Terry Beech is thrilled by the recent recognition he received from his peers in Ottawa – but it’s the relationship he’s building with his constituents that matters the most.
Beech, the Member of Parliament for Burnaby NorthSeymour, was named Parliamentarian of the Year for Best Civic Outreach in the annual Maclean’s awards, which are chosen by fellow MPs.
“It was really incredible and it had extra meaning because it’s voted upon by all parliamentarians from every party,” said Beech from his Hastings Street constituency office. “Just to be nominated is humbling and I didn’t think I’d win. But after having time to reflect on it, the reality is that it’s not really an award for me – it’s for the entire community.”
Known for his efforts in reaching out to those he represents – from doing regular door-to-door visits, hosting public meetings, creating two-way video conferencing for community interaction, and simple old-fashioned coffee gatherings – it’s a fitting acknowledgement of Beech’s work.
“Door-knocking is one of several mechanisms to get the pulse of the community,” he said. “It’s right there with why we visit schools, why we visit places of worship, why we have an interfaith council. But I wanted to set a new outreach standard. Finding new, innovative ways to reach out to people is something we’ve been focused on since day one.”
That means finding out what works best for people, what they need to feel engaged, and then meeting them where they are – sometimes literally.
“I was meeting with some constituents recently and they said ‘hey, why don’t you come out and play some pickleball with us and we can talk,’” he said. “And why not? Many people want to be involved but they may not have the time or feel they can just pop into the office, so I need to go where they are.”
In fact, Beech says he’s excited for more opportunities of that kind.
“I’d love to have a call to action, an invitation, for people to bring ideas forward,” he said. “Maybe someone will ask me to come hike with their group, or have a gathering at their house with neighbours and friends. My wife and I are about to have a baby, so why not have a stroller political walk-and-talk – push the strollers around the lake and have the chance to talk to people at the same time sounds fantastic.”
What he gathers from the community helps to inform his approach to issues.
“In the last year alone, we’ve put out over 100 pages of policy documents, and these aren’t from the national party. I’m writing these, based on what I’m hearing in the community,” he said. “We send out surveys, and make sure we get back to everyone. We want to be that voice for the community in Ottawa.”
Ultimately, his goal is to ensure he’s representing every constituent in the riding.
“Most constituents are focused on getting the kids to school, putting food on the table, the day to day tasks, and they want to know that someone is working hard for them and taking their views into account,” he said. “I’m everybody’s representative, and I want to talk to people who agree with me but also – maybe especially – with people who don’t. That creates the opportunity for me to learn something, change my view, or perhaps even change the national policy. We’ve done that on several issues, and it’s the community where most of our best ideas come from.”
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