Chong holds onto critic post; Nater replaced in shadow cabinet

WELLINGTON COUNTY – One of Wellington County’s two Members of Parliament has retained his position in Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre’s new shadow cabinet, while the other has been replaced.

Wellington-Halton Hills MP Michael Chong will continue in his role as Official Opposition foreign affairs critic.

Perth-Wellington MP John Nater was dropped as Canadian Heritage critic.

Nater, who has previously held critic posts covering rural economic development, interprovincial trade and middle-class prosperity, and has also served as deputy house leader for the party, will be replaced in the post by Alberta MP Rachael Thomas, who represents Lethbridge.

Nater told the Community News in a telephone interview he was not disappointed by the move.

“I’ve enjoyed my time, in shadow cabinet and in a few different portfolios, especially last few months on the heritage file, but no disappointment whatsoever,” he said.

“I’m looking forward to spearheading a few other files over the next few months. And so it’s a change, but certainly not one I’m disappointed with. I’ve got lots of lots of things on my plate to keep me occupied.”

Nater said his immediate focus is pushing forward with Bill 227. 

“That’s something that was originally spearheaded by Senator Rob Black … about Food Day in Canada. I’m the sponsor of that in the House of Commons,” Nater explained.

“So we’re spearheading that over the next number of weeks, hoping that will come to a vote in the House of Commons at second reading on Nov. 2.”

The MP said he is “quite looking forward” to seeing the bill pass into law early in 2023, “which be the 20-year anniversary of Anita Stewart pushing forward for Food Day in Canada.”

Nater will also be taking on the role of vice chair of the Procedure and House Affairs Committee. 

“There’s a number of issues that we’ll be focusing on in that committee: foreign interference in elections, redistribution of electoral boundaries, so we’ll be looking at that and then, of course, the local issues, which I always find are the most rewarding and most important,” he stated.

The MP also said he hoped to find more time to speak in the House of Commons on issues he considers important, such as an Oct. 18 speech he gave in support of the Canada Disability Benefit  Act.

Nater said he is pleased with the progress made during his time as Canadian Heritage critic.

“I am rather proud of the work that our team did within that committee. Specifically on the challenges with Hockey Canada,” he stated.

“It was kind of a nice bookend to be able to see, finally, after what I considered for too long, the change that happened at the top within Hockey Canada … last week,” he said.

“It was a challenging policy issue. But I’m glad that finally the board and the CEO saw the saw the writing on the wall and did the right thing for hockey.”

Nater was among the first to call for the resignation of Hockey Canada’s CEO and a shakeup of the organization’s leadership in the wake of historic sexual assault allegations involving top Canadian junior hockey teams.

Poilievre, who won the Conservative Party of Canada leadership on Sept. 13, announced his new “inflation-busting Conservative shadow cabinet,” in an Oct. 12 press release.

“I am proud to announce our hard-working and strong team that will take on Trudeau and his costly coalition and their plans to continue to cripple the Canadian economy and make life more costly for Canadians,” Poilievre stated, referencing a Liberal/NDP agreement to avoid triggering an election until 2025.

Poilievre also said his new team will focus on cost-of-living and inflation issues “so that young people can buy a home, families can afford nutritious food, and our seniors can retire with dignity.”

Already ‘free’?

Poilievre, who expressed support at times for the “Freedom Convoy” that occupied downtown Ottawa earlier this year, has for months repeatedly stated he will fight to make Canada “the freest country on Earth.”

But his announcement last week states the country has already achieved that status.

“Together, we will ensure Canadians benefit from the fruits of their labour, so they can take back control of their lives here in Canada, the freest country on Earth,” he stated.

Wednesday’s announcement included 51 critic or “shadow minister” positions, up from 46 under previous Tory leader Erin O’Toole, and 20 “associate shadow ministers.”

The Liberal cabinet has 38 ministers.

O’Toole, who remains an MP, was not included in the shadow cabinet and has publicity indicated he asked not to be named to the group to avoid being “a distraction.”

Another former leader, Saskatchewan MP Andrew Scheer, was named Opposition house leader by Poilievre on Sept. 13.