The winner of the Labrador federal byelection is adjusting to her new job
© TC Media file photo
Newly elected Labrador MP Yvonne Jones says she is focusing on economy, transportation, housing and infrastructure.
By Meghan McCabe
Special to tc media
Yvonne Jones could just as easily be preparing for law school right now as preparing for Parliament, but she’s happy with how things worked out.
“I was in the process of making applications to law school when Peter Penashue resigned,” says Jones. She had been contemplating a go at the federal game over the last couple of years.
“I did not aspire to run as an MHA. I ran as an independent member to raise the profile of the issues in an area where I was living and I got elected.
“And I guess when I got elected, I got hooked, and I became addicted to the life of a politician and working for people,” says the former leader of the provincial Liberals, who represented the Labrador riding of Cartwright-L’Anse au Clair for 17 years. She left provincial politics to run in the federal byelection.
Jones was one week into her new job as the member of Parliament for Labrador when she spoke to TC Media.
She’s been back and forth to Ottawa, where she had her first caucus meeting and started learning the rules and ropes of being an MP, and then headed to St. John’s for a day of meetings.
“When I resigned I didn’t even have time to clear out my office, and then I flew to Happy Valley-Goose Bay where I had my first official function as an MP,” she says. At that function, she spoke at the opening of a new women’s centre.
Judy Foote knows what it’s like to make the change from the hill in St. John’s to the hill in Ottawa. Foote has been the Liberal MP for Random-Burin-St. George’s since 2008, after 11 years in provincial politics.
“Your new colleagues are so willing to do everything they possibly can to help you adjust to the new environment that the transition isn’t difficult at all, especially if you are coming from a political milieu,” she says. “Yvonne’s win was so important for the federal Liberal party.”
“Labradorians want change, and I’m gonna be the one that makes sure that change happens,” Jones says.
“Over the last two months I’ve walked right through Labrador, and what I have seen and heard as a Labradorian amazes me…You see the amount of development, the amount of industry, construction — yet people are crying for jobs.
“Most of what I’ve been doing as a new member of Parliament is following through resumes for people who should be getting jobs here but they’re not.”
She says it’s her understanding that policies within the unions aren’t clearly defined with the government and the companies, so the government doesn’t have much control, and people are getting left out in a number of ways.
“Millions and millions of dollars are going out to the Government of Canada and the province, and where is it going? I’m going to track that money, find out where it’s going, because it’s not going into the communities.”
She says she’ll make sure the people of Labrador are partners in development. The economy, transportation, housing, and infrastructure are the key points she says she is focusing on.
“You look at Wabush Mines, you look at what they’re contributing to the province, to the federal government in revenues and royalties — five new mines — and here you’ve got a community you can’t even drive over the roads. They’re horrible. I was absolutely floored by the aging infrastructure,” and that’s just one example, says Jones.
And she feels that Labrador has the support of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.
“I was very happy that he came in here in the middle of the campaign. … He got the opportunity to listen to what people say, what’s important, and he walked away saying to me, ‘Yvonne, we gotta make sure that the Labrador agenda gets profiled, that it’s important and understood by the rest of Canada.’
“His appointments told me that he understands what we’re faced with. … He appointed me in a portfolio that allowed me to work hard for the people of Labrador.”
Jones is critic for Northern development and the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency.
“Hopefully sometime soon I’m gonna get sworn in and be able to actually go to work in the House of Commons,” says Jones, who is waiting for the paperwork from Elections Canada to be finalized.
Until then, she’ll continue working, setting up her offices in Labrador and getting oriented in Ottawa.