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Richmond MPs shed light on experience so far

By Samuel Cheng

Published 12:53 PDT, Fri April 8, 2022

In last September’s federal election, both Conservative incumbent MPs were unseated by first-time Liberal candidates: Wilson Miao in Richmond Centre and Parm Bains in Steveston–Richmond East.

TV host Jim Gordon recently sat down with Miao and Bains to learn about the first months of their tenure as MPs.

What made you want to run, and when did you develop an interest in politics?

Bains: I have experience as a communications officer with the B.C. government working on policy-related issues. I am passionate about issues that are important to our community. I took a break to teach at a university and then I was approached to seek public office.

Miao: Coming from an immigrant background, I know first-hand (that) being a Canadian is amazing. With a background in real estate, I understand the concern about affordable housing. It’s important for us to relay to Parliament what the issues and concerns (facing) our community are. For me, the focus is serving the community and understanding what is needed. That’s why I put my name forward.

What was the first day like when you arrived in Ottawa and what does a normal daily routine look like?

Bains: It's actually very surreal, to be honest with you. Ottawa is not a massive city, but Parliament is very big and historic. As you walk the halls you see images of the previous Prime Ministers. In terms of day-to-day work, there’s a lot of orientation to familiarize ourselves with the system. The job consists of parliamentary work and constituency work; it’s like having two different jobs. We also have (been) assigned to committees and the schedule is busy. The ultimate goal is to have the ability to bring the community's voice forward in the work we do.

Travel for MPs on the West Coast is not the same as travel for MPs in the East. Walk us through a typical week.

Miao: It can get quite overwhelming. For example, I’m also serving on two different committees: veteran affairs and international trade. Committee work allows us to bring the voices of our constituents to these discussions. Regarding travel, although Richmond is close to the airport, the pandemic limited flights to Ottawa. We either travel on a Sunday morning or take the “red-eye” Sunday night so we can be in the House of Commons Monday by 11 a.m.

What is it like after winning the election for your riding?

Bains: In both of our cases, we unseated the (incumbent MP) from (an) opposing party which meant finding an office and the right staff that are connected to the community as much as we are. It is quite challenging due to a labour shortage. 

What were you most concerned about in terms of your riding and Richmond as a whole?

Bains: I've been passionate about a few things and affordable housing has been a big one. Affordability in general is something that we need to tackle. One of the biggest pieces of constituency work is often immigration cases. 

Miao: Affordability of housing and (the) labour shortage are definitely the biggest issues in both of our ridings right now. Also, I think many seniors and youth in our community (need attention). The pandemic brought challenging times and it’s important for us to create more awareness for our constituents to know where to seek assistance to access programs and grants for individuals, families, and organizations.

What are some of the challenges that you currently face—offices, for example?

Miao: My riding has been challenging because most available spaces right now are pending development. The issue of affordability is a concern not just for us MPs, but also for local businesses. 

How can the constituents reach out to you?

Bains: People (can) send me messages through Facebook or Instagram but I suggest they go to the House of Commons website. It has the most current information for our offices, phone numbers, and email addresses.

Miao: Even though I don’t have an office yet, the best way to reach us is through my general email. To give you a sense of our challenges, we've been receiving 600 to 700 emails a day. Our goal is to reply to every  constituent’s email as soon as possible. Hopefully by this summer, we will be able to have more engagement with the community.

For the full video interview, visit richmondsentinel.ca/videos 

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