2004 has definitely been a year of give-and-take in federal politics. And due to the unprecedented level of compromise and cooperation that?s been required within political parties and between parties, I believe it?s Canadian voters who will ultimately end up the winners.
Though created late in 2003, the new Conservative Party of Canada faced our greatest challenges in 2004. Bringing together the two founding parties was challenging enough. Almost immediately, we faced a rigourous leadership battle and then the difficult task of rallying everyone in support of our new leader, Stephen Harper. And that was in just the first three months of this year!
The Conservative Party?s biggest test was yet to come in the late June general election. Canadians? expectations were high. We had provided voters with a legitimate, viable alternative to the governing Liberals and voters were eager to see what we had to offer.
Despite reservations about this new political entity, Canadians liked what they saw. Their endorsement for the Conservative Party, just six months old, knocked the Liberals into a minority government. It was the trump card we needed to take the same kind of cooperation and collaboration we used to unite conservatives and apply it in Parliament.
As Chief Opposition Whip, I can attest through my first-hand involvement in all-party negotiations, it hasn?t been easy. Particularly for the Liberals who have found it difficult to accept they can no longer run roughshod over the opposition parties. We?ll have to see how long this Parliament lasts to see just how well they?ve actually adjusted.
Regardless, I?ve enjoyed the new relationships I?ve formed and the old relationships that have prospered among all political parties and levels of government. For instance, I appreciate working with Larry Bagnell, the Liberal Member of Parliament for Yukon, to bring to the federal cabinet?s attention the common and unique needs of our predominantly northern, rural constituencies.
Together we?ve lobbied Mr. Bagnell?s cabinet colleagues on behalf of our constituents for federal backing of the Canada-Alaska rail link and the Alaska Highway pipeline projects. We also highlighted the need to improve the Airport Capital Assistance Program (ACAP) upon which our airports heavily rely. Not only would these initiatives create jobs and business opportunities in our constituencies, they would enhance trade and transportation infrastructure for all Canadians.
Whether it?s my ongoing consultations and dialogue with local mayors and councils or the joint initiatives I?ve undertaken with local MLAs Richard Neufeld, Blair Lekstrom and Pat Bell, I feel more fortunate than many of my fellow MPs because such cooperation exists in Prince George-Peace River.
In the coming year, I?m very much looking forward to fostering these associations, as well as the many friendships and business relationships I enjoy. Until then, I offer my wholehearted thanks for the kindness, support, advice and input that I?ve received from so many constituents throughout 2004.