Q&A with MP John Barlow

MP for Foothills, John Barlow spoke to the High River Times about some of the challenges he faced as an MP in 2020.

HT – What was the biggest challenge for you as an MP in 2020?

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JB- Obviously the COVID pandemic was something that any elected official was expected to deal with when you were elected to office and this was something much more substantial than I think we anticipated in January. The impact it had here on my riding and globally. It impacted families, business, our health care system and there’s no question the story of 2020 is the COVID pandemic.”

HT- Were most decisions impacted by COVID?

JB- Yes, we developed the Foothills Business Recovery Task Force that allowed us to set up some infrastructure to connect businesses throughout the riding and try and give us a baseline on where businesses stood, what programs were working, what programs they could access and the gaps in some of those programs that made it difficult or impossible for them to access. That was really the biggest focus that we had, was reaching out to our businesses and seeing how we can ensure that they at the very least survive this. We were surprised that less than 30 per cent of them were able to access a lot of those federal programs, so it showed the need for us to improve those programs. It’s certainly been a trying year for those businesses.

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HT- What were some positive things you were able to accomplish in 2020?

JB- For me personally, my biggest accomplishment was the private members bill – Bill C205, which was the amendment to the Health of Animals Act and this came from the incident in Fort MacLeod where the protesters were on the turkey farm. It really highlighted for me the need to improve protections for biosecurity and farms. You look at the impact that COVID has had on our entire economy, while an animal born virus, such as African swine fever, foot and mouth disease, we went through BSE20 years ago, that would be crippling to our agriculture industry and we need to have protections in place to protect the mental health of our farmers but also to protect animal welfare.

(Barlow said that the Conservatives, the Bloc and NDP support this and it looks like it will pass second reading and go to committee and that there is a good chance this will pass into legislation.)

HT- What are your thoughts on the proposed coal mining projects in Crowsnest Pass?

JB- I think that what constituents need to understand, that each one of these applications (there are only two official applications) they are all looked at an individual basis. Grassy Mountain is on a brown field. It’s been a coal mine for 60-70 years. I think we have to make a balance between economic opportunity and protecting the environment. Should there be multiple coal mines in the eastern slopes? Probably not. Is there room for one or two? I think there is a case for that, as long as they meet the very strict environmental regulations that are in place. Riversdale has been going on this process for seven years. This is not a slam dunk when these things are applied for that they are approved. The economic benefits of having a metallurgic coal mine there are extremely profound for Crowsnest Pass, Pincher Creek, Fort MacLeod, all the way to Nanton and Claresholm. We have to find a way to make this work. My message to constituents is that just because you approve one, does not mean you’re setting a precedent that multiple projects will be approved. We have to make sure that the concerns or residents are met. (This is a provincial issue and the federal government does not have a say in it).

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HT- Thoughts on the way things went with the Conservative Party and getting a new leader in 2020?

JB- Renewal is always good, it’s sometimes an injection of new ideas, but I was disappointed with how Andrew Scheer was treated. He won the popular vote and increased our seats, I was a strong supporter of Scheer and think he did a good job and now it’s up to Mr. O’toole to see if he can make some inroads for us as a party, but it’s certainly been a tumultuous year, not just for us as a party, but for most Canadians and trying to remain as normal as possible during an abnormal time. We as Conservatives have to keep our party united, there’s no question we are facing challenges across Canada and especially in the west. We have a Liberal government that seems to be going out of their way to demonize the energy industry as well as neglect our agriculture sector, which are two of the pillars of our economy, not only in Western Canada but across the country. I think as Western Canadians, the frustration continues to grow and rightfully so. To see the disdain of the Liberal government for Western Canadian culture, Western Canadian values and the contributions we make to confederation is extremely disappointing and we need to change probably one of the most corrupt and unethical governments in Canadian history. I think time will tell, that’s how Justin Trudeau will go down in history.

Barlow said he is hoping for a better 2021, but that there will be a lot of work to do.

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