It’s been a year of transition for federal politics, both locally in Kootenay-Columbia as well as nationally, following October’s election.
Rob Morrison, the Conservative candidate in the region, defeated incumbent NDP MP Wayne Stetski, while nationally, the federal Liberals lost majority status, yet hold a minority.
Stetski had been serving as the region’s MP since his election in 2015, when he narrowly defeated incumbent Conservative MP David Wilks by a few hundred votes. During his time in office, Stetski served as his party’s shadow critic for national parks as well as vice-chair of a parliamentary committee focused on the environment.
Morrison has opened his campaign office in Cranbrook at 800C Baker St. and was also recently appointed into a deputy shadow minister role by the party a few weeks ago.
While the main constituency office is centred in Cranbrook, Morrison said he plans to hold ‘pop-up’ offices in smaller communities around the riding so constituents can meet directly with him.
“I think ti’s important for us to get to each location for a couple days at a time using the news media to help us let people know we’re going to be there,” said Morrison, “then it gets us two or three days in a location where they can come and see us so they don’t have to travel here, or even if we have another office, to there.”
“So trying to get to all the different places is going to be critical for us.”
Though Morrison has only been officially sworn in for roughly just over a month, he reflected on his time on the campaign trail and his hopes for the new year.
Issues such as unlocking the potential of Liquid Natural Gas [LNG] and getting it to port on the West Coast, proposed Liberal firearms legislation and softwood lumber are some of the topics Morrison said he’s been focusing on.
B.C. in particular has been beset with ongoing issues such as a struggling forestry sector and a federal-provincial standoff over the Trans Mountain pipeline. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has vowed the pipeline project will move forward, while B.C. Premier John Horgan has tried to deny construction by asserting provincial jurisdiction through the court system.
So how to work through those issues that involve multiple levels of government?
“Collaborate,” said Morrison. “Building relationships with the provincial government so we can work together because some of the legislation is federal but it’s actually imposed by the province, so it’s trying to work together to move things forward.
“I think what’s important too, is not only provincially, but federally, to work with the Liberals and the Bloc and the NDP and the Greens and the Independent [Jody Wilson-Raybould] to move things forward that are important. In a minority government, it’s critical to work together.”
The federal Liberals lost their majority status following the election, losing 20 seats to end up with 157. A party needs 170 seats in order to be able to form a majority government.
The power dynamic inside the House of Commons has changed, as the Liberals are no longer able to use their former majority to unilaterally pass legislation.
That became apparent when the Conservatives collected enough support to pass a motion creating a committee to focus on relations with China, given the arrest of two Canadian citizens who have been held in custody for over a year.
“That’s the first time the minority government realized, ‘We didn’t get our way,’ so I think what it’s showing them, is lets work together,” said Morrison.
While Morrison’s appointment as the Deputy Shadow Minister for Public Safety, Border Security and Emergency Preparedness is a partisan role within the Conservative Party caucus, he said he is hoping to serve on some parliamentary committees as well.
“I think what’s going to be important coming up in January is when the committees get set, because that’s when we actually get some movement where we can talk in a smaller group,” he said.
“What’s important to us is probably consistent with Alberta or northern B.C. so its kind of working together to move what’s important further ahead, and it’s the committees that will be able to do that.”
Morrison said he should know by February which parliamentary committees he will be serving on.