MP Exit Interviews: Current Work

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MP Exit Interviews: Current Work
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Our current work captures Parliamentarians who left the House of Commons between October 2015 and September 2021. Below are key themes that have emerged from our analysis of the most recent wave of Parliamentarians (42nd and 43rd Parliaments). In this current wave, we have centered our work on the MP’s path to politics, the orientation and onboarding processes, the working conditions of the job, and the offboarding process.

Path to Politics: 

What drives people to run for federal office? Some see serving in the House of Commons as an extension of the work they’re already doing for their communities. Some began dreaming of being a Member of Parliament when they were children, while others never thought they would end up on the Hill. We asked former MPs about how they got on the path to politics and present a selection of quotes from our recent interviews: 


  • “I explained to him how I was ready to change the world. And the first thing he said to me is, ‘uh, look, I don't care. I don't care how you think you're gonna change the world. You need to win a nomination first. So how many people can you get to a nomination?’ And that really set some of the expectations for me. You can't make change if you can't be successful in winning. And winning, at its very base level, is a numbers game in politics. Can you get more people to come out and support you than the other person?” — Matt DeCourcey, Liberal Party of Canada, Fredericton (2015-2019)
  • “When I won my nomination in 2011, the entire executive resigned that night ‘cause they wanted the other person to win so much […] that wasn't a great experience. I've talked to lots of other MPS and they kind of have similar experiences and nominations.” — Kennedy Stewart, New Democratic Party, Burnaby South (2011-2018)
  • « Pour moi, c’était un  rêve de faire de la politique depuis toujours.  C’était pour moi un peu inaccessible, la  politique, les façons de faire de la politique  active un jour. Donc, dans mon cheminement, j’ai  été impliqué dans les mouvements étudiants,  dans les mouvements de protection de l’environnement. Mais ultimement, en 98  et en 2006, mon rêve s’est réalisé. » — Steven Blaney, Parti conservateur du Canada, Bellechasse—Les  Etchemins—Lévis (2006-2021)


Onboarding is a formative part of the work experience. As is the case with any job, Members of Parliament should be set up with the tools to succeed from the very beginning. If we want a representative democracy that attracts qualified candidates and keeps them there, onboarding is a part of that. We spoke to former MPs about their onboarding process —  what was challenging, what was helpful, and what can be improved. Here is a selection of their responses:


  • “Yeah, I mean, on the Parliamentary side, they do a really good job. However, that’s a very small part of the job. Party doesn't do a lot of onboarding a, a, a few events where you might meet people. But not really, how do I manage my new staff? How do I hire them? How do I open an office? How not, not really much of that at all.” — Kennedy Stewart, New Democratic Party, Burnaby South (2011-2018)
  • “I felt that there certainly could be a lot more training. I found it very hard and it took a very long time to get into a rhythm with both being a minister, of course, but actually even putting that aside, being a, a Member of Parliament and then also being a Parliamentarian and figuring that out and also figuring out the staffing, and how to properly serve the community.” — Catherine McKenna, Liberal Party of Canada, Ottawa Centre (2015-2021)
  • “But now I was actually navigating that space and I was navigating that space as an outsider and a newcomer to the party, not as someone who had had, you know, five elections under my belt and gone through leadership campaigns and, and, you know, been caucus, Liberal clubs and built relationships all my time. I was alone in that environment.” — Adam Vaughan, Liberal Party of Canada, Spadina—Fort York (2014-2021)
  • “After an election, the old dogs talk to the new dogs, and […] that's not as much a formal procedure as, just you ease in, and as a new MP you are given responsibilities within caucus.” Peter Kent, Conservative Party of Canada, Thornhill (2008-2021)
  • « Au niveau du parti, on a eu un bonencadrement, je dirais même un très bon encadrement dans les circonstances, parce quele parti était quand même passé de 34-35 députés à 101 députés d’un seul coup.Puis en plus, on a eu un retour en Chambre trèstrès rapide. Alors je pense que, dans lescirconstances, il n’y a vraiment plus rien d’autre qui aurait pu être fait. Ça avait été parfait, tant du côté du parti que du côté de la Chambre descommunes. » — Guy Caron, Nouveau Parti démocratique, Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques (2011-2019)
  • «Ce qui m’a surpris un peu, c’est le travail deparlementaire. On réalise quand même quand on est dans une structure assez assez imposante,avec déjà unmodus operandi, une manière de procéder. C’est d’apprendre ànaviguer dans cet environnement-là qui a été justement la fameuse courbe d’apprentissage.» — Stephen Blaney, Parti conservateur du Canada, Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis (2006-2021)

On the Job: 

What is Parliament like as a workplace? Is it respectful? Is it safe? What are the implications if it’s not? In addition to a grueling schedule and extensive travel, MPs face a high likelihood of divorce, intimidation and harassment — on and offline. They also must balance their personal motivations with the needs of their communities and the needs of their party. We asked MPs how they navigated a complex workplace culture with subtle and overt power dynamics. Here is a selection of their responses:


  • “Going into the House of Commons, uh, horror. Nightmare. The level of heckling and hostility within it was some people were just beyond that and really, really harsh on, I felt on, on ministers that were younger women.” — Cheryl Hardcastle, New Democratic Party, Windsor—Tecumseh (2015-2019)
  • “ I felt safe, but I felt like some days it was really hard mentally. You had to get into a particular head space and you knew if you said anything, one little twig wrong that it would suddenly be an attack ad.” — Catherine McKenna, Liberal Party of Canada, Ottawa Centre (2015-2021) 
  • “But the reality is, is that the House of Commons is based on conflict and that's okay too. You gotta fight for what you believe is right. And what you believe should happen and make the best persuasive arguments that you can internally to caucus as well as on the floor of Parliament.” — Lisa Raitt, Conservative Party of Canada, Milton (2008-2019)
  • « Au début, les jeunes députés on se faisait tabasser, pas mal des gens n’avaient  pas confiance…le fait qu’on a été plusieurs jeunes qui ont quand même eu un certain succès  comme député,  je pense qu’on a vraiment cassé la narrative  qui existait par rapport à la capacité des jeunes à faire  le travail… Donc, gérer ça c’était difficile,  mais j’étais confiant dans ma capacité à faire de la  politique. » — Matthew Dubé, Nouveau Parti démocratique, Belœil —Chambly (2011-2019)


Across workplaces, transitioning knowledge from experienced to newly onboarded workers helps to build collaborative relationships and institutional resilience. We wanted to learn about how new Parliamentarians could benefit from the experience and wisdom of exiting MPs. We asked former Parliamentarians about their offboarding process. How easy was it to land a new job? How did the offboarding experience vary for those who chose not to run again compared to those who lost an election? Here is what they had to say:


  • “I really did take it personally. It was very close. I felt like I was, you know, doing such a great job and that it was a loss for the community to move from NDP. And..I felt like there must be, okay there's light at the end of the tunnel, but I'm in this tunnel right now. So, yeah, so that part was tough. People give you condolences but also like, I had to stay off of social media because you have people who consider themselves pundits saying, oh, you know, always slamming you or saying you, you know, you weren't there for them. “Oh, you're just a whiner, and that's what democracy's like,” so you go okay, I'm gonna just be quiet and sort through this myself.” — Cheryl Hardcastle, New Democratic Party, Windsor—Tecumseh (2015-2019)
  • “I went into more of a period of reflection because…you know, I really didn't have a chance to take my foot off the gas. I'm as competitive as anybody could be, I think, uh, just my nature. But I'm pretty accepting when something doesn't go my way and then you start to chart your course. Well, what's next? And that really was my focus after that.” — James Cumming, Conservative Party of Canada, Edmonton Centre (2019 - 2021)
  • “People leaving public life often leave under very traumatic circumstances. You know, public life is notwithstanding its challenges, is very addictive and hard to leave and an awful lot of people leave the field in a body bag or they're airlifted off the field in critical condition. And, it's tough to, to sort of have the discipline to leave the field on your own steam when things are going fairly well.” — Scott Brison, Liberal Party of Canada, Kings—Hants (1997-2019) 
  • « Mon expérience  politique au sens large m’a ouvert. Hors la Chambre des communes, c’est  apprendre comment bien que le pays est grand. Cinq fuseaux horaires, c’est  immense, c’est immense. Par contre, on a des valeurs communes, à savoir, la démocratie  c’est quelque chose qui nous rejoint tous. La défense  des droits et libertés, c’est un beau grand  pays. On a de belles grandes ressources, on a de belles valeurs. » — Linda Lapointe, Parti libéral du Canada, Rivière-des-Mille-Îles (2015-2019)

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