This week in Ottawa has been a very busy one by just about any standard, let alone for a short 4-day week. There is so much that political Ottawa could all be talking about this morning because there is so much going on. Our political cup runneth over with a somewhat cryptic statement via Tweet from last night has confused, bemused and grabbed the attention of #cdnpoli observers:
When I saw this last night, I really tried by best not to make a joke about this despite the fact that there was enough here to do so. The fact that this isn’t the first live camera incident for MP Will Amos wasn’t lost on anyone, and given the embarrassment of the first incident and the questionable sharing of the photograph of it, I was inclined to stay quiet. To have another camera-related incident happen again was surely going to add to the embarrassment, so I was inclined to leave it there.
But then that statement was attached to it, which raised some questions for me that I couldn’t quite get out of my mind. First was the actual admission that he had accidentally relieved himself on camera during this house session. Knowing the buildings of the Hill, my first thought was that maybe he has a personal washroom in his office, and he did something as innocent as forgetting to close the door and being seen. Yet that possibility is quickly removed when you see pictures from Amos’ office shared on his Instagram that media outlets have shared, like this one:
From that photo of that office, I can tell that his office is in one of the buildings across the street from the Hill recently renovated as a part of the updates to Parliament Hill. That’s notable to me because those offices do not have personal washrooms in them, as some of the older offices on the Hill do. So that removed the “simple oopsie” explanation for this incident.
But there was also another part of statement that really had me scratching my head. He noted that he was stepping aside from his Parliamentary Secretary and committee roles so that he could “seek assistance”. Assistance? What assistance would he be seeking here, beyond some help from tech support about how to use a webcam? It puzzled me because it seemed like a real case of “too much information”. While it may be normal for someone to seek help if they were having mental or general health issues that caused an incident to happen, what issue is there in this case? Well it seems that I wasn’t the only one wondering what more there was to this story, and it was former Quebec politician -turned-radio host Bernard Drainville who went to Twitter with this bit of info that might help answer the question:
In a coffee cup, at his desk, while in the House virtually and on his office phone having a conversation that he apparently didn’t want to end. Yep, that’s what Drainville is reporting. There are a lot of things that I didn’t have on my 2021 bingo card, but the Liberals having their own Jerry Bance incident clearly wasn’t on it. I’ll leave it to everyone else to insert their own jokes on that strange happening.
But if this is the case, this might actually help answer the “assistance” question. Working on the Hill I’ve seen many cases of MPs who are hard working to the point of losing any sense of work/life balance. I’ve seen MPs who get so wrapped up in their work that they start to put their own mental health (and that of their staff) at risk. One can work hard without running themselves into the ground, but I’ve seen too many cases of MPs who put their own health and well being at risk to get more done in a day. And when one rises to the role of Parliamentary Secretary, that’s all the more likely to happen.
So when you put together the two camera incidents together, that’s what I started to see. Most people don’t change clothes like that in their offices instead of at the gym facilities that MPs normally have access to on the Hill. Most people put down the phone and go to the washroom instead of using the nearest coffee cup. But when people are trying to maximize every minute of their day and are trying to squeeze in so much, these are the kinds of things they end up doing. That doesn’t make the actions any more rational, but when you look at it through that lens, it makes a bit more sense.
And if you look at it through that lens, that can help to explain the “seeking assistance” comment in his statement. Maybe the assistance he needs to seek is improving his work/life balance, learning how to better balance his time and forcing himself to take more time in his day for simple things and to better take care of himself. When it comes to Amos himself, I have no inside knowledge to know that’s the case. But as someone who spent a decade on the Hill, I saw enough examples of this kind of MP burning themselves out to see some signs when it’s happening. That’s what my Spidey-senses are telling me may very well be the case here and if that’s the case, I truly hope that Mr. Amos has success in getting that assistance that he needs.
In the meantime, we can add this episode to the long list of craziness that this silly season of Parliament can bring us. We can look at this for a moment, form our opinions and hopefully move onto the long list of important issues that we have before us. The House only has 18 sitting days left before the summer comes and with an increasingly likely Fall election in the offing, there is a lot of work to get done. So while this tempest in a coffee cup will grab some of our attention today, we’ve got a lot of business to get onto. The people who elected these MPs are counting on them getting that done.