New Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon Conservative MP Brad Vis is having some sleepless nights, but it’s not because he recently took his seat in the House of Commons for the first time.
Just over five weeks after his election on Oct. 21, Vis and his wife Kathleen welcomed their second son, Nicholas, who joins older brother Declyn. It’s been a whirlwind time for the rookie MP but veteran political staffer, who within two days of parliament recessing for Christmas was in the north and eastern parts of his sprawling riding, visiting with mayors and councils in Lytton, Lillooet, Ashcroft, and Cache Creek, as well as with other area stakeholders.
“It’s such a big riding, with diverse needs,” says Vis. “I’ve learned mechanisms for organizing information, and am putting systems in place to address the key priorities of rural communities in the Fraser Canyon.”
He notes that as a rural MP in a large riding, he gets a bigger allowance than urban MPs, and he plans to use the additional funding to address the size and needs of the riding. One of his key campaign pledges was more representation in the northern reaches of the riding, and to that end Alison Rachel, his Community Outreach Liaison, will be making trips up the Canyon every three weeks, alternating between Lytton/Lillooet and Ashcroft/Cache Creek. He has arranged to lease space from MLA Jackie Tegart at her office on Railway Avenue in Ashcroft, and when she is in town Rachel will be there to help constituents with a variety of items, such as CPP and EI, immigration questions, and more.
“We’ll be establishing a schedule,” says Vis, “so people know beforehand when we’ll be here and what services we can help with.”
He notes that the first issue he raised in the House of Commons was the Big Bar Slide on the Fraser River. “I’ve made a direct intervention with the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans about it. I think it’s the biggest environmental concern facing Canada.
“The call for proposals [for contractors qualified to work to clear the site] recently closed, and we need to choose a contractor immediately and get boots on the ground. Three species [of salmon] are at risk of extinction. There was great work there this summer, and then we had a gap. It needs and requires extra action immediately.”
He says he will also be lobbying for help for the struggling Steelhead fishery, which has declined dramatically over the last three decades, and that he has already spoken with Tegart about the issue.
“I’m still learning about it,” he notes. “I want to know why the Steelhead wasn’t classified as a Species at Risk. There are a lot of cultural associations with that fishery, which is on the verge of annihilation.”
Discussing the differences between this part of the riding and the Mission-Abbotsford portion, Vis says that he hears a lot about affordability down there.
“I hear less about that here. People are more concerned about the viability of living here, and about sustainable communities. I also hear about health care, and services for seniors.”
Vis—who was the Conservative candidate in the riding in the 2015 federal election, but lost to Liberal Jati Sidhu—says that his wife has made a lot of sacrifices in the past, and his children will make sacrifices, now that he has been elected. He also admits that it took a lot tenacity and self-motivation to run again.
“I believe I’m the right person to serve these communities, and I’m honoured to have this role.”
He adds that now that the election is over, the importance of the job has sunk in.
“People rely on me. When speaking in the House of Commons I’ll be focusing on the important issues we’re facing, and calls to action on the concerns of all the riding’s residents. It’s very humbling.”
Vis says that over the last few years he has had several opportunities to “take a seat” in the House of Commons during various events, but always resisted, preferring to stay standing. As a result, he says, “When I first sat down in my chair it was great, and I felt so honoured.”
His many visits to the area in the run-up to the election allowed him to meet a lot of people in Ashcroft and Cache Creek. “It means so much to have that personal connection with people in the community.”
Asked about the resignation of Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer, Vis says that he was honoured to serve under Scheer, but that the decision about a new leader is up to the party.
“I will be setting criteria for [leadership candidates] seeking my endorsement and support based on what’s best for the riding and for Canada in the 21st century,” he says. “The new leader needs to articulate a vision for both social and progressive conservatives.
“We’re a big tent party, and we need to balance the needs of all party members. Social and progressive conservatives need to come together, and we need to articulate a vision for Canada that everyone can get behind.”