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My Week in Parliament: November 16-20

Monday, November 16th

I started off my week in a press conference with Green leader Annamie Paul, and my caucus colleague Elizabeth May. As we continue to face the COVID-19 pandemic we must not forget about the climate emergency, because it has not forgotten about us. This is why we have been calling for a 60% reduction in emissions from 2005 levels by 2030. We also need a carbon budget, a carbon border adjustment, investments in renewable energy and clean technologies, energy retrofits on all our buildings, and a national electricity grid. We are hopeful that these measures will be included in the Liberals’ new climate accountability act. The train is leaving the station, and we are either going to be a country that leads or a country that follows.

During Question Period, I spoke about Connaught Labs. For 70 years, government-owned Connaught Labs developed low-cost vaccines and other medicines in Canada. I asked the government if they will return to this model of publicly owned laboratories to develop low-cost medicines and vaccines to serve the greater good.

Shortly after, there was a vote on an NDP opposition motion. This motion points out that since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada’s billionaires have gotten $37 billion richer while the most vulnerable continue to struggle. It calls on the House to put in place a new one percent tax on wealth over $20 million and an excess profit tax on large corporations that have been pandemic profiteering. I voted in favour of this motion, but it was voted down due to a lack of support from Liberals, Conservatives, and the Bloc Quebecois.

Greens have been calling for a wealth tax since long before this motion was brought forward. In the past three months alone, I have asked the government to implement a wealth tax, argued for a wealth tax higher than 1%, and pointed out how billionaires have profited by underpaying their frontline employees during the pandemic.

During debate on Bill C-3, An Act to amend the Judges Act and the Criminal Code, I spoke about the importance of putting social context, systemic racism, and systemic discrimination into this bill. C-3 would require federally-appointed judges to participate in continuing education on matters related to sexual assault laws and social context. I asked the government what other areas under federal jurisdiction would also benefit from this kind of cultural competence training and education.

I also voiced my support for the Member for Fredericton for her work towards combating systemic racism. I asked her to comment further on her ideas to better train all professionals in this country to understand the realities of systemic racism.

I had a Meeting with Robert Lewis-Manning, the president of the BC Chamber of Shipping, to discuss anchorages in the waters surrounding the Southern Gulf Islands. There are many issues with these anchorages, specifically in regards to trade, reconciliation with Indigenous people, and greenhouse gas emissions, not to mention noise and light pollution, and the wellbeing of local marine life and ecosystems. He told me that vessels have been growing in size every year. 25 of the 34 anchorages in the Southern Gulf Islands have vessels anchoring at them today. We also discussed solutions to these issues and looked at what other countries are doing right to help us solve the issue here at home. If you would like to learn more about the issue of the freighter anchorages, you can read this blog post that I wrote in 2019 which goes into more detail.

Tuesday, November 17th

On Tuesday morning, I appeared before the Standing Committee on Justice during their clause-by-clause study of Bill C-7 on Medical Assistance in Dying. I proposed an amendment before the committee today. The local disability community raised some important concerns about this bill with me. My amendment would put more of a safety net in place for people with disabilities in order for them to not feel as though MAiD is their only option. We need to be granting people the support they need while they are alive. I do believe that this bill protects people with disabilities, but the language needs to be much clearer so that people can feel satisfied that they are protected and supported.

The House debated an opposition motion on Chinese foreign policy today. I asked the government if they would support hearings into the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) to see what influence this agreement is having on our country. Experts have said it is a FIPA like no other, giving away unprecedented powers to China. It is essential that we have a full understanding of its impact.

I met with the Stz'uminus Chief and Council to hear about their current work and priorities, and to share an update about work I am doing that is relevant to them. We spoke about issues such as fisheries, Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas, the freighter anchorage issue which affects their community, land claims that they have in the region, and economic development projects they are working on.

Wednesday, November 18th

On Wednesday morning, the House voted on the same opposition motion that was debated yesterday. I voted in favour of this motion, and it was agreed to. It is extremely important for Canada to have a strong and principled foreign policy, especially when it comes to China.

I jointly seconded MP Peter Julian's private member’s bill, Bill C-213, the Canada Pharmacare Act. This is something I support wholeheartedly and have been advocating for in the House. Canada is the only country that has a universal healthcare system that does not have a national pharmacare plan. There should be no financial barriers for Canadians that need access to life-saving medications.

In the afternoon, I introduced my first private member’s bill, Bill C-252, An Act to Provide Transparency in Entering Agreements and Foreign Investment Protection Agreements. The purpose of this act is to create a transparent consultation and assessment process to ensure that Canada's trade and foreign investment protection agreements reflect the values and interests of Canada as a whole. It takes into consideration the perspectives of local communities, civil society organizations, and Indigenous people. It will promote sustainable development while adhering to the principles of economic fairness, human rights, and social justice.

Shortly after, I presented e-petition 2776. The petitioners are concerned about Canada Pension Plan (CPP) investments of over $200 million in foreign open-net pen salmon farms. They are calling on the government to request that the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board divest from open-net pen aquaculture investment opportunities, foreign-owned or otherwise. I wrote a blog about this petition back in October.

During debate on Bill C-10 to amend the Broadcasting Act, I asked the government if there are plans to amend how the government works with the CBC in this bill, or if it will bring forth any budget changes. I worked in the broadcasting industry for years and recognize that the Broadcasting Act is no longer meeting our current realities. An update is long overdue.

Thursday, November 19th

During debate on Bill C-10, I pointed out that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (the CRTC) should be regulating Internet giants. They should be paying their fair share of taxes in this country. I asked the government if they agree with me that YouTube and Facebook are publishers rather than platforms.

Later that day, I followed up on a previous question I had asked the government about freighter anchorages in the Southern Gulf Islands. I spoke about Vessel Arrival Systems that have worked to improve efficiencies at busy ports in other countries. Under this system, ships must contact the port 14 days before they arrive. Ships can then be instructed to adjust their travel speeds so that they arrive only once there is space for them at the port, reducing the need to anchor close to communities, as well as reducing safety threats and damage to ecosystems. What’s more, slower transit times reduce greenhouse emissions because the ships burn less bunker fuel and also lower pollution near the port and populated areas. There is no such system in the Port of Vancouver, and this needs to change. There is no legitimate reason why the Port of Vancouver should be so far behind in efficient management of its bulk shipping.

I also brought up that there has been an increase in shipments of US thermal coal through the Port of Vancouver. Washington, Oregon, and California refused to expand their coal ports, so US coal companies are now shipping through Canada. This needs to end. It is hypocritical of Canada to shut down coal-fired power plants while continuing to export it in our ports.

On Thursday evening, I attended a meeting with the Canadian Association of University Teachers. We discussed the federal response to the pandemic and the role that post-secondary institutions could play to better meet Canada's current and future challenges. We also discussed the need to invest in post-secondary education and research in Canada. We agreed that Canada needs a national post-secondary education strategy. Something I have also been calling for is the elimination of tuition for universities, colleges, and trade schools across Canada.

Friday, November 20th

Friday was National Child Day in Canada, and World Children's Day internationally. In honour of this day, I presented e-petition 2667, which has 2,454 signatures. This petition calls on the government to ensure the human rights of Palestinian children are protected by instructing a special envoy to promote, monitor, and report on the human rights situation of Palestinian children living in the occupied Palestinian territory and Gaza.

I had a meeting with the Green Budget Coalition with my caucus colleagues. We had a productive conversation about a wide range of issues and recommendations related to climate change and biodiversity. We also discussed the issues that we have with Bill C-12, The Climate Accountability Act. We agreed that this is a weak piece of legislation that kicks the can down the road and provides no true mechanisms for accountability. The Green Budget Coalition’s full list of recommendations that we discussed today can be found here.

Shortly after I had a meeting with the Coalition for the Diversity of Cultural Expressions to discuss Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act, along with Green Party leader Annamie Paul. They shared some recommendations they have to improve Bill C-10 as it stands. They brought up issues about the lack of inclusion of social media giants, original French-language content, and specific conditions for Canadian content in this bill. I am going to take all of these recommendations into consideration when I propose amendments to improve the bill at the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.

Afterward, I visited the Ladysmith Marina with Richard and David from the Ladysmith Maritime Society. They gave me a tour of the marina and showed me the restored historic boats. They told me about the benefits that the marina provides to the local economy today, and the potential greater benefits it can provide in the future with proper investments in the marina and surrounding area.

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