Calgary-Centre MP Kent Hehr was praised as being an inspiration and a “strong voice for Alberta” after being sworn in as the new Minister of Veterans Affairs, and the Associate Minister of National Defense. Hehr is one of two Alberta MPs to join Trudeau’s cabinet, the other being Amarjeet Sohi of Edmonton-Millwoods.
In the October 19 federal election, Hehr was one of two Liberal MPs to be elected in Calgary. This is the first time the city has elected a Liberal MP since 1968. Hehr defeated incumbent Conservative MP Joan Crockatt by just 906 votes. The lawyer has former political experience as a popular Alberta MLA.
Hehr was quite excited at his new appointment and was happy to share his joy outside of Rideau Hall on Wednesday morning.
“It is awesome, man. It is very cool to be here,” he told reporters. “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.”
Hehr received praise and congratulations from many Albertans today, including Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley.
In an official press release, Nenshi stated “[Hehr] has inspired so many for so long and will continue to bring his compassion and humanity to his new role.”
“I’m confident you will be a strong voice for Alberta in the federal government,” Notley said.
Alberta’s Premier also congratulated Justin Trudeau on his new and diverse cabinet ministers, and was thrilled to see two faces from Alberta among the ministers.
There is no doubt that Hehr will have his work cut out for him handling Veterans Affairs issues. Previous ministers have done a poor job handling this area, especially in the years following Canada’s involvement in the Middle East.
“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,” Rev. Bette Madaro said.
Reverend Madaro works as a chaplain with the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 285 in Calgary. She sees many younger veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder and believes that the government needs to do more to help our veterans.
Hehr is no stranger to experiencing trauma himself. He suffered a gunshot wound in a shooting incident in 1991 that left him as a C5 quadriplegic. The then 22-year-olds plans of being a physical education teacher were shattered. Hehr went on to become a celebrated lawyer, being named student of the decade and listed in the top 40 graduates in 40 years at the University of Calgary.
In addition to the personal victory for Hehr, many view his appointment along with that of Sohi to be a victory for the province of Alberta. Trudeau has shown that the province is important by choosing to appoint two Alberta MPs to have a voice in his cabinet.