Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon MP Mark Strahl was named Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development this week by Prime Minster Stephen Harper.
One source close to home sees it as a positive move for the local MP who was elected to the House of Commons in 2011.
“My initial reaction is that it’s always good to have someone from the area to connect with to talk about key issues,” said Joe Hall, president of Sto:lo Nation Society.
“I would hope Mark Strahl will make the effort to meet with Sto:lo and talk with us, knowing of course the Parliamentary Secretary position represents the whole country.”
The role of the parliamentary secretary on Parliament Hill is to assist cabinet ministers with parliamentary duties.
“Under the direction of their ministers, parliamentary secretaries handle routine matters in the House of Commons, engage in committee work, and assume some extra-parliamentary responsibilities,” according to the Parliament of Canada website. “Parliamentary secretaries act as a link between ministers and parliamentarians.
“Some may be given special assignments as well. Moreover, the office can serve as a training ground for future cabinet ministers or as a way of rewarding members of the government caucus.
The PM released the news about Strahl on Wednesday.
“I look forward to working with Mr. Strahl as our Government continues to focus on the economy, keeping our streets and communities safe, celebrating our history, and promoting Canada’s interests on the world stage,” said Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the release.
“Mr. Strahl will play an important role in helping our government deliver on its commitments to Canadian taxpayers, including keeping taxes low, protecting Canadian families, and putting our finances on a sustainable path.”
The Chilliwack-born MP has been a member of the Standing Committee on National Defence, of the Standing Committee on Health and of the Standing Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations.
The Sto:lo rep is optimistic about the appointment.
“We’re hoping this will improve communication with First Nations, not only nationally but just as importantly, on the local level,” Hall said.
One of the sore spots for some Sto:lo leaders is still the Yale First Nation treaty, which did not officially entrench Sto:lo rights to their historic family fishing grounds in the Fraser Canyon, and other cultural heritage sites.
“I can’t say we’ve enjoyed a lot of success in our discussions, particularly on the Yale question, and a number of initiatives by the Conservative have been undertaken with virtually no communications with Sto:lo.
“So, yes, I think there’s room for improvement.”
Nonetheless, Hall said he always enjoyed a good working relationship with the MP’s father, Chuck Strahl, who was Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development from 2007 to 2010.
“The lines of communication then, I have to say, were really good.”
A complete list of parliamentary secretaries can be found at http://pm.gc.ca.