Big news out of Northern Alberta, where on Saturday evening in a contested nomination, my friend Kyle Harrietha was nominated as the Liberal Party of Canada's candidate for the upcoming by-election in Fort McMurray-Athabasca.
The vacancy was created when Conservative MP Brian Jean decided to call it quits early after a period of thoroughly uninspiring representation in Ottawa (remember the crosswords?). For all the talk of supporting the oil sands we get out of the Conservatives, there are huge pressing infrastructure issues in the region that the feds have ignored, and the concerns of local indigenous populations have also been paid little attention.
The byelection, whenever it is called, will bring these issues into national focus, and I can think of no one better to carry the Liberal banner than Harrietha. To support his campaign, make a donation to the Fort McMurray-Athabasca Federal Liberal Riding Association today.
Below is the speech Kyle made to the nominating meeting last night. Good luck Kyle! Looking forward to paying a visit during the campaign.
It’s great to be here today and see so many new Liberal Members from across Wood Buffalo.
My name is Kyle Harrietha and I’m here to ask for your support and your vote as I seek the Liberal nomination for Fort McMurray—Athabasca in the upcoming by-election.
I’d like to begin by thanking Bill Loutitt for nominating me today. I’m humbled by your support and I appreciate your friendship. I’d also like to thank Chris Flett for putting his name forward for the Liberal nomination. It’s no small thing to allow your name to be on a ballot and I commend Chris for his commitment to this community and the Liberal Party. Regardless of the result, this is a contest among friends, and I’ll certainly be there to support Chris in the upcoming by-election if the outcome today is in his favour.
As an active resident in this community which I love and call home, I believe we need a strong presence in our nation’s capital dedicated to ensuring our government makes a difference across our region. I’ve spent 16 years working for responsible and sustainable development — a just society that respects Aboriginal and minority rights, and accountable, fiscally responsible, transparent government.
I spent 7 years on Parliament Hill as a legislative and executive assistant for several Liberal Members of Parliament. I’ve also worked extensively on parliamentary committees including the Environment and Sustainable Development committee and Access to Information, Privacy, and Ethics committee. I have a proven track record working for local non-profit organizations including the Cumulative Environmental Management Association where I spent 5 years as an Administrator for the Reclamation Working Group which develops guidelines for mine site reclamation. And I’m currently the McMurray Métis General Manager where I oversee an organization of seven staff and more than 300 members dedicated to pursuing the advancement of the Métis people of Northeastern Alberta.
A Member of Parliament is expected to advocate for local interests, address the concerns of residents, help in the creation of laws, and examine the work of our government and how it spends our money. Our previous Conservative Member of Parliament, who walked out of the job before his contract with voters was done, reduced his duties to taxpayer-funded mail outs with crossword puzzles and attack ads. His only commentary involved finger-pointing at the failings of other levels of government while remaining silent on the Conservatives’ lack of action addressing federal issues affecting the future of Northeastern Alberta. He even claimed the most pressing issues facing this community are largely out of federal hands. Once you start working through the list of federal issues not being addressed, it’s obvious that’s false.
Our oil sands are the heart of Canada’s resource development industry and underpin hundreds of thousands of jobs, and yet, as Justin Trudeau has stated, the Conservatives have failed to move the yardsticks on one of the most important infrastructure projects in North America — the Keystone XL pipeline; which would ensure our oil sands get to market. They’ve also neglected to make the meaningful infrastructure investments required to ensure we maintain quality of life for residents in the face of the growth that comes with rapid industrial development.
According to an investigation published by the CBC there were over 2,600 Federal funding announcements across Canada in 2013 totalling almost $8.5 Billion. Does anybody here know how much of that was announced in Wood Buffalo or for Wood Buffalo? The answer is $0. Not one Federal dollar was announced in or for the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo in 2013. Think about that. $0 despite all the infrastructure issues and various other issues we’re facing.
When Wood Buffalo gets less money out of the Prime Minister’s Office then Senator Mike Duffy you know there’s a very big problem. And it’s not just with the old Duff.
Across the entire riding there were 3 announcements for Portage College in Lac la Biche, Wild Rose Senior’s Villa in Boyle, and a safe school’s grant in Wabasca. Total: $11.2 million. And now the Conservative Government has the gall to demand $24-$60 million as the cost to Alberta taxpayers of purchasing or leasing the Willow Square land for our seniors. A rip-off if there ever was one. It should be clear from those numbers alone that the Conservative Government takes this Region for granted.
The Conservatives have rolled back regulatory and environmental oversight to the point where First Nations and Métis communities have little confidence that their rights and traditional lands are being protected. This includes changes to the Navigable Waters Act taking most of the waterways in Northeastern Alberta off the list of water bodies under Federal environmental protection. And undermining Canada’s oldest Environmental legislation; the Federal Fisheries Act. Enacted for the first time in 1868. It always used to be used to protect fish habitat. Not anymore. And it doesn’t end there.
Trade unions have been undermined in the collective bargaining process they engage in to protect the rights and wages of thousands of workers across our region. There’s little support for the many new Canadians in Fort McMurray-Athabasca struggling with credentials recognition, a lack of support for skills training, and the ability to reunite in Canada with family stuck overseas due to our inefficient immigration system. It’s time for a change.
To bring about that change requires positive and collaborative action and a lot of hard work. It requires a Member of Parliament with a track record of working with stakeholders in our region including industry, other levels of government, Aboriginal groups, and NGOs. I’ve had the opportunity to live and work across Canada including Nova Scotia, Ontario, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and Alberta. If there’s one thing you learn when living in Wood Buffalo it’s that Canada and the world lives here. And that we’re not just building a community in this region, we’re helping to build a country.
If I’ve learned anything, it’s that leadership does not begin with a select few – it must be embodied by all of us. It’s about individual responsibility, mutual trust, and accountability. We’re the party that promotes the empowerment of the many. We’re not governed by one decision maker at the top. We’re governed by the voters who put us there. If we want real change we will need to develop policies that inspire citizens to build a better community. And we must be there to support them.
Change will require all of us talk to our neighbours as we convince them to express confidence over doubt, to pick optimism over frustration, and to choose success over stagnation. We must always stand for a fair, open, and honest approach that generates change from the bottom up – and captures the hopes and aspirations of every community. And make no mistake – accountability is a conversation not a monologue.
I’m asking you choose conversation. To chose dialogue. And to help support a campaign like we’ve never seen in our community.
Thank-you for being here today and thank-you for voting.
I hope I can count on your support.
All the best.