Nystrom and Proctor get nod for critic posts

By Andrew Ehrkamp
Published February 5th 2003 in Leader-Post

Newly-minted federal NDP Leader Jack Layton has given two Regina MPs, including one leadership rival, new positions within the party's caucus.

Regina-Qu'Appelle MP Lorne Nystrom, a contender during last month's NDP leadership race, has been given responsibilities for justice, electoral and parliamentary reform, the solicitor-general's department, human rights, financial institutions and pensions.

Nystrom, the party's former finance critic who finished third behind Layton in the leadership race, said he considers his new justice portfolio a "change" and not a demotion. Nystrom notes he's still the NDP critic responsible for financial institutions and pensions.

This is the first time Nystrom has been his party's justice critic.

"The top issue for me, in justice, is proportional representation which has been a passion of mine," said Nystrom, who wants Canada's first-past-the-post electoral system replaced. "If a party gets 20 per cent of the votes, they should get 20 per cent of the seats."

As justice critic, he will also be the party's point man when it comes to holding the federal government to account for its controversial gun registry.

Nystrom said the gun registry -- for which costs have shot up from $2 million to $1 billion -- has been the biggest "boondoggle" he's seen in his 29 years in parliament.

Palliser MP Dick Proctor -- who supported second-place finisher, Manitoba MP Bill Blaikie, in the leadership race -- continues as NDP's agriculture critic.

"Saskatchewan is an agricultural province, and it's important that we be front and centre on the issue as much as possible," said the Regina-area MP, adding agriculture will be his main focus in parliament.

"Certainly, we'll try to break the cycle of drought and despair in many agricultural sectors. Input costs are rising and returns are getting ever smaller."

Proctor is also responsible for political party financing at a time when the federal government has planned reforms.

The bill, introduced by the Chretien government, proposes that only individuals be able to make political contributions and it imposes limits on those contributions.

Proctor said the NDP supports the bill's ban on corporate and trade union donations, but his party's concerns include so-called trust funds held by backbench MPs and cabinet ministers. The NDP wants them dismantled. Proctor is also the NDP's critic for western economic diversification, the Canadian Wheat Board, Canada Post, post-secondary education and sports.