It is with great sadness I start this edition of Foothills Focus with the news of a death of a Canadian soldier in Iraq.
On Saturday, Sgt. Andrew Joseph Doiron was killed in friendly fire while training and assisting Iraqi Kurdish forces in Iraq. Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced, “On behalf of Canadians, Laureen and I offer our deepest condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Sgt. Doiron. We also offer our prayers for the speedy recovery of the other three injured members of the Canadian Armed Forces. “Canadians are rightly proud of the men and women who serve in our Armed Forces. We support their families, and we honour all those who make the sacrifices necessary to safeguard our country and our highest values.”
My wife Louise and I echo the Prime Minister’s statement.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Sgt. Doiron who was serving to protect the security of families and communities threatened by the ISIL terrorists. More than that, he was working to halt the spread of ISIL terrorism abroad and at home. We are proud of Sgt. Doiron and grateful to the men and women carry the burden of protecting our peace and security.
There will be the call from those in the Opposition to recall our forces from Iraq as a result of this tragic incident, but this is not the time to abandon the coalition of more than 60 countries who are working to stem the spread of ISIL in the Middle East and around the world.
The efforts of our six CF-18 fighters and military personnel have had a profound impact on the fight against ISIL and we cannot stand on the sidelines and let our allies face these threats alone.
We must stand tall, should-to-shoulder, with our allies to quell what is one of the greatest threats to global peace in decades.
On March 3, it became abundantly clear this new career has taken its toll on my fitness level.
Redwood Meadows Fire Chief Rob Evans invited me to attend a training session at the fire hall where they were joined by volunteers from Tsuu T’ina First Nations and Elbow River fire halls.
The volunteers transformed the Redwood Meadows fire hall into smoke-filled rooms complete with obstacles and casualties.
Prior to filling the fire hall with dense “smoke” I was outfitted with fire protection gear including helmet, mask and boots. Thankfully there was a volunteer firefighter whose backside was ample as my own.
Once outside the hall, my partner Niall showed me how to use the respirator and an innovative hand-held piece of equipment called a “Tick” which would allow me to see through the thick dark smoke inside the building.
Finally, it was our turn to head in. It was my job to stay behind Niall and use the Tick to see ahead of him, direct him to any potential casualties and warn him of any obstacles.
The task seemed easy enough until I started to crawl through the “burning building” while trying to keep pace with Niall. All the lessons he told me before we went into the building were zipping through my head. “Keep a hold of my boot.” “Shake your tank every 30 seconds or the alarm will go off.” “Keep your right hand on the wall.” Of course, I am trying to go through this checklist while at the same time I could not see two inches in front of me.
We managed to make it through the building, in what was described as a preliminary search, in one piece. I was exhausted, my legs were aching and I was out of breath. I asked Chief Evans how we did and how long it took us to get through the building. To me, it seemed an eternity. Surely a good 30 minute cardio work out.
His response, “You did well, you were in and out in seven minutes.”
Seven minutes! I could not believe it, my body was telling me I was on the treadmill for an hour.
I now have new respect for the commitment of our volunteer firefighters who go through extensive training and make incredible sacrifices to be ready to protect families and communities in their region.
I think I will also talk to Chief Evans about partnering on a new business – the Seven Minute Workout!
Life means Life
On March 4, Prime Minister Harper announced plans to introduce legislation to keep Canadian families and communities safe by ensuring the most heinous criminals will be sentenced to life behind bars without the possibility of parole.
This will build on our tough-on-crime measures to keep our streets and communities safe by making sure criminals who are convicted of the most serious crimes will be imprisoned for the rest of their lives with no access to parole. This will include a mandatory sentence of life without parole for first degree murders involving sexual assault, kidnapping, terrorism, and the killing of a police officer or corrections officer.
• I met with the Canadian Chiropractic Association to discuss a pilot project to provide chiropractic care to Canada’s military. The project has been green-lighted and will proceed.
• Met with representatives from Canada’s top research universities including University of Calgary President Elizabeth Cannon, to discuss projects and partnerships.
• I met with the Canadian Agriculture Human Resources Committee to discuss labour issues and the potential to expand the definition of Agriculture in immigration to fill job vacancies. We have brought this to the Minister and will continue to discuss their proposal.
• It was an honour to meet with Bill Gates who was in Ottawa to discuss Canada’s ongoing commitment to the eradication of polio and to Maternal, Child and Newborn Health with the Prime Minister and parliamentarians.
• A delegation of representatives from Columbian universities were in Ottawa to discuss potential partnerships with Canadian universities in developing programs, as well as professor and student exchanges.
• I toured the University of Lethbridge’s unique Water Resource Institute and discussed the possibility of entering into a partnership with a Columbian university to share their expertise on this critical resource.
• Alberta Transportation Minister Wayne Drysdale and I met in Calgary to discuss water/wastewater and other infrastructure priorities in Macleod. Nanton’s wastewater treatment plant topped the list of priorities but we discussed a number of other projects including Longview’s wastewater, an Okotoks-Calgary water pipeline, Granum’s water co-op and Stavely’s water needs.
• Over the past several weeks Alberta Seniors Minister Jeff Johnson and I have been talking about priorities in Macleod surrounding seniors care facilties and how we can partner to address some of these infrastructure issues. Johnson also came to Okotoks to announce funding for sprinkler in Sandstone Lodge. I am hoping to have Mr. Johnson in the riding again later this month to tour some of the facilities.
• Redwood Meadows council invited me to meet with them and the main topics were renewing their lease with Tsuu T’ina First Nation and infrastructure needs.
• Finally, on Friday I met with the Alberta Southwest Mayors and Reeves Association in Lethbridge. This is an outstanding group and I look forward to attending their meetings. Some of the issues we discussed included the Apprenticeship Loan program, labour issues and BSE.
It was a busy two weeks in Ottawa and the riding, but the weather at home was outstanding.
• In Ottawa, I had a speech on The Pipeline Safety Act and provided statements on the new Okotoks Legion Branch 291 and One Billion Rising, an initiative to raise awareness about violence against women, which I participated in with Rowan House Emergency Shelter in High River. I also asked our Ministers questions on the new LNG program and ISIL.
• The 10th anniversary party for Parent Link in Fort Macleod
• Wintervention in Crowsnest Pass – I accepted the challenge from Sled Zeppelin to compete in next year’s Human Sled Dog Race. I had better start training!
• Okotoks Junior High School’s Grade 9 classes held their own session of Parliament and passed three bills. Thanks to Ms. McMillan for inviting me and the students asked some outstanding questions about my job and about government.
• I spoke at the Vulcan Chamber of Commerce and High River Rotary
• Thanks for Redwood Fire Chief Rob Evans and Niall for having me participate in an evening of fire training. Crawling through a smoke-filled room trying to keep up with Niall was exhausting! What a great experience and I have a new appreciation of what the men and women of our first responders put themselves through.
• Joined the teachers for the annual Okotoks Junior High School’s Student-Teacher Hockey Classic. Once again, the wiley old teachers managed to hold off the spunky, talented youngsters for the win!
• High River and Okotoks Kinsmen Club’s Spring Thaw charity dinner and dance
• I joined Aboriginal Affairs Parliamentary Secretary Mark Strahl in Siksika to announce $8,9 million in funding for a new Crowfoot School. Thanks to Chief Vincent Yellow Old Woman for your hospitality.
• In Standoff I announced $640,000 for the Kainai Peacemaking Program which is part of Canada’s Aboriginal Justice Strategy. It was a great meeting with Chief Charles Weaselhead and council, staff and elders on the benefits of the tradition-based community justice program.
Until next time,
Member of Parliament for Macleod