October 12, 2017
By Sean Meyer
It would be safe to say Karen Vecchio had some very interesting days recently on Parliament Hill.
Vecchio, the MP for Elgin-Middlesex-London, was pulled into a bout of political gamesmanship last week after being elected as chair of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women — a job she didn’t even want.
Already the shadow minister for Family, Children and Social Development, Vecchio was pushed into the spotlight after her own nominee for the job, Alberta MP Rachael Harder, was voted down by both Liberal Party and NDP members.
“Walking out . . . that took us by surprise. I’ll be honest; it was totally staged,” Vecchio said. “It was all about changing the page on what’s happening in Canada right now with these proposed tax changes. It was about trying to build a narrative around this social conservative chaos. It was very obvious to us what it was.”
When they returned, Vecchio said she heard it was her name that was being put forward as chair.
Although she jokingly refers to the nomination as “lovely,” she tried unsuccessfully to block the move. Not only is she already busy, she explained, in her role as MP, Vecchio said she is also managing the workload that comes from her shadow minister’s role, not to mention the work she is putting into crafting a rural family strategy.
But even more than the workload, she opposed her nomination on the principle of it all.
“It’s supposed to be a committee voted in by the official opposition. Because they don’t agree with all her views, they didn’t believe she was right for the chair,” Vecchio said. “I, on the other hand, believe that the greatest thing is a diversity of opinion on those committees. There are three different parties and whether you’re a social conservative or believe in pro-life or same sex marriage or don’t agree with any of it, that’s fine. I believe you need all Canadians represented at the table.”
The Liberal and NDP members of the status of women committee have been quoted in national media as believing Harder would be unable to keep her anti-abortion views from impacting their work.
That belief, they allege, is what led to Vecchio’s election.
Although she could have refused the job, which she speculates likely would have seen her name resubmitted anyway, she decided “at the end of the day,” accepting the role is what’s best for families and women.
Since taking on new role, Vecchio already has her first sub-committee meeting as chair.
The position, she explains, is akin to running a family.
“My job is to listen to everybody’s opinion and then make the decisions. I get along with basically everyone in the House of Commons. There are a few people where I may disagree with their opinions, but I get along with basically everybody,” she said. “I don’t respect what they did by putting me in the chair, but at the same time, it doesn’t matter. That’s not the point anymore. My job is to move forward. You roll with the punches and do your job.”