Politics run deep in Liberal Gov’t House Leader Pablo Rodriguez

Longtime Honoré-Mercier MP touches base with Newsfirst Multimedia

Just about any way you measure it, there’s no denying that Pablo Rodriguez has come a long way in the 44 years since he first arrived in Canada.

The Liberal MP for Honoré-Mercier and current Leader of the Government in the House of Commons first came to Canada with his parents eight years after a key date in Canadian history.

Parents fled Argentina

Although Pablo was born in Argentina in 1967 – Canada’s “centennial year” – Rodriguez’s parents had to flee from that South American country to Canada in 1976 after the military junta ruling Argentina repeatedly jailed and tortured his father who had become active in Argentinian politics.

A graduate of the University of Sherbrooke where he obtained a degree in business administration, Pablo Rodriguez spent an earlier part of his career working in public affairs and the management of international development projects. During this time, he became especially focused on humanitarian causes. As such, he was vice-president of Oxfam Québec during the early 2000s.

His introduction to politics

Before entering federal politics, Rodriguez underwent an apprenticeship of sorts as an election organizer and political attaché to former Liberal MP for Papineau Pierre Pettigrew, who served from 1996 to 2006 in several of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien’s cabinets.

‘Politics is in my blood, it’s in my veins. You want to change the world,’ says Rodriguez

According to one anecdote, which Pablo Rodriguez confirms, his father cautioned him not to pursue politics as a career. “My father was running for governor, and he was also a lawyer so he was defending people who were accused of speaking against the government,” said Rodriguez.

“So he was thrown in jail. He was tortured. They bombed our house. That’s why, when we came to Canada, and we could barely survive at first, my dad said, ‘You know son, this is a country where there is freedom of opportunity and you can do whatever you want. But please no politics.’

Out to change the world

“But politics is in my blood, it’s in my veins,” Rodriguez continued. “You want to change the world. That’s why I worked for Oxfam in countries in Africa, South America and Asia: to help people. As for politics, as my father always said, there’s no perfect tool to change the world. But politics is the best thing for now. And so here I am.”

As Government House Leader in the Commons, Pablo Rodriguez is responsible for planning and managing the Liberal government’s legislative program. He described the current difficulties that the government is facing while dealing with issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

A key role in Liberal gov’t

“We’re facing this difficult situation in a minority government,” he said. “Whatever we do, we have to get the support of another party. As Leader of the Government, the leader is the chief negotiator with the other parties. And remember that right now, during the pandemic, you have to negotiate from your home, from your basement because you can’t go out.

“So you’re on the phone fifteen hours a day. This is how I negotiated CERB and other programs – sometimes getting the support of one party, sometimes two, sometimes all the parties. We put in place programs we think have been beneficial to Canadians. Not perfect, but they were necessary.”

An avid fan of soccer all his life, Rodriguez continues to play the sport in his spare time as part of a team of MPs from all parties who compete on the field in Ottawa. “Thomas Mulcair has played with us. Stéphane Dion,” he said. “Several ministers and MPs. We play together. We also have ambassadors playing sometimes. And sometimes also journalists.”

As for the future…

Finally, what does the future hold for Pablo Rodriguez? “I don’t know,” he replied with a laugh. “It’s a privilege just to be around the table as a cabinet minister – it’s an honour and a privilege – and I give my best and the people will decide. And I am very thankful to be there for the people of Honoré-Mercier and they will decide to keep me on or not.”