MP McCrimmon connecting virtually

WEST CARLETON – One thing has changed for Kanata-Carleton MP Karen McCrimmon during the eight months Canada has been firmly ensnared in the global COVID-19 pandemic. Her vision.

McCrimmon won her second term just over a year ago (Oct. 22, 2019). The Constance Bay resident is well known for being all over her community – attending every bake sale, pancake supper, fundraiser and event held in the community. Just so she can say hello, get a pulse on the community, meet those who voted for her and those who didn’t, and hear what they have to say.

Being a part of your community is the biggest part of a politician’s job, and in McCrimmon’s case, her favourite part.

Of course, COVID-19 changed all that. For one, there were no more bake sales, pancake suppers, fundraisers or events to attend.

For McCrimmon, it has meant moving online. Practically, literally.

A poster for Karen McCrimmon's Nov. 19 town hall.
Courtesy Karen McCrimmon

“I would say, four out of the last six months, I’ve been on Zoom (online virtual meetings) for six to 10 hours a day,” McCrimmon told West Carleton Online on Nov. 6. “I find that really difficult, for many reasons. My doctor has noticed my distance vision has really plummeted.”

In fact, McCrimmon who’s vision has always been good, recently underwent laser eye surgery to correct the problem.

McCrimmon is the chair of the National Defence committee, the chair of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and the chair of the Ottawa Liberal Caucus. That her constituency duties and parliamentary duties alone would create a lot of Zoom meetings. But McCrimmon is trying to stay connected with her constituents as well and has been trying to do that through Zoom meetings and Facebook Live town halls.

McCrimmon has hosted around eight of these public, virtual meetings so far.

“And hopefully more to come,” McCrimmon said. “We’re trying to do one every second or third week. They’ve been very popular. For me, the best part of the job is being out in the public and learning about the community.”

Some of these meetings are town hall style open-ended while others are more issue related like a Nov. 3 Facebook Live event where McCrimmon hosted a discussion on climate change and had subject matter experts from the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment. McCrimmon said 186 people logged on for one of her recent virtual town halls.

“They are an opportunity for the community to advocate for supports,” McCrimmon said. “I don’t always have a lot of answers, but I will put out the call to see how we could have better supports. They’ve been well attended. If this is the mechanism to connect with people, so be it.”

Although McCrimmon is taking advantage of modern technology to continue to meet with the community, it is not her favourite.

“It is harder,” she said. “Public meetings might be single issue meetings, but I usually learn so much about other things at them. That doesn’t happen in a Zoom meeting. I miss that. Politics, even more today, depends on relationships, establishing connections and dialoguing. I find Zoom conversations stilted. You can’t interject without taking over the whole conversation. I want to hear from more people. But there are time constrains and sometimes there are mic hogs. It’s harder to shift the attention without being rude.”

McCrimmon’s next public meeting is a Facebook Live Virtual Town Hall scheduled for tomorrow (Nov. 19) at 7 p.m. Pre-registration is not required, and you can find out more about the event and attending by clicking here.

But like all people struggling through the pandemic, McCrimmon is looking forward to a kind-of return to normal, whenever that might be.

“I want to get out and talk to people face-to-face,” she said. “That’s the thing that inspires me and gives me a good, solid picture.”