It’s been a whirlwind for John Brassard and Alex Nuttall. October makes a full year since the former Barrie city councillors were elected as federal Conservative MPs, and both continue their vow to keep the feet of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his ministers to the fire.
“The politics of style is trumping the politics of substance,” says Brassard, representing Barrie-Innisfil. “This can only go on for so long, and tough decisions will need to be made soon.”
Nuttall, MP for Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte, cites unemployment here as an example.
“Mr. Trudeau's investment of $300,000,000 in summer jobs was promised with a 40,000-job increase for youth through the summer. However, what we saw was his high tax plan creating a drop of 48,000 jobs over the year previous. This means that they delivered 88,000 fewer jobs for youth than promised.”
Both men admit there’s been an adjustment. “Adjusting to life away from my family has been the most difficult part,” says Nuttall.
Concurs Brassard, “The tough part at first was coordinating everything from moving to Ottawa to hiring staff and find an office location. Then it was getting ramped up rather quickly on the issues that MPs deal with.”
Nuttall admits representing Barrie presents special challenges.
“Our unemployment rate has been trending higher since the federal government budget was announced, and it has gone up to 8.7 percent in Barrie.”
“In addition, the Lake Simcoe Cleanup Fund is coming to an end next year and this is the most important issue unique to our area. It is responsible for our quality of life, eco-systems, and economic future.”
As MPs resume sitting after the summer, Brassard foresees economic concerns being addressed, while dreading the prospect of a carbon tax, which could result in higher food and fuel costs.
Brassard understands the reasoning behind cutting greenhouse gas emissions, but argues other countries are more flagrant offenders.
“China is still building 40 percent of all new coal-fired power plants globally in 2016. I don’t see the Prime Minister putting much pressure on China or any other polluter in this regard.”
According to Nuttall, “I would like to see real movement on economic matters, government policies that create private sector job growth, and more accountability and transparency from a government that is running behind closed doors as often as possible.”
United Nations peacekeeping is also an issue as the Liberal government may deploy Canadian troops on UN peacekeeping operations, something Brassard views as purely political.
“They have blindly pledged 600 Canadian troops to a ‘possible deployment’ in an effort to secure a position on the United Nation’s Security Council. This announcement could place Canadian troops in some of the most dangerous regions of the world, without responding to any pressing need in Canada's national interest.”
With the departure of Stephen Harper, both men view this time as a period of renewal for the Tories.
Says Nuttall, “We need to reconnect with young people and ignite their passion for their country. We have to ensure we are standing up for jobs for Canadians against this government that has proven that their policies are killing jobs indiscriminately in the private sector.”
Brassard, too, sees room for improvement. “As an objective Conservative, not part of the previous government, we didn’t do a very good job at communicating to Canadians some of the great policies, tax or otherwise that were part of a substance agenda so we do need to get better at that to be viable. We need to better connect with people and we need a leader who understands how essential that is.”
Federal Conservatives will choose a new leader next May.