My Week in Ottawa: Mar 9-13

Updated: Jun 23, 2020

Monday Mar. 9th

On Monday morning I attended a luncheon hosted by the US Embassy on telecommunications policy and 5G technology. Along with several other parliamentarians, we met with Rob Blair, Assistant to the President of the United States and Special Representative for International Telecommunications Policy. Mr. Blair discussed the importance of secure and reliable next-generation telecommunications infrastructure. A lot of the focus of discussion was on China. I brought up issues of internet security, data mining, the USA Patriot Act, the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPPA), and other concerns related to the implementation of 5G in Canada.

The House resumed on Monday amidst growing concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic. In Question Period I asked the government whether they would extend financial support to workers who must self-isolate and those who are not eligible for Employment Insurance. Minister Freeland replied that the government would support Canadians who may not be able to work. The government has since announced financial measures to help Canadians who are struggling as a result of COVID-19.

I then presented two petitions to the House. In the first, petitioners are calling upon Parliament to declare a public health emergency due to opioid overdose deaths in Canada. They would like the government to reframe the crisis as a health issue and recognize the many related underlying issues. In the second petition, petitioners are asking the government to strengthen local community input into outdoor cannabis licensing decisions.

During debate, I spoke about investments in the oil sands. Investors are backing out of oil sands projects in Alberta as a result of collapsing oil prices. Last month Teck Resources withdrew its application for the massive Frontier oil sands project as the price of oil has dropped from $95/barrel in 2011 to $55/barrel in 2020. It’s time to start thinking outside the oil sands.

Later on, I voted in favour of two motions that passed in the House, enabling opposition parties to continue holding the government to account. The first asked the government to issue documents to the House relating to economic downturns. The second added three additional ‘opposition days’ to the House agenda, giving opposition parties more opportunity to bring forward motions. Both of these motions passed.

In the evening, I co-hosted the Climate Action Network’s Green New Deal Reception. Members of Parliament from all parties attended the event and spoke about the importance of climate leadership regardless of political stripes.

MPs and Senators at Green New Deal Reception

Afterwards, I met several students at the University of Toronto Women in House Reception. The Women in House program promotes greater female representation in the Canadian government by bringing female students to shadow parliamentarians on the Hill. At the reception I met Hanna Derouin, my shadowing student for the next day.

Women in House Reception attendees

Tuesday Mar. 10th

In the morning, I met with Hanna Derouin at my office and we kicked off her day shadowing me on the Hill. I had a very diverse schedule lined up for the day.

Shadowing student Hanna Derouin

First, we met with Dr. Roger Beckie, a professor of hydrogeology from the University of British Columbia who was on the Hill representing the Global Institute for Water Security. We spoke about Dr. Beckie’s research on groundwater, including the impact of fracking on water quality and climate change. Highly potent methane can leak through wellbores and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere.

Dr. Roger Beckie

In the House, I spoke during debate about the Green Party’s support for the new CUSMA international trade deal, but I also brought up some concerns of grain farmers about the new legislation. On my way out of the House I briefly spoke with the CBC about COVID-19.

CBC Interview

Hanna and I then went to a committee meeting on Industry, Science and Technology about fraud calls in Canada. I asked the RCMP the same great questions that grade 7 students at Randerson Ridge had asked me about phishing scams from other countries, and what was being done in regard to law enforcement and cross-boundary cooperation.

In the afternoon, we met with Jennifer Babcock, Government and Food Industry Relations Manager of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, and Kevin Boon, General Manager of British Columbia Cattlemen’s Association. We discussed many issues, including the role of natural grasslands in carbon sequestration and the impact of cattle grazing in land and wildfire management.

Jennifer Babcock and Kevin Boon

Back in the House, I made a statement one year after the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 tragedy. Eighteen Canadians died that day, including Micah Messent. Micah had recently graduated from Vancouver Island University and was travelling as a delegate to the UN Environment Assembly in Kenya. Micah was a supporter of the Moose Hide Campaign to end violence against women and children. According to some experts, the Boeing Max jets are structurally flawed and Micah’s family does not want these planes to ever fly again.

I asked the government during Question Period whether they would ban fracking in Canada. The Green Party has been calling on the government to implement a national moratorium on fracking. Fracking gas contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions, contaminates air and water, and causes earthquakes. Methane is not a bridge fuel, it's a climate destroying greenhouse gas.

After Question Period, I took Hanna and some other University of Toronto shadowing students on a tour around the House of Commons. They were very engaged and asked me many questions about Parliament, Question Period, and politics. At the end of our tour, I bade Hanna and the other students farewell as they left Parliament to return to Toronto.

Touring University of Toronto Women in House students

In the evening, I attended the Cannabis Council of Canada Reception. I spoke with Karine Cousineau, Director of Government Affairs from The Green Organic Dutchman, about the importance of community involvement when setting up cannabis farms. We also spoke about some issues facing the cannabis industry, such as the black market and heavy taxation.

Karine Cousineau

I also attended the Salmon Forever Reception, hosted by the Pacific Salmon Foundation, Sports Fishing Institute, and BC Chamber of Commerce. I spoke with Ryan Chamberland about the Mark Selective Fishing Strategy. This strategy allows anglers to retain marked hatchery salmon, but requires them to release non-marked wild salmon unharmed. Ryan and I also spoke about the importance of preserving communities that rely on fishing, working with First Nations communities, and protecting our oceans and biodiversity.

Ryan Chamberland

Wednesday Mar. 11th

On Wednesday morning I met with Bill Cowie, Chief of Every Canadian Counts. Every Canadian Counts is a coalition committed to improving services for the over 1.9 million Canadians living with long-term, chronic disabilities. We discussed best practices on how to provide insurance for those with diverse abilities. Every Canadian Counts would like to see more research on Australia’s National Disability Insurance Scheme as a reference for building a model here in Canada.

Bill Cowie

I then presented a petition in the House about pay equity for women

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to present a petition today that follows up on International Women's Day. The petitioners call upon the House to enact legislation and policies that will promote pay equity and pay equality so that women in Canada get the equal treatment they deserve.

Afterwards, I spoke in the House on Bill C-4, the Canada-United States-Mexico Implementation Act. I have spoken several times about my support for the new CUSMA. In this debate, I shifted my focus beyond CUSMA to the reasons why we should remove Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanisms from all other international trade deals too.

During Adjournment Proceedings in the evening, I followed up with the government about long-term care facilities for seniors. In 2017, the government approved the sale of Retirement Concepts to a Chinese corporation. Conditions under foreign ownership at Retirement Concepts' Nanaimo Seniors Village in my riding were so atrocious that the home had to be taken over by the Vancouver Island Health Authority. The federal government should not be permitting foreign ownership of businesses that provide taxpayer-funded healthcare services. Our seniors deserve better than substandard care provided by foreign corporations.

Thursday Mar. 12th

On Thursday morning I met with Lindsay Sheridan and Robyn Waite from Results Canada, an organization working to end extreme poverty. We spoke about their recent work on global health. They are advocating for ambitious funding to eradicate polio and increase global accessibility of vaccinations. They are also raising awareness about tuberculosis worldwide.

Robyn Waite and Lindsay Sheridan

After this meeting, the Green caucus did a press conference calling on politicians to respect civil disobedience.

In the afternoon I met with H.E. Josefina Vidal, Ambassador of Cuba to Canada. Ambassador Vidal and I spoke about Canada-Cuba relations. We discussed various challenges and opportunities in Cuba related to climate, the environment, and agriculture.

H.E. Josefina Vidal, Ambassador of Cuba to Canada

On Thursday the House debated an NDP Motion on national pharmacare. I spoke during debate about the Green Party’s support for their motion. Universal pharmacare will help people. It will also alleviate stress on our health system by allowing more people to access the medicines they need before they end up with more serious medical issues that require hospitalization.

Friday Mar. 13th

On Friday, I met with representatives from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, including Corinne Pohlmann, Senior Vice President of National Affairs and Partnerships, Jasmin Guénette, Vice-President of National Affairs, and Mathieu Galliot, Policy Analyst. We discussed the challenges small businesses have been facing with recent events, such as the CN rail strike and now COVID-19. They told me about the main barriers small businesses in Canada are facing, most of which relate to regulations and taxes. It will be very important to support small businesses as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds.

Mathieu Galliot, Corinne Pohlmann, and Jasmin Guénette

The House passed an order on Friday to adjourn for five weeks until April 20 in an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The order allows for the adjournment to be extended if needed, and for the House to be recalled before April 20 to address the impact of COVID-19 on the lives of Canadians. Our Green caucus agreed with the decision to adjourn to protect the health of Canadians.

After the adjournment, Bill C-4, the Canada-United States-Mexico Implementation Act, received Royal Assent and officially became law.

I travelled back to Nanaimo on Friday night for the five-week adjournment of the House and to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic situation at home in Nanaimo-Ladysmith.