The Conservative Party of Canada started off 2015 as the ruling party in the House of Commons, with a comfortable majority. Now, a year later, Conservative Party MP for Edmonton-Wetaskiwin Mike Lake said getting used to be an Opposition MP is a new experience.
Contacted for an interview by the Pipestone Flyer Jan. 6, Lake said looking back at 2015 includes looking at missed opportunities. “Well, obviously the federal election didn’t go as we’d hoped,” said Lake by phone. “The results are in. We’re the Official Opposition again.”
With the federal Liberals winning a decisive majority across the country and Justin Trudeau in the Prime Minister’s office, it was a new world for Conservative Party members like Lake who’d only known life as a majority government member. Lake said heading back to Ottawa as an Opposition MP was a new role not familiar to him.
“It’s been really busy,” said Lake. He noted that upon returning to Ottawa he found that he’d been bumped from his office by a Liberal MP; Lake had to move to a new office and that was a lot of work.
Lake also ran in the interim leader race that was won by Rona Ambrose. Since then, he’s been appointed critic for global maternal newborn and child health, a job close to heart.
“So it’s been a bit of a whirlwind for the past couple of months,” said the MP, noting, since the election in October, the House has sat about two weeks.
Lake said Conservative MPs in Opposition have to find a balance between keeping the Liberal majority government accountable and representing their constituents, particularly as voters in ridings like Edmonton-Wetaskiwin might have very different viewpoints than MPs who make up the ruling Liberal party.
Lake said he forsees an Opposition that is strong, civil and effective.
Conservative election campaign
Lake said there’s been much talk about the Conservative Party election campaign and MPs are trying to keep everything in perspective. “When you come up to the decade mark serving as a government, there is a natural level of fatigue among the electorate,” said Lake.
Most political pundits across the country agree the Conservative Party’s campaign strategy appeared to be attacking Liberal leader Trudeau and his lack of experience. MP Lake said he feels the Conservative Party could have done a better job of promoting their track record and accomplishments, especially on things like foreign policy and the economy.
Lake also pointed out the “very strong” Conservative track record was in large part due to the leadership of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Lake said “there’s no shortage of people pointing the finger at a leader,” but pointed out the Conservatives had a very successful government. “Prime Minister Harper needs to be given credit for that.”
Syrian refugee crisis
Lake said he was concerned about the way the Syrian refugee crisis was utilized by the Liberal Party during the last election, as the Liberals made “a lot of promises that there was no way to keep.” Trudeau said during the election Canada, under his party, would accept 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of January. Within a few weeks of the election, he already flip-flopped, delaying the program and cutting the number of people involved after critics across the country said that number and timeline were unrealistic.
“We’re glad to see things didn’t go as fast (as the Liberals said in the campaign),” said Lake, who noted it would have been impossible to process 25,000 refugees from a civil war into Canada in a few weeks. “I think this is what my constituents were telling me during and after the election campaign.”
Lake said it’s obvious there is room for compassion in the refugee crisis, especially to the most vulnerable that could be facing death in Syria. But the safety of Canadians should be balanced with the crisis.
“As we respond to that need we need to ensure the safety and security of Canadians,” added Lake.