For the third time in four years, St. Albert-Edmonton MP Michael Cooper has been voted the Gazette Readers' Choice as favourite local politician.
“I’m humbled to have been chosen," the Conservative Party politician said. "I do my best to be accessible and be present in the community and my office works hard to help constituents navigate federal programs and services.”
Cooper, who has represented the riding since 2015, has yet to lose an election in his political career.
He holds two degrees: a bachelor of arts and bachelor of laws, both from the University of Alberta. Before running for election, Cooper worked as a civil litigator with the law firm Ogilvie LLP.
The 38-year-old became active in federal politics at the age of 16 when he joined the Canadian Alliance in 2000. Canadian Alliance later merged with the Progressive Conservative party in 2003 to become the Conservative Party of Canada under the leadership of former prime minister Stephen Harper.
“There have been a lot of issues that I have championed [since being elected in 2015]," Cooper said.
"In terms of legislation, one bill that I brought forward that I think is important for our community but was needed nationally was Wynn’s Law."
Wynn's Law, which was eventually defeated in the House of Commons in 2017, was a bill Cooper put forward that intended to make it mandatory for somebody's criminal history to be disclosed during a bail hearing.
The law was in response to the death of St. Albert RCMP Const. David Wynn. Wynn was killed in 2015 by Shawn Rehn, who was out on bail despite facing 30 outstanding charges. Rehn's criminal history was not mentioned during his bail hearing.
"It still is a void in terms of the bail system that needs to be addressed, but I was proud to have brought it forward and proud to have brought it as far as I did despite the opposition of the government," Cooper said.
"Hopefully, it’s something that a future conservative government can work to fix."
Cooper said another piece of legislation he was proud to have worked on, and sponsor in the House of Commons, is bill S-206. The bill is set to amend the Criminal Code to allow former jurors seeking mental-health care to disclose all aspects of their jury service to a medical professional bound by a confidentiality agreement.
"Jurors can be exposed, in difficult trials, to horrific evidence, and go through what can be a very stressful time in terms of serving on a jury,” Cooper said.
“Jurors are inhibited in getting the full help that they need and deserve when they’re unable to talk about what is often the most stressful aspect of jury service."
Cooper said he has been working to pass the bill since he first introduced it in 2018, but the two federal elections and the COVID pandemic have proved to be significant speed bumps.
“It has taken persistence," he said, adding that bill S-206 is "an example of sometimes how the process of passing a private member’s bill can be difficult from a process standpoint."
When asked if there was low point in his career, Cooper said the defeat of Wynn's Law stood out. "That particular case had a real profound impact on our community,” he said.
“We made progress, we had some success, but I didn’t get it across the finish line passed into law, and that was a disappointment.”
In the years to come, Cooper said he will be working on many projects. He currently sits on the justice committee, the sub-committee on international human rights, and the special joint committee on medical assistance in dying.
As well, Cooper said he intends to reintroduce "a bill called the Canada Taiwan Relations Framework Act, which would seek to establish a framework to strengthen ties between Canada and Taiwan.”
As a member of parliament, Cooper spends roughly 26 weeks of the year in Ottawa when the House of Commons is sitting. During those 26 weeks, he said he returns most weekends to attend events and meet with constituents.
The amount of back-and-forth travel, Cooper said, is "probably one of the least favourable aspects of the job.”