Election reform, Alberta’s economy and assisted dying bill fires up Rempel
The state of Alberta’s economy wasn’t the only thing on the mind of Michelle Rempel, the Conservative MP for Calgary-Nose Hill, when she held a town hall meeting to a crowd of about 60 constituents at the Harvest Hills Alliance Church on May 25.
The self-described “fiery” MP had lots to comment on after a heated week in Ottwa that included passionate debates about assisted dying legislation, the so-called “elbowgate” incident involving Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the news that former prime minister Stephen Harper will give up his Calgary seat in the fall.
Here are four takeaways from Rempel’s meeting with northwest Calgary constituents.
In May, Trudeau’s Liberal government announced the long-awaited creation of a committee to consider reform of how MPs are elected. Comprised of 10 members, the committee would consist of six Liberal MPs, three Conservatives, and one New Democrat. Both the Green party and Bloc Quebecois would get one seat on the committee, but would not have voting rights or the right to move motions.
Acknowledging the critique that the committee is stacked in the Liberals’ favour, Rempel reflected interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose’s statements on the issue.
“I wouldn’t make any reforms without taking it to the people,” said Rempel. “The first question I would ask Canadians is, ‘Do you want to change the system of voting?’ And I’m not convinced that Canadians do.”
Having previously debated Green leader Elizabeth May and National Post columnist Andrew Coyne, the MP is well versed on the topic. Rempel believes implementing a system of proportional representation could spark the rise of religious-based and regional parties, and ultimately favour the Liberals.
Rempel said the Liberal government does not have the mandate to implement this sort of change, though it’s likely it already has the legislation drafted. Nonetheless, Rempel noted further discussion on the topic is taking attention away from more important issues.
“I wouldn’t find this, as a Calgary MP, a particular priority right now,” said Rempel, referring to the Albertan economy as a more important topic.
“You know what?” Rempel said in response to a question about Alberta’s economy, “I will get passionate about this.”
According to Rempel, Alberta’s current economic downturn is where her focus lies. As the job situation in Alberta has depleted over the past few months, Rempel said some of Canada’s policy-makers are growing indifferent to issues facing the province.
“I’m very concerned,” said Rempel. “I feel like some of our policy-makers and some of the government is becoming numb.”
Rempel also called on the province to start making noises about the issues in Alberta in order to draw attention across the nation. On the offensive, Rempel noted that generations of proud workers in Alberta have worked hard to build the country and it’s time for recognition from the rest of the country.
“I think Canada needs to wake up to the fact that a strong Alberta means a strong Canada,” said Rempel. “The wonderful social programming that happens in downtown Toronto and in Quebec and in Atlantic Canada and in B.C. doesn’t just happen magically.”
The proposed controversial assisted-dying legislation, or Bill C-14, according to Rempel, is “one of the most transformative debates that Canada has seen in many years.”
On May 18 in the House of Commons, Prime Minister Trudeau crossed the floor and grabbed Opposition whip George Brown’s elbow, ostensibly to make the Conservative MP sit down so a vote related to Bill C-14 could be held. In the process, Trudeau accidently elbowed NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau in the chest, an act he apologized for in the House.
Rempel understands why the incident took place but said there’s no excuse for the prime minister’s behaviour.
“You can understand why tensions were high,” said Rempel, referring to the tense day in the House of Commons as the Liberals tried to limit debate while pushing through Bill C-14 to meet a Supreme Court deadline. “Because this is actually a matter of life and death, and as somebody who has been tasked with representing over 110,00 people of all political stripes, we have to get this right.”
Nonetheless, Rempel says that after spending “hundreds of hours studying” the topic, she feels the government needs to investigate the issue more.
“I will vote against it on the third reading,” said Rempel. “I feel that the government has a lot more to do in terms of looking at issues”
With former Prime Minister Stephen Harper resigning as MP for Calgary Heritage in the fall, Rempel reflected on the man she says taught her everything.
“He saw a very young woman who,” said Rempel, “as you can see, is very fiery and not shy to say something, but he certainly respected my opinion. He taught me how to be a legislator.”
Speaking fondly of her work with Harper in the past, Rempel says his belief in Canada will be his biggest legacy.
“There are so many people who have so many opinions of him,” said Rempel. “For me personally, his legacy will be how he treated me, believed in me, that is how he approached being a prime minister. He believed in the country and he did everything he could to give it a chance.”
Thumbnail image by Josie Lukey
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