BY BOB ZIMMER
Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies MP
Last week, as Chair of Canada’s National Prayer Breakfast, I was honoured to travel to Washington with two of my MP colleagues, Kelly Block from Saskatchewan and Kevin Sorenson from Alberta, for the U.S. National Prayer Breakfast.
The National Prayer Breakfast, both in Canada and the United States, are annual events which take place in the nations’ capitals with elected officials, diplomats, business and community leaders, and students invited to attend. The event in Washington has always had the current President take the podium, whereas the Canadian breakfast has seen either our Prime Minister or the Governor General. This year, President Donald Trump spoke at the breakfast, quoting Matthew 19:26: “With God all things are possible” and others.
I always look forward to this event and being able to meet with representatives to promote our region and Canada’s interests. This year that included a meeting at the Canadian Embassy with MP Block and MP Sorenson where we were briefed by Canada’s Deputy Ambassador to the US Kirsten Hillman on the status of NAFTA negotiations. I was also fortunate enough to be able to spend some time with Fort St. John residents Sandra and John Grady, taking a tour of the White House with them leading up to the breakfast. What an amazing building to be able to spend time in!
I was also honoured to meet representatives from around the world, including Vice-President of Costa Rica Natalia Diaz Quintana, Senator Samuel L. Poghisio from Kenya, Leader of the Opposition Party in Macedonia Hristijan Mickoski, Member of Parliament for Macedonia Vladimir Gjorchev, and speak about common threats to democracy.
Most notably, I met and had a great conversation with the first female Prime Minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko, who wanted me to know how much they appreciate Canada standing with the Ukraine. Ms. Tymoshenko was Prime Minister from January to September 2005 and from December 2007 to March 2010. In 2011, she was arrested and found guilt of abuse of authority. Many considered the charges politically motivated and called for her release. She was in prison until 2014. Since her release she has continued to fight for democracy in the Ukraine.
The breakfast also gave me the opportunity to get reacquainted with good friends Representative John Moolenar (Michigan), Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Washington), Representative Randy Hultgren (Illinois), Senator Mike Lee, and Former South Carolina Governor and new Chief of the UN Food Program David Beasley.
This year’s keynote speaker was Representative Steve Scalise, the Republican congressman who, as you may recall, was shot last year during a baseball practice for Congress’s annual charity game. He spoke of how the shooting strengthened his faith and how the first thing he did after being shot was to pray. He was introduced by Representative Cedric Richmond, a Democratic congressman who spoke of their friendship across political lines because of their faith in Jesus. The event highlights how members from all political parties can work together. One quote from Congressman Richmond that illustrates our differences but similarities too was when he spoke about working together with Congressman Scalise: “We don’t disagree on our end goal of helping people, we just disagree, at times, on the way there.”
This also happens here in Canada. I have built many friendships with Members of Parliament from all political parties where there is a mutual respect for one another and our shared goal of trying to make Canada a better place for all Canadians.
It is important to me that we continue to build relationships with our American and international counterparts and that I continue to make a difference as your representative. Having great relationships with representatives from around the world is key for Canada to remain influential, as ‘regular’ representatives eventually become presidents, prime ministers and world leaders. That is why I was honoured to be able to once again represent Canada at this annual event.