Prime Minister Stephen Harper has appointed local MP Randy Hoback as the new chair of the Conservative Party’s Saskatchewan caucus.
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Prince Albert MP Randy Hoback has been appointed the new chair of the federal Conservative Party's Saskatchewan caucus.
Representatives of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) contacted Hoback on Tuesday to ask whether he would be willing to replace the outgoing caucus chair, Saskatoon MP Kelly Block, who was recently appointed a parliamentary secretary.
“I said I’d be honoured,” Hoback recalled.
“There’s no magic to it,” he added. “They go through a process of trying to see who sits on what committees and takes on different responsibilities, and they thought I’d be good at this one, I guess.”
The Conservatives’ Saskatchewan caucus meets every Wednesday morning in Ottawa. Additional caucus meetings may also be scheduled in their home province during the off-season.
As caucus chair, Hoback will take on many new responsibilities in addition to his work in the Prince Albert riding.
One of his major tasks is serving as a liaison between different groups. Organizations such as SaskTel who wish to meet with Saskatchewan caucus members must now co-ordinate their plans through Hoback.
Another is promoting co-ordination between various levels of government by taking information from MPs and senators on issues of concern to Saskatchewan to the national caucus chair and on to the PMO.
“You’re being consulted on what’s going on in all the ridings across Saskatchewan, and working with all the members throughout the ridings on issues that they may have and trying to make sure that we find solutions that work,” Hoback said.
“So it’s exciting. It’s actually really exciting.”
Some topics come up repeatedly throughout the year, as was the case in 2010 when the Saskatchewan caucus was heavily involved in considering whether to allow the sale of PotashCorp to the mining firm BHP Billiton.
More recently, one of the biggest concerns cited by provincial MPs is the Temporary Foreign Workers Program and ongoing efforts to attract skilled labour to the province in order to fill jobs that remain vacant.
“Every sector seems like they have a shortage of labour and we have a lot of companies that are sitting there saying, ‘We can take on more work if we can find the people to do it,’” Hoback said.
Should discussions point to the need for improvements, Hoback said, the caucus would make sure the prime minister is aware of those needs.
With Parliament back in session this week, the MP was eager to get back to the legislative process, while anticipating an increased workload.
You’re being consulted on what’s going on in all the ridings across Saskatchewan, and working with all the members throughout the ridings on issues that they may have. MP Randy Hoback
“We prorogued for the number of weeks, but we didn’t reduce the workload that we’re going to try to get through before the winter break,” Hoback said.
“So we’re going to take and do the same amount of work with the less number of days … I think we’re going to see extended sittings, maybe some other things like that.”
When it comes to issues of concern to Saskatchewan, Hoback pointed to an impending trade deal between Canada and Europe as a development that will likely have large implications for provincial beef, hog and grain producers.
Going forward, he indicated that the Harper government plans to retain its focus on the economy.
“Jobs and the economy have to be priority,” Hoback said.
“We’ve seen what was going in the States here up ’til yesterday. This recovery’s still very, very fragile. Everything in Canada’s fairly stable. But when you look at the international markets and other countries in the G7 and G20, there are still some question marks out there and some concerns for sure.
“So we have to make sure that we’re stewards of the economy, respectful of taxpayers’ dollars as we spend them -- and then the other issue I think that’s very important is … making sure that we’re reducing taxes and making sure that hard-working men and women receive all the benefits they can in this environment.”
However, he said that the pace of any future legislation will largely depend on the Opposition.
Hoback had harsh words for what he called the “stalling and delaying” tactics of the Opposition last spring, which the MP said could lead to a longer session this time out.
“If they are constructive and work in a cordial manner, then we can get a lot of things done fairly quickly,” he said. “So we’ll see how that goes.
“But from what I’ve seen yesterday after the throne speech, instead of showing up, putting out an olive branch, they decide to take out their axe. So I think that kind of gives the answer of what kind of session it’s going to be going forward.”