A plethora of issues surfaced during a recent virtual town hall hosted by local MP Damien Kurek.
“There were a lot of questions about COVID-19 and about lockdowns – people have been looking for clarity and certainty around those things,” he said. “There were also some questions around the borders, and a number of questions about firearms. A number of people also asked questions about rural-specific issues – how to ensure that rural Canada isn’t forgotten.
“There were also a number of questions about western alienation and some of specific policy responses (in place) to ensure that Alberta is respected within the federation,” he said.
As Kurek pointed out, western alienation touches on several of the concerns that surfaced during the course of the event.
“The frustration is real. We can point to policies, we can look at some of the structural challenges. But at the very core of it, I make it clear that I am proud to be an Albertan and I’m proud to be a Canadian. Those things should not be mutually exclusive.”
Very few people he’s talked to wish to separate from Canada, he said. “But they feel like there is no other choice.
“It should be a top priority of any government – no matter what your politics or ideologies are – to ensure that national unity is key and that your policies are built on that,” he explained. “When it comes down to it, a lot of what we are facing in terms of specifics – whether it be pipelines, the carbon tax, or unfairness with things like EI and even CPP – these are symptoms of a bigger problem.”
Kurek noted the fault doesn’t necessarily lie with the structure of the federation.
“Our federation was built around the idea that different regions are simply different. The nation of Canada was built to ensure there was a compromise.”
But the current Liberal government doesn’t seem to hold to that, he said. “We would not have a country today had the framers of our constitution not ensured that regions would be respected.”
Today, there tends to be a blurring of lines between political jurisdictions, he said, referring to such things as resource management which of course impacts Alberta greatly.
But it’s not just about Alberta.
Other provinces are struggling with what appears to be an over-reach of federal influence, he said.
“The challenges that Alberta is facing are very real, and are very, very impactful – 1,000 people in my constituency lost their jobs when Keystone was cancelled. And there is this sentiment that the federal government doesn’t respect regional differences or governments that have different ideological perspectives. This is something that is across the country,” he said. “A government needs to know both what they should get involved with and where they should ensure that they empower other jurisdictions to take that responsibility.
“I think that’s one of the largest failures of the Trudeau government is that they have taken on the attitude that they are not only in charge of it all but that they control it all – and will do so with impunity,” he added.
Kurek said that several years ago, when the Conservatives were in power, many of these national unity issues didn’t exist.
“I would suggest you had a government that understood its role,” he said.
Today, there is an unprecedented ‘Ottawa knows best’ strategy that is failing Canadians, he added. “I fear the consequences of that continuing.”
For Kurek, hosting a virtual town hall was a first as he typically hosts Facebook ‘live’ events.
But it proved a success and more will be held in the future.
“In the midst of this pandemic, keeping in touch with and collaborating with constituents has been absolutely key,” he said, adding that down the road, he may also look at hosting ‘topical’ town halls as well, or bringing in colleagues to help address specific topics.
“I think there is a tremendous amount of opportunity to do that.”
For those who missed it, the town hall has also since been posted to Youtube as well.