With a new Liberal majority in the House of Commons, looking ahead to the coming year involves embracing the role of Opposition MP for Edmonton-Wetaskiwin’s Mike Lake.
Contacted for an interview by the Pipestone Flyer Jan. 6, Lake said looking ahead to 2016 with Liberal Justin Trudeau as Prime Minister means looking past hype surrounding the new head of the Canadian government.
Trudeau’s victory as Prime Minister has elicited an almost Hollywood celebrity type atmosphere around the new leader, but Lake said he plans to ignore the celebrity and focus on the reason MPs are in Ottawa. “I will be, in my role as Opposition, looking at results and substance,” said Lake.
He said he plans to hold the new Liberal government to account on issues Trudeau touted during the election campaign, such as the Syrian refugee crisis, and more down-to-earth issues like the economy.
“The new Trudeau government is, in large part, stealing policy from the old Trudeau government,” said Lake by phone. “ I don’t think that’s the right course.”
Lake stated the Conservative government worked very hard to rebuild the economy and balance the budget following the global economic meltdown in 2008, one of the few nations in the world to recover so successfully.
He said he’s concerned the new Liberal government is going to stall or harm that recovery through public debt. Lake said the Liberals don’t look like they have any limit to the amount of debt they’re willing to lay on the taxpayer.
Changing the election rules
Lake said he and other Conservative Party MPs are very concerned about Trudeau’s electoral reform plans first mentioned during last fall’s election campaign. The Liberals stated they wanted to “restore democracy in Canada.”
Lake said it appears the Liberals will use their majority to fundamentally change the way governments are formed in Canada. “I think it will absolutely be a dominating part of the debate over the next few months,” said Lake.
Trudeau promised during the election he would eliminate the “first past the post” system used since Canada was created in 1867. During the election, Trudeau also promised a new system would be proposed within 18 months of his coming to power.
Lake said if a change this big is being made to the Canadian electoral system, it should include major public consultation, including a national referendum, and he said he’s also concerned the Liberal majority would allow Trudeau to make changes to suit his party, not necessarily Canadians.
Lake said the recent Liberal victory was almost the same as one recent Conservative victory, but the Liberals would never have stood for electoral changes if the Conservatives were in power. “That consultation is really important,” added Lake.
Newborns and children
Lake said he will continue working in an area that’s very important to him. He’s been named the critic for global maternal newborn and child health, a subset of the International development department. “It’s been a personal interest of mine,” said Lake.
He said the initiative stems from the 2010 Muskoka Initiative which drew attention to the high mortality rate among children under five years of age around the world, particularly the developing world. Plus, the initiative also focuses on reducing the mortality rate among birth mothers.
Lake said 2010 numbers stated about 9 million children under five years of age die every year; about half a million mothers die in childbirth.
“There was a commitment to significantly reduce those numbers,” said the MP, noting Canada has shown much leadership on this issue. He also noted a number of non-governmental agencies have supported the previous Conservative government’s leadership role in this area.
The MP said that, in less than a decade, the initiative has shown impressive results. The child fatality rate ahs already dropped to six million, and the childbirth death rate ahs also dropped.
Lake said he requested this critic post and plans to be very active lobbying the government to stay the course lest momentum be lost. He said he’s been involved since the initiative began in 2010, and traveled to Africa in 2013 to see effects of the initiative firsthand. The MP noted modest investments can have big results.
The Conservative MP for Edmonton-Wetaskiwin was hesitant to comment on the issue of legalizing marijuana in Canada. “That’s a question for the government,” said Lake.
He said he wasn’t sure legalizing marijuana was at the top of everybody’s list of what’s going to be discussed in the House of Commons right away.
Lake also pointed out there is a number of jurisdictions around the world that have legalized marijuana and who felt later that things could have been handled better. He suggested reserving judgment until everybody involved in this issue is better informed before making what could be a big mistake.
“I think we have to be thinking about the kids,” said Lake. “I think we need to tread carefully.”