Peace River-Westlock MP Arnold Viersen looked back last week in an interview with The Leader at some of the issues he has faced, as well as his biggest challenges and successes since being elected.
Viersen said the biggest issue he has dealt with since the summer has been the caribou range plan. Viersen and the Conservative Party of Canada are both concerned because the result could restrict industries, such as oil and gas and logging, from accessing forests.
“It has the opportunity to affect them (industry) greatly,” Viersen said.
Industry is not the only party that could see a negative impact. Viersen said First Nations that live in the area could be affected because if industry can’t make it in the forest, the First Nations will not have a chance to participate in the economy.
The MP is not sure how this is progressing. He explained the federal government has said they are concerned about caribou populations and are not happy with the current plans of the Alberta Government. Provincially there was supposed to be a Caribou Range Plan in place by October of this year. Viersen said that and has come and gone and there has been no action from the province or the feds. The province has said there will be a draft plan released in December.
The mountain pine beetle is also on the MP’s radar. He said he has been working with Yellowhead MP Jim Eglinski. The mountain pine beetle issue straddles both the ridings.
He recognizes this as a significant threat to Alberta forests. The Conservatives continue to ask questions to the federal government but Viersen said he has not seen any action. He feels the government is more concerned about other issues than dealing with this.
He does not see change coming, explaining that the government has bitten off so much with its efforts to ban oil tankers on the northern coast of British Columbia, imposing a drilling moratorium in northern Canada and the carbon tax, that it doesn’t have other issues on the radar.
Viersen said the Conservatives will continue to bang the drum on these issues. He said the Caribou Range Plan is the bigger issue in the riding because of the size of the potential affected area. He pointed out that caribou are everywhere in the region and this means that any plan that gets put in place will have some kind of significant impact.
Vierson said the biggest challenge he has faced since becoming an MP is the Liberal government. He feels the Liberals are showing a lack of care about what is happening in the rural areas and there is too much focus on the urban centres.
“This government doesn’t see past city limits,” he said.
To prove his point, he pointed to the drilling moratorium. He said this was a decision made to appease the international community but there was very little consultation done. The premiers of the North West Territories and Nunavut were both informed hours before the announcement.
As for his biggest successes, the MP pointed to two accomplishments ¾ one at the party level and one on a personal level.
At the party level, Viersen said he is proud the Conservative Party was able to turn the government around on it’s tax plan. The Conservatives are still looking for more details.
On a personal level he is most proud of his private members motion M-47, which was to get the Health Committee to conduct a study on the effects of online sexual violence on men, women and children.
“It’s not often that an opposition backbench MP gets a private members motion passed,” he said.
Viersen first brought the motion forward in March 2016 and it would later be carried unanimously on Dec. 8, 2016. The report was tabled on June 15, 2017.
Viersen said there was a lot of great testimony gathered but he feels the government’s response to the study has fallen short. He hoped the result would have been a public health initiative because that would mean there would be education, sanctions and advertising done to raise awareness on the issue.
“You can legislate this thing all you want, but if you don’t change the culture on it, it will probably continue,” Viersen said.
He was disappointed that the government just looked at education and patted themselves on the back when there is more to be done. There are recommendations for a meaningful age verification on websites with explicit content. He pointed out this is already the standard when it comes to gambling and this kind of content is already prevented from being sold to kids in stores.
Looking to the future
When it comes to what is next, Viersen said he and his party will continue to fight the carbon tax as well as plan for the next election.