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My Week in Parliament: November 2-6

Monday, November 2nd

The House of Commons was debating the government’s motion about how to proceed with Bill C-5, An Act to amend the Bills of Exchange Act, the Interpretation Act and the Canada Labour Code (National Day for Truth and Reconciliation).

Bill C-5 aims to implement recommendation number 80 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) by creating a statutory holiday for federally regulated employees, known as the “National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.” The proposed holiday would be on September 30th each year to honour First Nations, Inuit and Métis residential school survivors, their families, and Indigenous communities.

The Green Party caucus supports this legislation. The government has a poor record of implementing the TRC calls to action. My colleague Jenica Atwin, the Honorable Member for Fredericton, assembled a scorecard on this issue. Out of the 52 broader Reconciliation recommendations, 7 have been completed; under justice, one out of 18; language and culture, one out of five; health, zero; education, zero; child welfare, zero. Five recommendations were completed in the first year and just four since 2016. At the current rate, it will take approximately 38 more years before all of the calls to action are implemented. That is not Reconciliation in action. When it came time to vote on a 2nd reading of Bill C-5, I voted ‘yea’, and the vote passed.

I also voted in support of last week’s opposition motion brought forward by the Bloc Québecois. This motion asked the Prime Minister to apologize on behalf of the Government of Canada for using the War Measures Act during the October Crisis in 1970 when many civilians were detained without charge and intimidated. The motion did not pass.

When the House reconvened in the afternoon, I presented E-Petition 2783, which calls for the Federal Government to recognize the opioid epidemic as a public health emergency.

In the past few years, there has been a massive increase in drug poisonings from tainted street drugs, and opioid-related deaths have been steadily increasing since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The time is long overdue to accept that the “war on drugs” has been a colossal and wasteful failure. It has failed to protect the lives of individuals who use drugs, while stigmatizing addiction and burdening our criminal justice and healthcare systems.

I recently wrote to the Minister of Health urging the government to end the War on Drugs and adopt a new approach to address the opioid crisis. In my letter, I asked the Minister to decriminalize the possession of drugs for personal use and guarantee a safe supply of opiates to individuals who use drugs.

Later in the afternoon, the House debated on Bill C-8, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act. This bill calls for the Citizenship Act to be amended to include a solemn promise to respect the Aboriginal and treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples in Canada in the oath of citizenship. During the debate, I had an opportunity to voice my concern about the Coastal GasLink pipeline being pushed through Wet'suwet'en territory.

Tuesday, November 3rd

Debate on Tuesday was on a Conservative motion, labeled Consequences of the Pandemic on Canadian Workers and Businesses. It was introduced to find ways to help small businesses in Canada recover from COVID-19 losses. During the proceeding, I questioned the Conservatives on their position about who should be audited by the CRA for receiving pandemic assistance.

Later on in the debate, I spoke on behalf of the Green Party caucus to support the motion. We have been asking for more flexibility for small businesses since the start of the pandemic. In Nanaimo, we’ve seen many small businesses dealing with issues with the emergency response benefit, the small business account, and the banks, and constantly dealing with technicalities for their applications. We need more flexibility in the system. We need to help our small businesses survive this pandemic.

I also asked if it was time to start taxing some of these large multinational corporations, like Amazon, who are raking in record profits during this pandemic.

Wednesday, November 4th

The morning started off on an official vote for Tuesday’s conservative motion. I voted ‘yea’, and the vote passed.

Debate on Wednesday was on Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy and Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy). The goal of Bill C-9 was to implement changes to the existing Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) program, and create a new Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS) program.

In the afternoon, I presented petition e-2615. This petition recognizes that the government is facing growing pressure to bail out the fossil fuel industry amidst the global pandemic. It urges the government to divest the Canadian Pension Plan from fossil fuels and make no future CPP investments in the industry.

It also calls on the government to analyze and publicly report on the risk level of assets in the CPP portfolio, and discontinue certain investment practices. We need to move our investments into renewable energy and technology. Fossil fuels are the technology of the past.

In the evening, I followed up on my question from October to the government about mental health care. It's hard to overstate how important it is that all Canadians have access to mental health care services. The effects of poor mental health impact so many areas of our lives, and the social and fiscal costs are enormous. Fully including mental health care under the Canada Health Act is the bold action needed to address this crisis.

Mental health care, such as counseling, should not be treated as a luxury for those who can afford it. Or as a late intervention for those who are already in crisis. We must eliminate the stigma of seeking help, and ensure that every Canadian has access to mental health care.

Thursday, November 5th

Today was the New Democratic Party's opposition day and they introduced a motion titled Tax Measures to Support Canadians. Amongst the provisions of the motion were calls for a wealth tax, and for an excess profits tax on big corporations in Canada.

Later in the morning, I had a virtual meeting with Howard Law, Media Industry Director at Unifor. We had a discussion about Bill C-10, An Act to Amend the Broadcasting Act.

In the afternoon, I expressed my support for the NDP motion. It is time that Canada's ultra-wealthy do their fair share to help Canadians during this pandemic. It is time for a wealth tax in Canada, and for taxes on extreme profits gleaned during the pandemic. Fair taxation was one of the pillars of our Green Party 2019 election campaign.

Canada’s 20 wealthiest citizens increased their fortunes by over 37 billion dollars in the first 6 months of the pandemic—something that troubles me deeply, as many of our neighbors, colleagues, family, and friends struggle to just get by. To have a fair country, we need to tax some of these billionaires who have reaped huge benefits during the pandemic. This will begin to even out the playing field and take care of those who are most vulnerable in our communities.

Later on, the House voted on a 2nd reading of Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (CERS & CEWS). This bill has moved quickly through the House because of its ability to help Canadians with COVID-19 relief funds. I voted ‘yea’ and the vote passed.

In the evening, I attended the Canada-Palestine Group Chairs virtual meeting to celebrate the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people.

Friday, November 6th

On Friday morning, the House voted on amendments to Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (CERS & CEWS). I voted ‘nay’ for these amendments, and the vote did not pass. This meant that the debate on the Bill would move forward later in the day without any changes.

During Friday’s Question Period, I asked the Minister of Foreign Affairs about the government's failures in our foreign policy commitments. In recent decades, Canada's actions on the international stage have not lived up to our historic reputation as peacekeepers. The government needs to undertake a full review of Canadian foreign policy.

Soon after, I presented petition 432-00224, calling for national standards in long-term care facilities across Canada.

The pandemic continues to expose how seniors in Canada are dangerously vulnerable, directly contradicting our image as a caring nation. COVID-19 left a trail of devastation in our long-term care homes. It's time to make long-term care about just that: care, not profit. That means bringing long-term care under the Canada Health Act to ensure national standards of care for seniors. It also demands better wages and working conditions for staff and putting an end to for-profit long-term care.

Debate continued on Bill C-9. In the afternoon, I spoke about Bill C-9 and affirmed my support for it. This issue, of protecting small businesses, is one I have been advocating for since the beginning of the pandemic.

Our riding of Nanaimo—Ladysmith is like many ridings across Canada. Small and medium-sized enterprises are the engine of our local economy. They employ almost 90% of the private-sector workers. These small and medium-sized businesses need help to get through the economic crisis that was created by the lockdown. They need help retaining their workers, paying their rent and covering the hard costs associated with running a business.

If we do not support these small businesses, the goods and services they provide will be swallowed up by multinational giants, and we will see the wealth and prosperity sucked out of our communities. This is why I continue to advocate in Parliament that we need to provide additional support for Canadians who have really poured their lives into their small businesses.

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