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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Essex MP discusses Liberals proroguing government, new Conservative Leadership

by Sylene Argent

In the wake of learning the government was prorogued until September 23 last week, Essex MP Chris Lewis said he was surprised.

  “I didn’t see that one coming,” he said. “I guess, my problem is, I am the ultimate team player, and when you’re in the heat of the battle, and the country is going down the toilet drain real, real, real fast, the last thing you want you want to do is not have all the hands and all of the people at the table; all of the great ideas, all of the great thoughts, all the brains.

  “You don’t just shut it down,” he continued.” Leadership is tough, especially in times of COVID-19, but, boy-oh-boy, people need to get past themselves and realize there is a lot of great ideas out there. Canada is one amazing country with amazing people. We are only going to beat this working together, and not slamming the doors on the other parties.”

  At the end of the day, the prorogation of parliament is “frustrating, it’s a little bit embarrassing, or maybe a lot embarrassing for the Liberals, I suppose. But, we need to be sitting in the House of Commons and asking the real tough questions,” he said, noting that is not to beat on the liberals, but to bring true solutions forward, along with true ideas.

  It is not just about the Conservative Party, but perhaps the NDP and the Bloc Québécois may have some great ideas. “But, we have to be in parliament. That’s our job. We were duly elected by the people, and for the people, to do this, and we were literally shut out of the House of Commons.”

  The prorogation was announced as the WE Charity issue was under investigation, and the hiatus in governance will temporarily halt committee investigations.

  The job of the official opposition party is to ask questions, Lewis said. One of the biggest losses through the prorogation is that the government is not being held accountable for its actions. He said the economy is bleeding, and that bleeding needs to stop and the economy needs to be turned back around.

As far as getting politicians back into the House of Commons in relation to COVID-19, Lewis said if an excellent worker, such as a cashier at a big box store, is deemed an essential service, certainly a Member of Parliament should be deemed an essential service, Lewis said. MPs, to date, have not been brought back to the House of Commons during the pandemic in a regular fashion, but he believes an alternative could have been established, such as using the Ottawa Convention Centre, where he believes representatives could have sat six-feet a part.

“All 338 of us, we could have been working for the people, but the government decided, ‘no, we’re going to do it from home,’” Lewis said, adding the model used did not allow MPs to ask questions.

Lewis was able to attend two sessions in house during the pandemic and described the experience as “desolate,” in addition to “quiet, eerie.” He was, however, incredibly proud to sit with a handful of his colleagues.

Lewis said he is looking forward to September 23, to hear the Speech from the Throne. His guess is that the government will survive a confidence vote because he believes the NDP may not want an election. Then, the Federal Budget will come into play, though no date is set, Lewis said he is thinking it will be tabled in late October. “That’s going to be the real tell-tale of just how far in debt is this is country going to go. He added that Canada could face a one-trillion-dollar deficit.

“I don’t know how my 17, 19, and 21-year-old are going to be able to afford a house, start a family,” he said, noting he has the same concern for the constituents he represents.

Many of the phone calls to Lewis’s office are in regards to border issues and loved ones not being able to see each other, in some cases since the onslaught of the pandemic.

Bill Blair, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, needs to become accountable, Lewis said. “He has got to giving some direction to the CBSA to allow some type of a compassionate bill, so that loved ones from our friends in the US, and our folks here – even right in Essex – can see each other.”

This could include those who need to get into Michigan for cancer treatment and loved ones who have fiancés across the border.

He is not suggesting the border get blown right open, but people need to start to be able to connect. He worries about the mental health effects separation could have on people.

“All the Zoom calls in the world cannot replace the human touch,” he said.

On Monday evening, Lewis said the Conservative Party officially appointed MP Erin O’Toole as its official leader. The local MP said former Party Leader Andrew Scheer did a fantastic job, and he was proud to have run under him in the last election, but he is excited about the new Party Leader.

“He is going to bring a new perspective, a new energy, a new vision to our party that, I believe, is going to put us over the top,” Lewis commented. “I am really excited about this. It is a brand-new day,” he said, adding he believes Canadian will like O’Toole, who comes from an Army background.

  “I’m a big believer in clarity. If people don’t know where they are going, they are stuck in a rut,” Lewis said, adding now that O’Toole has been appointed leader, the caucus will rally behind him and will work hard. He believes this will lead to a majority Conservative government in the future.

  Lewis does want the community to know his team is incredible. At the peak of COVID-19, his office was getting 1200 emails, phone calls, of texts per day. He said he is extremely proud of his staff members and the work they have done during the pandemic. “They need to be celebrated,” he said.  

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