Steven Fletcher (politician)
Steven John Fletcher
|Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
|Preceded by||John Harvard|
June 17, 1972 |
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
|Profession||Engineer (P.Eng.), manager (MBA)|
|Religion||United Church of Canada |
Steven John Fletcher, PC MP (born June 17, 1972) is a Canadian politician. He has served in the Canadian House of Commons since 2004, representing the riding of Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia as a member of the Conservative Party. He is the first quadriplegic to serve in the House of Commons, as well as in Cabinet. Fletcher was appointed as Minister of State (Democratic Reform) on October 30, 2008. After the Conservative Party victory on May 2, 2011, Fletcher was appointed as Minister of State (Transport). In an effort to increase the number of women in cabinet, Fletcher was left out of cabinet in the July 15, 2013 Cabinet shuffle by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Fletcher stated on Twitter "I am Conservative. I am a traditionalist. I wish I had left Cabinet in the traditional way--- with a sex scandal." Although not officially in Cabinet, he still sits on the treasury board cabinet committee.
Early life and career
Fletcher was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where his Canadian father was working as an engineer. He was raised in Manitoba, and attended Shaftesbury High School in Winnipeg. Fletcher received a degree in Geological Engineering from the University of Manitoba in 1995.
He became a complete quadriplegic in 1996, after hitting a moose with his vehicle while travelling to a geological engineering job in northern Manitoba. The accident left him completely paralysed below the neck, and he now requires 24-hour-a-day attendant care. He was unable to speak for several months, and only regained this ability after a long process of recovery.
In the immediate aftermath of his accident, Fletcher was told that he would have to spend the rest of his life in an institution. Years later, he joked: "I don't think the doctors ever thought the institution would be Parliament." When asked about his disability during his first campaign for public office, he quipped: "I would rather be paralyzed from the neck down than from the neck up."
Before his accident, Fletcher was a wilderness canoe enthusiast. He served as president of the Manitoba Recreational Canoeing Association, was a two-time former Manitoba Kayak Champion, and competed in national events. He was able to resume his life as an outdoorsman in the mid-2000s through inventions such as the TrailRider, which allows quadriplegics to travel over rough terrain. In late 2004, he was able to stand again with the assistance of an hydraulic wheelchair. He recently competed in water races, and has won awards using "sip and puff" steering technology. In 2006, he visited the Burgess Shale in the Rocky Mountains with the help of a TrailRider and other hikers.
Fletcher has said that the accident changed his political views. He acknowledges that he "didn't give the less-fortunate any consideration" before 1996, but now describes himself as a "compassionate conservative".
Fletcher returned to the University of Manitoba in 1997 to take a Master of Business Administration (MBA) program. He was elected president of the University of Manitoba Students' Union (UMSU) in February 1999, and identified his main priorities as improving the university's public profile and increasing access for students in financial need. He also called for greater university access for disabled students and for higher aboriginal enrollment. In October 1999, he met with federal Finance Minister Paul Martin to lobby for increased student funding.
Fletcher's political views often put him at odds with other campus organizations during much of his tenure, and he was sometimes accused of administrative bias against left-wing groups. In early 2000, he supported a decision by student council to freeze university funding for The Manitoban, a campus newspaper with a left-leaning editorial board. He argued that the issue at stake was one of financial accountability, although his opponents suggested he was trying to infringe on the paper's autonomy. Funding was restored when the newspaper staff agreed to accept an Ombudsman Board.
Fletcher was elected as a director of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations during his first term. He was re-elected student body president in 2000, and presided over the elimination of the UMSU's debt in May 2000. He credited a partnership with Starbucks for much of the council's $43,000 surplus.
In late 2000, Fletcher announced that he would seek the Progressive Conservative nomination for a provincial by-election in Tuxedo. Some of his opponents later tried to remove him as student president, arguing that such partisan activity was inappropriate for someone elected to represent the interests of all students. Fletcher argued that the university's constitution did not prevent him from participating in provincial politics, and described his opponents as "far left extremists". He lost the provincial nomination to Heather Stefanson. His opponents in the Graduate Students Association later voted to separate from the UMSU, although the University of Manitoba refused to sanction the separation.
Near the end of 2000, Fletcher endorsed a report from the right-wing Fraser Institute which suggested that Canada would have to end university union contracts and professorial tenure to retain bright young academics. He was quoted as saying: "There is merit. You'd have to break the union, I would guess."
During the 2001 student election campaign, Fletcher, with the assistance of Colleen Bready (UMSU vice-president) and a Security Services officer, performed an unannounced search of several student group offices. The affected groups included the Graduate Students' Association, the Womyn's Centre, Amnesty International, the U of M Recycling Group (UMREG), the Rainbow Pride Mosaic, and the Manitoban. Fletcher and Bready said they had been "made aware of a suspicion" that campaign materials were being stored in the student group offices in violation of UMSU election bylaws. The search was condemned by other campus groups, with UMREG coordinator Rob Altemeyer describing Fletcher's actions as "completely inappropriate". Fletcher defended his actions, saying: "It's UMSU space. We have the authority and the right to check [student organization] space at any time." Bready said they felt warranted since a slate of candidates had already been found guilty earlier in the week of using the Graduate Students' Association office for campaign activities.
In March 2001, Fletcher called for a central co-ordination body to oversee Manitoba's universities, arguing that the province "is too small to have five universities offering the same thing". He opposed the provincial government's 2001 decision to build a new university in northern Manitoba. Fletcher finished his second and final term as student president in May 2001, and received his MBA in 2002.
Fletcher was elected president of the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba in November 2001, and was re-elected in 2003. His relationship with party leader Stuart Murray was sometimes fractious. Fletcher criticized Murray in 2002 for hiring discredited advisor Taras Sokolyk without informing him, and suggested that Murray had not taken sufficient action to improve the state of the party's finances.
After Fletcher's election as party president, Manitoba Public Insurance announced that it would no longer provide travel expenses for his personal assistant. A representative for MPI argued that attending party functions was not a prerequisite for Fletcher's stated career goal of becoming an elected politician, and indicated that the fund was not legally required to pay for these activities. Fletcher appealed this decision before the Manitoba Court of Appeal, hiring former New Democratic Party cabinet minister Sidney Green as his attorney. In May 2003, the Court of Appeal ruled that MPI has the discretion to fund such activities under Section 138 of the MPI Act, but is not obliged to use this discretion. He later tried to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada, but the court twice declined to hear his case. Fletcher filed a lawsuit against former provincial cabinet minister Becky Barrett in September 2003, arguing that she had "maliciously" interfered in his legal battles.
In late 2003, Fletcher defeated Don Murdock to win the Canadian Alliance nomination in Charleswood—St. James for the 2004 federal election. He later supported the merger of the Canadian Alliance with the more centrist Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, and endorsed Stephen Harper's bid to lead the merged Conservative Party of Canada in early 2004. Fletcher's Alliance nomination was rendered void by the merger, and he was required to contest another nomination for the new party. He defeated Murdock a second time, and was declared the riding's Conservative Party candidate in March 2004.
Fletcher defeated star Liberal candidate Glen Murray, a popular former Mayor of Winnipeg, by 734 votes in the 2004 election. His victory was considered an upset, although polls before election day indicated the result would be close. The Liberal Party won a minority government nationally, and Fletcher was named as Senior Health Critic in the Official Opposition.
Fletcher is the first Member of Parliament (MP) in Canadian history with a permanent disability. A running joke during his first campaign was that he would have to be a front bench MP, as the backbenches are not wheelchair-accessible. His election created the need for a "stranger to the House"—a person who is not officially an MP or officer of Parliament—in this case, his aide, to actually be on the floor of the Commons during sessions.
The Parliament buildings had to be adapted to accommodate Fletcher. In Ottawa, Fletcher has advocated for community living, the integration of physically or mentally challenged individuals into society. He has said, “Community living is better for the individual for sure, better for their families, and in most cases—not all—it’s better on the taxpayer too.”
As Conservative Health Critic, Fletcher described himself as a supporter of the Canada Health Act but also indicated a willingness to permit greater private-sector involvement. He suggested that the government is "notorious for stifling innovation", and argued that the private sector should not be "pigeonholed like doctors who tried to pigeonhole me". Liberal Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh responded by arguing that the Conservative position would jeopardize the principles of the Canada Health Act.
On April 20, 2005, the House of Commons supported Fletcher's Motion to compensate all Canadians who were infected with Hepatitis C by the Canadian Red Cross as a result of its failure to test blood samples. This was a major development in a decade-long struggle to have the pre-1986 and post-1990 Hepatitis C victims included in a federal compensation package. A compensation funding package was announced in 2006.
The following month, Fletcher became involved in a controversy unrelated to his parliamentary duties. On May 21, 2005, he apologized for saying "The Japs were bastards" at a veterans' convention in Winnipeg the previous week, in reference to Japanese Imperial Army during World War II. He defended the general intent of his remarks, noting that his grandfather had witnessed the Japanese army commit atrocities when he was taken as a prisoner of war after that fall of Singapore. He also acknowledged that he used "language that was inappropriate".
In November 2005, Fletcher and New Democratic Party MP Pat Martin endorsed a motion to minimize trans-fats in the Canadian food supply. A task force to investigate the issue of trans-fats was subsequently struck, and provided recommendations to the government in 2007.
Fletcher was re-elected with an increased majority in the 2006 federal election, as the Conservatives won a minority government nationally. After the election, he was appointed as parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Health and the minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario.
Fletcher supported Sam Katz's bid for re-election as Mayor of Winnipeg in 2006. In late 2006, he assisted Liberal MP Andy Scott in presenting a motion for a national strategy on the treatment of persons with autism. He received a 2006 Champion of Mental Health Award.
Fletcher has received awards for community involvement, including a special award from the National Cancer Leadership Forum for advocating a national cancer strategy. He has also received the Courage and Leadership Award from the Canadian Cancer Society, and was inducted into the Terry Fox Hall of Fame on November 13, 2006. Fletcher was also awarded the King Clancy Award, as well as being a recipient of her Majesty's Golden Jubilee Medal for his contributions to Canada.
Fletcher has advocated for embryonic stem cell research using embryos that would otherwise be discarded from in-vitro fertilization techniques. He stated on CBC's The National " I would ask this question. A Canadian who finds themselves with a terrible ailment or a loved one with a terrible ailment and there is a cure that is derived by embryonic stem cell research, would they deny their loved one or themselves that cure because of the source of the cure? Most Canadians would say please, cure me."
In March 2007, Fletcher began a campaign to have Ottawa's taxi service improve its wheelchair accessibility. There is a book written by Linda McIntosh, a former Member of the Legislative Assembly in Manitoba, about Fletcher’s life entitled What Do You Do If You Don't Die? released in December 2008.
Minister of State (Democratic Reform)
After being elected for a third time in the 2008 federal election, Fletcher was appointed as Minister of State for Democratic Reform on October 30, 2008. Fletcher is the first person in history with a permanent disability to be named to the Canadian cabinet. At the time of his appointment, he was quoted saying “I would pinch myself if I could.”
Fletcher is only the third federal conservative cabinet minister from a Winnipeg riding. The previous two were Gordon Churchill during the 1950s and the son of Canada's first Prime Minister, Hugh John Macdonald, who served as a cabinet minister in the late 19th century.
On March 4, 2010, Fletcher received the Christopher Reeve Award from the Canadian Paraplegic Association. Teren Clarke, Executive Director of the Canadian Paraplegic Association said when the announcement was made. “Steven Fletcher’s journey is an inspiration to all of us since sustaining a high level spinal cord injury only a few years ago. And now as a member of the Federal Cabinet, he deals with matters well beyond the scope of disability issues, and that deserves our recognition with this national/international award.”
Minister of State (Transport)
Fletcher was re-elected in the 2011 General Election, after capturing 58 percent of votes. As Minister of State for Transport, Fletcher’s new responsibilities fall within the larger portfolio of the Honourable Denis Lebel, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. In addition to continuing to serve on Treasury Board, Minister Fletcher also serves on the Cabinet Committee on Economic Prosperity and Sustainable Growth. “When it comes to Canada’s transportation systems, our Government is committed to protecting the safety and security of Canadians,” said Fletcher.
As Minister of State, Fletcher is responsible for the Crown Corporations the fall within the Transport portfolio. These include but are not limited to; Canada Post, VIA Rail, Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA), Ridley Coal Terminals, and half a dozen federally owned bridges. Fletcher also conducted National Round Tables on Infrastructure in the year 2012 to help develop a National Infrastructure Program. In budget 2013 a 70 Billion dollar investment over 10 years into infrastructure was announced by the Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty.
On January 16, 2012, Fletcher announced that he was temporarily stepping down from his position as Minister of State for Transport for an unspecified medical procedure.
Fletcher underwent a 12-hour surgery on January 19, 2012. The doctors removed an old titanium rod and replaced it with a much longer rod, this time secured to the back of his neck, not the front. It stretches from the middle of Fletcher's head to the middle of his back. "If our civilization lasts 1,000 years, my neck will last 1,000 years. It feels better than I can remember," Fletcher said.
On March 26, 2012, Fletcher returned to office and resumed full activities as Minister of State (Transport) and Member of Parliament for Charleswood – St. James – Assiniboia – Headingley.
On July 15, 2013, Fletcher was moved from Cabinet by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in order to make way for more women in a wide-ranging cabinet shuffle that saw several members of the Cabinet replaced. Prime Minister Harper kept Fletcher on Treasury Board after the Cabinet Shuffle. Fletcher is the longest serving member on the board.
|Canadian federal election, 2011|
|New Democratic||Tom Paulley||8,134||20.1%|
|Total valid votes||40,418||100.00%|
|Total rejected ballots||135|
|Canadian federal election, 2008|
|New Democratic||Fiona Shiells||7,190||17.9%|
|Christian Heritage||Mark Price||180||0.4%|
|Total valid votes||40,104||100.00%|
|Total rejected ballots||136|
|Canadian federal election, 2006: Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia|
|New Democratic Party||Dennis Kshyk||5,669||12.81||$1,977.65|
|Total valid votes||44,259||100.00|
|Total rejected ballots||157|
|Electors on the lists||63,517|
|Sources: Official Results, Elections Canada and Financial Returns, Elections Canada.|
|Canadian federal election, 2004: Charleswood—St. James|
|New Democratic Party||Peter Carney||4,283||10.15||$6,030.25|
|Total valid votes||42,191||100.00|
|Total rejected ballots||109|
|Electors on the lists||64,627|
|Percentage change figures are factored for redistribution. Conservative Party percentages are contrasted with the combined Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservative percentages from 2000.|
|Sources: Official Results, Elections Canada and Financial Returns, Elections Canada.|
All electoral information is taken from Elections Canada. Italicized expenditures refer to submitted totals, and are presented when the final reviewed totals are not available.
- Winnipeg Free Press July 16, 2013 Dan Lett CBC online article by Rosemary Bartom July 18, 2013
- PMO website under Ministries and Cabinet committees
- What Do You Do If You Don't Die? The Steven Fletcher Story, By Linda MacIntosh Heartland Publishing Winnipeg 2008
- Bill Redekop, "Moose collision shocks naturalists", Winnipeg Free Press, 25 January 1996, A1.
- What Do You Do If You Don't Die? The Steven Fletcher Story, By Linda MacIntosh Heartland Publishing Winnipeg 2008
- Joan Bryden, "Hell on Wheels", Macleans Magazine, 13 July 2005.
- Ruypers, Ryall, , “Canadian Civics”, “Emond Montgomery Publications”, 2006, Page 107.
- Bill Redekop, "Chinese power play", Winnipeg Free Press, 9 February 1997, B4.
- Liz Katynski, "Lightweight, portable device leads to Happy trails", Winnipeg Free Press, 18 June 2003, p. 1.
- Paul Samyn, "High emotion for city MP", Winnipeg Free Press, 9 December 2004, A1.
- Steven Fletcher: About, accessed 12 November 2006.
- Jeff Lee, "Mayor, MP to make Yoho trek", Vancouver Sun, 2 August 2006, B6.
- Paul Egan, "Breaking barriers", Winnipeg Free Press, 4 July 2004, A1.
- Bill Redekop, "U of M elects quadriplegic man to take charge of students' union", Winnipeg Free Press, 19 February 1999, A3. Fletcher won by 148 votes, receiving just over 1,500 votes of 4,200 cast; Manfred Jager, "UMSU president seeks to raise school's image", 5 May 1999, Winnipeg Free Press, A16.
- Diane Driedger, "Searching for the formula: how University of Manitoba sees its future", Manitoba Business, 1 July 1999, Volume 21, Issue 6, p. 19.
- Nick Martin, "Sympathy for the student but no federal financing", Winnipeg Free Press, 23 October 1999, A10.
- David Roberts, "Students fight for paper's autonomy", Globe and Mail, 25 March 1990, A11.
- "U. Manitoba paper keeps editorial autonomy", UWIRE, 4 April 2000.
- "In Brief", Winnipeg Free Press, 7 March 2000, A9. His brother graduated, and the new vice-president was Colleen Bready The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations was not affiliated with the Canadian Alliance political party.
- "In Brief", Winnipeg Free Press, 27 May 2000, A7.
- "U of M students union cancels Legislature protest", Winnipeg Free Press, 14 September 2000, A5.
- "University-feud", Broadcast News, 2 October 2000, 09:34 report.
- Nick Martin, "Students' union president criticized", Winnipeg Free Press, 3 October 2000, A7.
- "Stefanson-Tuxedo", Broadcast News, 13 October 2000, 13:31 report.
- Scott Edmonds, "Manitoba students union anything but united over controversial president", Canadian Press, 31 October 2000, 16:42 report.
- "MBA prof suggests scrapping unions and tenure for professors", Canadian Press, 17 December 2000, 21:37 report.
- David Leibl , "UMSU president, VP condemned for searching offices unannounced", the Manitoban, 28 February 2001.
- Steven Fletcher, "How to fix our universities", Winnipeg Free Press, 29 March 2001, A15.
- Steven Fletcher, "Do we really need another university?", Winnipeg Free Press, 24 July 2001, A13.
- Nick Martin, "'Education is what saved me'", Winnipeg Free Press, 29 May 2002, A13.
- Helen Fallding, "Grassroots will choose new top Tory", Winnipeg Free Press, 18 November 2001, A3.
- Daniel Lett, "PC boss eyes Alliance Fletcher seeks candidacy in next federal election", Winnipeg Free Press, 19 April 2003, B1.
- Mia Rabson, "PC party president fights for assistant's travel costs", Winnipeg Free Press, 11 April 2003, A3.
- David Kuxhaus, "Tory president loses appeal MPI's decision on expenses stands", Winnipeg Free Press, 3 May 2003, B4.
- Mia Rabson, "Tory boss wants Supreme Court to hear his case against MPI", Winnipeg Free Press, 17 June 2003, A8; Mia Rabson, "High court rebuffs bid for support", Winnipeg Free Press, 9 January 2004, B1 and "High Court declines to hear insurance appeal of Winnipeg MP Steven Fletcher", Canadian Press, 18:33 report.
- "Tory president files suit against Barrett, MPI", Winnipeg Free Press, 16 September 2003, B3.
- Mia Rabson, "High-profile Tories running for Alliance", Winnipeg Free Press, 9 September 2003, B2.
- Mia Rabson, "Local conservatives react with elation", Winnipeg Free Press, 17 October 2003, A11; "Old Tories spoiling for a united fight", Winnipeg Free Press, 17 January 2004, A3.
- Alexandra Paul, "Fletcher nomination galvanizes Tories", Winnipeg Free Press, 5 March 2004, A4. Fletcher won the nomination by 242 votes to 189. Murdock is a funeral home executive in Winnipeg. See Alexandra Paul, "Fletcher nomination galvanizes Tories", Winnipeg Free Press, 5 March 2004, A4; Geoff Kirbyson, "Cost of dying", Winnipeg Free Press, 13 August 2006, E1.
- Mary Agnes Welch, "Sure things, long shots and... who knows?", Winnipeg Free Press, 27 June 2004, B1.
- Jim Brown, "Conservative Harper seeks middle ground in new shadow cabinet", Canadian Press, 22 July 2004, 15:22 report.
- Mary Agnes Welch, "Wheelchair can't slow Fletcher's drive to win", Winnipeg Free Press, 18 June 2004, A21.
- Graeme Smith and Jane Taber, "Paralyzed MP plans to change attitudes in Ottawa", Globe and Mail, 30 June 2004, A1.
- Ruypers, Ryall, Connor, and Norton, “Canada in the Contemporary World”, “Emond Montgomery Publications”, 2006, Page 62.
- Don Martin, "From a frozen ditch to Parliament Hill", National Post, 5 October 2004, A19.
- Colin Perkel, "Tory move would threaten medicare, Dosanjh says", Globe and Mail, 20 April 2005, A4.
- Mark Kennedy, "Liberals grant funds to all hep C victims", National Post, 21 April 2005, A7.
- Janice Tibbetts, "Government to compensate 'forgotten victims' of hep C", National Post, 25 July 2006, A5.
- Mary Agnes Welch, "Fletcher upsets vets, Japanese-Canadians", Winnipeg Free Press, 21 May 2005, A3.
- "MP apologizes for use of `inappropriate' language to describe Japanese", Canadian Press, 21 May 2005, 14:50 report.
- Paul Samyn, "Dosanjh snubs House", MP says Winnipeg Free Press ,September 2, 2005, Page: A14
- "Letters to the Editor" Winnipeg Free Press, Monday, February 21, 2005 Section: Focus Byline: Fair share of funds vital Page: A11.
- Boris Hrybinsky, "Hasselriis unveils larcenous plan", Winnipeg Free Press, 14 September 2006, B1.
- John Ivison, "Coming to grips with autism", National Post, 14 November 2006, A4.
- "Fletcher receives 2006 Champion of Mental Health Award", Steven Fletcher homepage, accessed 6 December 2006.
- Andre Picard, Cancer Society sends Harper a message-scented bouquet All MPs receive daffodils as a reminder of Conservatives' $260-million promise, Globe and Mail, February 23, 2006 A8. On November 24, 2006 this National Strategy was announced under the name Canadian Partnership Against Cancer. See: Canada Press, 'Blueprint' for cancer PM unveils $260-M plan to prevent, fight the disease, Winnipeg Free Press, November 25, 2006, A1
- MARIVIC TUAZON Winnipeg Sun November 23, 2006 ‘Out and About’ A12.
- Diane Ablonczy MP , Hansard, Terry Fox Hall of Fame.
- Leslie Mackinnon, The National, CBC February 12, 2007
- "A cab service that's accessible", Ottawa Citizen, 27 March 2007, C4.
- Tonda MacCharles (16 January 2012). "Junior transport minister Steven Fletcher takes leave for medical reasons". Toronto Star. Retrieved 16 January 2012.
- "New Tory cabinet: A list of the new and old faces in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s lineup". July 15, 2013.
- Steven Fletcher official site
- Profile at Parliament of Canada
- Steven Fletcher (politician) – Parliament of Canada biography
- Speeches, votes and activity at OpenParliament.ca
- The Steven Fletcher Story
|28th Ministry – Cabinet of Stephen Harper|
|Cabinet Post (1)|
|Peter Van Loan||Minister for Democratic Reform