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Shields, Richards named to O'Toole's shadow cabinet as parliament reconvenes

As the next parliamentary session kicks off Nov. 22, a Rocky View County-area Member of Parliament will have a new portfolio to his name.
Martin Shields is kicking off his third term as Bow River's Member of Parliament on Nov. 22.

With the parliamentary session kicking off Nov. 22, a Rocky View County-area Member of Parliament has a new portfolio to his name.

Bow River MP Martin Shields was revealed as the Conservative Party of Canada’s deputy shadow minister for Indigenous Services on Nov. 9, when party leader Erin O’Toole announced the members of his shadow cabinet. Shields will serve as the deputy to MP Jamie Schmale. 

Shields, who serves as the House of Commons’ representative for the eastern-most communities in RVC, including Irricana, Beiseker, Chestermere and Langdon, was previously on the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.

The third-term MP said he is excited about his new role within the Conservative Party's caucus. According to Shields, one of the two reasons for his eagerness is the Indigenous Services portfolio’s connection to the Siksika First Nation in his riding.

“With what people have seen in the last few years, in the sense of First Nations, history, and the issues we face now, [this is] a very significant timeframe for Indigenous relations in Canada, and the challenges they face and how governments deal with them,” he said. “It's a very interesting time, [discussing] how we can develop and move forward on a number of different things culturally, economically, and with legislation.”

Shields added the second reason he is excited about his new role is that it will place him on the House of Commons’ Indigenous and Northern Affairs Committee.

“I'll be involved with the support of our team working on Indigenous pieces we'll move forward in legislation,” he said.

“Now, I'll get to work on a broader spectrum of Canada, not just with one nation, but things that will affect other Indigenous nations in Canada.”

While the upcoming parliamentary session will mark his first time in the Indigenous Services portfolio, Shields said his previous role on the Heritage Committee was occasionally tangential to First Nations-related issues, particularly when it came to topics like Indigenous language.

“I was very supportive of that because language is culture,” he said. “Without a language, you can't have a culture.”

After a year and a half of attending meetings virtually, Shields added he is most looking forward to the opportunity for MPs to return to Ottawa and sit in the House of Commons in person.

“I personally look so forward to being able to operate with the people who were elected – the 337 other people in the House of Commons – in person and in committees, where we can actually see each other and work on things together,” he said.

“COVID has been tough for people all over the world, tough in Canada, and for democracy to work. It's been challenging, so I'm looking forward to democracy working as it should be, and not on a Zoom screen.”

Shields said there is somewhat of a misconception that members of different political parties do not get along in the House of Commons. He said that may seem to be the case when viewing Question Period or reading the news, but he added there is actually plenty of collaboration and cooperation between party lines – particularly when it comes to committee work.

“There are numerous reports that come out of committees that are unanimous, and people don't sometimes realize that,” he said.

Richards retains role

The RVC-area's other MP will continue as a member of the Conservative Party's shadow cabinet.

Banff-Airdrie MP Blake Richards will retain his role as the Conservative Party’s Chief Opposition Whip – the person responsible for corralling votes among the conservative caucus, to ensure members vote along party lines and policy.

Richards, entering his fifth term as the Banff-Airdrie riding’s representative in parliament, has held the role of Chief Opposition Whip since September 2020. Prior to that, he served as the Conservative’s shadow minister for democratic institutions and as the shadow minister for small business and exports.

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