By Kevin Woodhouse
Last April was his seventh successful election campaign, he has been and is currently the Native Affairs Minister, has worked through a merger and demerger process as well as a very close referendum call a year into his job as Geoffrey Kelley recently celebrated two full decades as a Quebec MNA, the fourth longest serving politician in the National Assembly.
The Suburban spoke to Kelley and asked how the job has changed in the last 20 years. “When I began, our offices used to get mail the old fashioned way, a constituent would put pen to paper or type out a response,” said Kelley. “Now, we might get one letter a month and the rest are e-mails.
“And while we were all taught letter writing in school; e-mail has no protocol so on occasion, the odd message can be a little rude or over the top, particularly the ones sent late at night,” quipped the Jacques-Cartier MNA.
Kelley believes that social media has a place in politics and “while it can improve access to someone, people sometimes expect a reply within 10 minutes of sending a message but that’s pretty rare.”
While reflecting on his 20 years, Kelley acknowledged that the 1995 referendum was “a scary night but the Liberal party has always made the case that Quebec’s best place is within a united Canada and while there is not another referendum on the horizon, a united country is a very good idea which continues to motivate me in my work.”
So even though e-mail and social media are more prevalent now, the concept of governance, according to Kelley, has not changed. “The challenge remains the same to make sure that we govern for all Quebecers and not just for special interest groups,” Kelley said.
Within the riding of Jacques-Cartier, Kelley is happy to have worked with local municipalities on such projects as the new science centre and synthetic athletic field at John Abbott College, the West Island Palliative Care Centre working with former Nelligan MNA Russell Williams and Teresa Dellar, the new expanded aquatic centre in Pointe Claire as well as other infrastructure projects that have, over the years, “added a significant investment for our community.”
Kelley, a regular train and bus user, noted that there are more trains and improved cars over the years but added that “we still have a long way to go.
“I did work on these projects but politics is a team sport and I’ve always been proud to help, in some way, for these projects to see the light of day,” said Kelley.
Challenges ahead for the riding will be to ensure that “there are enough services for our senior citizens as our demographics showing the continuation of the Gray Wave. As the population ages, there will be less people working and more retired and while we have to make sure that pension plans remain solvent, there has to be fairness to young workers,” said Kelley.
Kelley’s colleague in Marquette, MNA Francois Ouimet has also served 20 years in the National Assembly, coming into politics the same year as Kelley.