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My Week in Parliament: June 21-23

Monday, June 21st

This week was the last week in Parliament before the summer recess. There was a lot of work to get done in just three days, so this was a particularly busy week for me.

My week started off with a debate on Bill C-12, The Climate Accountability Act. I spoke about issues in the study of the bill by the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. There were many great amendments brought forth by the Green Party that were blocked by the Liberals and the NDP at committee. In one case, a Green amendment got voted down that had the same wording as a Liberal amendment shortly after. These partisan games wasted precious time in committee and the bill is weaker because of it.

There was a vote on Bill C-30, The Budget Implementation Act on a report stage amendment. I voted against this amendment and it was not agreed to. The government was trying to put back a clause into the bill that had already been defeated at the previous committee stage. The amendment was an attempt to fund the Canadian Securities Transition Office (CSTO). The CSTO was established in 2009 to help guide the development of the Cooperative Capital Markets Regulatory System, a new national securities regulator. It has been more than 10 years and the initiative has failed to get off the ground. It was also found to not have the support of parliament in previous votes.

Directly after there was a vote to accept Bill C-30 at its report stage. I voted “yea”, and it was agreed to. Despite its shortcomings, this bill implements many important budget measures. It will allow for vital COVID supports for Canadians.

In the afternoon, I presented two petitions before the House. E-petition 3433 was initiated in response to the government’s plan to purchase 88 new fighter jets for $19 billion. Petitioners advocated for the government to cancel this purchase. Instead, they called for investments in a conversion plan that will create thousands of jobs in the green economy to help transition Canada away from fossil fuels and armed force.

The second petition noted that Indigenous people have rights and title to their traditional territories and have been stewards of these lands since time immemorial. First Nations land defenders are calling for the protection of the remaining 2.7% of old-growth forests in British Columbia.

In the evening, the House sat for a final debate on Bill C-10 to amend Canada’s Broadcasting Act. The bill has been flawed from the beginning, but we have worked hard in committee to improve it. I asked the Minister of Canadian Heritage if he has looked into whether or not the constitutionality of the bill stands up. I also asked if we are going to see challenges to the bill under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms for freedom of expression.

Later during the same C-10 debate, I brought up one of the many amendments that I had proposed in the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage during their clause by clause consideration of the bill. This amendment would have established a code of conduct for contract negotiations between independent producers who produce content for the broadcast industry and the big broadcasters. This is something various small production companies have voiced their support for. I asked the government why they did not support this amendment in committee. They claim to have an interest in defending independent producers and small production companies, yet voted down an amendment that would do just that.

Shortly after, there were 3 procedural votes to allow the House of Commons to fast-track its consideration of C-10 before the summer recess. The first vote forced an end of the debate on how to fast-track the House’s consideration of C-10. I voted against this on principle. The ability to debate freely is an important tool in a democratic society that the government should not have the ability to limit.

However, the vote was agreed to. This resulted in the other two procedural votes. I voted against a Conservative amendment that would have delayed passage of the bill by sending it back to committee for further study, and it did not pass. Sending this bill back to committee would have been a tactic to delay and undo the progress that has been made so far. Directly after, I voted in favour of a motion that set out the steps about how to proceed with the bill at the remaining legislative stages, and it was agreed to.

During the third reading of Bill C-10, I had the opportunity to make a speech. I submitted 29 amendments to this bill. The focus of these amendments was to ensure that industry stakeholders outside of the big media conglomerates had proper representation in the act, including non-profit and independent broadcasters.

Broadcasting in 2021 is very different from what it was in 1991 when the original act was created. There is no doubt that the Broadcasting Act needs to be modernized and we need to level the playing field to ensure that digital giants pay their fair share. For decades now we have had a system in which the traditional broadcasting industry supports the creation of Canadian content, and this should extend to the Internet giants. The streaming and social media giants get away with not paying their fair share of taxes in this country. This needs to change. So much of what we watch is created by small independent production companies that bring their program ideas to the big companies. We need to take inspiration from countries who have gotten this right, like the UK and France, to promote our independent broadcasters.

There has been a lot of confusion and misinformation about what is, and what is not considered Canadian Content (CanCon). As someone who has worked very closely with the CanCon system, I set the record straight. I went over the specifics of the Canadian content rules before the House and explained the “MAPL” system to try to clear up some confusion that has been going on.

I concluded by saying that the bill is still flawed. It needs more measures to protect small, independent, Canadian producers, while providing less leeway for the large internet giants. It does however, include many much-needed measures to better reflect the realities of our time.

Following debate, the House voted on many report stage amendments on Bill C-10, including 5 amendments that I proposed. My amendments would have improved access to the Canada Media Fund, better protected independent producers, added more public hearings, and finally required regular review of what counts as Canadian content. These amendments would have solved many of the gaps that are still left in this bill, however, they were defeated due to Conservative and Liberal opposition.

I voted against the Conservative amendments that would have completely exempted social media from the broadcasting act. This would have been extreme - lots of broadcasting happens on social media sites. YouTube alone is the biggest music streaming service in the world. The Conservatives have been fear-mongering about how the bill infringes on free speech, but there are already many protections in the bill for free speech. I later wrote a blog post explaining the protections for free speech in Bill C-10.

After, I voted in favour of the amendments proposed by the other parties. These amendments increased free speech protections for social media users. They also touched on Canadian content, consultations, reviews of the act, and protections for independent producers and the French language protections.

Shortly after the votes, I was given the opportunity to speak again on Bill C-10. I used my time to highlight the importance of Indigenous voices in the broadcasting system.

In 1898, a woman named Elizabeth Shaw wrote a scathing 18 page letter about the abuses that were happening at the Port Simpson residential school. My father found this letter, and shortly after we made a documentary film about her in partnership with local Indigenous communities. This film brought forth the stories from many other Indigenous peoples’ experiences in these institutions. From there, I helped facilitate more documentary films to tell their stories, and trained and mentored many of those who were interested in getting into media production. This is the whole idea behind CanCon rules—that Canadian and Indigenous producers can tell Canadian and Indigenous stories. It is extremely important for these voices to be discoverable online to ensure that they can reach a wider audience.

I was originally supposed to have a “late show” speech on Indian Hospitals in Canada, but it was cancelled for the House to get through this debate on Bill C-10. I took this opportunity to bring up some of the areas of my late show speech that needed to be shared and understood.

The horrific legacy of Indian hospitals was based on treating all Indigenous people as wards of the state, with a lack of regard for them as human beings. I produced a film with the Hul'qumi'num Health Hub, in which I heard about painful, often non-consensual treatments and medical experiments, abuse, and forced sterilizations. I heard about those who went missing from the Nanaimo Indian Hospital. These are the stories we need to hear in Canadian media. In order for healing to begin, the truth has to be uncovered first.

After, there was a vote on C-10 at report stage and 3rd reading. I voted in favour of the bill, and it passed in the House. It will now go through three readings in the Senate before it can become law. This was a bill I worked very hard on, in committee, in the House, and in meetings with broadcasting organizations and a variety of other stakeholders. I would have liked to see better support for independent broadcasters and more clarity when it comes to community media, but overall the bill is a step forward.

On Monday, I received government responses to two written questions I had previously submitted. My first question asked the government when it will make a revised cost analysis available to the public of its purchase of 88 advanced fighter jets. The government replied that they expect to award a contract for the purchase in late 2022 and that contract values would be made public once a decision has been made.

My second question asked the Department of National Defence about use of the Nanaimo firing range. I also asked whether DND had conducted any social or environmental assessments of the range. I learned that use of the Nanaimo rifle range increased significantly between 2017 and 2019, and that DND has not conducted any sound intensity or social impact assessments of the range. I have since written a blog about safety issues with the rifle range.

Tuesday, June 22nd

During debate on Bill C-30, The Budget Implementation Act, I brought up the fact that trickle-down economics has not worked. Instead, we need serious tax reforms in this country to make sure that the ultra-wealthy don’t continue to line their pockets while the burden of taxation falls on the middle and working class.

During that same debate, I spoke about seniors who are not getting an increase in their Old Age Security (OAS) payments because they are under the age of 75. At the same time, Canadians of all ages are about to be cut from their Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) payments when many are still unable to return to work. I asked the government if they see a correlation between these two issues, and who they think needs to buck up and pay their fair share.

I made a statement to extend my congratulations to the graduating class of 2021. I also reminded my colleagues that the pandemic has shown us what is possible when we unite to face an emergency. We need that same approach to transform our economy and to put people and the planet before corporate profits.

There was a 3rd reading and adoption of Bill C-6, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conversion therapy). There have been multiple incomplete attempts over the past few years, both federally and provincially, to ban the practice of conversion therapy. We need Bill C-6 to finally put an end to this unethical and immoral practice. I voted in favour of this bill and was pleased to see it pass onto the Senate.

Later that day, during debate on Bill C-12, The Climate Accountability Act, I pointed out that achieving net-zero by 2050 is not enough. Without tough near-term targets we are abandoning our children and grandchildren to an unlivable world. I asked the government why they rejected the Green party amendment that would have based plans and targets on the best available science.

I criticized the government for leaving out the voices of Indigenous people, climate scientists, and young people during the study of Bill C-12. I asked the Liberals how they could say they had “no time” to consult Indigenous people while claiming that the bill respects the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

I also spoke about the issues that went on during the study of this bill in the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development. My caucus colleague Elizabeth May has attended 13 COP conferences and has been involved in the climate change movement for decades now. She is probably more knowledgeable than any other MP in Canada when it comes to climate. Elizabeth has really important connections from her work and activism in this area, yet all of her suggestions and recommendations were ignored.

I asked the Member for Skeena-Bulkley Valley about Coastal GasLink, LNG Canada, and the expanding fracking that is happening in British Columbia, and whether he thinks those projects should be shut down.

There was a series of votes on Bill C-12 at its report stage. The most notable was an amendment that required the government to set Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions targets for milestone years 10 years in advance of those milestones. This would do a much better job at holding the government to account. I voted in favour of all of the amendments at this stage, and they were all agreed to.

Directly after, I rose before the House to make my final speech on Bill C-12. Physical signs of climate change are becoming more and more evident and we are not doing nearly enough to mitigate and prepare for it. On Vancouver Island, the drought months are stretching into winter, 100-year-old trees are dying from lack of moisture, and thick wildfire smoke covers our province in the summer months.

Bill C-12 has been grossly mishandled and has made a mockery of the process. It is a bill so hollow it appeared to be an attempt to fool the Canadian public into believing that real action was going to be taken on the climate crisis. But make no mistake, this co-called accountability act is no different than the accountability that exists today. This will not hold the current government or the government after that to account for their emissions reductions.

Canada has not met the targets of any of the nine international climate agreements it has signed. The priorities of the current government demonstrate that it is not serious enough about the existential threat of climate change. The government is spending $17 billion on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. Provincial governments are causing us to fall even further behind by raising emissions, ramping up gas fracking, and allowing carbon-sequestering endangered old-growth forests to be clear cut. These actions represent the real obstacle we have in front of us. It is not the climate deniers, but rather those in power who recognize the science but lack the courage to remove politics from climate action.

Accepting this threat and addressing it requires a shift. The magnitude of the challenge of the climate emergency and the biodiversity crisis demands that we mature. We must exist in harmony with our environment that has been the foundation of Indigenous culture since time immemorial. Anything less amounts to a continued commitment to a self-terminating civilization.

There was then a third and final reading in the House on Bill C-12. As I highlighted in my speech, I voted for this bill because it was better than nothing, but better than nothing is an extremely low bar.

I brought forward two motions before the House today. Motion 95 calls for the elimination of post-secondary tuition fees. A post-secondary degree is now the required level of education for many employment opportunities in Canada. But high tuition fees are leaving far too many students unable to access an affordable education and burdened with enormous amounts of student debt.

Motion 96, Greenhouse Gas Emissions of the Industrial Scale Animal Agriculture, recognizes that industrial animal agriculture is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, representing 14.5% of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. The Canadian government directly subsidizes these emissions that contribute to climate change and mass deforestation. The motion calls on the government to phase out subsidies to industrial-scale animal agriculture and put a carbon price on these emissions.

I was looking forward to my meeting with my youth advisory council on Tuesday, but unfortunately it had to be cancelled because of last-minute changes to the House of Commons agenda.

Wednesday, June 23rd

On Wednesday, the House voted on 4 items:

  • Bill C-269, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act (prohibition- deposit of raw sewage). I voted against this bill and it did not pass. I fully agree that we need to stop the flow of raw sewage into our oceans and waterways, but this bill is not the way to do it. C-269 would be a step backwards from the progress that Canada’s new wastewater effluent regulations have had in speeding up wastewater improvements in communities.

  • Fifth Report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development. I voted “yea", and the report was supported by the House.

  • Bill C-206, An Act to amend the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act (qualifying farm fuel). I voted in favour of this bill, and it passed onto the committee study stage. This bill would add natural gas and propane to the definition of a polluting greenhouse gas. I am looking forward to hearing expert testimony and learning more about this bill in committee.

  • Bill C-30, The Budget Implementation Act. I voted in favour of this bill and it was agreed to. It will now move onto the Senate.

In the evening, I held a community conversation with Chief Gordon Edwards and Councillor Brent Edwards from the Sna’naw’as First Nation. We had a great conversation that covered many topics, including celebrating accomplishments, economic development, conservation, and building stronger ties in our communities. We also spoke about the need for settlers to educate themselves and each other on issues facing Indigenous communities. Settlers in Canada need to take on the responsibility of learning and educating so the responsibility does not fall entirely on the shoulders of marginalized communities.

Parliament breaks today for the summer and is scheduled to resume on September 20th. In the meantime, my work continues at home in Nanaimo-Ladysmith. I am looking forward to this work as well as spending some much-needed time with family and friends. I hope everyone reading has a wonderful summer.

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