In the first week of the latest return of Parliament following Christmas break, Alberta’s Battle River-Crowfoot MP Damien Kurek saw hundreds of 18-wheeled trucks occupy downtown Ottawa and his own Conservative Party’s leader removed. An interesting week by any standards.
“It’s been a week that’s kept us busy,” said Kurek by phone from his Ottawa office Feb. 2.
The interview with the ECA Review took place not long after the Conservative Party caucus made use of The Reform Act, brought into government in 2015, as a way for a party caucus to pass judgement on its own leadership.
As it turns out Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole was the first party leader ousted under the act, as 73 Conservative MPs voted in favour of a new leader with a distant 45 preferring O’Toole.
Many political pundits point at the 2021 federal election’s results, a return to a Liberal minority government mired in two years of scandals, as a major factor in caucus dissatisfaction with O’Toole.
The MP stated he participated in the vote and it culminated in caucus deciding to move in a different direction.
Kurek stated the Conservative Party takes pride in accountability and the results of the leadership vote illustrate that, adding that O’Toole himself supported the Reform Act and accepted the results afterward.
Kurek also noted he quickly sent out a press release thanking O’Toole for his work as leader, especially during the challenging pandemic period.
The MP stated caucus’ desire for a new leader, “…was decided pretty definitively,” but as of Feb. 2 there were no specific details yet on the forthcoming leadership race.
In the meantime Kurek stated the Official Opposition Conservative Party still has plenty of work to do holding the Trudeau Liberal minority government accountable for things like corruption, response to the pandemic and western alienation.
Kurek noted the exact details of the leadership vote are private and he would respect that privacy. He noted members of the Conservative Party should have already received letters about the process and the grassroots of the party will be well-informed about the process to select a new, permanent leader of the Official Opposition.
Kurek stated he will keep his focus on his MP and shadow cabinet duties while working to ensure the next Conservative Party leader is a good fit, as the current government situation could mean a return to the polls.
“This is a minority government,” said Kurek. “An election could happen at any time.”
Asked when he’s planning to announce his leadership campaign, Kurek chuckled and said he plans to remain the MP working for Battle River-Crowfoot residents only.
Conservatives named Candice Bergen as interim leader Wednesday evening, Feb. 2, 2022.
Hundreds of commercial trucks and an estimated 8,000 to 15,000 protestors descended on downtown Ottawa at the end of January to protest generally against pandemic rules and specifically a recent federal government law requiring commercial drivers crossing into the U.S. be vaccinated or else be stuck in quarantine.
Kurek said he spoke to a fair number of people in the convoy who hail from the Battle River-Crowfoot riding who made the cross-country trip and heard much the same thing from many of them: Canadians don’t feel their voices are being heard by government.
The MP stated he wanted to make it clear people need to take COVID seriously and that vaccines and rapid tests are important tools in the fight against the virus but it’s also important to respect Canadians’ frustration with mandates.
Kurek noted government keeps repeating the same policies and politics seems to come before Canadians’ lives.
Kurek added that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau showed how much respect he has for pandemic rules last summer when he called a snap election during the pandemic and broke virtually every health mandate while he was campaigning purely for his own political gain.
The MP stated it was frustrating that truckers who were considered heroes throughout the pandemic now face the possibility of losing their jobs.
Kurek noted he supports vaccines but nobody should lose their livelihood over them.
He also suggested COVID may not disappear any time soon.
“It’s not that we shouldn’t take it seriously, but we need to learn to live with it,” he added.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter