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My Week In Parliament: Jan 25-29

Monday, January 25th

On Monday I asked the government to introduce strong regulations to stop the predatory activities that are distorting Canada's housing market and making homes unaffordable. The world's ultra-wealthy use Canadian real estate to launder money and evade taxes. As well, corporations, numbered companies, hedge funds, and real estate investment trusts are squeezing huge profits from residential properties. As a result, rents are skyrocketing, affordable housing is disappearing and more Canadians are experiencing homelessness.

I also spoke in the House about Canada's commitment to lower our greenhouse gas emissions. Our greenhouse gas emissions have increased over the past decade because of the oil and gas industry. There is a growing number of job losses in the oil and gas industry as it continues to automate, yet the government continues to invest in creating jobs in this industry. This is a sunset industry, and when we see the big money, the smart money, not investing in oil and gas in Canada and the United States, we see governments, and provincial governments in the case of Alberta and British Columbia, throwing taxpayer dollars down a swirling drain to keep projects going. Instead, the government should be investing in a just, green economy.

Tuesday, January 26th

On Tuesday in the House of Commons, I asked about implementing a wealth tax to create a better and fairer tax system. I am deeply concerned about right now is the growing inequality and wealth disparity in this country. We have seen that over a long period of time, but right now we have 200,000 businesses that could go bankrupt and disappear, while the big box stores are surviving.

I also spoke about long-term care homes. It is abysmal what is happening in long-term care homes. I was talking about this issue before the pandemic, particularly the foreign ownership issue with Anbang Insurance buying up Retirement Concepts in British Columbia. We need to make sure that our seniors are not warehoused in profit centres. This issue has become about senicide, as our seniors are dying in horrible numbers. I asked if the government would use the Emergencies Act to force the provinces to change the way they are operating long-term care facilities and make sure we are preventing deaths in these facilities.

I also spoke about the need for a lot more transparency with the vaccine rollout. We were once a world leader in providing vaccines to countries around the world, and the lab that was responsible for that was Connaught Laboratories. It was a public lab that was established in 1914 and it had a long-running legacy until it was privatized in 1984 by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, a Conservative prime minister. I asked if the government would reintroduce this model of a public lab in Canada so that we can be on top of these things when we face the next pandemic or the next serious health crisis.

Wednesday, January 27th

Wednesday marked Holocaust Remembrance Day. I spoke about how this day is a stark reminder of the atrocities that can occur when we do not speak up against hate. Together, we have a responsibility to combat hate in all its forms.

That evening, I had the chance to follow up on a question I asked in December. At the beginning of the pandemic, Parliament took a Team Canada approach to ensure that Canadians received the financial support they needed. Speed was necessary under the circumstances, but it created a situation with unclear eligibility requirements for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. In December, the Canada Revenue Agency sent out more than 441,000 letters advising some CERB recipients that they may not be eligible for the benefit and may have to pay back as much as $14,000. Many of the people who received the letters are low-income self-employed Canadians. The government has admitted it was not clear about CERB eligibility for self-employed workers and that CRA agents provided incorrect information. If the government needs to recoup emergency benefits, it should be going after the wealthy who took advantage of these programs, not after self-employed Canadians who applied to this program in good faith. The government made a serious error, and it needs to own that mistake.

I tabled e-petition 3066 on this same issue, which was signed by 7,312 Canadians. The petitioners call on the government to retroactively allow self-employed Canadians to use their gross pre-tax income before business expenses when determining their CERB eligibility.

Thursday, January 28th

On Thursday I spoke about Canada's record with free trade agreements. Free trade has hollowed out our manufacturing base as we have turned to ripping and shipping raw resources out of this country: raw bitumen, raw logs, raw minerals. A recent study shows that the trade deficit between Canada and the EU grew under the Canada-EU free trade agreement. That means we are importing more products from the EU than we are exporting to the EU. Right now, we are seeing that the EU is wanting to block vaccines from coming to Canada. I asked about the EU talking about blocking the export of Pfizer vaccines to Canada during the pandemic.

Friday, January 29th

On Friday I spoke about the Canada-UK trade continuity agreement and the negative impacts it will have. I highlighted the unfair treatment that U.K. pensioners living in Canada face under this agreement. U.K. pensioners in other countries, including the U.S., receive annual rate increases tied to the rate of inflation. U.K. pensioners in Canada do not. We end up providing financial support to U.K. pensioners because of this discriminatory policy. I also spoke against the investor-state dispute settlement, or ISDS, provisions in the agreement, which gives corporations rights. We want to ensure that people and the planet are put before corporate profits. That is the kind of fair trade we support.

The negotiation process for this trade agreement lacked transparency despite the government making a commitment in February 2020 to be transparent and provide adequate support and notice for all new trade agreements.

The rules of trade agreement have the potential to affect public procurement at all levels of government. For projects above a certain budget level, the agreement prohibits favoring local bids, applying local content or hiring quotas, or setting aside contracts for small and medium-sized enterprises or minority-owned businesses. The agreement could affect indigenous rights and indigenous control over traditional lands when those lands are targeted by foreign resource extraction companies. Public services supplied on a commercial basis are automatically included under the agreement unless they have been expressly excluded, which limits the government's ability to regulate foreign service providers.

The agreement does not protect regulations to address climate change and leaves climate action on the part of the government subject to investor challenges through the ISDS provisions.

I also tabled a petition signed by constituents of Nanaimo—Ladysmith. The petitioners call upon the House of Commons to commit to upholding the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's calls to action by immediately halting all existing and planned construction of the Coastal GasLink fracked pipeline project in Wet’suwet’en territory and prioritizing the real implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

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