Constituent Services

What you get when you show up at a constituency office .. really depends on who your local politician is. A survey of Members of Parliament leaving their jobs shows constituency work is essentially a free-for-all with MPs creating their own rules and MP services are wildly inconsistent across the country. Some it seems would rather just stay in Ottawa.

Part Two of The Current

Constituent Services

We started this segment with Flora MacDonald, the former progressive conservative member of parliament for the riding of Kingston and The Islands, describing her first constituency office. In fact, it was one of the very first constituency offices. The idea was so new, there was no cash set aside for it like there is now.

Flora MacDonald and the NDP's Ed Broadbent set up constituency offices in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The idea soon caught on, and these days, each MP gets a budget of close to $300,000 to operate offices on the Hill and in their home riding. But a new report just out this morning suggests many MPs aren't exactly clear on what they're supposed to do with those offices or what their role with constituents should be.

There are no real rules, so NDP MP Libby Davies does what comes naturally. We listened in as she met with a group of people at her office on Main Street in her Vancouver-East Riding.

Libby Davies and other MPs will soon return to Ottawa for the opening of a new session of Parliament on Monday. So Samara, a charitable organization that studies citizen engagement, decided this would be a good time to take a hard look at their role. Samara's latest report - out today - focuses specifically on MPs' interactions with the people who elected them.

Alison Loat is the co-founder and Executive Director of Samara and one of the authors of the report. Sue Barnes is a former Liberal MP for London West and one of those interviewed for this report. She joined us from London, Ontario. And John Godfrey is a former Liberal MP for Toronto's Don Valley West. He also participated in the Samara research. And he joined us in Toronto.

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