Lethbridge Herald Column - August 2011

August 5, 2011

During the weeks leading up to the election and over the months since becoming your Member of Parliament many times people have mentioned the immense learning curve I have before me and you know they are right. There is a lot to know when it comes to governance, legislation and the issues that encompass both a constituency and a country.

However, the one thing that was never pointed out was how honored I would feel following in the footsteps of Canada’s greatest leaders while walking through the halls of our parliament buildings or sitting in the House of Commons where generations of prime ministers and legislatures have made decisions which have formed our nation. During the past few months I have been humbled by the opportunities afforded me as your representative including speaking in the House, voting on legislation, being in the presence of royalty and witnessing our prime minister inducted as an honorary aboriginal chief, to name a few.
It was somewhat of a surreal experience attending a reception in honour of Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge hosted by the Prime Minister.  Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and members of the royal family, particularly this young couple who may well be our future King and Queen, have a special place in the hearts of Canadians.  It was obvious that evening the sentiment is reciprocal as both William and Kate greeted the gathering with warm smiles, handshakes and meaningful conversation.

It was with pride that I observed Prime Minister Harper inducted as an honorary member of the Kainai Chieftainship by the Blood Tribe of Alberta. A tribute requested by Blood Tribe Chief Charles Weasel Head in response to the prime minister’s heartfelt apology to former students of Indian Residential Schools in 2008. Having close ties to the Blood community, I fully understand and appreciate the importance of that apology and what it meant to them, so observing the traditional ceremony was a personally touching event.

It was also an honour to watch Master Cpl. Melissa Whitegrass, a proud member of the Blood Tribe and our Canadian Forces who had served in Afghanistan, play an active role in the ceremony. 
Over the summer break I have been attending briefing meetings with my counterparts at both the municipal and provincial levels. Most recently a productive session was held with Lorne Hickey, Reeve of the County of Lethbridge and his administrative team, in addition to a meeting with the Superintendent of Waterton Lakes National Park.
Joining a large contingent of City of Lethbridge officials, MLAs and community leaders from various service organizations for a trio of sod and ribbon cutting events marking either official beginnings or openings of facilities was also of value. The various initiatives were brought about through a spirit of cooperative funding directives supplied by three levels of government, along with community support.
 
The events included:
  • The sod turning for the city’s new Community Performing Arts Centre, in which the federal government has invested $3 million through the Communities Component of the Building Canada Fund.
  • Ribbon cutting ceremonies at the North Lethbridge Sports Park Picnic Shelter/Playground and the Nicholas Sheran Leisure Centre, where the federal government made contributions of $538,000 and $500,000 respectively, showcased how our investments in projects serve the community’s greater good.
 Although parliament recesses for the summer months, the work of our government continues unhindered, including:
  • Launch of the new ecoENERGY Innovation Initiative, a $97-million program investing in research, development and demonstration projects for clean energy technologies that will create high-quality jobs for Canadians.
  • Creation of Shared Services Canada, which will streamline and consolidate government IT services, to transform and get better value for money from IT services across the federal government.
  • Reintroducing and passing The Fair and Efficient Criminal Trials bill — legislation that will ensure our justice system has the tools it needs when faced with mega-trials, during the final day of the House sitting.
  • Reintroducing legislation to crack down on human smugglers.  Our Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada’s Immigration System Act will stop those who seek to take advantage of our generous immigration system, and abuse our fair and welcoming nature for financial gain.
  • Creation of the Prime Minister’s Volunteer Awards to recognize the enormous contribution volunteers make to Canada. The Government of Canada has also expressed its interest in looking to innovative charities and forward-thinking private-sector companies to partner on new approaches to many social challenges.
Over the next week I will be in Ottawa preparing for the fall return of parliament and my committee responsibilities. Once back in the riding I will continue my meeting and community parade schedule. 

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