\BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN
As the lone staff member, James Montgomery has had his hands full running the Brandon-Souris constituency office. That includes fielding a barrage of calls over the Conservative nomination process for the upcoming federal byelection.
As controversy swirled around the Brandon-Souris Conservative nomination process and national headlines put the spotlight on the riding, the constituency office manager was inundated with phone calls from concerned residents.
Montgomery listens to the concerns of Ayele Asamnew, who is working through the sponsorship of three immigrants from Uganda, during a recent meeting at the constituency office. (BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN )
"I had more calls those two days about that than I have about any other issue in the last four years," said James Montgomery, constituency assistant/office manager.
Following the news that Arthur-Virden MLA Larry Maguire was the acclaimed candidate in early September, Montgomery said over the next two days he was getting a call "every five or 10 minutes."
Nomination applications submitted by Chris Kennedy and Len Isleifson were rejected by the Conservative party. A shocked Kennedy spoke with the Brandon Sun following the news, saying the reason the party told him his application was rejected was due to a missing $1,000 cheque. He maintains he submitted an intact application — including the cheque.
Calls to the constituency office are not as frequent now, but Montgomery estimates he still has received about 100 calls in the last week and a half.
Montgomery has been the sole staff member at the office at the corner of 18th Street North and Parker Boulevard since former Brandon-Souris MP Merv Tweed resigned at the end of August.
The office has remained open ever since, though its name has been switched to the Brandon-Souris Constituency Office.
Montgomery has been handling the daily business — helping constituents with anything from citizenship and immigration, to problems with Employment Insurance, Canada Pension Plan and Veterans Affairs.
Montgomery is working under the direction of the chief government whip.
"They sort of supervise and make sure that there’s parliamentary representation, even in a vacant seat," he said.
As Montgomery is not in a political position, he has to refer questions and concerns related to the nomination process to the Conservative Party of Canada.
"I’ve been saying ‘I don’t know anything more than what’s in the paper and best thing to do is to voice your concerns with the Conservative party,’" he said, adding the number to call is 1-866-808-8407.
"I have it off by heart because I’ve given it to so many people."
Montgomery has been the constituency assistant for the past four years, but now his future is in limbo.
"I’m not guaranteed a job beyond the byelection," he said, adding he and his wife have made the decision to stay in Brandon.
"One of the most stressful parts of this whole situation is the uncertainty surrounding my future employment prospects … I’d love to continue on with whoever’s elected in the byelection, but I’m open to any other opportunities that come up."
Montgomery said he’s committed to staying at the office until the byelection.
"I’m obviously here to assist constituents on any federal issue and willing to meet with any mayors or reeves on any federal issue as well," he said.
Prior to Tweed’s departure, the City of Brandon submitted a priority list of 10 projects to the constituency office in an effort to cash in on the Tory government’s New Building Canada Plan. Bridge expansion, airport upgrades and the replacement of aging sewer/water lines are at the top of the list.
When asked what the status of that list is, Montgomery said "the ball’s rolling." He met with city manager Scott Hildebrand on Thursday to discuss the priorities.
"I did give the city’s priorities to the appropriate departments," he said. "There was the cabinet shuffle … so I wanted to make sure they were sent in again, just to make sure nothing got lost in the shuffle."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 5, 2013