Monday, July 06, 2009

Are the Liberals targeting my riding?

Being a resident in the EDA of Edmonton-Millwoods-Beaumont I often read in various places about how this riding is/should be targeted by the Liberals as a possible place to pick up a seat in the next federal election. I have read this on blogs, in the newspaper, and during the last election campaign I saw various talking heads on TV suggest the same.

But why us?

To be honest I have no idea other than the misguided thinking that because this riding was once held by David Kilgour that with a little work it could go Liberal again in the near future. I say misguided because this is based on nothing other than the popularity of one David Kilgour, who the last time I checked was not running, and who even if he was going to run, was not even a Liberal caucus member at the time of his retirement so it would not be for the Libs.

There are a couple of things that most people are forgetting about or are taking for granted here about why this riding ever went Liberal or would go that way again. The first is that when Mr. Kilgour was first elected in 1979 he ran under the banner of the Progressive Conservative Party; had he ran as a Liberal he would have probably lost and had a very short political career. He was kicked out of the PC's in October of 1990 by then PM Brian Mulroney over his objections to the GST, but in the 11 years previously he had already proven himself to the community as a good strong local representative so when he crossed over to the Liberals it was not the party that the good people of his riding were voting for but the man himself. The second thing is that our current MP, Mike Lake, has continued on with the tradition of his predecessor by being not only accessible but by working hard for the people of EMB both here and in Ottawa. This is what got Mr. Kilgour re-elected and this is what will get Mike Lake re-elected when the time comes. Sure I may be biased in my beliefs, but it is plain to see to anyone paying attention just how hard Mike works for this riding, as this recent Edmonton Journal article points out just one aspect of the good job Mike is doing.

So to all of the Liberals out there who continue to believe that EMB can be won in the next election; I say please keep it up. Keep sending those heavy hitters such as Bob Rae and Carolyn Bennett here to drum up support. Keep pouring all of the resources and money that you can into our riding, and keep on believing that the Liberal brand is enough for you to be victorious in EMB. Because the more you concentrate and spend on us, the less that you will have available for ridings where you actually might have a shot at winning.

Bring it on!

Reprint of Journal article written by Alexandra Zabjek. July 2, 2009

At ceremonies across the country Wednesday, Canada's newest citizens celebrated the nation's birthday by pledging to accept the rights and responsibilities some of their neighbours may well take for granted.

At a citizenship ceremony at the legislature, MP Mike Lake was on hand, paying special attention not only to the newcomers' collective words, but to individual voices.

For while they recited their oaths in unison and in a common language, their pronunciations were enriched with the tones of India, Africa and other far-off lands.

"It's in English, but you've got all of these different accents," said Lake, who has been the Conservative MP for Edmonton-Mill Woods-Beaumont since 2006.

"And you can pick out a whole bunch of different (ones), even if it's the same volume. It's quite emotional. These are people who are specifically choosing to become citizens of Canada."

In a riding where immigrants and refugees make up almost 30 per cent of the population, Lake, perhaps more than many MPs, has had to tackle head-on the issues newcomers face once they've taken their citizenship certificates home.

He has developed a strong reputation for helping newcomers and taking extra steps for those most in need.

"I'm really proud of our country and I always have been," says Lake, whose own family history in Canada stretches back so far he can't pinpoint exactly when his ancestors arrived here. "And I want people's experiences with Canada to be a good experience, and what we do in our office plays a part in people's experiences of our country."

Lake admits the sheer number of newcomers in his riding has meant he's had to develop expertise in navigating the immigration system. It's been a steep learning curve, and sometimes a delicate balancing act to determine exactly which cases deserve extraordinary attention.

"Any time you have a system that big, there are going to be times when the system is not going to function the way it should," he says.

"We have, in Canada, the most generous immigration system in the world. Understandably, there's a reason for all of the checks and balances we have, but it's important for me, as an MP, to balance the limited resources I have with the ability to recognize when someone is being affected by a blockage in the system that's really negatively affecting their family."

Take the case of Joseph Largao and Gbassay Konneh. The Edmonton couple was granted refugee status in 2005, years after they had arrived at a refugee camp for amputees in Sierra Leone.

The couple struggled for years to bring their young son, Quenty, to Canada, after a series of mistakes and a tangled bureaucracy had left him in the care of an aunt in the West African country.

The couple had been relying on advice from volunteers at the small Newfoundland church that sponsored them. When Lake heard the Mill Wood couple's story, he invited them to a meeting.

"(The church)tried their very best, but it was very hard," Largao says. "When I met Mike, it was very exciting. These are people in authority, and they can really help develop the country and the province."

The boy was granted a visitor's visa and was reunited with his family in February.

Lake credits his staff for working "tremendously hard" to contact the right officials to help the family's case. The MP goes without a legislative assistant in Ottawa so he can employ three people at his busy Edmonton constituency office.

"You look at a situation, you have to measure it and say, 'I have to get involved in this one. We have to see what we can do,' " he says.

Immigrants often retain close ties to their home countries, and it can be difficult for them to navigate the bureaucracy that governs how they might bring loved ones to Canada for a visit or to stay.

The most common request Lake receives is from Canadians wanting temporary visas for relatives to visit for a special occasion. Lake and his staff help people focus on questions that immigration officers need answered. In exceptional circumstances, he can help ensure officials look at an application in a timely manner.

For Varinder Grewal, an immigrant from India, Lake helped navigate the process of bringing a Punjabi-speaking live-in caregiver to Canada to help his 28-year-old daughter, who has a mental disability.

Though it took more than a year for the caregiver to arrive in Canada, Grewal was grateful.

"Whatever power he had, with whatever limits he had, he helped me," says Grewal. "My daughter is very happy. It's been especially good for my wife, because she's been taking care of her almost all of her life."

Lake knew before his election that immigration issues have long been a top concern in the riding. His predecessor, longtime MP David Kilgour, had a reputation for helping immigrants and refugees.

"You're judged by newcomer communities on how hard you try," says Kilgour, now retired from federal politics.

For Lake, working with immigrant communities has opened him to conversations he thinks all Canadians should have--where has your neighbour come from? It doesn't matter if that neighbour's family arrived in Canada in the last year or the last century, Lake says. He admits that before becoming an MP, he didn't necessarily realize just how many stories existed in his community.

"We have a real opportunity to travel the world without leaving your neighbourhood," he says. "What builds communities is getting to know each other. And that's a real key to the unique nature of Mill Woods and the unique opportunities that come with living there." © Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal


Anonymous said...

The Liberals should let Farhan Chak have another go in Millwoods.

Ardvark said...

Ouch. A link for those not familiar with the Farhan Chak saga

maryT said...

My son used to live in that riding and was fond of saying, David would get elected even if he ran for the Rhino party. That riding was a Kilgour riding, not a political riding.

Anonymous said...

They'll be targeting a lot of the Edmonton ridings in anticipation of a fall/winter election. I think they're counting on low turnout from Conservative voters upset with the deficit / bailouts.

wilson said...

''I think they're counting on low turnout from Conservative voters upset with the deficit / bailouts.''

And Albertans think the deficit/bailouts would have been LOWER if the coalition of losers seized government?

Albertans are not that stupid, and will be reminded of the coalition and Iffy's Green Shift Western Cdn wealth robbery, repeatedly during the next election campaign.

Majority Conservatives or majority coalition,
guess which ones Albertans will pick...

wilson said...

Jaffer lost his riding because he was an absentee MP, hopefully that woke ever CPC MP up.

Soccermom said...

Yeah right. We're pissed at the Cons for spending too much money, so we'll vote for the Libs or the NDP who'll spend EVEN more money.

There's something about that logic that's more than a bit twisted.

I'll take the lesser of the evils, thank you.

JDot said...

Ardvark, you are taking Iggy's vacation time out of context... ;)

Ardvark said...

Kilgour was a very popular guy is this neck of the woods and yes he would have been re-elected running as a rhino.

Anon, yes there are plenty of conservatives not happy with the increased spending, but they all know that it would have been much worse had the three headed snake known as the coalition been in power. More Liberal wishful thinking I believe.

Wilson, Edm-Strathcona has a great CPC candidate in Ryan Hastman. He is young, very bright, energetic and will give Linda Duncan the fight of her political life.

Jdot, Ardvark's Law applies again.