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Former Tory MP Rahim Jaffer and former cabinet minister Helena Guergis, in a October, 2008, wedding photo. Federal Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson on Tuesday said she would not investigate allegations against Ms. Guergis that had been passed on to her by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Former Tory MP Rahim Jaffer and former cabinet minister Helena Guergis, in a October, 2008, wedding photo. Federal Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson on Tuesday said she would not investigate allegations against Ms. Guergis that had been passed on to her by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Unseated politicians face a rough transition Add to ...

From hero to zero, says Joe Jordan, is the brutal trajectory of a defeated MP.

"You get kicked to the curb," he said. "All of a sudden, your phones don't work."

Mr. Jordan, 50, knows of what he speaks. In 2004, he lost the Eastern Ontario riding he had represented since 1997. No one told him how he should feel or act or what to do. But he's a quick study, had done some preparatory work, and landed on his feet. It occurred to him then that he could help other defeated MPs make that transition from public to private life.

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So he created a program. He found a partner in the Canadian Association of Former Parliamentarians and assembled a kit full of advice, including testimonials from other defeated MPs.

After the 2008 election, he sent the kit to each of the 32 MPs who were unseated. He met with 22 of them. Rahim Jaffer, 37, was not among them.

Last week, Mr. Jaffer, a Conservative MP who was defeated in his Edmonton riding in last year's election, was arrested and charged with drunk driving and cocaine possession. He has made no comment. His wife, junior cabinet minister Helena Guergis, whom he married the day after his defeat, said on Wednesday that she loves her husband.

Mr. Jordan said he was not surprised to hear of the arrest, given that other defeated MPs have suffered after politics. "Part of the problem is we don't follow up enough to know [what exactly happened]" Mr. Jordan said. "We just have speculation."

He added that other organizations are attempting to ease the transition process, such as the NHL Players' Association. He has made contact with the association and is planning to follow up on its strategies for helping players leave the spotlight of the rink for the real world.

Life on Parliament Hill can be difficult for anyone, Mr. Jordan said. It's an artificial, closed world and an itinerant lifestyle for politicians, who are away from home and family for long periods.

And life can be more difficult for a defeated MP, especially one whose loss was as dramatic as Mr. Jaffer's was. The only Conservative MP to lose in the Tory heartland of Alberta, was defeated by a New Democrat.

"He was like a Hollywood child star," Mr. Jordan said of Mr. Jaffer, who was first elected in 1997 when he was 26 years old. Handsome, charming and lots of fun, he was the toast of the town, or at least Parliament Hill.

Over the years, Mr. Jordan has seen defeated MPs suffer. They play the blame game, the what-ifs, they feel rejection and public humiliation. More profoundly, there are rumours of defeated MPs who have attempted suicide, some successfully.

Through his volunteer counselling, Mr. Jordan, now a government relations consultant, has picked up a few common threads. "I know that for a variety of reasons, MPs don't prepare for their lives after politics," he said. The irony, too, is that the most vulnerable politicians are working so hard to keep their seats that they don't have time to prepare or even think about a transition.

In the 2000 election, Mr. Jordan, a Liberal, won his riding by only 55 votes. Those were the heady days for Liberals when the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservatives were splitting the vote. When the two parties merged, he knew his days were numbered and began to focus on his future.

Even then, said Mr. Jordan, who was a college professor before politics, it was scary.

"I was a little nervous about going from the public sector to eat-what-you-kill mentality of the private sector," he said. And he wondered how much scarier it would be for someone who didn't see it coming.

The Commons provides some financial counselling and money for resettlement. The political parties do not help, Mr. Jordan said, they give the person a plaque and cut them loose.

Follow on Twitter: @janetaber1

 

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