Veteran Conservative MP Cathy McLeod has a new critic portfolio.
The four-term MP for Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo had been critic for Indigenous Affairs. This week, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer named McLeod the party’s shadow minister for Natural Resources, the portfolio dedicated to forestry and mining.
Newfoundland Liberal MP Seamus O’Regan is Canada’s natural resources minister.
“I am stepping into this role as the crisis in the softwood lumber industry continues to unfold,” McLeod said. “At least 20 mills have been forced to shut down or curtail production. As a result, more than 4,000 people across 27 communities in B.C. are, at this moment, out of work. This does not include the thousands of contractors and small businesses that have been affected indirectly.”
McLeod noted that Canada and the U.S. remain without a softwood lumber agreement and Canadian companies continue to face tariffs.
“The challenges facing this industry are vast and complicated,” McLeod said, citing the pine beetle’s effect on trees in B.C. and devastating forest fires of 2017 and 2018.
McLeod noted mining as a key component of her portfolio, pointing out that mining represents 3.6 per cent of Canada’s total gross domestic product and employs more than 634,000 people, 12 per cent (as of 2016) who are Indigenous.
McLeod said she feels her new portfolio pairs well with her previous position as Indigenous Affairs critic, noting that the government needs to ensure partnerships with First Nations as it moves forward with natural resource development.
Commenting on the B.C. government passing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into law, McLeod said it's a concern Bill 41 doesn't have clarity on the clause calling for free prior and informed consent of Indigenous peoples, which is why her party didn't support implementing UNDRIP at the federal level when it came forward in the form of bill C-262.
"We were always concerned about the lack of an agreed definition of what free prior and infomred consent was," McLeod said, noting she heard from a number of parlaimentariand and Indigenous leaders who have different perspectives on what that means.
She said UNDRIP has many important clauses in it, but to implement it without understanding some of the key terms could prove challenging.
Earlier this week, Scheer named his leadership team for the 43rd Parliament, which includes:
• Deputy leader: Leona Alleslev (Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill, Ontario)
• Quebec political lieutenant: Alain Rayes (Richmond—Arthabaska, Quebec)
• House leader of the Official Opposition: Candice Bergen (Portage—Lisgar, Manitoba)
• Chief opposition whip: Mark Strahl (Chilliwack—Hope)
• Deputy House leader of the Official Opposition: John Nater (Perth—Wellington, Ontario)
• Deputy Opposition whip: John Brassard (Barrie—Innisfil, Ontario)
• Caucus-party liaison: Diane Finley (Haldimand—Norfolk, Ontario)
• Conservative national caucus chair: Tom Kmiec (Calgary Shepard, Alberta)
• Caucus-OLO co-ordinator: Chris Warkentin (Grande Prairie—Mackenzie, Alberta).
—This story was updated to include further comments from MP Cathy McLeod