By Rob Vogt, Local Press Writer
Grade 9 students at Willow Creek Composite High School learned first-hand last week about what a member of parliament does both locally and when he leaves the riding.
John Barlow, Member of Parliament for Foothills which includes Claresholm, was at the school on March 7 where he explained what he does and answered questions.
He said the Foothills constituency is about 25,000 square kilometres, contrasting sharply to a riding in Nova Scotia that may have 4,000 square kilometres.
Barlow spends about half his year in Ottawa where Parliament sits for 145 days. He compared that to the Alberta legislature where members sit about 50 days.
“I do spend a lot of time away from home,” he said. “Which can be tough some times.”
His job is split into two parts.
In Ottawa, Barlow’s focus is on policy and legislation.
He is the Shadow Minister of Employment, Workforce Development, and Labour as well as Vice-Chair of the Standing Committee on Natural Resources.
He sits is in the House of Commons where the business of government is conducted, and attends Question Period every day, which is mandatory for members to attend.
“It’s not what it’s like there,” he said, describing Question Period.
Instead, he continued, most of the work that happens is in committees, where he said he gets along with some members of the other political parties and does not get along with others.
In the riding of Foothills, he has constituency offices in High River and Fort Macleod.
“A lot of people don’t realize how busy we are,” he said. “Our top priority is helping our constituents at home.”
Where in Ottawa the focus is on policy and what happens nationally, the riding is about hyper-local issues.
“One of the best parts is the people we get to meet,” Barlow said.
However, with that and the job comes a lot of travel and being away from home.
“A lot of time in airports,” he said.
Barlow then turned his attention to the impending election which, by law, is set for Oct. 21.
He said the issues he keeps hearing about locally are rural crime, agriculture, energy, and rural Internet service.
In fact, he said, he can get five minutes outside Calgary and have no cell service. Conversely, he was in Guatemala recently where he had perfect service everywhere he went.
“It’s not a want anymore,” he said of high-speed Internet and cell service. “It’s a necessary utility.”
He concluded by answering questions from students.
Barlow was asked what the priorities are of his party, the Conservatives.
“Pipelines,” he responded. “That is number one for us.”
But there is more.
“We’ll repeal the carbon tax,” he said. “That’s our first piece of legislation.”
Then, the Conservatives would complete the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion, and re-start the Northern Gateway and Energy East pipeline projects.
Barlow noted 750,000 barrels a day of oil is imported from Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Venezuela, countries with worse human rights and environmental standards than Alberta, when all of Canada could be supplied with energy produced under Canada’s strict environmental regulations.
The Conservatives will also be releasing their environmental policy in the next few weeks.
This story continues on page 2 of our newspaper. For full coverage pick up a copy of the March 13 Local Press from a newsstand near you, or subscribe online