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My Week in Parliament: Feb 22-26

Monday, February 22nd

On Monday morning there was a debate on Bill C-14. I spoke about the need for Canada to increase our pharmaceutical development and production self-sufficiency. Over the last few decades, we have seen various trade agreements gut our manufacturing base in Canada and refocus our exports on raw materials. This has limited our pharmaceutical capacity and has put us significantly behind in vaccine rollouts.

In the afternoon, the House of Commons unanimously passed last week’s Conservative motion to recognize that the government of China is perpetrating genocide against Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims. China’s actions are consistent with the United Nations Genocide Convention, including mass arbitrary detention, forced labor and sterilization, torture, and re-education. The Government of Canada has a legal and moral obligation to act against this genocide.

The motion also called on the International Olympic Committee to relocate the 2022 Olympic Games from Beijing if China continues this genocide. Earlier this month I signed onto an open letter calling for the Olympic Games to be moved.

During debate after the vote, I brought up the importance of the tourism and booking industries in Nanaimo-Ladysmith. Many local businesses have experienced devastating losses as a result of the absence of travel and cruise bookings during the pandemic. I asked how we can protect these small enterprises from having their businesses swallowed up by multinational corporations going forward.

Tuesday, February 23rd

Tuesday was “Big Tree Tuesday”. The Wilderness Committee launched this day in response to government inaction on the protection of old-growth forests. Old-growth forests are extremely bio-diverse, provide vital ecosystem services similar to the Amazon Rainforest, and are essential to the cultural practices of local Indigenous communities. Old-growth ecosystems in British Columbia are endangered, with only 9% of the original hectares remaining today.

On Tuesday I presented Motion 71, calling on the government to increase the protection of old-growth forests by working with the provinces and First Nations to put an immediate halt to the logging of these endangered ecosystems.

During debate on Bill C-7 on Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD), I spoke about the need to do more to support those experiencing mental health crises. We need a national mental health strategy to bring mental health services fully into the Canada Health Act. Those who need counseling services should be able to access them without paying out of pocket.

Tuesday was the first-ever meeting of my new youth advisory council. I launched this council to stay well-informed on the perspectives and priorities of local youth. It is a non-partisan council that meets bi-weekly and is open to youth aged 15-25 who live in the federal riding Nanaimo-Ladysmith. Every decision made at every level of government affects youth. That’s why this initiative is very important to me. My role in these meetings is to listen and create opportunities for youth to gain a greater understanding of how their government works.

Wednesday, February 24th

Wednesday was Pink Shirt Day. It was inspired by the kindness of a group of young people from Nova Scotia who started this day to show solidarity with a friend who was bullied for wearing a pink shirt. It’s now a nationwide day of action when we are reminded to lift each other up and speak out against bullying.

There were five votes on Private Members Business:

  1. C-213: An Act to Enact the Canadian Pharmacare Act. I voted in favor of this bill, as Greens have been advocating for Pharmacare for years. Canada is the only country that has universal healthcare without national Pharmacare. Unfortunately, the bill did not pass. Pharmacare was a Liberal election promise in both the 2015 and 2019 elections and Canadians are still waiting..

  2. C-223: An Act to Amend the Citizenship Act, which would require residents of Quebec to have adequate knowledge of French to obtain citizenship. I voted against this Bill and it did not pass. I would prefer to see more positive supports for learning French rather than restrictive immigration rules.

  3. M-35: an instruction to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development to study environmental grading labels. I was happy to see this motion pass.

  4. C-206: An Act to amend the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act on qualifying farming fuel. This bill would exempt certain farming fuels from the government’s carbon pricing system to provide relief to farmers who must dry grain. Last year, I expressed my support for grain producers following a weather-plagued harvest. I voted in favor of this bill and it passed to the committee study stage.

  5. C-225: An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act, the Fishing and Recreational Harbours Act, and other Acts. This bill would require many federal projects to meet provincial and municipal land use, development, and environmental standards, and not just federal standards. I voted for this bill, however, it did not pass.

That evening, I met virtually with the newest group of Katimavik youth, and their coordinator Caleb McIntrye. The Katimavik group brings young people from all over Canada together to create just relationships and transform communities, the environment, and themselves. Together we had important conversations about how to make a better Canada.

Thursday, February 25th

On Thursday, the House sat to discuss the financial situation of seniors. I spoke about the need to ensure affordable housing for seniors, especially because housing costs in Nanaimo have increased 59% in the last five years alone.

Later this day, I asked my colleagues for unanimous consent on a motion about affordable housing. The motion called on the House of Commons to recognize several aspects of the housing crisis: that 2.4 million Canadian households experienced core housing needs in 2020, an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 Canadians are homeless, and hundreds of thousands more are on the verge of becoming homeless. This motion was similar to Motion 66 for affordable housing that I presented to the House last week. Unfortunately, unanimous consent was not granted at this time, however, I will continue to advocate in Parliament for urgent action on the homelessness and housing affordability crises until we see real change.

Friday, February 26th

I took part in a housing roundtable with Green leader Annamie Paul, former United Nations special rapporteur on housing Leilani Farha, Margaret Pfoh, Shalini Konanur, Dr. Carolyn Whitzman, Jeff Morrison, and Steve Sutherland. Nanaimo-Ladysmith has one of the highest rates of homelessness per capita in the country, and as the Green Party critic for Families, Children, and Social Development, this is an issue I have been prioritizing since I was elected in May 2019. I reaffirmed my statements made in Motion 66 and spoke about why it’s important to acknowledge homelessness as a human rights crisis. We had important conversations about improving the National Housing Strategy and the ways in which we can finally begin moving from words to action.

On Friday afternoon, I appeared before the Standing Committee on International Trade to propose my amendments to Bill C-18, the Canada-United Kingdom Trade Continuity Agreement Implementation Act. Canada is the only Westminster-style Parliament that sets a minimum number of seats for a party to be “officially recognized”. This committee, along with a number of others, actively voted to limit the rights of parties with under 12 members. This means that I do not have the opportunity to sit on a committee as an official member, speak in depth about my proposed amendments, or vote in committee settings. I made sure to express my objection to the committee before putting forward my amendments to the bill. As an elected MP I should have the same ability to represent my constituents as every other MP. Allowing large parties to limit the rights of some MPs is fundamentally anti-democratic.

My proposed amendments to Bill C-28 included adding a sunset clause to ensure that the new interim Canada-UK trade agreement, which is based on CETA, does not end up being a permanent agreement. I also proposed a change that would require the government to study the impact of this agreement on Canadian sovereignty, the rights of Indigenous peoples, the economy, trade balances, human rights, and environmental standards. My amendments emphasized the importance of transparency and public consultation as the government begins negotiating Canada's new trade relationship with a post-Brexit UK.

I seconded a motion brought forth by my Liberal colleague, Nathaniel Erskine-Smith. Motion 72 calls for an independent commission of inquiry to review all activities of the RCMP, focused on sexual harassment, systemic racism, and use of force.

Parliament then adjourned until March 8th.

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