WESTLOCK - Peace River-Westlock MP Arnold Viersen is wrapping up the year thankful to his constituents for his re-election and motivated to work on behalf of northern Alberta’s interests in a new dynamic both in the House of Commons and between the federal and provincial government.
Speaking over the phone from his Barrhead office Dec. 18, Viersen shared that the endorsement he received from his constituents is probably on equal fronts one for himself, his party, but also a reaction against the past four years of a Liberal majority.
“It’s been a great honour to represent Northern Alberta for the last four years … I’m definitely happy to bring the northern perspective to Ottawa and look forward to advocating for forestry workers and farmers and oil patch workers in Ottawa,” he said.
During the October election, all but one riding in Alberta (Edmonton-Strathcona) went Conservative. In Manitoba, all but two conservatives were elected, and all Saskatchewan ridings went blue. This has changed the dynamic of the Parliament, but also that of the Conservative caucus.
“It’s been very interesting. I’ve gone from one of the rookies to one of the experienced guys now. We have 39 brand new MPs in my caucus and they’re all looking for advice on how to operate an MP’s office. I got involved a little bit in party training and getting to know my new caucus. That’s been really rewarding,” added Viersen.
On Dec. 12, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer resigned following reports of his party’s use of funds to pay for part of his children’s private school education. Scheer denied the two were related and Viersen himself was ‘disgusted’ that an insider had released the information to the public.
Nonetheless, it prompted a leadership race within the Conservative Party.
“(The resignation) came as a fairly dramatic shock to me. It gives us the opportunity to select a new leader and I’m looking forward to that process getting underway,” he said, adding there is no certainty about the timeline but it should take “shorter rather than longer.”
As for governance, Viersen said he is disappointed to see another major deficit in the releases around the budget.
“We’ll see how long this government will last and how long the House of Commons has confidence in this particular Prime Minister.”
As for his own confidence in Justin Trudeau, Viersen said it is on a “day-by-day, case-by-case basis.”
Currently, his party is focused on the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement.
“We’re looking forward to seeing the details of the newly signed second version of the USMCA. I haven’t had a chance to have a look at the particulars yet … It doesn’t sound like any of the other parties will be supporting the USMCA. It will fall to Conservatives to maintain the House of Commons, so we’ll see.”
Viersen himself has been involved in Bill C-350 and Bill S-240, focused on organ harvesting and human trafficking in the country. Most recently, on Dec. 13, he presented a petition of support for the bills from Canadians in the House of Commons.
“I work to advocate for honey farmers in northern Alberta … and working with my Alberta colleagues to make sure that we get some pipelines built. All the other industries are affected when the railway is completely consumed with oil so getting the pipelines built is going to be a major push.
“I’d like to remind everybody that prior to 2015 we had four major pipelines in the works and today, people are talking about getting … TransMountain built. (That) is the bare minimum. We’d like to get to a place where we see pipeline companies proposing multiple projects in this country,” said Viersen.
The change in politics in Alberta is promising from the federal perspective, said Viersen, who congratulated Jason Kenney on his efforts to unite the right in the province and proceed to win the election.
“Announcement after announcement, he’s definitely trying his best to make this province prosper once again. The latest one, his announcement of this Canadian energy defence outfit in Calgary, I’m really excited about that.”
Viersen is referring to the Canadian Energy Centre, instituted by the UCP as a war room to correct misinformation about the energy sector in the province with $30 million per year in funding.
Viersen is also positive about what he called a “total alignment” between federal and provincial Conservatives.
“We watched New Brunswick get a Conservative government and Ontario last year. It’s been really rewarding to push all together on all directions.”
Since he’s been back in the province, Viersen has been meeting with constituents, most of whom he says are concerned about pipelines.
The usual answer they receive: “TransMountain is the bare minimum. Repeal C-69 and C-48, or at least change them so we can build pipelines again … We’ve been clear on that right from the first days of Parliament and right to the election.”
“I’m happy to be back in what I call the ‘promised land’ of northern Alberta,” said Viersen, who will be heading back to Ottawa at the end of January.