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Shields offers insight into Heritage Committee

Posted on February 29, 2024 by Taber Times

By Cal Braid
Taber Times
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

As MP for Bow River and a member of the Canadian Heritage Committee (CHPC), Martin Shields works to represent this region in Ottawa and keep a finger on the pulse of broader issues that affect Canadians in general. After a break over Christmas and New Years, he returned to the nation’s capital in January to resume his work with the Committee. From his home away from home in Ontario, he gave some insight into what it is that the CHPC focuses on.

“We cover a lot of stuff. You might think, ‘What’s that doing in Heritage?’” he said, referring to the various domains in which the CHPC operates. “There are two ways that things come to a committee. One, if it’s government legislation. The government says ‘this should go to this committee.’ Sometimes it gets sent to two committees if it has different aspects to it. So when we dealt with C-10, C-11 and C-18 (media) we were dealing with it, but also Industry was taking a look at it from different aspects.”

In the CHPC, music and copyright show up on the agenda. Sports show up. Media issues show up. “The other side of that is committee members themselves can ask for studies,” he said. “I’m often on the Agriculture Committee (AGRI) and we asked to do a study on the transportation of livestock.” The issue could have gone to Industry or Transport, but because it’s livestock, AGRI  took on the study. The livestock study resulted in a pitch letter by Shields calling for an amendment to the Motor Vehicle Transport Act. The electronic time logs in transport trucks limit drivers to a 12-hour window, and Shields argues in favour of implementing a buffer of 240 kilometres at the beginning and end of the 12-hour clock window. The move would give drivers more time for loading, unloading and stops for water and food. Implementing it would create more optimal conditions for the health of the livestock while in transport and decrease the stress on drivers.

Shields was also on alert in January when a reporter in Ontario was arrested for bumping into a peace officer while trying to question Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland. The reporter was arrested for assault, but never charged. Nevertheless, Shields and five other MPs signed a letter to the chair of the CHPC calling for the committee to reconvene and scrutinize the “attack on press freedom and freedom of expression…members must recognize this incident as a dangerous precedent,” it said.

Elsewhere, in London, Ont. five hockey players were being called in by local police to face overdue charges related to a sexual assault from 2018. It was no surprise when Shields said hockey is absolutely a component of the CHPC’s domain. The situation in London continues to remain on its radar, as do the moves that Hockey Canada makes to reform its image. The scope of the CHPC can be broad.

“We are the masters of our own destiny on those committees. If the majority of the members on that committee want to study it, that’s what happens,” Shields said. That might imply the potential for a free-for-all, but it’s actually an opportunity for the government to respond to the concerns of citizens when their voices ring out. Hearing and responding is a job requirement of elected officials, so if a committee has the power to pivot to a point of concern, it’s advantageous to any group of citizens that have a common interest and the will to be heard.

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