Nanaimo to Ottawa
On Monday morning I had the pleasure of presenting the Prime Minister's Awards Certificate of Achievement in Teaching Excellence to Liz McCaw for her Outdoor Kindergarten Program at Departure Bay Eco-School.
I also attended the official opening of my constituency office, before traveling back to Ottawa. So, I missed a key vote in parliament over Bill S-203, Elizabeth May’s second private member’s bill (she was the House of Commons sponsor). This bill to end the captivity of whales and dolphins, the “Free Willy” Bill, passed in the House of Commons. Hurray Elizabeth!
Neil Ellis, the MP for Bay of Quinte, has put forward a motion which seeks to prevent and bring an end to veteran homelessness. I asked him what kind of plans are in place to work with veterans who have PTSD and are struggling to integrate back into society. I'm happy to report that the motion passed unanimously in the house later in the week.
I am no rookie when it comes to international trade
Some changes have been made to NAFTA, a trade agreement between the US, Mexico, and Canada, and Bill C-100 has been introduced to address how these changes to NAFTA will be implemented. I am very pleased with the removal of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions from NAFTA, but disappointed with the extension of patents on pharmaceuticals, and with changes to supply management and dairy imports from the USA.
I asked how dairy imports would be labelled, and about the issue of BGH (bovine growth hormone) in those imports. The specific hormone in question, rBST, is not approved for use in Canada because of health concerns, but is used in the American dairy industry. Canadians deserve to be able to make an informed choice about consuming dairy products containing rBST, which is why product labeling is so important.
On Thursday I had a second opportunity to speak on Bill C-100. I spoke about the need for Canadians to have a better understanding of how ISDS provisions undermine our democratic authority and give foreign corporations too much power over our governments. And while it’s great to see ISDS removed from NAFTA, we still have serious problems with many of our other international trade and investment agreements, like the Canada-China FIPPA.
When I talked about the way the Harper government rammed through the Canada-China FIPPA I got heckled, loudly, for the first time. One member even yelled, "Settle down rookie!"
I am no rookie when it comes to international trade and investment agreements. ISDS is an issue I've been raising awareness about for more than a decade, and the Canada-China FIPPA is the worst trade agreement Canada has ever signed. It allows Chinese state-owned corporations to challenge Canadian laws and policies and sue us for the loss of potential profit through a private tribunal system. Canadians will not be informed about these tribunals until they are completed, unless both parties agree that the tribunal should be public. We are locked into this agreement for 15 years, and if it is cancelled after that period any Chinese corporation that is already invested is still protected for 15 more years. Compare that to NAFTA, which can be completely cancelled with just 6 months notice!
Between debates and votes in the House of Commons, the work of being an MP includes a lot of meetings, and these weekly reports are a great opportunity to tell you about them.
BC Seafood Alliance
I met with the BC Seafood Alliance to discuss fisheries quotas, closures and marine protected areas. Their primary ask was that the people working in fisheries are consulted more thoroughly before decisions affecting them are made by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Global Automakers of Canada
Elizabeth May and I met with Global Automakers of Canada, including representatives from Toyota and Honda. We discussed greenhouse gas targets in Canada and the USA, emission standards in California, and the North American auto market. The industry is innovating and ready for the changes we must make. We also talked about the pros and cons of various technology, EV,’s hydrogen fuel cell and hybrid vehicles. The bottom line is that industry knows they headed towards zero emissions but consumers are going to drive demand.
Elizabeth May and I had a meeting with CUTA, the Canadian Urban Transit Association. They shared the results of their recent Priority Transit poll which found, not surprisingly, that 86% of respondents want governments to invest more in public transit. I support their efforts and am on board with improving public transit and inter-city transportation.
Petitions: Poverty Elimination and Veterans Disability Allowances
On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to present two petitions. The first calls upon the House of Commons to adopt a national poverty elimination strategy, which would ensure that Canadians have a good quality of life and opportunity to succeed. The second calls for the removal of statutory limits on back pay eligibility for the disability allowance for veterans, and to work with individual veterans to help them get that allowance in a timely manner.
RCMP Act and Border Services Act
I made my first official speech to the House of Commons, during a discussion of Bill C-98, which, among other things, addresses the needs for better oversight of the Canadian Border Services Agency. The CBSA is currently Canada’s only law-enforcement agency without an oversight body. Between 2016 and 2018, the CBSA received over 1,200 complaints about staff misconduct, and 14 people have died while in CBSA custody since 2000. I was stunned by these statistics, and think it is clear that Canada needs an oversight body for this agency. Both Elizabeth May and I spoke to this issue. I am submitting three amendments to improve this bill and will be speaking to those amendments in the clause by clause reading of the bill in committee on Monday.
I met with Dan Demers, the VP of the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA). We discussed the non-intoxicating cannabis compound cannabidoil (CBD), which has been found to have many therapeutic qualities. The CHFA does not believe that CBD should be regulated as a pharmaceutical or a recreational product but as a natural health product. Canada is recognized around the world for our natural health products and a change of designation by Health Canada will help the industry break through in the international market while we are still leading the way with cannabis regulation.
I met with representatives from Universities Canada and talked about research and innovation, funding for graduate students, tuition fees, and work placements. A strong university system builds a stronger knowledge-based economy and country.
International Arctic Youth Expedition
I attended a Students on Ice Foundation event, with a delegation from Canada and the European Union, to launch the International Arctic Youth Expedition. We got to witness some amazing throat singing! This expedition is an wonderful opportunity for youth, many from indigenous communities, to experience the Arctic.
Parliamentary Friends of Tibet Internship Program
Elizabeth May and I met with the participants of the Parliamentary Friends of Tibet Internship Program, along with other parliamentary colleagues who support human rights in Tibet.
Independent Jewish Voices
On Thursday, I met with Diana Ralph from Independent Jewish Voices. We talked about their petition regarding the Jewish National Fund which had been tabled in parliament, their opposition to the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism which would include any criticism of the state of Israel, and about the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement.
Protection of Human Rights in Canadian Courts
I had the opportunity to speak in support of Peter Julian’s Private Members Bill C-331, which is designed to protect people around the world from human rights violations, by giving Canadian courts jurisdiction when a Canadian entity is involved in the violation. For example, if a Canadian mining company were to violate human rights when operating a mine in another country, a victim could come to the Canadian court system to seek justice.
I’ve seen these types of injustices first-hand, while traveling and filming in Central America, and documented many of accounts of abuse. I think this bill is very important. Holding those who violate human rights accountable is a step towards creating a world where all people are treated with fairness and respect.
Trans-mountain Pipeline: A Press Conference with David Suzuki and Elizabeth May
Along with David Suzuki, Elizabeth May and I held a press conference regarding the trans-mountain pipeline. The economic benefits of this pipeline are not proven, the way some politicians would like us to believe. It is important for our own economic stability, our environment, and our future that we understand the reasons why this pipeline is being rammed through in legislation, and why it is important to say no to this development.
Watch the full video of the press conference here: http://www.cpac.ca/en/programs/headline-politics/episodes/66003885
Fracking and Meeting Our International Emission Obligations
Many of my constituents are opposed to fracking, and want us to meet our international obligations when it comes to meeting emission targets. I had a chance in Question Period to ask the government how exporting fracked gas (which is as bad as coal when it comes to emissions) could possibly be seen as meeting those obligations, and to demand a ban on fracking.
I also had the opportunity on Friday to read the petition signed by so many people in Nanaimo-Ladysmith regarding the use of the DND lands. I will have a meeting to talk with the Parliamentary Secretary for the Minister of Defence regarding this issue this Tuesday. I have some ideas for a win-win solution that I would like to discuss with him.