By Cole Parkinson
During House of Commons debates on Dec. 6, Bow River Martin Shields rose to give his thoughts on several new technologies available in the riding as well as the importance of the ag sector for Canadians.
Discussions turned toward Bill C-3, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Canada Labour Code during debates, but Shields wanted to highlight a few things before getting to that topic.
First, Shields gave thanks to be able to represent his riding once again and to those who voted for him in this past fall’s federal election.
“Madam Speaker, it is an honour and always a privilege to rise in this House. This is the first time that I have been able to do this in the 44th Parliament. This being my first official speech, we all need to remember that there are 338 seats in this House and every seat is a great seat, other than yours, Madam Speaker. That one is special and we understand that the Speaker has that exception and a different seat,” stated Shields. “Please allow me to give thanks to the many people who helped me earn the trust of the great people of the Bow River riding for the third time, particularly my family for their support.”
On top of the constituents in Bow River, Shields also highlighted the riding itself to the other MPs in the House.
“Allow me to indulge a little and share some of the great things I am proud of in my riding. There are 60 communities covering approximately 24,000 square kilometres and home to over 115,000 proud Albertans. Bow River is truly a pearl of the country because of the people in this riding. We are fortunate, for example, to have the largest irrigation districts in Canada. Irrigation ag farms make up four per cent of the arable land in Alberta, but they produce 28 per cent of the Alberta ag GDP,” he said. “It is an energy-rich area. When the railroads were built through in the early 1980s, they would have had campfires to cook their food. They would have done a little digging and found they had more fire than expected. This was not because of the wood, because there was a lack of wood in the Bow River riding, but because of the natural gas so close to the surface. They had huge fires to cook with just by poking in the ground. This riding is rich in natural resources.”
Shields turned his attention to electric vehicles and the components needed to make them as well as renewable energy facilities across the riding.
“When people talk about electric vehicles, the proponents need to understand that these types of vehicles have much more plastic than the current ones that we drive. Where is that plastic going to come from? It will come from natural resources,” continued Shields. “There are new technology investments in our riding. The largest solar farm is being built in this riding. There is carbon capture, utilization and storage. There is drilling for helium, which my friend’s rig is doing in my riding currently. I will be visiting it soon to see how they are drilling for helium. It is much better than having his rigs working in Texas. They are working here. However, he is short of truck drivers, which is a challenge these days in my riding. On the horizon, clean energy projects like hydrogen are coming.”
With farming a large economic driver in rural ridings such as Bow River, Shields continued to highlight why these areas are so important for Canadians.
“However, my riding has not been without strain, especially in the last few years. Urban Canadians need to understand where their food comes from; no, not just from a grocery store. I have a very upscale farming operation that grows heritage carrots and tomatoes in my riding. During the summer, they provide tours. On one of those tours, they dig the carrots and give them to the people to eat. The owner of this property was really set back when someone said, ‘I have never eaten anything that has come out of the ground before.’ Food ag producers and natural resources are not located in urban Canada,” explained Shields.
“About 60 per cent of this country’s infrastructure, the roads and bridges, are in rural Canada, like the Bow River riding. Rural riding infrastructures bring production to urban ridings to consume and export. That is in the Bow River riding. The government and urban people need to understand this much better. The work we have done for the betterment of this nation has been thanked with demonization of Albertans and energy, and the castigation of our farmers and ranchers.”
Shields also took offence to a recent statement around having cattle on the prairies.
“During COP26, there was an academic who said we should not have cattle on the great Prairies of North America, we should grow trees on it. They have to be kidding me. The buffalo mowed that Prairie land for thousands of years, it grows Prairie grass, and he thinks they can have trees on the Prairies. It is a challenge when people do not understand the environment in my riding,” he stated.
Shields continued to highlight the riding, including talking about some of the larger towns and cities residing within.
“Nevertheless, our people are steadfast in their pursuit of achievement, bold in their ambition, and caring for their neighbours and friends. We have some large populations like centres in Chestermere, Strathmore, Taber and Brooks, and also smaller villages and hamlets like Milo, Looma and Patricia. If someone has not gone to the Patricia bar, they should go. It is an experience in itself. I am proud to call this exceptional riding home and represent this riding in the House,” he finished.
In response, Mark Gerresten, MP for Kingston and the Islands, Ont., rose and touched on Shields’ comments around electric cars. He posed a question around if the Bow River MP saw a way to eventually phase out oil and gas.
“The reason I had my face in my hands when he looked over at me was because I was thinking about the comment he made about how electric vehicles, and I drive one, use a lot of plastic to make. Indeed, that is the case. There is no doubt a lot of petroleum products go into that process,” he said. “Does the member not agree that with incredible human ability we might be able to strive to develop new technologies that do not require petroleum or does he think we are just inevitably forever stuck in this state of needing oil? Does he not think that perhaps we will be able to evolve our way out of this dependency?”
Shields responded by stating “one of the things we have always talked about regarding industry is transition. The guys with the buggies and the buggy whips transitioned. One of the things we do know is natural resources will be used for decades. What I know is in my riding and in my part of the country, those resources are huge in the amount of GDP they create for our country and our citizens.”