Dartmouth-Cole Harbour’s Darren Fisher won’t sugar-coat it — this year was a “dumpster fire” and he’s glad to see the back of it.
The two-term member of Parliament has been running on overdrive since February, serving as parliamentary secretary to the minister of health during an unprecedented global pandemic.
The job has kept him on video conference calls between 10 and 14 hours a day, every day, speaking with public health officials, medical experts from around the world, stakeholder groups and more.
“What can you say about the dumpster fire that is 2020?” said Fisher, sitting on a bench at Grahams Grove in his riding, before the House of Commons adjourned for the holidays.
“It’s been an incredible, incredible year and not in the good way, however, I’m an optimistic person and I look forward to a bright future.”
He described the last 12 months as an exercise in resilience, particularly in Nova Scotia, which has dealt with repeated tragedies, including April’s mass shooting, a deadly military helicopter crash and the loss of CF Snowbirds Capt. Jenn Casey, in addition to COVID-19.
But through that hardship, Fisher said he’s seen an unprecedented level of collaboration and generosity, both in his home province and in Ottawa.
“We threw — for the most part — petty politics out the window and said we will do what we need to do to make sure the provinces, territories and municipalities have what they need to ensure Canadians are safe and healthy.”
Read more: Halifax receives $8.7M for rapid housing
It’s an example of politics done right that should not be overlooked, said the former city councillor, and Nova Scotians played a role in it.
“You know the feedback that we received from constituents in Dartmouth-Cole Harbour directly impacted the outcomes of some of these social programs that we were designing on the fly, and that’s when you see that sometimes the systems that we have actually work.”
As immunization programs roll out across the country, however, the emergency-driven political truce in Ottawa is starting to dissolve. Party members are sparring once more, with hot-button topics like China, how to rebuild the economy and the prime minister’s ethics taking centre stage.
That’s not the direction Fisher wants the government to go in 2021, when major policy issues that were sidelined by the pandemic must be dealt with.
“The fact that we worked together, whether it was getting money in the bank accounts of Canadians when they needed it most, or getting a vaccine approved by Health Canada within a year — those things I hope will become a springboard for things like pharmacare to be able to work,” he told Global News.
Universal, national pharmacare is not the only priority the MP hopes to return to next year, when COVID-19 is done sucking “all of the oxygen out of the room.”
While the federal government invested $8.7 million in the Halifax Regional Municipality for rapid affordable housing initiatives this year, he said much more work needs to be done to combat a nationwide housing crisis.
“It’s one thing for the government to put the money on the table, we need to see the outcomes begin and that’s something we haven’t seen enough of yet.”
When it comes to Nova Scotia’s ailing health-care system, he also said expects constituents “will see increases in health-care transfers in the future.”
With his annual Christmas Eve open-house drop-in cancelled this year, Fisher said he’s spending his holidays with his family, and will bring extended family into the celebrations by video conference call.
The House of Commons is expected to resume sitting on Jan. 25, 2021.