Federally, what’s in store for Ottawa?

Photo of Yasir Naqvi via @YasirNaqviCDN 

Following the federal election, the Liberals still rule Ottawa. Only one, lonely Tory MP survived. So, what’s in store for Ottawa?

I put this question to the new Liberal kid on the block, Yasir Naqvi, who won his  first federal run in Ottawa Centre. While new, he has considerable political experience, having served the same riding provincially from 2007-2018, including holding a senior seat at the Cabinet table.

He’s passionate and highly driven, with a ready-made smile. He’s easily likeable. I first met him when we were colleagues at the law firm Lang Michener LLP. As a young lawyer, he displayed a burning interest in politics. We had many a discussion about the ups and downs of the game, and I encouraged him to run at some point, because I thought he could make an appreciable contribution to provincial public life. I didn’t have to wait long for him to jump into the political arena.

I caught up with him recently to talk about his plans for Ottawa and his riding.

Ottawa Life: First of all, congrats on your election to the House of Commons. Why did you run federally, rather than provincially?

Yasir Naqvi: Thank you so much.

We are living in unprecedented times, given that the pandemic has turned our world upside down. So, there is a huge amount of work to do in rebuilding back better, so I thought I would make the effort of contributing to this national endeavour.

As well, on the personal side, I have two young kids and I can’t be away from them four days a week. So, having my riding and Parliament in Ottawa makes my responsibilities as a dad much more compatible.

Ottawa Life: What are some major Ottawa issues and challenges that you would like to tackle?

Yasir Naqvi: There are three priority issues.

The first, is ending the pandemic. We will not be able to rebuild back our economy until Covid is behind us. We must beat the virus if we are to move forward successfully. So, my colleagues and I must be focused and committed 100 per cent to the task at hand.

Secondly, we must preserve and enhance the vitality of the public service. It is the major employer in the city, with about 300,000 employees. I heard from many people at the doors that given the record spending to assist people during the pandemic, balancing the books should not be done on the back of public servants. They are central to good governance, and they have all worked tirelessly during this Corona era.

As well, there are many local businesses that serve government, so there are numerous economic spin-offs to protect and promote.

Thirdly, climate change, must be tackled with maximum determination. As a capital, we must lead by example. We should have the ambition of making Ottawa the cleanest, greenest capital in the world. Let’s demonstrate global leadership. We already have a beautiful city. But we can build on this.

Reforming and electrifying public transit, on both sides of the river, for example, is very important. The target for electrifying all buses in Ottawa by 2035 is one that we should pursue aggressively. We should also be investing in retrofitting commercial properties, to make them more energy efficient. Furthermore, we should consider converting empty office space into sustainable and affordable housing.

Ottawa Life: Will any of these issues be reflected in the Speech from the Throne?

Yasir Naqvi: We Ottawa MP’s are trying to coordinate our priorities and messaging for the PMO. But the SFT will largely be based on our election platform, and set at a high level.

Ottawa Life: Do you have one or two major priorities for your own riding?

Yasir Naqvi: Yes, there are a number but let me talk about two.

First, I want to protect the experimental farms that are located in our city. These are critically important and have historical significance. There is currently no legislative protection for this key infrastructure, so I would like to work on finding and approving the appropriate legislation.

Second, while Ottawa is a rich city, we still face pockets of chronic homelessness. We see this on our streets every day. I would like to work with the NCC and the provincial and municipal governments in addressing this concern and providing the necessary accommodations. I believe we can accomplish this as long as we work together.

Ottawa Life: Are you concerned about the nastiness of this last election? And what measures can you and your colleagues take to try to return us to a more kinder, gentler politics?

Yasir Naqvi: Yes very much so. Our democracy requires robust debate, but why the violence? It is not needed clearly. Plus, it deteriorates the normal discourse between citizens and their candidates. There are many potential reasons for this ugly tone, but one factor is the deterioration of institutions that we have seen in the US. When the U.S. capitol riots of January 6, 2021 took place, many in our country said that this would never happen in Canada. But I am not sure. I don’t think we can afford to be smug. It can happen here if we let our guard down.

We must therefore listen carefully to all citizens, and promote an inclusive politics. Parliamentarians from all sides should be able to come together and work on measures that will enhance political civility. There’s lots of common ground here to be cultivated. We all have a vested interest to succeed.

For example, I plan on talking to people in my riding who may not have voted for me but who have views that I should hear and understand. After all, I am the MP for all my constituents.

Ottawa Life: Should unvaccinated MP’s stay home?

Yasir Naqvi: Yes. It is not fair for everyone else. We must have one rule for everyone. If Canadians and all public servants are to be vaccinated, then so should all federal MP’s. There can’t be a double standard.

Plus, there are many other non-elected personnel, whose health we need to be mindful of — staff, pages, officials of parliament, interpreters, etc. Thus, every political party should ensure that all their caucus members are fully vaccinated, except those who can prove medical reasons for why they cannot receive the jab.

Ottawa Life: What about strengthening gun control legislation, which was an issue that O’Toole triggered during the campaign?

Yasir Naqvi: There are so many assault weapons that serve no purpose in our communities. There is no rhyme or reason to have them. They are only meant to harm, so we should get these weapons off our streets. It will make our neighbourhoods safer.

I have had considerable experience with this file from my days as the provincial Attorney General and Solicitor General. I am looking forward to now making a contribution on gun control at the national level. This was a key issue during the election, and we must honour our pledges.

Ottawa Life: Thanks Yasir for your time. Good luck with your first term, and bonne chance with the cabinet sweepstakes!

The Hon. Sergio Marchi’s columns under the banner, ‘The Public Square’, are a bi-weekly look at current affairs and political issues impacting the capital and our country. We hope you enjoy it, and we welcome your comments along the way.