair there must be somebody in it, Scheer turned to the MP seated directly to the left of him.

“I was actually asked to take the Speaker’s chair for a few minutes,” said Albas. “It was an exhilaration to be asked to sit up and take the Speaker’s chair. It gave me an interesting vantage point of the actual House. There’s a reason why it is called Parliament because with the really good acoustic levels you can hear very clearly what people are saying from quite a far distance away. You also have sight of everything.”

Albas said that many MPs are now using Twitter, sometimes right from the House floor, to keep constituents and others informed and connected to what is happening in Ottawa. And so, with Albas in the Speaker’s chair, it did not take long for Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon MP and friend Mark Strahl to tweet about Albas’ brief promotion.

“Mark Strahl tweeted: ‘Dan Albas filling in for the Speaker. I’m considering a point of order,’” laughed Albas. “I was certainly looking forward to putting him in his place if that had happened.

“It was basically for about five minutes in the time where the bells were being rung and so members were filing in, but it gave me an appreciation of what a great diverse country Canada is just based on what I saw of the people in the seats.

“It certainly was an honour and I felt very grateful for the opportunity.”

Because the NDP could have ended the filibuster at anytime, thus bringing the back-to-work legislation up for a vote, Albas and his fellow Conservative MPs had to be awake and ready for a vote on short notice.

Besides consuming lots of coffee, Albas said he kept himself awake blogging, tweeting and communicating with constituents.

“I did a lot of e-mails and I did a lot of phone calls to people that were on both sides of the argument,” he said. “I was very pleased with the input I was receiving from constituents … how the postal impasse was affecting them personally.”

Eventually, the NDP ended their filibuster because, they said, with the government resolved to implementing a settlement, continuing the lockout was hurting postal workers.

“I certainly appreciated the points that were raised by them,” Albas said. “There were some legitimate concerns, but in the same token we received the mandate for a government that would focus on the economy.

“The wide breadth of social and economic challenges that were presenting on average Canadians from all sorts of backgrounds really showed that this was an impasse that needed to be resolved.”

Overall, Albas said his first session as Okanagan Coquihalla’s representative was a good one for him where he learned a great deal from his fellow MPs, House staff and his constituents. The government, he said, with its new majority also accomplished quite a lot as well.

“We have put forward some good legislation, whether we are talking about implementing parts of the budget; the mega-trials that received a lot of support from the opposition; or our debate on Libya where we had some amendments put forward by both the official opposition (NDP) and the third-party (Liberals) with all of those receiving near unanimous consent in the House,” said Albas.

“I would say that we are in the business of governing. We are focused on delivering results. We are also focused, though, on making sure to improve the process both in terms of the level of debate — in terms of the manner of the debate, and in terms of ensuring many opportunities for MPs to speak are being made.”