Despite the challenges of being in opposition, Mel Arnold isn’t deterred from the job of representing his constituency.
Until now, the North Okanagan Shuswap has been part of a majority Conservative government. But that changed during the federal election when the Liberals formed government. Although the Conservative stronghold on the region remained and Arnold was elected, taking over for Colin Mayes, but as an opposition member. He is one of 214 new MPs.
“It might be a little bit more of a challenge,” said Arnold, a 56-year-old Salmon Arm businessman, husband and father of one grown daughter. “We might have to possibly present more of a stronger case for funding.”
He is dedicated to ensuring that the smaller communities, where funding can go a lot further, aren’t ignored.
“This government may be more centred around larger areas,” he said as there appears to be a focus around transit for centres such as Toronto and Vancouver.
One area Arnold is set on seeing some federal dollars flow this way is water control and availability.
“If there is infrastructure work to be done with that I’ll be fighting hard to get funding for that.”
Arnold has been named the deputy critic for fisheries, oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard in the Conservative shadow cabinet. With a background in marine (boat and RV refinishing) and the B.C. Wildlife Federation, protection of our precious resources is vital for Arnold.
“If we get the zebra or quagga mussels it would be devastating,” said Arnold, who will be pushing for check stations at the borders as well as education. “We’ve been lucky so far.”
Employment is another hot topic, with reducing red tape and opening up training opportunities as priorities.
While trades are needed Canada-wide, so too are doctors and health care staff.
“We’ve reached a point where there are more seniors over 65 than people under 15,” said Arnold, of national stats released in October.
Despite the numbers, he’s concerned to see the government returning the age of retirement benefits back to 65, which the Conservatives were going to bring to 67 due to the fact that people are living longer.
Such changes, along with promises made, has left the opposition wondering if the government is going to run the country into further debt.
“We’re questioning how they’re going to pay for some of the things they’ve committed to”
Having lived through the tough times of the 80’s, when interest rates reached 18 per cent, Arnold is concerned for the country’s residents.
“If that interest rate all of a sudden doubles it would be devastating to personal finances and we want to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Resources are another major topic, including the softwood lumber agreement, which has expired.
“B.C. and Alberta’s revenues could be dropping off,” said Arnold, noting the effect on transfer payments as they are the largest contributors.
Arnold is keen to work hard for his constituents on these and other issues, and has already been assisting with immigration, work Visas, employment issues and helping local businesses.
With his party no longer in government, Arnold says the Conservatives have listened and are sticking to their core values but will have a different tone.
The party, which he is vice chairperson for the B.C. caucus, is also confident in its future.
“We like to think of ourselves as government in waiting.”