Maternity leave won’t keep Burlington MP’s influence far from Ottawa

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Published January 10, 2024 at 5:03 pm

MP Burlington Ottawa politician Gould
Karina Gould (photo from X)

Karina Gould may not be on Parliament Hill, but that doesn’t mean she won’t be on the job.

The Liberal MP for the riding of Burlington is now officially on maternity leave, with her second child due this month.

But despite a reduced workload in the months ahead, the ability of politicians to participate through a hybrid Parliament will allow Gould to keep up with votes and other government business.

I will continue my MP work remotely, voting and participating in caucus and cabinet meetings, though on a reduced schedule,” Gould wrote on X (formerly Twitter) on Monday (Jan. 8) the day her leave began.

While it will be difficult to pry Gould away from her government duties, she admits this time, with her second child, she intends to take more time off to be a mom.

In 2018, Gould became the first Federal cabinet minister to give birth while in office and at that time she took just a nine-week break. This time she intends to remain on leave until the end of July.

In a recent exclusive interview with The Canadian Press, Gould talked about her role as government House leader six months into the job.

The article provides insight into how her influence is shaping politics in the nation’s capital,

Below is The Canadian Press story:


OTTAWA — Karina Gould knows how to throw a hefty political punch, and she often does it with a smile.

Just six months into her role as government House leader, Gould has redefined what it means to be a prime minister’s chief attack dog.

During a fall parliamentary sitting that often looked out of control, political insiders say Gould was a steady thorn in her opponents’ sides: calm and cutting at the same time.

They are crediting her with re-energizing the Liberal caucus after the party’s poll numbers plummeted last year, while Opposition Conservatives relished in their own gains.

“For the last year, it felt like the Conservatives were the only party competing,” said Fred DeLorey, a former national campaign manager for the Conservative Party of Canada.

“It wasn’t clear what the Liberals were doing, if they were in search of a narrative or if they didn’t understand they needed one. But it feels like in the last month, especially, there’s something coming together there, and their attacks are becoming more pointed.”

Gould is leading that charge, DeLorey said.

She is the youngest woman to have ever served as a federal cabinet minister, and the first federal minister to give birth while in office.

Her second child is due this month.

Right before Gould went on maternity leave in mid-December and the House adjourned for the holidays, she delivered a final message to Pierre Poilievre and his Conservative party that played heavily on her identity as a mom.

She had just removed an agenda item from the House’s order paper after the Tories attempted, for the second time that month, to delay government work and keep MPs working late leading up to Christmas.

“Instead of entertaining his temper tantrum, I’m going to suggest he takes a little bit of a time out,” she said about Poilievre in front of the House of Commons.

She stopped short of equating Tory MPs’ behaviour to children. That would be too insulting to Canadian children, she said.

In a year-end interview with The Canadian Press, Gould said she’s the same person when cameras are rolling on Parliament Hill as she is when she’s at home in Burlington, Ont., the riding she represents nestled halfway between Toronto and Niagara Falls.

“There’s no performance to me. I’m just telling you how it is and how I see things,” Gould said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed her to lead the Liberals’ agenda in the House of Commons in July after she had served as the minister for families, children and social development for nearly two years.

In that role, she dealt with a passport application backlog that caused major delays and political strife. She also helped oversee the Liberal government’s marquee $10-a-day child-care plan, which included finalizing a deal with Ontario.

In previous parliamentary sessions, Gould also served as minister for international development and minister for democratic institutions.

The prime minister is clearly chuffed about her performance in the new role.

In a speech at a holiday party for the Liberal caucus in December, Trudeau spent a full two minutes praising Gould’s accomplishments. She was the only minister he name-checked.

“We’re lucky to have you, as a team and as a country,” Trudeau said, and Gould got a prolonged standing ovation.

She admits there was no shortage of crises and challenges in the fall sitting.

Former Speaker Anthony Rota, a Liberal MP, resigned his post amid controversy in September. During a visit by Ukraine’s president to the Canadian Parliament, he honoured a Ukrainian Canadian veteran who fought for a Nazi unit in the Second World War.

“As someone whose family suffered immensely at the hands of the Nazis, it was a very difficult personal moment,” Gould said.

Later, questions were raised about the Speaker’s conduct after Greg Fergus — another Liberal MP — filmed a video that was shown at a partisan event.

“Part of your job as leader is to be able to figure out a path forward,” she said, during difficult moments.

“I think that’s something that I managed to do over the past number of months.”

As House leader, she helped the minority Liberal government get unanimous support to fast-track a bail reform bill in September, which became law last month. She also shepherded through a bill that sought to address the affordability crisis by creating a tax break for new rental developments and updated competition laws.

Greg MacEachern, a Liberal strategist and founder of KAN Strategies, said Gould was successful in portraying “a calm competence” throughout.

“Karina Gould’s style is that of someone who is able to remain calm while the temperature is rising in the House,” MacEachern said.

“No Liberals have questions over how she handled things, and they tend to like the contrast between her way of just continuing to speak at a very modulated level, pointing out the facts, driving a hole through the Conservative argument, yet doing it without seeming to sweat.”

DeLorey said Gould has proven to be a solid communicator who is able to point out Tory weak points.

“The Conservatives need to make sure they can effectively counter that and push back when it’s warranted,” he said.

But at this point, he noted, Tories have yet to directly challenge Gould, proving she was the right pick to throw Trudeau’s punches.

“She has been landing them, and it hasn’t been something we’ve seen in some time,” he said.

When the House resumes sitting in late January after a winter break, Gould will be missing from the front bench as she takes her maternity leave.

Government Whip Steve MacKinnon will become interim House leader, and Gould said she plans to vote for bills virtually and attend cabinet and caucus meetings by phone and video.

It’s a decision she made after stretching herself too thin after having her first child in 2018 and taking just a nine-week break, which she said didn’t allow enough time to physically and mentally recover.

“I was very focused on two things: doing my job as then-minister of democratic institutions and MP of Burlington, and being a mom,” she said.

“I didn’t have space for anything else in my life, including the fact that just before I gave birth, I lost my mom very suddenly to cancer, and there was a lot going on.”

The ushering in of a hybrid Parliament in which MPs can vote virtually has since afforded her — and others like NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh — the opportunity to go on parental leave while still fulfilling some of their duties.

That’s something she strongly advocated for, explaining that she sees it as part of her modus operandi to help break down barriers for women in politics.

Even if she may be less visible for a while, Gould said she has no intention to stop fighting.

“At the end of the day, it is an incredible privilege and honour to sit in that House in any seat, and I want Canadians to be proud of their democratic institutions,” she said.

“And I want them to be proud of the people who serve there.”

– Mickey Djuric, The Canadian Press

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