By Dorothy Dobbie
On October 21, 2019, a quiet and unassuming man took his seat in the House of Commons as the Member of Parliament for Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia-Headingley. He accepted this responsibility the way he does everything, with quiet grace and fierce determination.
Shortly thereafter, the then leader named Marty Morantz the shadow minister for Revenue responsible for the CRA, a post he relished and that suited him perfectly given his legal background and his experience in business. He was in this position and a member of the House Standing Committee on Finance during the We scandal and was able to question figures such as the Kielburgers and Katie Telford.
Remember, the election was in the fall of 2019, just months before the government shut down parliament and the country to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Marty had a very short window on the world of the Hill as it normally operates. Then that was it! Boom. Closure. He had already located a furnished apartment that he now gave up since he couldn’t use it.
Banished from Ottawa, he came home to learn the ins and outs of zooming. It was months before he could return to the Hill to take up his duties in the House as one of a small and rotating group of men and women allowed to attend the House at a time. “The House staff were wonderful in dealing with the many issues of working with Zoom,” said Marty. “Many of them were also working from home, trying to solve the problems of committee meetings and votes.”
He marvels at the way everyone from all sides of the House co-operated and figured out how to work together. “It is far more effective to be there in person so you can see the people across the aisle and look them in the eye,” he said.
The first digital vote took more than an hour, said Marty. “There were so many connection issues, and it was hard to remember to unmute yourself when it was your turn because the speaker had to see your face as well as hear your vote and things were not always in sync.”
Eventually, everyone got the hang of it and in the meantime the House staff finally adopted a special facial recognition program and now the votes run much more smoothly.
Committee meetings were also mostly virtual, fine for hearing the witnesses but not so fine in seeing the many visual clues that come from seeing a witness in person. Still, Marty says, they got the job done.
Meanwhile, on the occasional requirement to be on duty in the house, he now stayed in hotels, which came with its own challenges. “When everything was still closed down, there were no restaurants, so dinner was alone with room service.”
Hard to believe he has only been just under two years in office because so much has happened. On his side of the House, there was a change in leadership, and Marty found himself moved to assignment on the Foreign Affairs committee under the leadership of Michael Chong. He speaks with admiration of his fellow committee members and says he has learned a great deal from the committee. They are currently examining how COVID-19 is affecting lower income countries.
Meanwhile, constituency work took a front seat. “We pride ourselves on trying to answer every email and return phone calls,” Marty said. And there were hundreds of emails and piles of work in helping constituents maneuver through the benefit programs on offer. He is worried about the many folks who were facing mental health issues due to the pandemic and is very glad that the Party platform contains more help for these folks.
In both 2020 and 2021, Marty set up free tax clinics for people with incomes of under $35,000. “We had volunteer accountants and advice from a couple of local CRA employees. We were able to get $140,000 in refunds for constituents,” he notes.
He is a proud member of the multipartisan Interparliamentary Task Force on Combatting Online Antisemitism which includes members from the US, UK, Australia and the Knesset in Israel.
Marty is fiercely loyal to his Party and his constituency, but he is fair and respectful to his opponent who he considers a gentleman. Indeed, when he ran in 2019, he laughs and says that at events where the two would rub shoulders they probably spent “way too much time talking to each other instead of collecting votes.”
Still, he is no pushover, and his parliamentary records show that he brings a measured tone to the debate, but he says in very direct terms, what needs to be said. He has already also tabled a private member’s bill supporting the Canadian Charities Act smoothing the way for more giving to charities which could result in up to $200 million in more revenue for non-profit charitable organizations across Canada.
Marty Morantz is just one of several first time MPs now facing the challenge of another election during what is still a time of COVID-19. He does not complain. He is not the type. He simply digs in and gets the job done.
“The reception at the door is very good,” he says. Not surprising. He has been diligent about keeping constituents informed, asking for their opinions, and doing his very best to help solve their problems.