Ottawa/Queen's Park




-by Anne Finlay-Stewart

One hundred plus days into the new session of parliament, Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MP Larry Miller and I sat down in his office to talk about the months ahead.

Now that the Conservative leadership election has been set for May 2017, I asked Mr. Miller his perspective. Although he is not going to throw his own hat into that ring, he knows half a dozen or so have started "kicking tires". There are several good potential candidates in and outside of the House, he says, but it is also a question of money – it is an expensive race to run, and it has only just begun.

In our last conversation, we discussed the Owen Sound harbour, and although he no longer sits in the government benches, Miller remains committed to progress on this regional asset. As we looked out his office window at the Trillium Class laker the Rt. Hon. Paul E. Martin in the harbour, he said, "Even when the ships are berthed here in the winter they provide local jobs in pipefitting and metal fabrication, just as an example." He reiterated that the federal government must be responsible for the cost of dredging the harbour and any environmental issues that arise.
Miller has been speaking with representatives of a corporation that has expressed some interest in the harbour, and will likely come to tour it this spring. Before any transfer could be completed, he warns, the City must be committed to the realities of a mixed use harbour, and any new owner would have to assure public access to the waterfront.

I asked Miller about the visit he and MPP Bill Walker made to dairy farmer Michael Schmidt in the midst of his legal controversy over raw milk sales. Miller said he is not promoting raw milk, although he knows local dairy farmers who drink their own. He pointed out that former BGOS MPP Bill Murdoch spent fifteen years calling for a health committee study of the issue because "those consumers who want raw milk for their families are going to buy it regardless, and are willing to buy it illegally as a contraband product." By regulating its production and sale, Miller believes we can assure that those people who choose raw milk are buying a safe food product. The bottom line, he says is "raw milk can be safe if it is handled properly".

Miller's responsibilities this session include being the deputy critic for Parks Canada, and he is particularly proud of those parks in his own backyard. "Fathom Five was the first underwater National Park in Canada," he says, "and Singing Sands is one of the fastest-growing single destinations within a National Park." Promotions are targeting the multi-national community in Toronto who can visit, here in Bruce County, some of the most beautiful and complex land and water forms in Canada, within a day's drive.

Larry Miller has also been appointed Vice-Chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. We discussed the Liberal decision to pull Canada's fighter jets out of combat against ISIS. Although Miller sees this as a purely political decision – the Liberals keeping an election promise and saving face, he says even the Liberal caucus is pulled apart on the subject. "The troops on the ground are at more risk without our air back up for protection," said Miller, "And they know it."
Miller was outspoken on the subject of the Liberals' promise to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada before Christmas 2015. "I criticized the process right from the start. It was an election promise appealing to people's sympathies, that the Liberals knew they could not keep in such a short time without compromising security and putting Canadians' safety at risk." As it unfolded, that timeline was not met.
Although he recognizes that women and gay men are at great risk and he wants to keep them safe, Miller is pleased with the government's emphasis on bringing families. "It is so important to get children out of war before it is normalized in their lives. War is not normal."
Refugee families are now arriving throughout the riding: Wiarton, Meaford, Owen Sound, Hanover and Thornbury. Miller says that these families are just like ours - "they want to raise their kids and live their lives" - and it is up to us to welcome them and engage them in our communities. These newcomers are now Larry Miller's constituents and he says he and his staff are ready to do what they do every day – support and assist them in everything they need.


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