Local MP keeps busy

Dan McTeague is sitting in his local office on a Thursday afternoon working the phones, riding herd on his blackberry and generally keeping busier than a Southern sheriff the day after moonshine was invented.

This is hardly unusual for the Pickering-Scarborough East MP who, aside from being a family man, has been keeping on top of more issues at once than some MPs take on in a term. He doesn’t seem to think much of it.

He called that Thursday a slow day.

“I have a very supportive wife and five children who don’t see their father very often,” McTeague says. “But I believe in what I’m doing.”

McTeague has had many busy days lately. Along with a usual parade of constituents coming in and asking for help, he’s been working on issues such as:

• A bill that would make animal cruelty part of the criminal code.

• Freeing Brenda Martin, a Canadian woman jailed in Mexico.

• His continuing battle to pass a bill that would make some contributions to

Registered Education Savings Plans tax deductible, a bill that caught the Conservatives by surprise and nearly triggered an election.

“The bill is far from dead,” McTeague says. “It will take several stages in the House and Senate.”

The Conservatives have passed legislation that would neutralize the bill if it passes.

It is an issue on which he has drawn criticism. The Globe and Mail suggested the surprise attempt to shove the bill forward by having the opposition parties vote in favour and end-around government control of the nation’s finances, was treasonous.

They meant that tongue-in-cheek.

Others have found other reasons to criticize him.

“It’s a little too late to start [working] now,” says George Khouri, who will run against McTeague for the Conservatives in the next election and believes McTeague’s recent burst of activity is a stark contrast to years of laziness.

McTeague points to his record to dispel that. He has, in recent years, helped a man escape execution in Saudi Arabia and has made fleeing from police a criminal offence.

“I’ve made not only headlines, I’ve actually made legislation,” McTeague says. “There is no MP that can hold a candle to what I’ve done.”

Khouri also accused McTeague of being a headline chaser. The Liberal MP is often sought for comment and has a shelf in his constituency office devoted to the mugs he has gotten from assorted TV news shows.

McTeague denies he seeks media attention. “I don’t call the media. They call me.”

He has often championed a cause before it gets media coverage, as he did with the Martin case and the RESP bill. Both issues date back to 2006.

His current workload includes a bill about cruelty to animals and work on the RCMP pension fund.

“Not bad for one MP’s work,” McTeague says.

Though some have said the RESP bill showed leadership, the local MP has no plans to run for the Liberal top job, pointing to his family life and the time commitment it takes to run a leadership campaign.

“I can’t do that to [my children],” he says.