Politics·Blog

200 new MPs pose a challenge for those covering Parliament Hill

Tuesday is the final day for orientation of new MPs on Parliament Hill. They will take their seats in the Commons when it returns on Thursday. But for parliamentary journalists, the challenge has just begun. How do you remember all their names?

How do you remember all those new names and faces? CBC producer Chris Rands takes you behind the scenes

The House of Commons returns on Thursday to elect a new Speaker 0:49

It's the final day of orientation on Parliament Hill and more than 200 new Members of Parliament are taking their seats in the House of Commons.

Mind you, the seats they are in aren't their own yet — the official seating plan has yet to be published.

Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr is sitting in the middle of the House in his wheelchair. Once his seat is assigned, a special custom desk will be installed.

Minister of Veterans Affairs Kent Hehr will have a desk installed for him and his wheelchair in the House of Commons. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Some faces are by now familiar to political junkies.

Maryam Monsef, the new minister of democratic reform, arrives on crutches — she just had a bad fall — with Fisheries Minister Hunter Tootoo carrying a backpack.

Many MPs just blend in to their surroundings until we can learn their names and faces. In 2011, some of the younger newly elected NDP MPs were mistaken for university students — which, until the election, was exactly what they were.

From left, Matthew Dubé, Laurin Liu, Mylène Freeman and Charmaine Borg, all McGill University students before being elected, arrive with other newly elected MPs to take part in an orientation session on Parliament Hill in 2011. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The Parliamentary Protective Officers, who assumed control of security on Parliament Hill in June, are charged with knowing the faces of each and every one of the 338 MPs. They have been studying photos for weeks.

One of my jobs, as a television producer in the CBC's Parliamentary bureau, is to know every MP, their name and as much as I can about them. It's important to build relationships so that when news breaks a rapport is already there.

Asking a MP questions with a television camera over your shoulder — while a bright light shines in their face — can be intimidating at the best of times.

Everyone has a way to remember names and faces. My trick is to stand by the door to the Commons chamber and greet the MPs by name as they enter.

Brad Trost, left, and Chris Warkentin, right, are veteran Conservative MPs. One of the challenges for journalists and others who work on Parliament Hill is correctly identifying new MPs. (Canadian Press/Manning Centre on Flickr)

You get a few wrong at first but it helps to iron out the differences, say, between Conservative MPs Brad Trost and Chris Warkentin, who look a lot alike — to me at least — in photos.

Mistakes can still be made. I once followed a Liberal MP, calling out loudly "Mr. Coderre!" until the MP turned and set me straight. "I am not Mr. Coderre."

Sorry sir.

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