Frequently Asked Questions: Learn About Olivia’s Work

What exactly is…

… a Committee
… a Critic
… a Deputy Critic
… the House of Commons
… Question Period
… Transport Canada
… Trinity-Spadina


In the House of Commons, a committee is a formal group of Members of Parliament selected to study a specific subject or bill and write reports about their findings.

Committees are composed of both government and opposition members. There are three basic types of committees in the House of Commons:

  • standing committees, which study certain issues, documents, departments or estimates throughout the duration of the Parliament,
  • legislative committees, which examine bills after second reading in the House,
  • special committees, which are appointed to work on a specific matter.

The most prominent committee type is the first one – there are currently 23 standing committees for the House of Commons. Olivia is a member and vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities (TRAN), also often abbreviated as Transport Committee.

The Transport Committee meets twice a week to examine proposed bills, study topics related to transport as well as interview appointees to federal positions.

[back to top]


The more than 100 New Democrat Members of Parliament form the second-strongest caucus after the Conservatives in the House of Commons – thus having the role of the Official Opposition.

One of the Official Opposition’s primary tasks is to monitor, track and evaluate what the government does and offer criticism and alternative policies where possible. In order to do this, the New Democrats have named a number of their MPs to act as spokespeople for certain policy areas.

Olivia is the NDP Transport Critic, which means that she is responsible for all transport-related policy questions and government activities. In her role, Olivia shapes the NDP position on transport issues, assesses and criticizes the Conservatives’ actions and inaction and proposes new ideas on how to improve the safety and mobility of all Canadians.

[back to top]

Deputy Critic

Olivia as the NDP Transport Critic is working closely together with another New Democrat MP who acts as her Deputy Critic. For transport and infrastructure matters, this is MP Robert Aubin from Trois-Rivières. In his role, he is also responsible for Canada Post (as it falls under the Transport Ministry on the federal level). As a New Democrat from Québec, he also focuses on regional issues and acts as a spokesperson for the francophone media.

[back to top]

House of Commons

The House of Commons is the elected representative body for all Canadians. With its 308 directly elected Members of Parliament (MPs), it is the central institution for shaping policy and legislation on the federal level in Canada. Together with the appointed Senate and the Queen as the head of state, the House of Commons forms part of the Parliament of Canada.

Olivia has been an elected Member of Parliament since 2006 (re-elected in 2008 and 2011).

[back to top]

Question Period

Question Period is re-curring part of the daily parliamentary business in the House of Commons that takes place on every sitting day. The primary purpose of Question Period for the opposition is to seek information from the government and to call it to account for its actions.

That is why Question Period is of such central importance to the work of the Official Opposition and for the general public: during Question Period (or QP for short), opposition MPs – usually critics and deputy critics, get to ask government ministers about current developments and actions.

As the Official Opposition Transport Critic, Olivia frequently speaks during Question Period to hold the federal Transport Minister Denis Lebel to account.

[back to top]

Transport Canada

As one of the federal government’s principal departments, Transport Canada encompasses all transport and infrastructure-related policy areas. Due to Canada’s vast distances, the transportation department has had a prominent role in successive federal governments.

Transport Canada is headed by the Honourable Denis Lebel as the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. He is one of the several dozen cabinet members.

After series of departmental budget cuts threatens to undermine Transport Canada’s ability to fulfill its mandate. The potential impact on the safety and mobility of travelling and commuting Canadians is a frequent point of criticism for NDP Transport Critic Olivia Chow.


For federal elections, Canada is divided into a system of 308 electoral districts or ridings that are each represented by a Member of Parliament. The downtown Toronto riding that has elected Olivia Chow as its representative in the House of Commons is called Trinity-Spadina, referring to its landmark Spadina Avenue and Trinity College (now part of the University of Toronto).

With more than 140,000 residents, Trinity-Spadina is one of the most populous ridings in Canada. It stretches from Dupont Street in the north to the Toronto Islands in the south and from Dufferin Avenue in the west to Yonge Street in the east.

To find out whether you live in Trinity-Spadina, please click here.

[back to top]