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My Week in Ottawa: Feb 24 - 27

Updated: Jun 23, 2020

Monday Feb. 24th

On Monday morning I met with Allison Gifford of the Canadian Association of Importers and Exporters. We spoke about the new CUSMA trade agreement and its implementation. They are asking the government to provide more resources to the Canada Border Services Agency to ensure that CUSMA can be properly enforced at the borders, which will help make sure Canadians benefit as much as possible from the agreement.

Later in the morning, I met Mischa Oak, a local teacher at Ballenas Secondary School who was participating in the Teachers Institute on Parliamentary Democracy program through the Library of Parliament. Mr. Oak is keen to get his students involved in civic engagement. We spoke about my work at Parliament and local issues in Nanaimo-Ladysmith.

Throughout the day, the All Eyes on Parliament: Rally for the Wet’suwet’en was taking place on Parliament Hill. I joined the rally to show my support for the legal and constitutional rights of the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs in relation to the Coastal GasLink project. Afterwards, I did an interview with ELMNT FM’s Moment of Truth show about the situation. I had been calling for the government to meet with Wet'suwet'en leadership for over a month, before the RCMP started enforcing injunctions and evicting camps forcefully.

I then attended the Canada Health Leaders Luncheon presented by HealthCareCAN. Healthcare leaders and researchers attended this luncheon to discuss ways to improve Canada’s healthcare system.

Jeannie Shoveller, Vice President of Research and Innovation at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax

In our riding Nanaimo Regional General Hospital needs expanded services. I have also been asking the government to increase funding to maintain critical hospital infrastructure. Hospitals use 11% of public infrastructure energy and account for 5% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, yet they are ineligible from federal green infrastructure funds. I sent a letter to the Ministers of Infrastructure and Health on these matters.

Back in the House of Commons, I presented another petition opposing the Trans Mountain pipeline and asking the government to halt the pipeline’s expansion.

In the afternoon, I met with a group from the Association of Canadian Publishers, including: Melissa Pitts, President, Ruth Linka, Vice President, and Glenn Rollans, Past President. Their association represents Canadian-owned book publishers and we discussed key challenges and opportunities in the industry. They would like to see the Canada Book Fund increased to $58.4 million since it has not increased since 2001. They are also advocating for a stronger Copyright Act to ensure authors are fairly compensated.

Afterwards, the House voted on a controversial opposition motion that had been put forward by the Conservative Party about the nationwide blockades around the Coastal GasLink project. The motion demonized Canadians taking part in non-violent civil disobedience for climate action, and wrongly asserted that they were “holding the Canadian economy hostage.” In fact, the Parliamentary Budget Officer later dismissed the blockades as a minor blip in Canada’s economic growth. I voted against the motion, which was ultimately defeated by the House.

Tuesday Feb. 25th

On Tuesday, I met with representatives of the Canadian Labour Congress, including Gavin Dhillon, Nicole Gibson, Yvonne Staples, and John Vincent Siddhartha. We discussed the problem of contract flipping. This is when unionized companies lose their contracts because non-unionized companies underbid them, and it results in lost jobs and lower labour standards. The Canadian Labour Congress also wants the government to ratify the International Labour Conference Convention Code 190, which protects workers from violence and harassment.

I then met with members of the Canadian Horticultural Council and Canadian Produce Marketing Association, including: Anju Gill, CEO of BC Blueberry Council, Matt Ecker, Sales and Business Development Manager for Vineland Growers Cooperative, Jan VanderHout, First Vice President, Ontario for the Canadian Horticultural Council, and Karl Oczkowski, Manager, Communications for the Canadian Horticultural Council. We spoke about sustainability and climate change, as well as the need for financial, crop, and labour protection.

After, I presented a petition in the House of Commons about Indigenous rights.

The House debated an NDP motion to change proposed Liberal tax cuts to focus more on low- and moderate-earning Canadians, and implement dental coverage for uninsured families in this category. I spoke in support of the motion as there are many people in our riding who struggle to meet the basic costs of living. Dental coverage would support these people and alleviate strains on our healthcare system. The following day, I voted in favour of the motion but it was not passed by the House.

This is clearly a good idea. There are a lot of low-income people in my own riding who face problems not just with dental care, but with meeting the basic cost of living. A tax cut for people with lower incomes is a good idea.

During Question Period, I asked the government whether they will mandate improvements at the port of Vancouver and ban the export of U.S. thermal coal through Canadian ports. I continue to pressure the government to address our freighter anchorage issues here in Nanaimo-Ladysmith. Transport Canada’s Interim Protocol for 33 freighter anchorages in the southern Gulf Islands allows freighters to park for free, disrupting orca habitat and threatening the sensitive ecosystem of the Salish Sea. The government needs to eliminate these anchorages, evaluate the supply chain of grain to the Port of Vancouver, and cease shipments of U.S. coal through the Port of Vancouver.

I then attended the International Trade committee meeting. The committee was studying Bill C-4, the Canada-United States-Mexico Implementation Act, and hearing from witnesses representing business, cultural industries, and agriculture. I asked witnesses about the imbalance in visa requirements for performers and artists crossing the border for work. Currently it is much more difficult and costly for Canadian artists and performers to work in the United States than it is for Americans to work in Canada. This is an inequity I would like to see resolved and in addition to bringing it up in the committee. I have written to Ministers Ng and Champagne about this issue. I also asked about possible review processes to ensure we understand the full socio-economic impacts of the new trade deal.

I attended three events in the evening, including the Canadian Labour Congress Reception, the Farm to Plate Reception with Canada’s fruit and vegetable sector, and a meeting of the All-Party Climate Caucus. The guest speaker at the climate caucus meeting was Guy Dauncey, a constituent in Nanaimo-Ladysmith. Mr. Dauncey is an author and eco-futurist who presented his work, Climate Emergency: A 26-Week Transition Program for Canada.

Hassan Yussuff, President of the Canadian Labour Congress
MP Gord Johns, MP Elizabeth May, MP Lenore Zann, Guy Dauncey, MP Andréanne Larouche, MP Jenica Atwin

Wednesday Feb. 26th

On Wednesday our caucus was briefed by Paul Kershaw, Founder and Lead Researcher of Generation Squeeze. Generation Squeeze is a research, education, and advocacy organization with a mission to help young people thrive. Mr. Kershaw spoke about the financial challenges facing young Canadians, such as high costs of housing and mounting debt, as well as policy solutions such as reallocating tax dollars.

I then met with Keystone Agricultural Producers, an organization that promotes the interests of agricultural producers in Manitoba. We discussed the impacts of carbon pricing on grain drying. In 2019, an unusually wet fall forced producers to dry their grains to prevent spoilage, and the carbon tax made it very expensive. In January I called for a carbon tax exemption for fuel used in grain drying, as well as investment in the development of energy efficient grain drying technology and short season crop varieties.

Back in the House, I presented a petition calling on the Minister of Veterans Affairs to remove limits on back-pay eligibility and disability allowance for veterans.

Madam Speaker, this petition calls upon the Minister of Veterans Affairs to remove any statutory limits on back pay eligibility for the disability allowance and to work with individual veterans to achieve just and due compensation for disability allowance in a timely manner.

During Adjournment Proceedings, I followed up on my questions to the government about its responsibility to the Wet'suwet'en people and hereditary chiefs. The RCMP raids and the lack of free, prior and informed consent from the hereditary chiefs were violations of the government's commitment to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Afterwards I attended the Student Showcase Reception hosted by Colleges and Institutes Canada. I spoke with several students and learned about their innovative projects, such as an app to reduce food waste.

George Brown College student Chinh Do

Thursday Feb. 27th

At the International Trade committee meeting on Thursday morning, I proposed my first amendment to legislation of the 43rd Parliament. My amendment to Bill C-4, the Canada-United States-Mexico Implementation Act, would require a review of the socioeconomic impacts of the trade agreement on Canadians and the Canadian economy every two years. I was commended for my contribution but the amendment was not adopted.

Afterwards, I presented presented a petition from residents of Vancouver Island asking for a permanent ban on crude oil tankers on the west coast of Canada. The petitioners want to protect BC fisheries, tourism, coastal communities, and natural ecosystems.

Thursday’s debate was on Bill C-7, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code, in relation to medical assistance in dying. I emphasized the need to implement national standards for palliative care and a national mental health strategy.

Also on Thursday, petition e-2450 went live. I sponsored this petition, which calls on the government to classify cannabidiol (CBD) as a natural health product, remove CBD from the Prescription Drug List at certain dosages, and legalize the transportation of CBD products across the Canadian border. Petition e-2450 is open for signatures until June 26, 2020.

I flew home to Nanaimo on Thursday evening.

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