Federal Election 2008: Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon 

The election in Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon will leave a mountain to climb for its candidates — a mountain by the name of Chuck Strahl, who has held the riding since 1993.

Now a fifth-term MP and one of the most influential ministers in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet, Strahl will be facing off against challengers from three major political parties to represent Pemberton and several other communities in the House of Commons.

Helen Kormendy, a councillor with the Village of Ashcroft, will be taking him on under the NDP banner, while Barbara Lebeau, a veteran of the legal profession, will carry the flag for the Greens. The Liberal Party has not yet appointed a candidate in Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon.

The boundaries for the riding were redrawn in 2003 as Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon and included areas A, B and C of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, as well as the District of Lillooet and the Village of Pemberton.

Strahl once again took the riding in the 2004 election, this time as a member of the united-right Conservative Party, which formed out of an alliance between the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservatives. He won the riding again in 2006 when the Conservatives formed a government.

Shortly after the election, Strahl was appointed to Harper’s first cabinet as Minister of Agriculture and Minister Responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB). In this role he acted on a Conservative campaign promise to reduce the authority of the CWB, which is the sole vendor of Canadian barley and wheat.

Those moves included firing Adrian Measner, the pro-monopoly board president, as well as a CWB director.

Harper shuffled his cabinet on Aug. 14, 2007, moving Strahl to Indian and Northern Affairs when former minister Jim Prentice was moved to the Industry portfolio.

In this role, Strahl has overseen the implementation of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement, the largest class action settlement in Canadian history.

Approved by the government while Prentice was minister, the settlement is intended to bring a resolution to the “legacy of Indian Residential Schools,” according to Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.

It contains three central components: a Common Experience Payment (CEP), made to former students who lived at Federal Residential Schools; an Independent Assessment Process (IAP) to help former students settle claims for abuse while they were in residential schools; and a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which will give survivors of the residential school system a chance to share their experiences in a “culturally appropriate forum.”

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