In the Chamber -- Grant Mitchell's Blog

Politicians and their families

Posted 5/14/2009 by Senator Grant Mitchell

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It’s been said that holding political office is the highest form of public service, but it does not come without sacrifices. It is not widely understood, I think, that the families of politicians make great sacrifices so that one member or the other can serve their country.

I was reminded of this at our leadership convention when I saw many of our MPs who had been in Ottawa away from their young children and spouses all week and then had travelled to Vancouver for weekend. Even when they go home on the weekends, which is generally the case, they are driven to attend events, knock on doors and to meet constituents because they have to be away in Ottawa so much of their time. MPs have immensely demanding schedules.  They work very hard, perhaps contrary to popular belief.

One MP with young children left Vancouver early Sunday morning after the convention ended, flew to Montreal, arriving at 4:30 only to have several hours with his family before leaving Ottawa early Monday morning. Another brought his 18 month daughter and his wife with him. This is increasingly difficult when children are older, or there are more than one.

I spent 12 years in the Alberta legislature, four of them as Leader of the Opposition. Teresa and I have three children all young during this period, one of whom was born during this time. I was away a lot, particularly during my time as Leader.

I shudder when I think of two moments in the life of our family that make my point very personally. One Friday night, I arrived home from a trip somewhere in the province at about 11:00 PM. As I came in the backdoor, I looked down the hall and saw our middle son, Liam, who was then about 5 or 6 out of bed on the way to the bathroom. He looked up at me and said, “Daddy, what are you doing home?”

On another occasion, I had a bit of time after the 1997 provincial election. So, I found myself and Teresa standing on the deck with Grady, our youngest standing with us. Grady turned to his mother (although I was right there and he could have turned to me) and said, “Mom, has Dad ever been in the backyard?”

Fortunately, our three sons have grown into very fine young men. They have been blessed by a remarkable mother who was always there in my absence and oversaw their upbringing very attentively. I am very grateful for her and for the fact that we have three remarkable and delightful sons.

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