Calgary MP Kent Hehr hailed as 'strong voice for Alberta' in Trudeau cabinet
Minister of veterans affairs one of two Albertans in new Liberal cabinet
Calgary-Centre MP Kent Hehr was lauded as an inspiration and "strong voice for Alberta" after being sworn in as Canada's minister of veterans affairs and associate minister of national defence — one of two Albertans in Justin Trudeau's new cabinet.
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Hehr was one of two Liberal MPs elected from Calgary in the Oct. 19 federal election, the first ones from the city since 1968. A lawyer and popular former Alberta MLA, he defeated incumbent Conservative MP Joan Crockatt by just 906 votes in Calgary-Centre.
Hehr bubbled over with enthusiasm as he and other soon-to-be ministers arrived with Trudeau at Rideau Hall in Ottawa this morning.
"It is awesome, man. It is very cool to be here," Hehr said. "It's an honour to be here in Ottawa to be part of a national government and get to play a role that is meaningful to both me and the citizens of Calgary."
Later, he took a more official tone.
"I, Kent Hehr, do solemnly and sincerely swear that I shall be a true and faithful servant to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as a member of Her Majesty's Privy Council for Canada," Hehr said as he took the official oath inside Rideau Hall in Ottawa this morning.
'A strong voice for Alberta'
His appointment was welcomed in his home town.
Hehr 'has inspired so many for so long and will continue to bring his compassion and humanity to his new role.'- Mayor Naheed Nenshi
"[Hehr] has inspired so many for so long and will continue to bring his compassion and humanity to his new role," Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said in a release.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley sent out a statement congratulating Trudeau and his newly appointed cabinet ministers — especially Hehr and Edmonton Liberal MP Amarjeet Sohi, who was tapped to be minister of infrastructure and communities minister.
"I'm confident you will be a strong voice for Alberta in the federal government," Notley said.
Even some prominent Conservatives joined the chorus of congrats.
Jason Kenney, former defence minister and Conservative MP for Calgary Midnapore, tweeted: "Congratulations ... to fellow Calgarian @KentHehr on his appointment as Minister of Veterans Affairs."
Alberta Conservative MP John Barlow also tweeted that he looks forward to working with Hehr.
A shooting in October 1991 left Hehr a C5 quadriplegic. He was a 22-year-old student planning to become a physical education teacher when he was shot while riding in a friend's car.
'Veterans Affairs has always been a land mine'
Rev. Bette Madaro, a chaplain with the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 285 in Calgary, says Hehr will have his work cut out for him on the veterans file.
"Well, I'm glad we got a Calgary MP representing this area, 'cause there's plenty of young veterans here as well as the older veterans that need help," Madaro said.
"I think that they need to do a lot more for post-traumatic stress disorder," she said.
Hehr faces big challenges in his new job, according to Mount Royal University policy studies professor Duane Bratt.
"Veterans Affairs has always been a land mine, as it were," he said. "Julian Fantino handled it horribly."
Two other Liberals were elected in Alberta as part of the party's historic breakthrough in the province.
Darshan Kang took Calgary-Skyview in a decisive victory over Conservative incumbent Devinder Shory and Randy Boissonnault won in Edmonton-Centre.
Bratt added that Trudeau's decision to put two of his four Alberta caucus members in cabinet should be viewed as a signal that he sees the province as important.