Foothills Focus, 2ed.
I hope this means you enjoyed the first Foothills Focus and are back for more.
The second issue will be a Coles Notes version of everything we have been up to since my first official day on the job, Sept. 15.
Of course, there are two events which dominated my first few months in Ottawa.
First, was the vote to send our F-18s to Iraq to join the coalition in the fight against ISIS and ISIL. Up to this point I had several trying times including my first speech in the House, but this was a substantial moment in our nation’s history.
We, as Parliamentarians, would be voting to send our men and women of our Armed Forces into harms way. I firmly believe this was action we needed to take as a government and a country. These terrorists are murdering innocent men, women and children. They were forcing people from their homes as refugees fled the horrific acts of ISIL.
I stood up in the House of Commons proudly supporting the decision to send our forces to Iraq, but at the same time it was difficult knowing the potential consequences of this decision.
One of the reasons I was convinced we could not stand idly by was the fact ISIL threatened to take actions against Canadians here at home. Our security is paramount and I am proud of the leadership shown by our government and our Prime Minister.
This threat became reality with the deaths of Patrice Vincent and Nathan Cirillo and the shooting on Parliament Hill. The terrorist attacks in Paris and Australia have further proven our need to take action against these barbaric acts.
Many of you have asked me about that day and how my family and I are coping. It was a surreal experience, but I was more concerned about how this terrorist act would impact my family who were at home.
I was in the caucus room as the shots rang through the Hall of Honour outside our door. It seemed as though several men were storming the Hill and the worst part was not knowing what was unfolding outside those doors.
As many of you have seen and heard, we took precautions to protect ourselves and our colleagues inside that room. I was so impressed with the resiliency of my fellow MPs as we were determined no one would get through those doors.
I was able to get a call through to my wife, Louise, before we lost cell service and let her know I was safe.
We did not know about the death of Cpl. Cirillo until much later and to hear the news of the shooting at Canada’s war memorial was heartbreaking.
It was a difficult day and I would like to thank everyone in Macleod and across Canada for their support. Also, to Kevin Vickers and the security staff on Parliament Hill who acted so bravely, my heartfelt thanks.
The day after the shooting was one of the most memorable days of my life. The reception Mr. Vickers received in the House of Commons followed by the Prime Minister’s speech and his crossing the floor to embrace the opposition leaders was simply incredible.
The remaining fall schedule was extremely busy in Ottawa and at home in the riding.
In Ottawa I met with numerous local stakeholders including Alberta Beef Producers, National Cattlefeeders Association, Canadian Fertilizer Association, API Labs, Canadian Students Association and Canada Post on issues at the Okotoks and High River postal outlets.
It was also a great pleasure to host several local visitors including Marsi Quarin-Wright from Okotoks Junior High School, Irene Kerr from the Museum of the Highwood and a delegation from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities which included an old friend from Yorkton, Randy Goulden.
In the riding, we were kept equally busy meeting with community groups, organizations and individual residents on a wide variety of issues.
Some of highlights included Remembrance Day events in Okotoks, High River and Turner Valley; the AGM at the Bellevue Legion; speaking with veterans at the Interviews With Veterans film festival in Fort Macleod; Santa Claus parades in Pincher Creek and High River; the Fort Macleod Lions 75th anniversary; handing out medals at the FIS Ski-Cross World Cup event in Nakiska and speaking about politics with students in Okotoks, High River, Claresholm and Millarville.
We welcomed more than 300 people to our office open house after the High River Santa Claus parade and thanks to the volunteers and my staff who braved the cold to barbecue burgers and make hot chocolate.
One of the highlights of my first month was being selected as a delegate for an inter-parliamentary summit with congressmen and senators from Mexico. The three-day summit in Ottawa included discussions on a wide variety of trade issues, agriculture, education, economy and immigration. I was asked to represent the Government to speak about our agriculture industry, the seasonal workers program and the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement. It was an interesting session and an outstanding opportunity to discuss important issues to southern Alberta.
Lastly, before the Christmas break we held roundtables across the riding to meet with representatives of local municipalities, business owners and residents to discuss a variety of topics including the Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement, The Express Entry Program and budget priorities.
It was an excellent way to conclude the fall session and prepare for budget deliberations and the unveiling of the Express Entry program.
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas with family and friends and from my family to yours, Happy New Year.
– John Barlow, M.P.