By Trevor Suffield
Nov. 6, 2008
October was an eventful time for Charleswood-St.James-Assiniboia MP Steven Fletcher.
First he was re-elected in the Oct. 14 federal election. Then he was appointed the Minister of State for Democratic Reform as part of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet shakeup on Oct. 30.
Now a member of the Treasury Board led by Vic Toews, Fletcher will continue to split his time between Ottawa and Winnipeg.
Fletcher was first elected to the House of Commons in 2004. He was health critic while a member of the official opposition and has also been parliamentary secretary to then-health minister Tony Clement.
He is confident that his new duties won’t distract him from the task at hand here at home.
“I think the workload will shift in Ottawa, but my intentions (for) the riding will stay the same,” he said. “I will focus on the riding as I’ve always have.”
Fletcher won by a margin of 13,074 votes in last month’s election. He attributes his strong performance to his presence in the community and a series of ongoing community forums.
Another key, according to Fletcher, was his ability to constantly read the political landscape during the election campaign.
“The election issues actually shifted. I heard a lot about crime, then for a time it was gas prices, and then the economy took over,” said Fletcher.
Much of the current political focus in Ottawa is on the economy. However, Fletcher said crime remains a major issue, even though crime is actually down by 33% in his riding from this time last year, according to the city’s latest CrimeStat report.
“I’m hoping that the revolving door strategy of the previous government will come to an end and the people who do the crime do their time,” he said.
Even though the Conservatives failed to form a majority government, Fletcher said he doesn’t consider the result a major setback. The Conservatives ended up with 143 seats rather than the 155 seats required to form a majority.
“I predicted a minority off the get-go with about a 136 seats,” he said. “It’s very difficult to get a majority government in Canada.”
Fletcher is excited about his new position in Ottawa, but said he feels no added pressure about the fact he is now one of Manitoba’s senior MPs.
“The most pressure I’ve ever experienced in my life (was) in the years following my crash,” said Fletcher, who was paralyzed from the neck down in a car crash in 1996 and now requires around the clock care.
“Nothing has even come close to that kind of pressure and stress. I had to rebuild and now to be part of that cabinet is just unbelievable. I would pinch myself if I could.”