New leader, prorogued Parliament: Rosemarie Falk reflects on federal happenings

"It just seems like the dumpster is on fire and the dumpster happens to be on the government benches."

A new Conservative leader, a prorogued Parliament, the WE scandal and cabinet changes were just some of the topics that came up when Battlefords-Lloydminster MP Rosemarie Falk spoke to the News-Optimist this week.

It has been a busy few weeks of federal political news from Ottawa, the latest being the recent election of Erin O’Toole as the new Conservative leader.

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O’Toole won following a count that lasted through Sunday night and into Monday morning. Due to tabulation problems involving some ripped-up ballots, there was a long delay of the official announcement of O’Toole’s win.

According to Falk, that seemed fitting.

“It was almost expected to be delayed,” said Falk, “just because the whole race was somewhat delayed and extended.” The new Conservative leader was originally supposed to have been selected back in June, but the vote was pushed back due to COVID-19.

Adding to the drama was a close race that went three ballots, with the top three candidates all very close together in the count.

Falk had supported third-place finisher Leslyn Lewis during the leadership race and was impressed with how well she had done.

“She took all of Saskatchewan,” said Falk, adding “she really resonated with voters, and I believe even in Alberta she was 100 points away from taking that province as well.”

Lewis had also attracted good crowds during her campaign stop in the riding in Battleford and in Lloydminster. Falk said the good showing spoke to Lewis “resonating and speaking to the issues that faced western Canadians.”

Even though Lewis fell short in the end, Falk was happy to see the leadership race finally settled and looks forward to working with O’Toole as the leader.

“We’re glad now to finally have a leader, and we can continue getting down to work to hold the government to account.”

As for how O’Toole can introduce himself to Canadians and get the Conservatives’ message out, Falk pointed to the current situation in Ottawa.

“I think one great step would be if we had a government that would actually let the House of Commons sit!” said Falk.

She was referring to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau proroguing Parliament to next month, when a new throne speech will be delivered.

It’s a move that Falk notes has shut down all government business, including the Ethics Committee and Finance Committee investigations into the ‘We’ Charity deal.

“There was a motion made at these committees which passed. These documents had to be supplied to these committees,” said Falk.

She also noted the prorogation happened just two days after Bill Morneau resigned as finance minister.

“We had a finance minister resign in the middle of a global pandemic,” said Falk. “We’re not done COVID-19 yet — we’re still in the midst of all that. Health officials are expecting a second wave at some point... it just seems like the dumpster is on fire and the dumpster happens to be on the government benches. It’s just absolutely ridiculous.”

Fall’s own committee, HUMA - Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities - was in the middle of studying the impacts of the government response to COVID-19 and hearing from seniors and those with disabilities who were affected. But that work also was halted.

“He just went and cancelled our committees,” said Falk of Trudeau. ”It’s absolutely appalling that in the middle of a global crisis, the Prime Minister is selfish enough to focus on himself instead of the committees that do the work that we are mandated to do.”

As for next month’s Speech from the Throne, Falk said she does not know what to expect and had “no expectations” about it, adding “nothing can surprise me” about what comes from that speech. She is also sceptical about any improvement in the finance portfolio with Morneau leaving.

“As much as I don’t agree with a lot of the things the finance minister stands for or has done, he has finance experience. I can’t say the same for Chrystia Freeland.”

The Throne Speech would be up for a confidence vote within days that could bring down the minority Liberal government. Whatever happens, Falk said she will stand up for her constituents’ concerns.

“I’ve been given a strong mandate in the last federal election from the residents of Battlefords-Lloydminster, and I will continue to voice an advocate on their behalf not only in the House of Commons but in the caucus as well.”

She cited the “frustration” she’s heard from constituents about the government’s “anti-energy” policies, as well as the “terrible” relationships the Prime Minister has had with trading partners like China and India, making it difficult for farmers to get their products to market.

“When the ‘We’ scandal broke, that was enough for them,” said Falk. “I know the people of Battlefords-Lloydminster would have no problem having a new government that isn’t run by Justin Trudeau or the Liberal Party of Canada.”

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