By Alex Binkley
Stephanie Kusie admits she’s been on a steep learning curve since her selection in September as the Conservative transport critic. While the Calgary MP has a good educational background and experience in the federal government as well as politics, until now she’s had only passing exposure to transportation issues.
In an interview on her 20th day as transport critic, Kusie says her intake on transportation matters has been “like drinking from a fire hose.” She’s spending a lot of time reading and reaching out to people in the party such as Lisa Raitt, Transport Minister in the Harper government, as well as the many transportation industry representatives in Ottawa.
Kusie, a University of Calgary political science graduate who earned an MBA at Rutgers, was elected to Parliament in a 2017 byelection replacing Jason Kenny. Before that she served as a chargé d’affaires for Canada to El Salvador and consul for Canada to Dallas. She moved onto the political side when she became a senior policy advisor to former Conservative Environment Minister Peter Kent working on trade deals, the Keystone pipeline project and lobbying to get Canada a seat on the U.N. Security Council. Since entering the Commons, she has served as a Conservative health critic, followed by being the critic for Democratic Institutions, and Vice-Chair of the Commons’ Procedure and House Affairs committee, followed by a stint as critic for Families, Children and Social Development.
Now the focus is on transportation and she’s impressed by the complexity of the sector. She has made a few statements on transportation topics but will certainly have more to say when she’s better versed on it. “Transportation is paramount to our economic recovery from Covid-19 and the Liberal government’s inaction in this portfolio is jeopardizing the entire transportation industry,” she said in one of her first public comments. “The government needs to get Canadians – and the country – moving again in a safe and secure way. Canadians need to have faith that transportation in Canada is safe and secure as we recover from Covid-19. It also needs to be efficient.”
She’s concerned about the survival of the airport sector because of the drop in air traffic due to the pandemic. “We need to normalize air travel and for that we need rapid Covid-19 testing. Because of the Liberal government’s failure to prepare for the pandemic or to support workers through it, flight attendants and baggage handlers have been furloughed, pilots are struggling to get flight hours, passengers’ flights have been cancelled, air traffic controllers have been laid off, and service jobs in airports have become virtually non-existent. Unfortunately, the Trudeau government continues to leave the thousands of Canadians who rely on the aviation industry in the dark about how or if they will have jobs to return to. The Liberals are months behind our allies when it comes to the procurement and approval of rapid Covid-19 testing devices, and the Liberals’ proposed Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF) remains broken and untenable for large businesses like airlines.”
Another issue for Kusie is ensuring the supply chains that serve Canadians and deliver our products to other countries can operate smoothly. “For that we need to have good logistics and data.”
She also wants to see more support for public transit in high population areas. “This has to be a high priority issue if the green economy is going to go forward. We need to get Canadians moving but we seem to have difficulties when it comes to getting projects completed in this country.”
She issued the following statement for World Maritime Day. “The shipping community has a long and proud history in Canada and around the world. From the very early days of imperial expansion to our Merchant Navy Ships during both World Wars, to now, shipping remains the most reliable, efficient and cost-effective method of international transportation. “It is key to the global economy and responsible for more than 80 per cent of global trade and will be at the heart of the economic recovery from Covid-19. Seafaring is not for the faint of heart. To all those who put their lives on the line every day as they travel across our vast, open, and unpredictable waters to provide supplies, security, defense and prosperity for us all – thank you!”
Other issues she will have to contend with are government plans to invest in Canada’s trade corridors, higher frequency VIA Rail service for the Toronto-Quebec City corridor and the Ports Modernization Review that aims to update governance structures that promote investment in Canadian ports.