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My Week in Parliament: April 19-23

Monday, April 19th

Today the official 2021 Budget was presented before the House of Commons by Finance Minister, Chrystia Freeland. I do commend the government for various aspects of this budget. A universal child care plan, an extension of enhanced employment insurance and recovery benefits, and an extension of the moratorium on student loan interests are all needed measures, but the government did not go nearly far enough.

The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare many of the deficiencies in our economic resilience and ability to deal with shocks, our social safety net, our health care system, and seniors long term care. We have a housing affordability and homelessness crisis. Indigenous people and communities continue to face serious challenges. Young Canadians continue to face major financial hurdles for their economic opportunities, post-secondary education, and the cost of housing. And there is growing wealth inequality. None of these things were adequately addressed in the budget.

A guaranteed livable income is supported by a majority of Canadians, many Liberals, and NDP grassroots, and is a long-time Green policy, yet there was not one mention of it in this budget. This was a missed opportunity to transform our social safety net and ensure that no one falls through the cracks.

There was a second reading of Bill C-15, An Act respecting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP). I voted in favor of this bill, and it was agreed to. It will now be read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs.

On Monday afternoon, there was debate on Bill C-11. I brought up that privacy is a fundamental human right, and that this bill would fail to protect privacy rights. C-11 pits individuals against corporations and political parties by using a broken model of consent. This creates a serious power imbalance. I asked the government if they think political parties should be included in this legislation.

Tuesday, April 20th

On Tuesday afternoon, there was a debate about Motion 61: Support for the Oil and Gas Sector. This conservative motion is extremely flawed. It calls on the government to remove the tax and regulatory barriers limiting the growth of Canada’s oil and gas industry. We are in the midst of a climate crisis. We need to end fossil fuel subsidies, move towards renewable energy sources and cancel natural resource extraction projects like the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. We can’t reach our climate targets by expanding the same sectors that heavily contributed to this crisis in the first place.

That evening, I was invited to speak at the Nanaimo Foundation Annual General Meeting. The Nanaimo Foundation supports many important local organizations and dispersed some deeply needed COVID relief funds throughout the community.

Wednesday, April 21st

On Wednesday morning, I tabled petition e-3071. Petitioners note that despite GDP being a poor measure of success, it continues to be the government's main economic goal. GDP counts polluting factories and the manufacturing of weapons as progress, yet tells us nothing about the quality of education, availability of jobs, or the number of species threatened with extinction. This petition calls for a shift towards a well-being economy. This would prioritize public health and well-being indicators as a measure of success rather than economic growth.

During debate on Bill C-14, I brought up concerns about foreign investment in the housing market. Canada’s residential housing market has been used by the world’s ultra-wealthy to launder money and avoid taxes. I would like to have seen stronger measures in the budget to address these issues. I asked the government what they see as a solution for the affordable housing crisis.

That afternoon, there was a vote on a budgetary policy sub-amendment that was brought forward by the Bloc Quebecois. This sub-amendment would have made health transfers unconditional. I support health transfers that are conditional upon certain criteria to improve the future of our health care, especially including national standards for long-term care. I voted against this sub-amendment and it did not pass.

In November, and again in February, my caucus colleagues and I requested an emergency debate on the COVID-19 pandemic. On Wednesday our request was granted.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, I have been advocating for Canada to follow the example of Taiwan’s pandemic response. They acted early and implemented precautionary measures such as mask mandates, strict border, and travel controls, and produced their PPE domestically. They were able to go from being one of the top 10 affected countries by COVID-19 to now being ranked 191.

Earlier in the pandemic, my caucus colleagues and I advocated for the government to invoke the Emergencies Act to facilitate a federally coordinated response with the provinces; close the border, mandate quarantines for people returning to Canada, control interprovincial and inter-regional travel, create green zones for opening the economy and red zones to control areas where there was community spread with lockdowns. These calls were ignored. 24,000 people have died. The economy is struggling, there is a mental health crisis, as well as drastic increases in drug overdoses, suicide rates, and rates of intimate partner violence.

Now, over a year later, we are in the third wave of this pandemic with rapid spreading variants and more cases than ever before. Canada still desperately needs a federal-provincial task force to create better coordination. With the spread of new variants, it is not yet certain how effective Canada’s vaccination efforts will prove to be. We are not out of the woods yet, and a lack of national coordination can still have dire consequences. We need to make decisions based on science, not politics.

I also brought up the role that “man camps” played in the spread of the virus, especially in remote, rural, and Indigenous communities. Our priorities during this pandemic seem to be on resource extraction rather than protecting and vaccinating frontline workers. I asked the honorable Member from Cariboo-Prince George about his comments on the priorities of the provincial government in terms of vaccinating and lockdowns in relation to these natural resource extraction projects.

Scientists and epidemiologists have been telling us that the crash in biodiversity is going to lead to more pandemics. Towards the end of the emergency debate, I asked the government what they see as some of the key lessons we should take forward to make sure we are prepared for possible future pandemics.

Thursday, April 22nd

In honor of Earth Day, I tabled e-petition 3184, which calls on the government to take urgent action based on science and independent expertise to make Bill C-12 a world-class climate law. It calls for three amendments to be made to the bill. One, that the first emission target to be set in 2025. Two, that C-12 be in direct compliance with UNDRIP. And three, that it creates true legal accountability for the government by setting clear and unconditional obligations that must be met, not just planned to be met.

During further debate on the 2021 budget, I voiced some of the concerns that I have been hearing from seniors in Nanaimo-Ladysmith. They are upset that the OAS increase is only for seniors over the age of 75, leaving those 65-74 behind. I also spoke about the problems with the profit motive of some of our long-term care homes. I asked the Bloc Quebecois critic for the status of women, gender equality, and seniors if she agrees that these LTC homes should be not-for-profit, community-run, or cooperative style, rather than the current for-profit models.

Volunteer Nanaimo hosted their 25th Annual Volunteer Appreciation Event on Thursday. I was unable to attend due to my parliamentary schedule so I sent my regards to all of the wonderful volunteers via video.

Friday, April 23rd

On Friday afternoon, I presented two petitions. The first petition urged the government to deploy legal sanctions against Chinese Communist Party officials who perpetrated human rights abuses. The second petition called on the government to promote holistic health practices, and include proactive health and wellness care practices in the Canada Health Act.

I appeared before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage during their clause-by-clause study of Bill C-10, The Broadcasting Act. I proposed two main amendments to this bill;

My first amendment proposes that the bill includes more specificity about the services it will be providing, by adding that it takes into account the nature and diversity of the services, as well as the organization’s size and impact on the Canadian creative and production ecosystem.

My second amendment maintains the current seven-year maximum license terms that the bill currently leaves out, which would enable the CRTC to amend the license on its own initiative without needing application from the licensee. This is necessary to ensure the predictability of conditions for all players in the system.

Later I had a meeting with the Canadian Air Traffic Control Association. We discussed the growing amount of air traffic at the Nanaimo airport. This airport has a mix of different types of flights, including commercial flights, flying schools, and air cadets. There needs to be an air traffic control centre to be better equipped to handle the amount of traffic that passes through this airport every day.

I met with the Chairman of the Board of the Network of Azerbaijani Canadians, Anar Jahangirli, and board member Asif. Anar and Asif gave me an update about the situation with the recent chapter in the long conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

That evening, Sophia Maher, the General Manager of the Nanaimo Museum gave me a socially distanced tour of the museum and discussed the museum’s reconciliation-based work to revamp the permanent exhibit and better reflect the Indigenous history of our region.

This marked the end of my week in Parliament until it resumes next week on Monday, April 26th.

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