It was a special morning in the House of Commons today as Members of Parliament from all sides joined to say farewell to a well-respected colleague and friend; the Hon. Jason Kenney. Nineteen years in Parliament is in itself is an incredible legacy given the demands of extreme travel, a very busy schedule and the tolls life as an MP places on your family and friends. However my tribute to Jason Kenney is to recognize a different aspect of his many contributions to Canadians and that is his service as the Minister of Immigration.
The year was 2011, I was a newly elected, wet behind the years rookie MP who found himself on the Conservative backbenches in a majority government. As much as many pundits and several journalists assured me that I was now a “trained seal” with every spoken word dictated to by the ”tightly controlling PMO”, the reality I found was anything but. My members statements, my weekly reports, the work I did on my Private Bill, speeches in the House, were actually all of my own authorship and contrary to popular opinion, were not vetted or edited by the PMO either. Likewise how I ran my Hill and Constituency office, dealt with my constituents were all matters that were entirely at my discretion and direction. The only “manual” was a large Members Allowances book provided by the House of Commons governing the many administrative rules behind the use of a MPs taxpayer funded office resources.
I will not forget that day when an individual from a rural part of my riding who was working on becoming a new Canadian, was given a deportation notice at the Canadian border by a CBSA officer who claimed this individual was in the country illegally with expired documentation. Only one problem…the documentation was not in fact expired yet the individual had just seven days to leave Canada. What to do? Fortunately I had hired experience staff who immediately suggested I meet with Minister Kenney. I still recall the words “He is your only hope Dan” being expressed to me at the time. This was my first encounter with a Minister, and with Minister Kenney. What I found was someone who listened attentively, who knew the rules of his Ministry inside and out, and most importantly made a commitment to help this individual in what seemed like an impossible situation. In spite of the tight timelines and sheer size of the CIC agency, Minister Kenney remained true to his word and a family and a small rural community are today forever thankful.
This episode never made headlines, and outside of a small circle there were few people who knew it even had occurred. However it taught me that in spite of the narrative that backbench MP’s were powerless trained seals in fact we do have the ability to make a real difference in people’s lives. Part of good governance is having Ministers who will run their Ministry as opposed to being run by the Ministry. Minister Kenney was just such a Minister and since that time I have heard countless stories of someone who was willing to listen and do the work required to help build a stronger Canada. I can say that Jason Kenney is someone who I will always greatly respect and am proud to have spent time serving together. To paraphrase a line from a famous movie: Jason Kenney is someone I want in public office standing on that wall.