April 21, 2016: Updated with Erin Weir’s response at the bottom, and Tom Lukiwski’s office’s response.
A friend in Regina was looking for help with her family’s immigration papers.
“Just go to your MP’s office,” I said.
“I don’t have an MP office,” she replied.
What do you mean, you don’t have a MP office? Everyone has a MP office.
Well, it seems not everyone.
Last October – exactly six months ago today, actually – NDP MP Erin Weir won the riding of Regina-Lewvan. It’s a new riding, formed with chunks of the former Tory ridings of Palliser and Tom Lukiwski’s Regina-Lumsden-Lake Centre. When the 2011 results were redistributed, it seemed likely Lewvan would become a NDP-held riding. It did, though just barely, with Weir squeaking through with just 0.33% more votes than the Conservative candidate, Trent Fraser.
Six months later, Weir has still not set up a constituency office.
Weir helpfully provides two Regina phone numbers on his website – for his voicemail.
Oh, and a mailing address in case you want to send him a cheque – but don’t you dare go there for anything related to Weir’s, um, job.
(4045 Montague Street is a house, incidentally, situated right off Regina’s Parliament Avenue. Cute.)
Of the 338 MPs in Canada, it appears Weir is one of three MPs who does not have an office, and one of those MPs is having their office renovated.
It’s not like Weir can’t afford it. Canadian MPs get a whopping $349K per year (I know, don’t even get me started) to maintain their office – which pays for everything from lease payments to employee salaries to artwork.
Well, maybe unlike 98 per cent of his MP colleagues, Weir hasn’t had the time to set up a constituency office in his riding.
Though he’s had plenty of time to buy billboard space in Regina.
Good lord does this guy have a lot of billboards. They meet the standards for MP advertising, though just barely, IMO (but they certainly got that NDP brand out in front of Reginans in the months leading up to the provincial election).
Weir also seemed to have time to campaign for the provincial NDP.
He’s had time to update us on his Facebook page, 28 times in the last month, on every single time he’s said something in the House, or at Committee.
And time for Ottawa hobnobbing.
Weir has even had time to hire a constituency assistant, who also hasn’t been able to set up an actual constituency office in Regina in the last six months… but was able to stump for Bernie Sanders in Des Moines in February.
His staffer’s “role”?
Political-types travel and help out other campaigns all the time. Presumably, though, the Canadian taxpayer didn’t pay a penny – including in wages – for Weir’s constituency assistant’s trip to Feel the Bern. Right?
Erin Weir first ran federally for the NDP in 2004. In 2013 he ran for the NDP’s provincial leadership. He has wanted this for a very long time. I’ve no doubt he cares about his constituents – you know, the ones that got him there.
There’s no excuse for a six month delay for a MP to open a constituency office.
There isn’t a shortage of commercial lease space in Regina. Waiting for Shaw or SaskTel can be maddening, but they’re usually only a few hours late, not a few months.
A Member of Parliament who is only accessible by email is unacceptable – at the least, because it automatically excludes everyone who does not have access to a computer or smartphone. As for the “voicemail” boxes – you have a constituency assistant Erin, why is he not answering the phone?
I imagine that being a first time MP, complete with the initiation to life on Parliament Hill, is somewhat overwhelming – but Weir wanted the job, and is seasoned enough to know what he needed to do. He owed better to the constituents of Regina Lewvan in his first six months of serving them.
Weir knows I’m writing this, and I’ll update it when he lets me know what’s up. I can’t reach his constituency assistant either, because a) nobody answers the phones in the constituency and b) he’s in Ottawa. You know, serving the constituency.
April 21, 2016 – Here’s Erin Weir’s response, emailed this morning. Excuses, frankly, including:
- It’s Tom Lukiwski’s fault.
- he couldn’t find the right location – though there was plenty of available space in the riding.
- he couldn’t find a realtor to help him.
- it took “weeks” to negotiate a lease rate, and more weeks to install services.
Sorry Erin, not buying it.
You’re one of the last MPs in the country to get around to opening an office, and you seem to find that acceptable. Finding billboard space and producing billboard advertising can be just as challenging, and just as time-consuming, as doing so for what you flippantly refer to as “bricks and mortar”.
And the space you told Murray Mandryk you have leased – 2024A Albert Street, has been vacant for at least a year.
You need to reconsider your priorities, Erin – the little people of Regina Lewvan, as opposed to the bright lights of Parliament Hill – going forward.
Here’s Weir’s email in its entirety:
“Most new MPs simply take over the constituency office of a previous MP. That was not an option in Regina–Lewvan because of how it was redistributed from Palliser and Regina–Lumsden–Lake Centre.
The former MP for Palliser, Ray Boughen, had his main office in Moose Jaw and only a small satellite office in south Regina. The other MP, Tom Lukiwski, knew he would run outside Regina and was therefore using a small transitional office during his final year representing the former Regina–Lumsden–Lake Centre. Mr. Lukiwski advised me against taking over that office. I looked at it and agreed with him.
At the same time, I was calling commercial realtors to explore other options. They were understandably more focused on larger deals than on helping someone lease up to 1,000 square feet for an office.
Regina–Lewvan is a very residential riding. The available office space tends to be concentrated on south Albert Street and on Rochdale Boulevard – at the south and north ends of the riding. I wanted a more central location that would be more accessible from all parts of the riding.
I eventually found space at the corner of Albert Street and Victoria Avenue. It took a few weeks to negotiate a lease at a good rate, a few weeks to get permits from the City, and a few more weeks to have renovations done. We are now just waiting for the House of Commons to install its phone and web network. That takes longer than dealing directly with SaskTel or Access, but should happen next week.
During this process, we have been accessible by phone and e-mail. I frequently meet with constituents. My casework assistant in Regina has resolved 90 cases and is currently working on 40 more. My staff and I are providing the services one would expect from an MP office.
In terms of the bricks and mortar, getting good value at a central location was more important than getting something fast.”
As for his “staffers” role in Sanders campaign:
“Ryan Hurley’s date of hire was after he had returned from Iowa. He was my staffer by the time the American Prospect story came out.”
Which is weird, because the Getty Images used in the story were taken on February 1 2016:
and posted by Getty Images on February 2, 2016, very clearly describing Hurley as working for Erin Weir.
So what, Getty just made that up on February 2, 2016?
I asked Tom Lukiwski’s office about what Weir said regarding Lukiwski’s alleged real estate advice, and here was their response, verbatim:
“Tom did not advise Weir against Regina-Lumsden-Lake Centre’s former office space.”