Being elected a first-time member of parliament in 2015 did not result in a steep learning curve since Jamie Schmale had been former MP Barry Devolin’s executive assistant for years. However, sitting on the Opposition benches did allow the former reporter to learn the ropes, he told The Highlander.
“I knew the generals on how a Bill gets through Parliament, the committee structure, that kind of thing. But, actually being in it was totally different because at that point when the microphone goes live or you stand up in the House to speak, or you even go to an event in the riding, people are listening to what you have to say, for the most part. Words matter. You always had to be ready to answer questions and be ready for everything.”
Schmale said despite being a broadcaster in the past, it was still intimidating getting up in front of 337 other politicians in the House to ask a question during question period. Another challenge was continually being up on current affairs, he said. He said he was able to write his own questions and speeches and develop his style.
He described that style as “not overly attacking, critical at times when needed, but never overly nasty.”
While in Ottawa, he started off on the procedure and house affairs committee, which deals with the workings of Parliament. One of his big accomplishments was helping convincing the Liberals that MPs should continue to work five days a week, versus a proposed four.
He went on to be named critic for Northern Ontario and deputy critic for natural resources, then critic for natural resources.
Schmale said it gave him an opportunity to “really dive in and understand the economics of the north, and provinces that rely on mining.” He said that included big mining, start-ups and retailers who rely on the industry. He was also amazed at the use of environmentally-friendly technology in mines, such as electric vehicles.
It is a portfolio he would like to continue, not just for Northern Ontario communities but First Nations relying on royalties, too. He is also keeping his hand in broadcasting, joking he has a face for radio.
The husband and father of an eight-year-old son is asked about the portfolio in the context of climate change. Schmale said Canada still has to mine since products we use every day rely on natural resources.
“We have to do our part to battle the effects of climate change, or come up with better ways of doing things, so that how we operate is as green and clean as possible,” he said.
He talks about “displacing some of the bad actors, and having them up their game.” He also talks a global game, encouraging countries such as China and Africa to improve labour and environmental standards.
Asked what he doesn’t like about his party’s platform, Schmale said he’s no fan of the current way the federal government handles taxation.
“I think the tax system overall is very complicated for individuals, and some professionals who have said that the tax system is extremely complicated and finding ways to navigate the system is getting harder. People are getting frustrated.
“In a perfect world, if I was king, I would love to move to a federal flat tax system, a very simple tax return, probably done on one page or two. All these boutique tax credits, loopholes, just gets rid of all of that.”
As he door knocks the riding, he said people are telling him they’re worried about affordability, access to high speed internet, health care, infrastructure and jobs.
And despite HaliburtonKawartha Lakes-Brock being a Conservative stronghold for years, Schmale said he isn’t resting on his laurels.
“I’d like to think that in the past four years I have proved that I’m not taking anything for granted. Anything can happen in politics. Your run scared or you run stupid. “