It’s a fair question – who represents the constituents of a federal riding when an MP leaves his or her post to pursue another opportunity?
It’s been widely discussed that Dianne Watts resigned her federal seat as Conservative MP for South Surrey-White Rock to make a bid for leadership of the provincial BC Liberal party. The resignation followed swiftly after Watts announced her intentions on Sept. 24.
What has been undiscussed, and – it must be noted – largely unquestioned by residents of the riding, is who represents them in Ottawa until a byelection is called.
The answer is, technically, nobody – although Watts’ former constituency office remains open to field inquiries form residents until that byelection is announced, which under the existing process could take months. (It should be noted, the office manager assured Peace Arch News, when asked this week, that if anyone has an issue relating to policy or legislation, they will be referred to an appropriate minister or opposition critic’s office.)
Although Watts was quick to assure us that she had overwhelming support from local constituents she had canvassed about her new political path, it seems possible there still may be residents who might be able to use the kind of support a local MP can provide. Those, for example, who might be looking for further federal help in relocating heavy coal, oil or chemical train traffic off the White Rock and South Surrey waterfront; or assistance with some worthy fundraising goal; or some federal guidance, or a glimmering of responsibility, for longstanding issues that continue to divide White Rock’s civic government and the Semiahmoo First Nation, even in an era of reconciliation.
In short, someone in Ottawa to champion their cause.
It may be that constituents aren’t overly troubled by the absence of an MP because they have become used to a certain invisibility of federal representation in this riding. After all, it took seven months after the October 2015 election for a constituency office to finally open for walk-in visits. Constituents survived that, just as they survived for years a certain day-to-day elusiveness of her predecessor, outside of photo ops and the occasional community forum.
Perhaps those in South Surrey-White Rock have simply learned that they can do without an MP altogether – in which case someone ought to contact Elections Canada and save everyone a lot of tax dollars.