October 10, 2008 Features & Images » Feature Story

Chasing Chuck Strahl 

Pemberton strives to have impact within Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon

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It was during this government, a third straight Liberal majority, that Strahl rose to national prominence. By this time, the Reform Party had been rebranded as the Canadian Alliance and it was foundering under the leadership of Stockwell Day.

Strahl, along with 13 other MPs, including Deborah Grey, Jay Hill and Monte Solberg, led a revolt against their leader and sat with the Progressive Conservatives as the “Democratic Representative Caucus.”

That revolt ultimately signaled the end of Day’s leadership and opened the door to Stephen Harper, a former Reform MP who left the party after a fallout with then-leader Preston Manning.

In a whirlwind turn of events, Harper won the leadership of the Canadian Alliance in 2002 and brokered a deal with the Progressive Conservatives that saw them emerge as the united-right Conservative Party. Harper again was elected leader and Strahl went on to take a series of prominent positions within the party.

When the 2004 election rolled around, Pemberton was incorporated into the new riding of Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon, along with communities such as Ashcroft, Lytton and Cache Creek. Though the demographics changed, Strahl took the riding again, this time with a slimmer margin of 15,000 votes.

Now running in his sixth election, Strahl enters the race as one of the most influential members of the federal cabinet. As Minister of Agriculture he fired Adrian Measner, president of the Canadian Wheat Board, the sole vendor of Canadian barley and wheat.

In 2005 the Conservatives made a campaign promise to stamp out the monopoly of the wheat board, and Measner was believed to be a casualty of that promise.

After a cabinet shuffle on Aug. 14, 2007, Strahl was moved to the Indian and Northern Affairs portfolio, a ministry where he oversaw the implementation of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement. That agreement, the biggest class action settlement in Canadian history, gives out payments to survivors of the residential school system and established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a five-year commission that aims to incorporate survivors’ stories into Canadian history.

Along with Industry Minister Jim Prentice and NDP leader Jack Layton, Strahl was one of three Members of Parliament who helped convince the Prime Minister to deliver an official apology for the residential school policy. Millions of Canadians watched transfixed as Stephen Harper delivered the apology from the floor of the House of Commons on June 11.

Just four months after his crowning moment at Indian and Northern Affairs, Strahl finds himself fighting for his job once more after the Prime Minister called an election for Oct. 14.

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