Re-Elected MP Tim Louis Stays Connected And Prepares For His Return To Ottawa

Affordable housing, the environment, and reconciliation were the main topics during the election campaign, along with COVID supports and public safety

Kitchener-Conestoga MP Tim Louis has been touring the region’s townships and staying connected following his re-election. “Today I’m here in Wilmot, making the rounds and getting out. That feedback is essential,” he said. (Photo credit: Nigel Gordijk)

Kitchener-Conestoga MP Tim Louis has been touring the region’s townships and staying connected following his re-election. “Today I’m here in Wilmot, making the rounds and getting out. That feedback is essential,” he said. (Photo credit: Nigel Gordijk)

Nail-biting elections have become a habit for Kitchener-Conestoga’s re-elected Liberal MP Tim Louis. He lost to Conservative incumbent Harold Albrecht by just 251 votes in 2015, beat him by 305 in 2019, and won over Conservative Carlene Hawley by 528 last month. That victory margin earned him the social media nickname “Landslide Louis.”

Did you have any political experience before your first federal run?

No, I didn’t. I literally googled “how to run in an election.” It was a reaction to wanting to get involved and serve my community. I thought that things were getting away from some of the values that I felt Canadians shared, and I wanted to make a difference.

I’ve been a musician my entire life, and I’m not sure my parents have come to terms with that. A middle-aged guy becomes a member of Parliament, and his parents say, “You finally got a real job.”

Does having a creative mind help in politics?

I think it served me well during the pandemic. There was no playbook, no reference, so you needed to be creative; you needed to adapt. The creative class, that’s who’s going to get us out of these kinds of situations, people who can think differently. Improvisation has been part of my repertoire.

What were the priorities on doorsteps while canvassing in Wilmot this year?

Affordable housing was a big one. The environment was top of mind for everyone. And reconciliation. That’s in addition to the standard COVID supports and keeping people safe. The first conversations we’d have were, are you safe? Are you okay? Did you get the support you needed? Those were the topics that I heard most of the time.

There seemed to be a lot of nastiness during the recent campaign, much of it aimed at volunteers and family members.

It’s unfortunate. I certainly had many conversations at doorsteps where we disagreed, but they were civil. At the end of the day, we honestly had more in common than we had in differences.

But I did notice a toxicity, a level of anxiety, and a level of anger, that was almost hyper-partisan, that I had not personally seen in previous elections. If people have ideas, I want to hear you, want to have discussions, as long as they’re reasonable. It’s okay to disagree, but you don’t have to be disagreeable while you’re doing it.

Did you see anything disagreeable yourself?

We had a lot of volunteers who are people of colour. I heard too many times, “Go back to your country,” those kinds of things. There’s just no place for that.

I had an unfortunate incident where it turned almost violent. I was kind of harassed and chased by somebody with my family there. The media asked me what had happened, and I got more attention than I thought I deserved. It made me realize the privilege that I’m in, that as a white hetero male, where something happens and everyone asks, “Are you okay? What happened?” The volunteers, people of colour, people from other countries don’t get asked.

It’s a disturbing trend. Any idea what’s causing it?

That’s a deep question. I think social media tends to show people what they want, lead them into those dark places where it validates their hatred, and it kind of foments it. I think the solution is, again, conversations. Start by listening.

We need to make sure misinformation, disinformation, and outright lies don’t have their place here.

Local Indigenous Elder Nina De Shane asked about the government’s housing plans. There’s a crisis everywhere, but she said it’s worse for Indigenous people who are living in substandard and impoverished conditions in the north.

I’m glad she brought that up. She’s been a remarkable source of wisdom and strength for our entire community.

She’s right. If you don’t have a place to live, everything else doesn’t fall in place, work-wise, health, mental health. We’ve got a national housing strategy, with a specific tranche that focuses on Indigenous housing.

That also includes the long-term boil water advisories. Our government’s lifted 109, and yes, it needs to be done faster.

This is an unusual riding because of the urban/rural split. How do you stay connected in order to serve a community like Wilmot?

During the pandemic, we did 45 virtual town halls. The newsletters, phone calls, emails, all of those kinds of virtual ways of reaching out let me stay in touch.

Regular meetings with elected officials of all levels of government gave me that sense of where people are at and the support they needed. I’ve made sure I meet the mayors, store owners and business owners, seniors’ groups, and I’ve gone to Legions.

Just this week, I spent a day in each of the townships. Today I’m here in Wilmot, making the rounds and getting out. That feedback is essential.

You had only a few months of sitting in Parliament in person before the pandemic. When will things get back to normal?

I haven’t heard yet. I’m not even sure where my seat will be in the House of Commons, but I know there’s one for me, so I’m grateful. Last time I was a backbencher, and my back was against the wall. I considered it one of the best seats in the House.