It’s been a year since Bernadette Jordan last walked through the doors of the House of Commons as an elected official.
She lost the seat she had won since 2015 to Conservative candidate Rick Perkins in South Shore St-Margarets in 2021.
Jordan was Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard in the Trudeau government – a portfolio in which she navigated a thorny dispute over Indigenous treaty rights in the lobster fishing industry.
“What I tried to do was find a middle ground. I tried to get to a place where First Nations have the ability to exercise their middle livelihood rights,” she said.
“Unfortunately, that middle ground did not make anyone happy and that was the end of my political career.”
So it didn’t come as a “huge shock,” she said, when she lost her seat. She then accepted a position as the national director of philanthropy with Shelter Movers in Nova Scotia, a non-profit organization that helps women escape abusive situations.
Losing is as much a part of politics as winning. Jordan said that, for him, politics was always a means to an end — which made it a little easier to leave behind.
“I ran for politics, not because I ever wanted to be an MP or a minister, but because I wanted to help people living in my community,” she said. “That’s always been my guiding principle.”
Every election a handful of MPs are looking for something new to do in their lives.
Despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s campaign for a majority government, the Liberal Party won only three seats in the House of Commons (Kevin Wong, although elected as a Liberal, was eventually forced to sit as an independent. The Conservatives lost two seats, while the Bloc and NDP each got a seat).
Mariam Monsef was also in Trudeau’s cabinet, serving as Minister of Women and Gender Equality and Rural Development before her five-year term as MP for Peterborough-Kawartha ended before the 2021 election.
Moncef’s district is considered a swing riding that sees unexpected and unpredictable battles between the Liberals and Conservatives. She lost her seat to Conservative candidate Michele Ferreri by 3,000 votes.
she said. “I’m a competitive person and I work really hard for my community and don’t like to lose.”
Monsef was 29 when she started her local political career and 30 when she became an MP.
“I was immediately in the deep end and had no guidelines on how to be an effective cabinet minister or an effective member of parliament,” she said.
Monsef suffered backlash in August 2021 after she referred to the Taliban as “brothers” during a press conference to ensure safe passage for thousands of people seeking to flee Afghanistan.
‘To often fall off a horse’
She later retracted the comment, saying it was a term many Muslims used to refer to each other and insisting she still viewed the Taliban as a terrorist organization.
“There were a lot of jerks, many times falling off the horse and getting back up,” Monsef said.
A year later, Monsef dives deep into what she calls her “passion project”—a consulting firm called Onward that aims to help women develop leadership skills.
“I have always believed that when women do well, their families do well, society does well and countries do better,” she said.
“I started this company so that we could be a source of support for women and their families to achieve that vision – thriving by supporting women leaders.
“If I can play a small part in his leadership journey, well, that’s a life well lived.”
Paul Manley was elected in the May 6, 2019 by-election, becoming the second Green Party MP to be elected in Canadian history.
His political career proved to be relatively short. While he retained his seat in the 2019 general election, he was defeated by NDP candidate Lisa Marie Baron in the 2021 vote.
“It’s not easy to go from being a very public figure to suddenly being unemployed,” he said. “So you know you have to figure out what you’re going to do.”
Today, he is the part-time executive director of the Unitarian Shelter, a 24-bed shelter for the chronically homeless.
He also went back to a project he started before starting his political career — a nonprofit community service cooperative called Growing Opportunities.
“I’ve always been a person concerned about environmental issues and social justice,” he said. “And so I’ve done that kind of work for decades and when I was in the House of Commons, those are the kinds of things I was advocating.”
‘Much can be done’
Now, Manley is taking another run at politics – this time for Nanaimo City Council.
“A lot can be done at different levels of government,” he said. “We are in a climate crisis and we need to take action to address the urgency of the situation and ensure we have a smooth transition to a new economy.
“And that work needs to happen at every level of government.”
Conservative James Cumming was the MP for Edmonton Center from 2019 to 2021. He lost his seat to Liberal candidate Randy Boissonault by 615 votes.
When the dust settled, Cumming was tasked with reviewing the Conservative Party’s election results – a common practice for most political parties after an election.
After the postmortem was completed, he continued to work as a political insider, helping with the United Conservative Party leadership contest in Alberta.
“I’m still associated with conservatism,” he said, adding that he still keeps a close eye on federal politics.
“Now that the party has chosen its leader, I am still committed to the movement and will help wherever I can.
“It could be in public life or it could be behind the scenes or a combination of both. But if the right opportunity comes along, we will consider it.”
Last year was also a difficult year for Comings and his family personally. He lost his son Garrett to Duchenne muscular dystrophy. He and his wife continue to be involved in charities that raise awareness of the disease and money for research.
“They had a golf tournament this year in Garrett’s name that the local firefighters put on and we’re looking at some other activities to go along with that,” he said.
“It’s something we’ve been very active with for the last 15 or 20 years.”
The NDP did not see significant changes to its caucus in 2021. The party had hoped to increase its presence in the House of Commons but ended the election with only one additional seat.
Scott Duvall was the New Democrat MP for Hamilton Mountain from 2015 to 2021. Unlike many MPs who have dropped out of federal politics, he chose to time his exit by announcing in March 2021 that he would not seek re-election.
“After six years in politics, I was really starting to feel like I wanted to retire because of my age,” he said.
But Duvall could not stay away from politics for long.
‘I’m still useful’
“I was kind of disappointed when I came back home to see my city in disrepair, the way the city was going with broken roads and sidewalks,” he said.
Duval is now running as a candidate for Hamilton’s City Council. Ontario’s municipal elections will be held on October 24.
“People encouraged me to run, so I did. And that’s why I came back,” he said.
“Sometimes you feel like it’s in your DNA to keep going. I just thought, ‘I’m still useful.'”
Duvall said he feels he can make a big impact on his city by running the municipality.
“In Ottawa, I found it very difficult and frustrating that things were slow as molasses. It just takes time and it takes patience,” he said.
Duvall said that while he has no ambitions to run again federally, he wants to support people who hope to start a career in politics.
“It’s time to help others and nurture them,” he said.