Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal is the daily newspaper of Northwestern Ontario.
No “trained seal” this guy. Though he didn’t make it into Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s first cabinet, veteran Liberal MP Bob Nault said he’s confident a promised open style of government will allow him to make the case for pressing Northern issues, including a main access road into the Ring of Fire mining belt.
“You don’t have to be in cabinet to be effective in this job,” Nault (Kenora) said Friday. “We’re moving to a system where the roles of (backbench) MPs and Parliamentary committees are going to be strengthened.”
Chuckling, Nault added: “We don’t have to sit there like trained seals,” a reference to how Justin’s father, Pierre Trudeau, once viewed backbenchers.
Nault, who was Indian Affairs minister when he retired from politics in 2004 after 16 straight years in the House of Commons, said he decided to get back into federal politics because of what he saw as a top-down approach by the former Harper government.
“I didn’t like the tone,” said Nault, 60, noting that under Harper reporters were rarely allowed to interview Tory MPs, let alone cabinet ministers.
Though his Oct. 19 election victory was the closest of his career — he barely edged out NDP candidate Howard Hampton with just over 500 votes — he feels he got support from across the sprawling Kenora riding.
“I’m telling people it doesn’t matter who you voted for, I’m your MP and I’ll work for you,” he said.
Nault, who was a railway union negotiator before his career in federal politics, said an all-weather access road into Ontario’s remote north is a no-brainer, noting that most provinces, including Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, have one.
Without a road, “two thirds of my riding remains isolated,” he said.
Nault, who spent nearly five years as an Indian Affairs minister, said that in his view previous First Nation leaders were not as open to the concept of an access road which, he said, “should not just be about providing access for mining companies.”
Though he didn’t expect Justin Trudeau to put him back in charge of his old ministry, Nault still thought he would have a shot at another portfolio “given my experience.”
Instead, Trudeau opted for another Northerner — Thunder Bay newcomer Patty Hajdu, who is the province’s new minister for the Status of Women.
Nault, who earlier congratulated Hajdu on her appointment, noted that parliamentary-secretary positions, which oversee key Northern agencies like FedNor, are still up for grabs.
Thunder Bay’s proposal for a new event centre, which includes a new hockey rink, had been turned down by the Harper government.
Nault, who plans to meet with Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs, called the proposal “a worthy project.”
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