Battle River-Crowfoot Member of Parliament Damien Kurek stopped by the County of Paintearth council meeting on Aug. 16.
During the roughly one-hour council gave him to speak, Kurek discussed the ongoing issues at the Canadian passport offices across the country, the challenges of making sure that rural Canadians are not forgotten in the mostly urban-based Parliament and the lack of oversight in the Liberal government Department of Agriculture.
According to Kurek, he has been hearing “absurd” stories related to passport applications, with people having to wait months for their documents. Kurek blames the passport woes on two elements: large numbers of people wanting to travel again post-pandemic and large numbers of 10-year passports expiring, or set to expire, over the last couple of years and into the near future.
Compounding the issue, Kurek says, is that the passport offices are running at about 50 per cent of pre-pandemic capacity. The lack of capacity is an issue he blames squarely on the governing Liberal Party of Canada and their lack of foresight.
Still, Kurek has been able to help constituents having passport issues and says his office has had a 100 per cent success rate in getting people passports before their travel dates.
“I’m a representative of the people,” said Kurek.
“I work for the people of this region. I can fight for you and our shared constituents.”
Another area Kurek is working hard is making sure rural regions of the country are not forgotten, though that is a challenge. According to Kurek, the federal government definition of rural is an area with a population of under 20,000 people.
“There’s a whole host of challenges making sure rural is not forgotten,” said Kurek.
Though, according to Kurek, rural Alberta is being heard in Ottawa.
The Minister of Agriculture backing down from a “disaster” of a policy which would force farmers to curtail fertilizer use to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is an example of Ottawa listening, according to Kurek.
“Rural Canada punches above its weight,” said Kurek, referring to how much of an economic driver agriculture, and rural Canada in general, can be.
“It needs to be respected.”
One of Kurek’s biggest frustrations sitting as a member of the opposition in the House of Commons is dealing with the Minister of Agriculture, and the Department of Agriculture.
Kurek says that with his rural, farming, background, he has offered multiple times to discuss agriculture items with the minister, even off the record if need be. However, Kurek says the only time the minister has contacted him has been when things have gone wrong and help has been needed correcting them.
“It has not been a good summer for the Minister of Agriculture,” said Kurek, noting that the minister has walked back plans to introduce front-of-package health labeling on beef in addition to his plans to limit fertilizer use.
According to Kurek, part of the problem is a growing divide between rural and urban populations in Canada and that instead of the free market helping drive policy, policy makers in Ottawa are “bent on imposing their will” on all Canadians.
“It’s frustrating that there is a disconnect,” said Kurek.
“As a society we need to figure out how to bridge that growing divide.”
One final topic discussed by Kurek was the RCMP and Alberta’s investigation of developing its own police force. According to Kurek, getting the RCMP out of contract policing is a topic being discussed in Ottawa, which will force Alberta’s creation of a provincial police force whether people support it or not.
“Alberta may be faced with a transition from the RCMP whether they want to or not,” said Kurek.
“The simple answer is, I don’t envy the province in making that decision.”