The riding and the portfolio may have changed, but Randall Garrison’s work hasn’t.
The NDP Member of Parliament for Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke was returned to Ottawa for a second term, stepping into a new geographical riding and a new political landscape under Justin Trudeau’s Liberal majority government.
“It’s obviously disappointing to see our numbers cut in half. We lost a lot of great MP’s who were very capable and good colleagues of mine and that is disappointing,” Garrison said. “But on the other hand, they (took) the Conservatives out of office and that is a positive thing.”
The Esquimalt resident was one of only a handful of NDP candidates not only reclaiming their seat, but significantly increasing their margin of victory. He went from an approximately 400-vote victory in 2011 to a margin of 5,200 in 2015. His time on the doorsteps of his constituents – many of whom live in the West Shore communities of Colwood, Metchosin and View Royal – helped him understand some of the top issues for residents in his riding, he said.
“Opposition to tanker traffic was very strong in the Western Communities, (people felt) that for no jobs on the Island we would be forced to take all the risk for additional oil spills …” he said. “(Another one) was child care. There was lots of concern among local residents (that there are) a lot of younger families who, even if they could afford childcare, aren’t able to find spaces.”
A new portfolio as critic for national defence and for LGBTQ issues sees him more involved in the discussion on how Canada uses its armed forces, as well as how members of the military are treated after they come back from international missions.
“We are talking about physical injuries and we are talking about things like PTSD, or we are simply talking about a transition back to civilian life,” Garrison said. “The federal government has a responsibility to meet the commitment that those in the forces made to Canada.”
He pointed to Cockrell House, an 11-unit transitional housing facility in Colwood for homeless ex-military re-integrating back into civilian life, as one West Shore initiative he found particularly impressive and valuable.
“I have always been involved in veterans issues here, and I’ve visited Cockrell House and I’ve said many times that it’s a shining example of how Canadians at the local level, and particularly the Legion, stepped up to meet a need that the government had left as a gap,” he said. “I still have immense praise for the Legion in doing that and for the many volunteers who helped make that work and continue to (do so).”
Garrison also recently re-introduced Bill C-204, a private member’s bill that would amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to prohibit discrimination on the grounds of gender identity and gender expression. Garrison’s bill won support of the House of Commons the first time around, but was defeated in the Senate. He comes into his second term as the MP who brought the most federal dollars to their particular riding in Canada.
“I will be working as hard as I can to make sure that continues,” he said. “I have proved that it is not really a barrier if you are not part of the government. If you get local people to make good applications and get good support from the MP, they can get funded.”