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MP Zimmer reprises role as Northern Affairs critic

Conservative MP not part of 'civil liberties caucus', calling it a distraction from the work Conservatives need to do
Bob Zimmer - Committee meeting
Bob Zimmer, Federal Conservative MP for Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies (via The Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld)

It's back to the future for Bob Zimmer. The MP for Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies was named this week the Opposition critic for Northern Affairs and Arctic Sovereignty by Conservative leader Erin O'Toole.

It's more or less the same role he held in 2019 under previous Conservative leader Andrew Scheer albeit with Arctic Sovereignty thrown into the mix.

"It's something that we as Conservatives, to use an overused word, are passionate about," Zimmer said in an interview. "We want to make sure that we put Canada's flag in the North and seek our interests, especially with the Northwest Passage opening up."

His duties will also include keeping an eye on the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency. 

Dan Vandal, the Liberal MP for Saint Boniface-Saint Vital, a riding in Winnipeg, remains the Northern Affairs Minister under the cabinet recently announced by Prince Minister Justin Trudeau.

That an MP from well south of the 60th parallel is holding down the position may raise questions for some, but Zimmer said the north is actually considered all of the country north of the 49th parallel. (Roughly 70 per cent of Canadians actually live south of the 49th which includes the Victoria area, Atlantic provinces, and more than half of Newfoundland as well as southern Ontario and southern Quebec).

"My role will be just to make sure that economic development is first and foremost, Arctic sovereignty and securing Canadians' future in the north so it all comes together in one big package," Zimmer said. "It's a huge file and I just look forward to getting to work."

On a push by Ontario MP Marilyn Gladu to form a "civil liberties caucus" to discuss the negative impacts of vaccine mandates, Zimmer said he is not a member and labelled the initiative a distraction from the work the Conservatives need to do to "show Canadians we're a viable government in waiting."

Zimmer said he's double vaccinated against COVID-19 and as for the slow progress on uptake of the vaccine in his riding, Zimmer said the numbers are on the rise.

Cariboo-Prince George MP Todd Doherty was left out of the Conservative shadow cabinet and has not yet been assigned a responsibility. He is recovering from surgery to replace a knee, according to a posting on his Facebook page.

Prior to the most-recent federal election, he held down the post of special advisor to the leader on mental health and wellness.