Barrie Advance

By Laurie Watt 

NEWSMAKERS 2015 – John Brassard and Alex Nuttall took their seats in the House of Commons and rose to ask their first questions this month.

They made friends with their seatmates, as they don’t sit anywhere near each other, unlike their days on Barrie council, when just the councillors for wards 8 and 9 separated them.

They’re now back in their ridings — Barrie-Innisfil for Brassard and Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte for Nuttall.

“It’s fast-paced on the Hill. You just realize every day, every hour, it’s an incredible honour,” said Nuttall, the FedDev critic, who zeroed in on a topic not included in the Dec. 4 Speech from the Throne.

“I asked the Prime Minister why manufacturing in Ontario wasn’t included.

“He had zero information on what he’d do for the families transitioning out of manufacturing. Canadian-made goods are good for the economy and for exports. It was a pretty surreal experience.”

Brassard, meanwhile, got to make his first Member’s Statement just before Question Period earlier this month.

“It was an incredible experience,” he said, adding the House was full.

“I spoke about a lack of an energy policy. I compared it to the situation in Ontario, where Ontarians are paying 80 per cent more in rates and the impact that has on consumers, seniors and businesses in Barrie-Innisfil.”

Neither of them has yet joined the parliamentary hockey league, which pits MPs against each other on the ice.

Hockey, however, is sure to be a topic of contention for Brassard, who will be sharing a Byward Market apartment with Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MP Larry Miller starting Feb. 1.

“He’s a big Owen Sound Attacks fan and my son plays for the Colts. It’ll be interesting on game nights to see how that works out in our apartment,” Brassard said.

Both Brassard and Nuttall have House seatmates from Quebec, and for Brassard, it’s an opportunity to work on the French he learned as a youngster growing up in Montreal.

Back in Barrie, the two MPs are doing constituency work. For Nuttall, that means working in a rather bare-bones set-up, thanks to the Nov. 6 recount that meant he couldn’t order furniture or phone lines when most other MPs did.

“We’re told the desks won’t come until January. We’re working off patio furniture we brought from home,” Nuttall said of the office at 48 Alliance Blvd..

It’s a world away from Parliament Hill, where he has his office beside Brassard’s on the Confederation Block’s fifth floor.

Both are reconnecting with their families, who have visited Ottawa to experience the thrill of seeing our democracy up close.

“The experience of working in a place that is so pivotal to the life we enjoy as Westerners and Canadians is difficult to describe in words,” said Nuttall. “It’s an amazing honour.”

For Brassard, it’s sharing a piece of history.

“There have been 100 million Canadians since Confederation. Of those, only 4,000 have been parliamentarians. When you think of that and you have been given the honour to be one of those 4,000, you can’t describe the feeling,” said Brassard. “It’s amazing to think of the history of who has walked through those doors since 1867. It’s fascinating. I’m part of that.”