Rookie MP busy getting to know her riding

It’s been almost two months since Rachel Blaney was officially sworn in as the NDP MP for North Island-Powell River, and it’s been a busy time of connecting and learning.

“It still feels like an incredible honour,” she said Monday, on the phone from her office in Ottawa. “I’m so happy to be here representing North Island-Powell River.”

Blaney is one of 136 first-time MPs elected this past October, and she has been hard at work learning to work in Parliament and learning about her riding.

Blaney says “getting to know the riding in a new way” and meeting and connecting with people here is her priority right now. She expects it will probably take her about a year to meet all the people she would like to meet, and she has been busy travelling around the riding when she isn’t in Ottawa. Last week, for example, she had a tour of CFB Comox, visited the Kuterra land-raised salmon farm near Port McNeill, met with members of the Mt. Waddington Regional District and met with the ‘Namgis First Nation in Alert Bay.

When Blaney isn’t working in Ottawa, she hopes to connect with as many people in the riding as she can so they can have discussions about local issues and create relationships.

“For me, my goal is to meet with some of the major stakeholders across the riding,” she said. “A lot of organizations and businesses have gotten ahold of me to say they want to meet with me.

“There are so many different groups and stakeholders around the riding, and I’m getting out there to talk to them, introduce myself as the new MP and make sure we can have that relationship so that we can work together.”

Blaney and her team are working on setting up an office in Campbell River, which she will share with North Island MLA Claire Trevena.

When it comes to issues to focus on for the Campbell River area, Blaney says she has heard a lot of concern from her constituents about Canada Post and mail delivery service, particularly with the winter weather.

As an example of the concerns and complaints she has been hearing, Blaney says one constituent shared a story about getting a mail key but not being told where his mail was, so he had to go from box to box, trying the key in that number until he found his mail.

Blaney says another “huge concern” she has heard in the riding is around jobs and and how the federal government will play a part in addressing concerns around employment.

Infrastructure is another big topic.

“I heard a lot from communities and regional districts about infrastructure needs in communities,” she said. “I am Deputy Critic for Infrastructure and Communities, so that has helped me develop an understanding of the needs we’ll be discussing around infrastructure in the next four years.”

In Ottawa, Blaney says it is an incredible honour to walk into the House of Commons and sit in one of those chairs. She says she feels lucky to be able to meet with so many people in Parliament and she feels people working there have been very supportive.

“There’s a lot of opportunity to bring forward the voices of the riding to the people who need to hear those voices,” she said.

As she has gotten settled, Blaney says she expected that there would be a lot of work to learn about being an MP, but she hadn’t expected all the work of getting herself set up in a new city.

“There’s a lot to learn,” she said. “It’s largely been very supportive and positive. Funnily, on a personal note, the one thing I never thought of is I’d have to set up a new home in Ottawa. I think out of anything, that surprised me. I was very much expecting the hard work of learning how to work in Parliament.”