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Rookie MPs share their thoughts on new role

CRISTINA HOWORUN | posted Wednesday, Jan 22nd, 2020

Adam van Koeverden is used to being on top.

The world champion and Olympic gold medalist in kayaking is no stranger to being front and centre, but now finds himself navigating entirely new waters from the backbench.

Van Koeverden was elected to parliament on Oct. 21, capturing a highly coveted seat from the Conservatives Deputy Leader Lisa Raitt in Milton. He’s traded in his paddle for Parliament and a few new roles: Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth and to the Minister of Canadian Heritage (Sport).

“It’s great to be part of something bigger than yourself,” van Koeverden said from his new constituency office. His walls are still bare, and there’s no outside sign and no relics of his days as an Olympian. Right now, decorating his office isn’t his priority; it’s learning his new job.

“I know I’ve got a lot to learn and I’m comfortable with that,” he said. “I like learning. I’m coach-able, as I tell my fellow MPs.”

“I wouldn’t say that the workload is the most difficult, but I would say that its all the things I don’t know, that I don’t know I’m not doing. I recognize that there’s no way in this job, or in any job, to be 100 per cent every day,” van Koeverden added.

“You can’t achieve perfection every day. I didn’t as an athlete, I didn’t as a manager, I didn’t as a broadcaster and being okay with that as a politician is important too.”

While van Koeverden is no stranger to public speaking, he said standing up in the House for the first time was “surreal.”

“It’s a lot different than any other public speaking that I’ve done. Even standing up in the Rogers Centre during a baseball game where I threw a pitch once, there were a lot of people in the stadium but I wasn’t nervous like I was in the House of Commons for the first time.”

It’s a sentiment shared by Maninder Sidhu, the newly elected Member of Parliament for Brampton-East. The customs broker-turned-politician called his first experiences in Parliament “humbling.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I had some anxiety, standing up for the first time in the House and asking a question to the honourable Prime Minister was a bit intimidating,” said Sidhu during a tour of a Brampton business. “I had a bit of jitters, but it was nice to stand up and have a voice in the House.”

A father of two children under three years old, he said the biggest challenge he’s faced so far is balancing family life in Brampton and parliamentary life 400 kilometres away in Ottawa. “It’s definitely a difficult balance to overcome. I used to read bedtime stories to my three-year-old every night, and now that can’t always happen. It’s definitely a challenge, but I’m honoured to be (there).”

Sidhu spends a lot of time in the riding visiting different community groups, meeting with individual constituents and small business owners. When CityNews caught up with him, he was meeting a young entrepreneur who opened a bustling barber shop in the riding, employing a half dozen youth.

Brampton-East is the youngest riding in Ontario with a median resident age of just 32.6 years old.

“What I’m trying to do is be an advocate for youth,” Sidhu, who isn’t that far off the average age of his constituents, said.

He said he has been pushing the Summer Jobs program, which subsidizes youth salaries for businesses and not-for-profits who may not have otherwise hired summer students. Sidhu said it’s an important way to get youth experience, but also to encourage them to bring their skills to the area.

Sidhu hasn’t lost the hustle that helped him build a successful customs brokerage firm almost straight out of university. He said he takes a lot of that to the Hill.

“People think it’s a nine-to-five job, but sometimes I leave the house at 7 [a.m.] and don’t get home until after 11 [p.m.]. Sure, there are some shorter days, but it’s very rewarding and I’m very lucky to have such a supportive wife,” Sidhu said. “Because without that support system none of this would happen.”

Sidhu — like van Koeverden — is getting used to life lived out of a suitcase and both rookies are excited for what 2020 may bring.

“Being a representative is really, really enjoyable,” van Koeverden said. “I loved representing Canada at the Olympics for four games, and I enjoyed my work as a broadcaster and this (being an MP) is a little bit of everything, and I’m enjoying it.”

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