So you want to be a member of Parliament?

It takes a dazzling set of skills to be an MP. Like having a hand, to pound things with.


With a federal election likely to come as early as this fall, a number of Canadians are toying with the idea of running for office. Do you have what it takes to be a member of Parliament? Let’s find out.

Do you like birthdays? Do you like other people’s birthdays? Do you like being obligated to show up at other people’s birthdays, anniversaries, retirement parties, book launches, interventions, seances, hoedowns and circumcisions? As an MP, you’ll get invited to everything and be expected to give a speech paying tribute to the individual/group/penis.

Do you have at least one hand? Pounding your hand on things is important in politics—desks, tables, the heads of small children, whatever’s around. Your leader: “Our political rivals despise our freedom, our way of life and this cute panda I’m holding.” You: [Pounding vigorously?.?.?.?]

Is your primary skill the ability to occupy physical space? If so, you may already be a member of the Conservative caucus. Please double check before filing new nomination papers.

Do you lack the capacity to feel? It sounds harsh but it helps to have a paucity of human emotion. As an MP, you will be subjected to enough confrontation, humiliation and profanity to make that Jet Blue flight attendant go, “Here, dude, you need these beers more than me.” A normal person would respond by weeping for hours in the fetal position. An MP responds by smiling serenely and carrying on. And by developing horribly painful stress ulcers.

How do you feel about spending your entire summer eating hamburgers and hot dogs at dozens of community cookouts? True story: by the time he retired after 40 years in politics, Herb Gray was hickory smoked.

Are you committed to the idea of public service? Representing your constituents and voting your conscience is the sacred duty of all MPs. Unless you’re told not to do that, which is what usually happens.

Are you excited about moving to the nation’s capital? Life in Ottawa is great if you like extremes in weather and a downtown uncluttered by visual appeal, entertainment attractions and, after 6:30 p.m., humans.

Does your spouse hate you? It helps if your spouse hates you. It will save you both the pain of your spouse growing to hate you. Understand something: being a political wife or husband is about the worst thing imaginable—unless you have a good imagination, and can imagine Bob Rae in a tankini. The spouse is forced to listen to the same speech over and over and pretend to be riveted. The spouse must attend tedious functions and pretend to be interested. The spouse must experience tender family moments and pretend you’re not sitting there thinking to yourself, “This will make a great anecdote that will further humanize me in the eyes of the electorate!”

Are you a quick learner? There are advantages to being an MP. International junkets. Free domestic travel. Getting close enough to Peter MacKay to actually hear him flex his pectorals as a pretty lady walks by. That’s all good stuff. But you need to swiftly learn the nuances of political life, such as grasping parliamentary procedure and discovering that Ken Dryden can speak for 45 minutes on any topic, including, “How are you, Ken?”

Do you have the energy for it? Don’t get me wrong: there are more exhausting jobs out there. Mining for coal. Working construction. Being Tom Cruise’s smile. But an MP’s day begins early and ends late. Think of it this way: do you ever come home after a gruelling workday and think to yourself, “Man, I sure wish there was a meeting of the Rotary Club tonight?”

Are you prepared to embarrass yourself, your country and your system of government with your behaviour in question period? Some people can bray like a donkey. Others can make obscene gestures. But Parliament Hill is the big time—you should be able to do both simultaneously.

Results: If you answered yes to most of these questions, you just may be ready to run for federal office. If you answered yes to the last question, Stephen Harper will be dropping by shortly to sign your nomination papers.

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