By Charlie Senack
The Ottawa Center has a newly elected official on Parliament Hill, but its political streaks have remained the same. Liberal candidate Yasir Naqvi won 45 percent of the vote in the last federal election, replacing outgoing Liberal MP Catherine McKenna in the House of Commons.
Naqvi is no stranger to Ottawa Center politics: he served as a Riding Member of the Provincial Parliament (MPP) from 2007 until he was defeated in 2018. At Queen’s Park, he served in a number of roles, including Attorney General of Ontario, Government House Leader, Minister for Community Security and Correctional Services and, among others, Minister for Labor.
Naqvi decided to enter the political arena again when the opportunity came to knock. Just months before the election, McKenna announced she would not seek a third term after representing the Ottawa Center federally for six years and serving in various cabinet positions.
Naqvi received 33,825 votes on September 20 and won the place by 12 percentage points over NDP candidate Angella MacEwen, who came in second with 24,552 votes (or 33 percent). Conservative candidate Carol Clemenhagen came in third with 11,650 votes (almost 16 percent); Green Party candidate Angela Keller-Herzog came in fourth with 2,115 votes (almost three percent); and Regina Watteel of the Canadian People’s Party came in fifth with 1,605 votes (two percent). There were also candidates from the Animal Protection Party, the Communist Party and an independent on the ballot, each receiving less than one percent of the vote according to Election Canada.
COVID-19 was the main focus of this election cycle. Despite vaccination rates, the incidence of the virus is rising again – a trend expert warned that would happen this fall. Many provinces, including Ontario, have implemented mandatory vaccine policies for certain settings, such as indoor dining, gyms, concerts, and large gatherings. Naqvi said these are measures the Liberal Party supports, adding that work must now begin on rebuilding a stronger Canada with even higher vaccination rates.
“Our primary goal at this point must be to put an end to this pandemic,” Naqvi told the Kitchissippi Times a few days after winning his seat. “We cannot move forward sufficiently until this pandemic is under control. There is a fourth wave going on and great concern, even though our vaccine numbers are among the highest in the world. ”
Naqvi said action plans include creating incentives for unvaccinated people to receive their shots and ensuring Canada has adequate supplies as they are under the age of 12 able to be vaccinated and as a third booster shot makes a rollout.
When it comes to community issues, Naqvi said he will spend the first few months getting wet and having meetings with community members to see what topics are at the top.
Important work also needs to be done in relation to the new location for Civic Hospital, a project that has experienced much controversy given its takeover of natural green space and the loss of some historic trees. NDP candidate MacEwen called for a public inquiry into the new site selection process. Although Naqvi did not directly address the situation, he said it would require many conversations.
He is also looking to build more affordable housing in the department and set up a local climate action plan.
“I want to reach out to all the social parties, starting with our elected representatives, so that we can start adapting our services,” Naqvi said. “I also want to reach out to many community and social service providers and, of course, our community associations, which are crucial.”
Now in the House of Commons, Naqvi said that this political adventure feels very much the same, but also different. For the past three years, he has enjoyed being a full-time father again, picking up his children from school and putting them to bed at night. With Parliament Hill placed in its riding, the Pakistani-Canadian hopes to find a balance between work and private life.
“I am so grateful for the opportunity and the fact that I can cycle to work or maybe even run to work. The fact that I do not have to get on a plane is really amazing, ”said Naqvi, who has two children aged five and nine.
“I will still be able to drop my kids off at school and pick them up at the end of the day,” he added. “I can put them to bed and make them dinner. The most satisfying part of the last three years where I was not in office was being a full-time parent, and I am determined to find that balance. ”