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My Week in Ottawa: Feb 18 - 22

Tuesday Feb. 18th

The House of Commons resumed on Tuesday amidst nation-wide rallies in solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs’ position on the Coastal GasLink project. The Prime Minister gave a speech in response to the crisis and an emergency debate was scheduled for later in the evening.

The House then resumed with Routine Proceedings. I presented a petition from residents of Vancouver Island who oppose the purchase and expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline. The petitioners are asking the government to halt the pipeline expansion because of the high environmental and financial costs of the project.

I then attended a meeting of the Standing Committee on International Trade. The committee was in full swing studying Bill C-4 to implement the CUSMA trade agreement (i.e., the new NAFTA). The Deputy Prime Minister of Canada, Chrystia Freeland, appeared before the committee, where she recognized my long-standing concern with Investor-State provisions. Investor-State provisions have been removed from CUSMA, which is a major improvement from the original NAFTA. I also attended the first meeting of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

I am responsible for covering nine committees in total. Throughout the week, all my remaining committees started up. Our caucus is lucky to have a group of dedicated volunteers who help us follow these committees. They attend meetings and debrief us on important developments.

In the afternoon, my colleague Jenica Atwin and I joined the Kids Reject Teck Protest on Parliament Hill to urge the government to reject the Teck Frontier Mine. Thankfully, Teck has since withdrawn its application for the mine. Determined citizens like those at Kids Reject Teck sent a clear message: no new fossil fuel developments in the middle of a climate crisis. I was honoured to accept their banner with hundreds of signatures at the end of their protest.

Our Green caucus also did a media scrum about the situation with the Coastal GasLink project and the rights of the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs. We re-asserted the importance of upholding Indigenous rights. The situation is complex and must be addressed through peaceful dialogue.

In the evening, I attended the National Day of Japan Reception. The Canadian National Rugby team was acknowledged for helping with the cleanup after Typhoon Hagibis in Japan. The team is based out of Langford, right here on the island. They were in Japan for the 2019 World Cup, but their final game against Namibia was cancelled because of the typhoon. The Canadian team was disappointed not to be playing rugby that day, but in proud Canadian fashion they got to work shovelling mud, clearing the road, and helping where they could. A few Japanese Supreme Court judges will also be coming to Canada to learn about processes and procedures from the Supreme Court of Canada.

After the reception, I went back to the House to participate in the emergency debate on the Wet'suwet'en solidarity protests. I emphasized that the situation was avoidable and predictable, as there are agreements between First Nations across Canada to stand together.

Wednesday Feb. 19th

On Wednesday morning, I met with representatives of the Youth for Peace delegation of the United Church of Canada, including Tayana Simpson, Alix Dolson, Shaina Low, US Advocacy Officer for Defense for Children International - Palestine, and the Very Reverend David Giuliano at the United Church of Canada.

They shared their personal experiences travelling to the Middle East and we discussed their work advocating for the human rights of children. Defense for Children International - Palestine has launched their #nowaytotreatachild campaign which aims to end the systematic ill-treatment of Palestinian child detainees.

I also met with Hali Noble and Dustan Woodhouse from Mortgage Professionals Canada. We discussed the housing and mortgage markets in the Nanaimo-Ladysmith area and more broadly in Canada. I spoke with them about some of my key priorities, including a lack of affordable housing and rental properties, as well as the mortgage stress test.

Later on, Elizabeth May and I met with Sasha McNicoll and Nick Saul of Community Food Centres Canada. We spoke about the underlying causes of food insecurity, and the many different ways in which food insecurity impacts people’s lives. Community Food Centres Canada is advocating to change the federal disability tax credit to make it refundable.

In the House of Commons, I voted ‘yea’ on the Bloc Québecois motion calling on the government to increase the special Employment Insurance sickness benefits in the upcoming budget from 15 weeks to 50 weeks. The vote passed in the House, meaning people with serious illnesses will now have more financial support.

I also presented two petitions. The first calls on the government to create a citizens’ assembly on electoral reform. Back in December, I met with Réal Lavergne of Fair Vote Canada and we discussed ways to advocate for electoral reform. Unfortunately, our first-past-the-post system distorts political representation. For example, one Green MP represents 378,000 voters and one Liberal MP represents 37,000 voters. The second petition I presented was in regards to Falun Gong adherents. The petitioners are requesting that Canada passes measures to stop the Chinese regime’s systematic persecution of Falun Gong practitioners.

The first petition is calling on the House of Commons to create a citizens' assembly on electoral reform and require the citizens' assembly to complete its work within 12 months and adopt any recommended changes to our electoral system before the next federal election.

In the evening, I attended three receptions. First was the reception hosted by Mortgage Professionals Canada. I spoke with CEO and President Paul Taylor as well as Board Chair Elaine Taylor (no relation to Paul Taylor). We discussed the same issues that I discussed with their representatives in the afternoon in my office.

Second, I attended the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI) Reception. I had a conversation with Claude Robbilard, CADSI’s IT Chief who showed me a map that lists every defense industry business in Canada. I also spoke with Steven Hillier, who is in charge of CADSI’s International Program. I asked both of them about Canadian arms sales to countries with oppressive governments, such as Saudi Arabia. I also asked them about autonomous weapons. They both said it was up to the government to legislate these issues. Challenge accepted!

Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s worst human rights violators. Human Rights Watch has reported that as of November 2018 (over a year ago), over 6,800 Yemeni civilians had been killed and over 10,600 injured, mostly by Saudi Arabia-led coalition airstrikes. In November 2019 Global News reported that more than 24 million people in Yemen are in need of humanitarian aid. There have been reports of Canadian-made light armoured vehicles (LAVs) used by Saudi Arabian forces in Yemen as well as inside Saudi Arabia to repress anti-government protesters.

Finally, I attended the Port of Vancouver Reception where I had very productive conversations with CEO Robert Silvester & CFO Viktor Pang about our local freighter anchorage issue. I brought up the light, noise, and air pollution caused by these freighters, as well as the environmental damage to the seabed from dragging anchor chains. We discussed possible ways to improve this situation that is negatively affecting many residents of our riding, as well as residents of Cowichan-Malahat-Langford and Saanich-Gulf Islands.

I also brought up the issue of Canada exporting US thermal coal out of the Port of Vancouver. Many people are unaware that Vancouver is the main port on the West Coast of North America that ships US thermal coal to Asia. This is because California, Oregon, and Washington States have all restricted or banned thermal coal shipments out of their ports. As a result we have coal shipments that come into Canada by rail and then go to the Port of Vancouver to be shipped overseas. The freighter anchorage issue off our shores is partly due to the shipping of thermal coal out of Vancouver.

Thursday Feb. 20th

In the morning I met with Jingyu Chen, a student from UNBC representing the Canadian Federation of Students. Jingyu presented their recommendations for the upcoming budget. Some of their recommendations included eliminating tuition fees, ensuring fairness for international students, honouring treaty commitments for reconciliation, and increasing funding for graduate students.

I then spoke alongside my Green caucus colleagues at a press conference on our budget recommendations. We asked the government to expand its Just Transition plan and to shift oil and gas industry subsidies to cover labour costs for environmental remediation workers. I also spoke at the press conference about affordable housing, healthcare infrastructure, and the conservation of nature.

After our press conference, I spoke during debate in the House and pressed the Conservatives about where they were getting their numbers on the Wet'suwet'en situation. Nobody is completely sure how many people in Wet'suwet'en territory support the Coastal GasLink project, but I keep hearing statements from media and other parties suggesting the Conservative claims were incorrect.

I also made a statement about the disastrous 2019 pacific salmon season. Many salmon runs are highly threatened, including the Nanaimo River runs in our riding. I urged the government to take action and commit sufficient resources for salmon stock assessments and conservation programs. We also need to move to closed-containment salmon farms immediately.

Friday Feb. 21st

On Friday morning, I joined the Grain Growers of Canada’s Board meeting in downtown Ottawa. A dozen grain farmers from all over Canada were in attendance. They discussed the issues facing grain farmers, including some with Canadian transport systems. Inefficient grain transport systems lead to inefficiencies at the Port of Vancouver, and ultimately affect our freighter anchorage challenges at home in the riding. I also spoke with them about my support for carbon tax relief for grain drying given last year’s weather-plagued harvest.

Later during Question Period, I asked the government whether it would eliminate interest on federal student loans to help relieve the debt burden faced by the majority of post-secondary students. After, I was pleased to meet a constituent, Juanita Botha, and her colleague, Austin Miller, who came to Parliament to watch Question Period.

After the House adjourned, I had a phone call with Ian Thompson, the President of Advanced Biofuels Canada. Advanced Biofuels Canada represents technology developers and producers of low-carbon, non-fossil bio and synthetic fuels. We discussed the Clean Fuel Standard, a measure the government is planning to implement to drive clean economy growth and help Canada meet its net-zero emissions goal by 2050.

Saturday Feb. 22nd

On Saturday evening participated in the Coldest Night of the Year event in Ottawa. I walked 2 km and met students from the Ottawa Mission culinary program. I raised $1,500 for the Ladysmith Resource Centre Association through this event.

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