Absent Liberal MP defends absence from Ottawa in House of Commons speech
A Liberal MP who’s stayed out of the House of Commons for months says he’s been busy with other important work.
“Time spent in the House is a part of a member’s work but despite that I decided to do something concrete for a cause I truly care about,” Montreal MP Nicola Di Iorio said in the Commons Tuesday.
The speech ranged widely, even touching on the historical mistreatment of Italian-Canadians in the Second World War.
First elected to represent St. Leonard-St. Michel in 2015, Di Iorio has been sending mixed messages about his future in politics since April, when he announced he was leaving but without giving a timeline. More recently, in a long Facebook post, he said he’d resign next Jan. 22.
The New Democrats raised a question of privilege in November, charging that Di Iorio’s absence meant his constituents haven’t been properly represented. If Di Iorio had been away for inadequate reasons, B.C. MP Nathan Cullen said, perhaps he should be expelled from the Commons.
Di Iorio, answering the NDP’s allegation, said he’s been doing other work, especially on the government’s cannabis legislation. He said he believed there had not been enough awareness raised about the dangers of legalizing the drug. He said the timing of his resignation was challenging because he is involved in promoting awareness about impaired driving.
He’s also been working as a lawyer outside politics, he said, which is valuable for a politician because it grounds a person in the real world.
Di Iorio said he’s been open about his evolving plans to leave office. Di Iorio said he raised the issue in the House in June before heading back to his riding to talk to his constituents. Di Iorio said his work continued throughout the summer and he had to cancel his vacation plans. It was sometime in August, he said, that his concern about representing his constituents was made public.
“During that time I have worked on behalf of my constituents and my community, over the past few months I have undertaken work on issues that I truly care about,” he said. Many of those issues are taking up all my time right now.”
In December, he says, he was told — he didn’t say by whom — that he would be absent from the House for a few weeks, during which he would focus on various other tasks and would not receive a salary.
Then he began talking about history.
“On the 10th of June, 1940, our government interned Canadians of Italian origin on no grounds, with no charges and no trial,” he said. “I have known many of these people. I knew them as a child but it was only when I became an adult that I understood why people were talking about it — but at the time these people were already seniors and to date Canadians of Italian origin still suffer from the stigma of that collective trauma at the time.”
To this day, he said, nobody has apologized.