When Liberal Mark Holland lost his seat in 2011, he couldn’t get out of bed for days.
“It was absolutely devastating for me … Because it was my hometown, it felt personal. It felt like a personal rejection,” said the Ajax MP, who went on to be re-elected in 2015 and again on Monday.
“It’s like being in a car going 100 kilometres an hour and hitting a brick wall and everything stops.”
He credits the House of Commons’s transition program with helping him move on from his defeat. The program offers counselling and up to $15,000 to help defeated MPs transition from the House of Commons back to the civilian world.
It’s a program the 46 incumbents who lost on Monday can access as they take stock of their defeats.
The taxpayer-funded package can be used to cover the cost of career transition services, job training or post-secondary education and some travel expenses, according to the members’ allowances and services manual.
Holland was first elected at the municipal level at age 23. He said he leaned on the transition program to dust off his resumé and get some retraining before eventually landing a job at the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
“Having a service that helps folks make the transition back to a normal life — helps them get their resumé in shape, makes sure that their mental health is in a strong position and that they have the support they need to get reintegrated — is incredibly important,” he said.
For former MPs seeking career advice, the House of Commons offers the services of a third-party firm that provides one-on-one career coaching. MPs can use another career counselling firm as long as it’s cleared in advance.
In order to qualify for the transition fund, career transition programs have be started within 12 months of the general election. The fund also requires that ex-MPs submit certificates for career transition programs.
Defeated incumbents can also use the program’s cash to go back to school in Canada.
The MP handbook stipulates that, in order to qualify for transition program funding, ex-MPs must prove the training or education they’re seeking is in a field related to the work they intend to pursue. The institution also must be required by contract to provide on-the-job instruction, tutoring, training or supervision.
The manual lists teaching, law, accounting, engineering and the trades as examples of skills that could be subsidized.
As with the career transition programs, training programs have to start within 12 months of the end of the general election to qualify for funding, and proof of competition is required.
The money also can be used for travel. Members who are not re-elected are entitled to up to four economy-class round trips within Canada if they can prove they’re travelling to and from job interviews, education sessions or career transition sessions, or if they need to travel to Ottawa to sell their homes.
Transition program funds can also be used to pay for sundry services such as long-distance phone calls within Canada, stationery and office supplies, but the program requires receipts.
MPs often leave private-sector gigs
Holland says skeptics who balk at the program’s price tag need to understand the sacrifice most MPs make by leaving promising careers to run for office.
“I think that nobody understands the pressures of somebody who steps forward and offers themselves to public service,” he said.
“Regardless of the partisan stripe, I have enormous regard for people who put themselves in that position and I think that it makes only good sense to make sure that they transition back to public life.”
The 46 incumbents who weren’t re-elected on Monday are:
- Nick Whalen (Liberal)
- Matt DeCourcey (Liberal)
- Alaina Lockhart (Liberal)
- Karen Ludwig (Liberal)
- Rémi Massé (Liberal)
- Alupa Clarke (Conservative)
- Matthew Dubé (NDP)
- Ruth Ellen Brosseau (NDP)
- Ramez Ayoub (Liberal)
- Guy Caron (NDP)
- Sylvie Boucher (Conservative)
- François Choquette (NDP)
- Karine Trudel (NDP)
- Jean-Claude Poissant (Liberal)
- Richard Hébert (Liberal)
- David Graham (Liberal)
- Michel Picard (Liberal)
- Linda Lapointe (Liberal)
- Brigitte Sansoucy (NDP)
- Jean Rioux (Liberal)
- Pierre Breton (Liberal)
- Pierre-Luc Dusseault (NDP)
- Robert Aubin (NDP)
- Tracey Ramsey (NDP)
- Mike Bossio (Liberal)
- Bob Nault (Liberal)
- Harold Albrecht (Conservative)
- Lisa Raitt (Conservative)
- Kim Rudd (Liberal)
- Cheryl Hardcastle (NDP)
- Doug Eyolfson (Liberal)
- MaryAnn Mihychuk (Liberal)
- Robert-Falcon Ouellette (Liberal)
- Georgina Jolibois (NDP)
- Ralph Goodale (Liberal)
- Sheri Benson (NDP)
- Kent Hehr (Liberal)
- Randy Boissonnault (Liberal)
- Amarjeet Sohi (Liberal)
- John Aldag (Liberal)
- Stephen Fuhr (Liberal)
- Wayne Stetski (NDP)
- Jati Sidhu (Liberal)
- Dan Ruimy (Liberal)
- Gordie Hogg (Liberal)
- Joe Peschisolido (Liberal)
MPs who do not seek re-election are also entitled to up to $15,000 in transition support to help re-establish themselves after leaving politics.
The money comes out of the House of Commons administration central budget.
As reported by the Hill Times, back in April the Board of Internal Economy expanded counselling services for MPs and terminated employees, extending their period of availability from six months to a full year.