Foothills Focus – Message from John
I would like to take this opportunity to welcome the residents of Macleod to the inaugural edition of Foothills Focus.
This is a weekly newsletter I will be putting out on Mondays to let the constituents in the riding read about some of the work we are doing in Macleod and in Ottawa.
Each week I will provide information about what I have been doing on Parliament Hill, stakeholders I am meeting, events I have been attending in the riding and, most importantly, the issues we have been discussing in Ottawa and here at home.
I am excited about this opportunity to write this weekly newsletter for a number of reasons.
First, this is a great chance for me to keep you informed about some of the things your Member of Parliament, my staff and our government are working on and how it may impact Macleod.
However, for me the most important reason is communication. I feel it is critical we have a dialogue about what is important to you.
I hope Foothills Focus will spark a two-way dialogue amongst all of us. It is important we discuss the issues our friends, families and businesses in Macleod feel are important. I hope this newsletter is a catalyst to start that discussion. I will be inviting all of you to email back with your ideas, comments and observations of the issues I have discussed in the newsletter or other issues/policies you feel are important.
In essence, as I said during my election campaign, communication is crucial. To me, it is important we are all engaged in the process and I want this newsletter to be just another avenue for your voice to be heard.
Finally, another reason I am enthusiastic about this newsletter is it gives me an opportunity to return to my journalistic roots.
For those who are unaware, I was a journalist for 20 years before being elected to office in June. For the last dozen years or so I wrote a popular weekly column in the Okotoks Western Wheel, which earned a loyal following. Of course I wrote on the important issues in the community, but it was also a chance for me to discuss things we face in our everyday lives – from parenting, and life in general, to the calamity which was my first yoga class.
When I stepped down from the Wheel last winter to run in the federal by-election I shelved my column as well. Interestingly, when I was door knocking (my team and I knocked on more than 12,000 doors), or just simply bumping in to people on the street, one of the comments I heard from most people was how much they missed my column.
Well, this is a chance for me to start writing again. To bring my “column” back to life in a way, but on a different platform.
In fact, I am smiling even as I type this, despite the fact I typed this line several times as my keyboard skills are a bit rusty.
I have had to write several speeches and statements for the House already, which you can access on our new website or my Facebook page, but it is not quite the same as this. It is not quite the same as having a conversation with Macleod.
Well, now you have the background to the first edition of Foothills Focus and now I would like to give you a quick synopsis of where we are now.
First, I was elected in the June 30 by-election and sworn in on Parliament Hill, July 23. Having the clerk of the House put the House of Commons pin on myself and the spouse’s pin on Louise in the Speaker’s Lounge was a wonderful experience for my family and friends who joined us in Ottawa to share in the occasion.
It was also a chance for us to tour the Hill, learn our way around and visit our new office in the Justice Building.
However, before the fall session of the 41st Parliament opened in September our focus was hiring a staff in Ottawa and in the constituency. I must say I am blessed with the staff we have been able to put together to form, what I can confidently say, is an outstanding team in Macleod.
Carrie Fischer, who was my campaign manager, is the Executive Assistant in the constituency office, which has been opened in High River. She is joined in High River by Barb Castell and Wanda Sommerfeldt. All three bring phenomenal experience as Ms. Fischer is a current Town of Okotoks councillor, Ms. Castell, a former MD of Foothills councillor, and Ms. Sommerfeldt worked with former Macleod MP Ted Menzies for seven years. They also come from different areas of the riding, which I thought was important as well.
Our staff is equally as talented in Ottawa with Executive Assistant Pam Widdis, who has worked on the Hill for 14 years, and Parliamentary Assistant Brooke de Waal, a Criminology and Political Science student at University of Ottawa, who is from Okotoks and also worked for Menzies previously.
With this team residents of Macleod are in good hands and they will serve our communities with incredible professionalism and expertise.
With our staff in place, my focus was then getting settled in Ottawa and meeting my new colleagues.
The Alberta Caucus held a retreat in Canmore in early September where we met stakeholders from across the province and Canada. We discussed a myriad of topics including expansion of broadband internet, Alberta budget priorities and the Temporary Foreign Workers program.
It was also an excellent opportunity for me to get to know my new co-workers from Alberta.
Once the retreat was complete, I prepared for the start of the fall session on Sept. 15.
The opening of the fall session is one of the most memorable days in my life. I was honoured to be walked into the House of Commons to be introduced to the Speaker and my new colleagues by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Employment Minister Jason Kenney. I received a standing ovation from parliamentarians on both sides of the floor in what I can only describe as being a surreal experience.
It was an occasion which was captured on the front page of the Ottawa Citizen the following day. A good start for Macleod.
After being introduced to Speaker Andrew Sheer, I took my seat among my colleagues in the House of Commons. At that moment, looking around at the historic room, I truly realized the magnitude of what had transpired.
All the commitment, dedication and tireless work of my friends, family and supporters in Macleod helped me achieve this incredible goal.
I am truly proud to be your representative in Ottawa and to have your support.
Next issue I will discuss the committee appointments, some of the policies and legislation we have discussed, and some of the issues people in the riding have brought forward.
I hope to see you soon!