It has been a humbling experience for Richard Cannings heading to Parliament Hill as the first-ever Minister of Parliament for the newly drawn South Okanagan-West Kootenay riding.
While he is looking forward to the year ahead, there are some finer details Cannings is working on right now, like getting an office which should happen within the week.
“So I’ll actually have a place to sit. Up until now I’ve been kind of squatting in one of the returning MP’s office,” Cannings laughed.
He headed to Parliament Hill for the first time as an MP in the beginning of November and after a brief trip back to the riding. Cannings was officially sworn in as a Member of Parliament on Nov. 23 and in December is back in Ottawa ready to sit with the new federal government.
“It’s certainly a moving experience. You realize the amount of history that goes behind this position and the amount of trust people have placed in you to represent them,” Cannings said. “It is very humbling actually to walk into the Centre Block of Parliament Hill and realize this is going to be your workplace for the next four years.”
He has attended some caucus meetings and said that the tone is positive with the third party’s 44 MPs.
“It’s still a very strong caucus, it’s considerably larger than the Liberal caucus was in the last Parliament. So we’re very positive and upbeat, we’ll be the progressive opposition in Parliament,” said Cannings, one of 16 rookie MPs in the caucus.
Earlier in November Cannings was appointed post secondary education critic and deputy critic of natural resources under Carol Hughes, the Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing MP out of northern Ontario. Both positions play to Cannings experience as he worked at the University of British Columbia in the department of zoology for 20 years as the curator of the invertebrate museum as well as teaching courses.
He has already set up meetings with national organizations at various levels of post secondary education.
In his deputy critic role, Cannings said natural resources are an important topic the South Okanagan-West Kootenay riding, as well as most ridings across Canada. With the scope of operations in B.C. and the riding, Cannings was found to be a good fit as deputy critic.
Cannings met with natural resource companies in the riding like Greenwood Forest Products which he feels should be a model for Canada moving forward.
“They are doing what we need to do with our resources. Processing them here at home, creating good jobs all across Canada. Getting away from shipping raw logs and raw resources beyond our border,” Cannings said. “That’s the nice thing about Teck, the smelter there, it’s smelting ore that is coming from outside of Canada. The opposite of what a lot of Canadian companies are doing so I think it’s a model in that regard.”
The NDP will offer a unique role as Cannings said they will hold the Liberal government accountable to progressive promises, something the Conservatives may not be interested in, like electoral reform.
The new parliament sits for the first time on Dec. 3 with the election of the speaker, followed by the speech from the throne on Dec. 4.