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My Week in Parliament: April 12-16

Monday, April 12th

Parliament resumes today. It will sit for the next 5 weeks, until May 14th.

During Question Period, I asked if the government would start using the Bank of Canada again for public infrastructure funding. From 1938-1974, they provided low-interest loans to the government for public infrastructure projects. Since then, the government has strayed from this model and began borrowing from private banks and foreign lenders instead, at a significant cost to Canadians.

Later that day, I presented a petition calling on the government to recognize housing unaffordability and homelessness as twin national crises, remove tax exemptions for real estate investment trusts, and prioritize funding for non-profit and cooperative housing. 2.4 million Canadian households experienced core housing needs in 2020. We need stronger government regulation of activities that are distorting Canada’s housing market to effectively address the housing and homelessness crises.

That afternoon, I spoke on Bill C-14, the fall economic statement. I brought up some of the many concerns about Canada’s response to the pandemic. We are in the third wave of COVID-19 nationwide, reaching record levels daily. This yo-yo “close, open, close again” plan rather than a “get to zero” plan has been a huge mistake. We need to follow in the footsteps of countries that have been successful in curbing the spread like New Zealand and Taiwan, implement the Emergencies Act, and finally come up with a coordinated national approach.

We have to stop making decisions out of fear of a possible constitutional crisis. Our dysfunctional federal system also impacts our action on climate change - or lack thereof. We have the worst record for climate action and emissions reductions in the G8, an appalling record to have. We have signed on to nine international climate change agreements, but have yet to meet any of the targets we agreed to. Climate change and pandemics do not respect jurisdictional boundaries.

The pandemic has worsened many pre-existing issues. I spoke about the need for the government to provide better financial support for small and medium-sized businesses, fund early childhood education and a universal child care program, improve rural access to high-speed internet, eliminate post-secondary tuition fees, increase old age security, implement national standards for long-term care, extend universal health care to include pharmacare, and increase government funding to properly address the housing and homeless crises.

The Green Party caucus will support Bill C-14 but Canadians deserve better. Our caucus will continue to advocate to the government to make sure that their needs are met.

Tuesday, April 13th

On Tuesday morning, I presented two petitions. The first outlined a series of human rights abuses sanctioned and perpetrated by officials of the Chinese Communist Party. The petitioners urged the Government to deploy legal sanctions, freeze assets, and bar the perpetrators from entering Canada.

The second petition, which had over 3,000 signatures, asked the Government of Canada to cover wellness care practices under the Canada Health Act.

During the debate on Bill C-22, I asked the Conservative Critic for Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness about decriminalizing the use and simple possession of drugs and eliminating Section 4 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to facilitate a safe supply. As we continue to face the pandemic, the opioid crisis is worse than ever and has claimed more lives than COVID-19. The government continues to be slow to implement urgent harm reduction measures that would save lives.

I sought unanimous consent on a motion that would grant independent members and members of non-recognized parties a total of eight questions per week during Question Period. This would not impact the number of questions already shared among recognized parties. During this parliament, the number of independent members has steadily increased as larger parties have ejected members for violations of conduct. But the number of questions shared among independent members and members of non-recognized parties has stayed the same. This situation is unfair to the Green Party caucus and to MP Wilson-Raybould, who was elected as an independent MP. Unanimous consent for my motion was not granted, but our caucus will continue to press this issue.

Later that afternoon, I spoke about the need to provide better supports for Indigenous people experiencing homelessness. I asked my colleague from Vancouver-Kingsway if he would support a national strategy for Indigenous urban housing, a strategy for Indigenous people, created by Indigenous people.

That evening, I had a meeting with the All Island REIT Board. It is a small Real Estate Investment Trust, which was started in Nanaimo and is based on Vancouver Island. We spoke about the organization’s history, business practices, and vision for the future.

My day ended with a fourth meeting with the Nanaimo-Ladysmith Youth Advisory Council (YAC).

Wednesday, April 14th

The day started with a vote on Bill C-228, An Act to Establish a federal framework to reduce recidivism. I voted for this bill and it was agreed to. Nearly one in four people who have been incarcerated re-offend within two years of their release. People deserve effective social programs and opportunities to support a successful transition back into the community.

That afternoon, I presented e-petition 3058. This petition calls on the government to ban hydraulic gas fracking in Canada and accelerate our transition to renewable energy. The Green Party is the only federal party that is calling for a national ban on fracking. Fracking releases methane into our atmosphere. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas and has been linked to water and air contamination. It has also been linked to increased risks of asthma, cancer, and birth defects. It is past time for Canada to get serious about transitioning to the many sustainable alternatives that are readily available to us.

There was an emergency debate in the House of Commons about the program cuts and layoffs at Laurentian University in Sudbury. I asked the government if they think universities are too dependent on corporate funding.

Thursday, April 15th

On Thursday morning, I seconded my caucus colleague, Jenica Atwins Private Members Bill on banning glyphosate nationwide. Glyphosate has been deemed a probable carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. It also poses significant risks to plant and wildlife biodiversity. It’s time for use of this dangerous chemical to be banned outright.

Later that day, there was a vote on time allocation for Bill C-15, An Act respecting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). This time allocation would have granted no more than one further sitting day for the second reading of Bill C-15. I voted against this time allocation, but it was agreed to. I was disappointed to see this pass because it is part of our democratic process to have a fulsome debate in the House of Commons, especially on important bills like this one. The Green Party has been calling for the implementation of UNDRIP for a long time, but the decisions surrounding it mustn’t be rushed without proper consideration and consultation.

It’s important to point out that UNDRIP legislation doesn’t automatically fix anything. That requires a commitment from governments to follow the intent of the legislation, not just pay lip service to it. We saw an example in British Columbia. Shortly after the BC government’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (DRIPA) was implemented, the conflict with the Wet’suwet’en people exploded. Resource extraction continues to violate Indigenous sovereignty. Think about Site C, pipeline expansions, and old-growth logging. I asked the federal government how they see UNDRIP unfolding nationally. Will we see a more fulsome process for free, prior, and informed consent when it comes to natural resource extraction projects?

Later that afternoon, there was a vote on the third reading and adoption of Bill C-14, the Fall economic statement that was tabled in Parliament on November 30, 2020. I voted for this bill and it passed.

That evening, I had a meeting with Youth Can 20/20. This organization matches youth with volunteer opportunities to empower young Canadians to build their skills and make an impact while giving back to their community. I enjoyed hearing from participants about the ways the program had benefited them and their communities.

Friday, April 16th

I addressed the Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce during their Annual General Meeting. The pandemic has been an unprecedented challenge for small and medium-sized businesses, which are the economic backbone of our communities. The pandemic emergency aid programs directed at small and medium businesses left too many businesses out in the cold or burdened by debt. As we transition into post-pandemic recovery I will continue to advocate for better programs and policies to support local businesses.

In the afternoon I appeared before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage to propose amendments to Bill C-10, The Broadcasting Act. My first proposed amendment adds a definition of a community element to the act. This element is needed now more than ever, to give a voice to small communities and minorities and to make room for democratic discourse. Community broadcasting outlets are a starting point for many looking to start a career in the industry and are an incubator for Canadian talent. My time at a community broadcasting organization, Skyline Cable in Ottawa, is what inspired me to start a career in broadcasting and television.

My second proposed amendment to C-10 adds text to clarify that social media giants are subject to the act when undertaking broadcasting activities, without removing the exemption for social media users.

I proposed a third amendment, that would keep the ownership and control of our broadcasting system by Canadians. This matter must be directly enshrined in the legislation, rather than just leaving it to the CRTC.

Today I was officially announced as the Green Party candidate for Nanaimo-Ladysmith in the next federal election. I do hope this election doesn’t happen anytime soon. Canadians need their MPs focused on keeping them safe during this pandemic and working together for a just and green recovery. When it does get called, it will be an honor to run for the opportunity to continue to be your voice in Ottawa.

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