By Cam Fortems
Kamloops This Week
Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod will join the front ranks of Conservative MPs in Opposition after being named Friday as critic for Indigenous Affairs.
While the October election relegated McLeod to the Opposition benches, the appointment by interim leader Rona Ambrose elevates McLeod to a higher-profile than she had as a backbench MP and parliamentary secretary.
She does not receive additional pay nor resources despite the new responsibilities.
McLeod said contact with First Nations leaders in this part of B.C., including with Assembly of First Nations’ B.C. Regional Chief Shane Gottfriedson and Manny Jules, head of the First Nations Tax Commission, has given her insight into the role and challenges.
“If you look at B.C., not only do we have some of the most significant challenges because of unresolved land-title issues, but we have some amazing leaders with economic progress and moving forward,” McLeod said.
While in government, the Conservatives opposed an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, something the recently elected Liberal government said it will quickly move forward on. McLeod said government already has 40-plus studies with good recommendations and she’d like to see the Liberals move on those.
McLeod will not, however, oppose an inquiry.
“I’ll be watching carefully on design and structure,” she said.
While many First Nations groups were critical of Stephen Harper’s government, McLeod said she’s proud of a number of accomplishments, including an apology for residential schools, billions in payments to former students and a financial transparency act that makes First Nations’ leaders’ salaries public information.
McLeod said one of her first tasks is to meet with aboriginal leaders to build relationships with the Opposition.