My first five weeks in Ottawa came to a close on June 20th. There was an emotional early adjournment of the House of Commons with the death of Mark Warawa, the Conservative MP for Langley-Aldergrove. Mr Warawa died after a brief battle with cancer. There were tributes to him in the House of Commons and then a call for adjournment.
During the week, a number of MP's who are not running again gave their farewell speeches. All of them spoke of what an honour it is to serve their constituents. They spoke about the collegial nature of working with other MP's, sometimes developing policy together across party lines, and even forming friendships, despite being political adversaries. Many spoke about the sacrifice of public life, the time away from family, the long hours and hard work.
Personally I wasn't ready to wrap things up for the summer. I've just been hitting my stride. Representing our communities in the House of Commons over the past weeks has been a true honour. I've worked very hard during my time here. The hours have been long and the learning curve has been steep, but none of that diminishes the gratitude that I have for the voters of Nanaimo-Ladysmith for placing their trust in me as their representative.
It's very likely that the house will be recalled this summer to finish some bills that the Liberal government would like to pass before the election, including ratifying the new NAFTA. This fall we will go to the polls again and I hope the voters in Nanaimo-Ladysmith feel that I have earned the honour and privilege of continuing to serve them in Ottawa as their Member of Parliament.
Here's my report to you from my week in the House of Commons.
Oversight of Canada Border Services
I attended the committee meeting regarding Bill C-98, An Act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act and the Canada Border Services Agency Act. The name of the act is a mouthful, but it contains some important changes to the existing legislation, including better oversight of border services. I put forward amendments to this bill, which would have added impartial oversight, better international cooperation, and the reading of rights to people detained by border services. However, other members of the committee voted against my amendments. House committee passes bill creating new CBSA review body without amendments [Article]
Declaring a Climate Emergency
There was a significant motion put forward by the Liberal government to declare climate change as a national emergency, and commit to meeting our emissions targets under the Paris agreement. I’m happy to say that the motion passed, though I’m not convinced that all members of the house, even those that voted in favour, are willing to abide by this motion.
Petitions: Clean Water for First Nations, Addressing Violence Against Women and Gender Inequality
One of the great shames of our country is that so many First Nations communities across our country do not have proper water treatment facilities. Shoal Lake 40 First Nation has been under a boil water advisory for twenty years! There is no reason why current and previous governments should have ignored this issue for so very long. I brought forward a petition calling upon the government to begin construction of a water plant at Shoal Lake 40 First Nation. All Canadians should have easy access to clean drinking water!
I also read a petition calling on the Government to recognize that violence against women is still a very real problem in Canada, and disproportionately impacts indigenous women. It asks that politicians make it a priority to strive for gender pay equity,and equal participation in leadership, and to make required structural changes in education and socialization to help shift our culture.
Carbon tax: a small step towards more significant climate action
On Tuesday, there was a discussion about an opposition motion to repeal the Carbon Tax, and to adopt a “real environment plan”. This discussion occurred the day before the Conservative Party of Canada released their version of an environment plan. I voted against this motion.
I believe that carbon taxes are an important part of a complete climate action plan, though there certainly needs to be more. My constituents are letting me know how they are being impacted by shifts in our climate here on Vancouver Island, and people are very worried about drought, low river levels, and die-off in the forests. We need action that makes people and corporations want to stop doing the things that are harming our climate and environment. We are running out of time, and a carbon tax is just one step towards the more significant action that we need to take now and in the future.
I was very disappointed that just one day after the government passed a motion declaring a climate emergency, they had the audacity to pass legislation meant to push through the TMX, or trans-mountain pipeline. I know that many, many people in our community have been fighting hard to stop this development, and there are already plans in place from various groups to continue to fight this in the courts. If we are going to respond to a climate emergency as if it is truly an emergency, we need to scale down our fossil fuel use and extraction, not ramp it up!
Access to DND lands
As many of you know, there has been a lot of talk in the community in the past month regarding recreational use of the rifle range buffer zone land belonging to the Department of National Defense. Last week, I presented a petition from Nanaimo residents regarding this issue to the House of Commons. On Tuesday June 18th, I had a meeting with Serge Cormier, the Parliamentary Secretary for the Minister of Defence, and we discussed the issue. Although the DND land will remain closed for safety reasons, they are sympathetic to the petitioners. I have published a detailed account of that meeting in a separate blog post.
Petitions: DND Rifle Range and Animal-Tested Cosmetics
On Wednesday, I presented two petitions to the House of Commons. One was from people who shop at the Body Shop in Woodgrove Mall, who would like to see Canada ban the sale and manufacture of animal-tested cosmetics and their ingredients. The second was another presentation of further petitions regarding the recreational use of the DND lands near Westwood Lake. I have presented the DND petition three times in the House of Commons now with more than 2,500 signatures.
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is seeing some significant changes. Canada, the USA, and Mexico agreed to these changes in November of last year. This week, we discussed Bill C-100, the bill to implement and ratify the new NAFTA on the part of Canada. The Liberals gave me the opportunity to speak to this bill. While I am glad to see some of the changes in NAFTA, there are still problems with the agreement that I would like to see changed.
These trade agreements are important to all Canadians, as they impact our economy, our businesses, our jobs, our health, and our environment. I plan to post something in the near future with more details on these changes and what I would like to see happening with our trade agreements. It is likely that the House will be recalled in the summer to ratify the new NAFTA agreement.
Single Use Plastics
On Thursday, I met with Mark Smith of the Clorox Company, which makes Glad Bags, to discuss banning single use plastics. We had an interesting conversation about Extended Producer Responsibility, packaging, recycling, composting, and the role of government and industry. Change is necessary!
National Airlines Council of Canada
On Thursday, Elizabeth May and I had a meeting with Francesca Iacurto, Senior Director Public Affairs, and Massimo Bergamini, President and CEO of the National Airlines Council of Canada. We discussed many issues regarding the environment and travel, such as meeting green house gas emissions targets, the use of biojet fuels, short haul electric flights, international flights and carbon taxes, and high speed rail to replace or cut down on some short haul flights. Airplanes burn the most fuel during take-off but they also release emissions at 4,000 feet where they can do the most damage to the atmosphere. The industry understands the challenges it faces and we appreciated having a frank and honest discussion about the way forward.
Rick Hansen Foundation
I met with Colin Ewart, advisor to the Rick Hansen Foundation. We talked about the need for new building standards which take accessibility into account. These standards would be established and monitored in a similar fashion to the LEED environmental standard. The Rick Hanson Foundation provides assessments for architects and building designers for new buildings as well as the retrofit industry.