John Barlow speaks about life in Parliament
By Kelci Nicodemus – High River Times.
The High River Library celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Canadian flag this past Thursday, Feb. 12, by hosting special guest John Barlow, MP for Macleod, who spoke about his life and experiences so far on Parliament Hill.
The event featured Barlow conversing with High River residents, addressing questions and concerns, while also speaking about his life since he won his seat in the June 2014 by-election.
Part of his address saw Barlow recalling his first day in Ottawa as MP for the Macleod riding.
“I started my first session in September,” he said. “It was a bit different than I would have expected. I went to see where I was sitting (in the House of Commons) and they said, ‘I’m sorry you’re not allowed in here.’”
Barlow said he was not allowed into the House until the Prime Minister himself took him into the room that, for many, remains the heart of Canadian Parliament.
He remembered the experience of being paraded in by Prime Minister Stephen Harper as something akin to an out-of-body experience.
“That was probably one of the most surreal experiences I’ve had,” he said. “To have the Prime Minister walk me in and have 307 of my new colleagues give me a standing ovation (was amazing).”
He added working with the Prime Minister has been a great opportunity.
“I can tell you that he’s one of the most incredible people I’ve ever had to work with,” he said. “He has a great sense of humour and a great personality.”
In addition, Barlow spoke about his typical day, meetings and the decision-making process. He said the most difficult decisions about ongoing issues are made at the committee level and each MP is involved with two or three committees.
Barlow, a member of the Aboriginal Affairs Committee, requested this group because of the five First Nations communities in the Macleod riding. He’s also part of the Status of Women Committee.
Barlow said his life has been busy, as numerous hours are spent flying back and forth from Ontario to Alberta. However, he noted he knew travel would be a factor when he was elected.
“One surprising thing is the time change,” he said. “I didn’t think the time change would be a big deal, but it’s a big deal.”
Barlow explained he had thought about moving to Ottawa with his wife and youngest daughter.
“I know some MPs that moved their families to Ottawa, but you’re still not really home,” he said. “Okotoks and High River is home (for me).”
Barlow said the Conservative Party of Canada is focusing on voter turnout in the next election, as very few people voted this past June.
“We really saw that as an opportunity for us to improve communication,” he said.
As an attempt to heighten his connection with constituents, Barlow and his team have done several mail outs and started a weekly newsletter.
Also, constituents have the opportunity to email him directly through his website www.johnbarlowmp.ca.
He explained he wants to get people talking about the issues in their communities.
“We want to start engaging people,” he said.
Barlow added his experience in Parliament has been great so far.
“(I’ve) been learning through experience, but we have such an amazing team in Ottawa,” he said. “I get to work with some of the most talented people in the country almost every single day. It’s been great that way.”