Short speeches, long days are part of being an MP, Idlout says
Nunavut’s rookie MP reflects on lessons learned in first month on the job
The first sitting of the 44th Parliament presented a learning curve for Nunavut’s rookie NDP MP, Lori Idlout.
Procedure in the House of Commons is strict, and MPs have a limited amount of time to speak. In the month the House was back in session following the September election, Idlout rose to speak 28 times, more than several cabinet ministers and veteran MPs.
Idlout, a lawyer by profession, said that she’s had to adapt to the House’s strict time limits because she talks slowly.
“I’m finding it quite challenging to speak fast enough to make sure that I share all of what I wanted to,” she said in an interview as Parliament’s winter break approached. “Each time that I’m making my interventions, I’ve only been able to say about half of what I had planned to.”
For some MPs, moving to Ottawa is a major adjustment, and they face a culture shock because life in the city could be very different from life in their home ridings.
Idlout had previously lived in the city as a University of Ottawa law student, but becoming an MP still posed a big change. Idlout says she has adjusted to the unpredictability of a day in the life as an MP, where nothing is nine-to-five.
“There are so many days where we have 12-hour days, and when the House is sitting, it could be quite intense and unpredictable,” she said. “Having plans is not the best thing because it could change so quickly based on a vote we need to do.”
Idlout has a few items on her agenda. She is continuing former MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq’s push to investigate a former Nunavut priest, Rev. Johannes Rivoire, who is accused of sexually abusing Inuit children. Idlout is encouraging people to bring evidence to the RCMP, and if needed, her office is providing lists of mental health counselling services.
Idlout says she’s also looking forward to serving on the Indigenous and northern affairs committee, where she hopes to learn more about the issues First Nations and Métis communities face, as well as being a voice for Inuit.
“I have had some awareness of the similarities that we, as Inuit, have experienced with First Nations and Métis,” she said. “I’m very excited to learn with this committee how much we’ve all been impacted.”
Parliament is set to resume on Jan. 31, 2022.