Canada's NDP


July 15th, 2020

In the House- Recent Interventions by your MP

It was a busy spring in the House of Commons. The hybrid online and in-person sittings allowed for lots of questions and on local issues important to the South Okanagan and West Kootenay. From tourism, forestry, wage subsidies, funding for irrigation canals, and ocean protection, here are some of the interventions I've made this past spring for our riding.

Critical work needed on Oliver irrigation canals
May 14, 2020

Mr. Richard Cannings:

Four years ago, a huge rockfall damaged a critical irrigation canal that provides water to much of the South Okanagan. That canal allows orchardists and vineyard owners to grow the crops that make the valley famous. The Town of Oliver has tried to secure federal funding of about $5 million to help repair the canal, but the federal agriculture department won't provide money because it's an infrastructure problem, and federal infrastructure department won't provide funding because it would benefit agriculture.

Last month, the infrastructure minister announced that she was looking for shovel-ready projects to help local economies pull out of the pandemic. This project has been shovel-ready for two years. Can the Prime Minister find one ministry that would step up and help fund this critical work?

Hon. Chrystia Freeland:

Like many people who grew up in Alberta, I am very familiar with the amazingly beautiful Okanagan, but I am not personally familiar, I'm sad to say, with that canal. I can commit to the member opposite that I will raise this issue with our Minister of Infrastructure, who is working very energetically with the provinces right now to get money to shovel-ready projects.

Mr. Richard Cannings:

Well, Mr. Chair, we've been waiting for two or three years now for the funding. It doesn't fit into the little packages that federal money tends to come in, so the Town of Oliver and the people of the South Okanagan would like a federal commitment today that, in this situation, would say, let's find the money to build this project and keep those vineyards and orchards growing, because without water they will die within weeks.

Hon. Chrystia Freeland:

Mr. Chair, I totally support Okanagan vineyards and orchards, but I think the member opposite will agree that it is imprudent to make a commitment without knowing all the details. What I can commit to doing is to looking into this and getting back to the honourable member.

Member’s Statement World Oceans Day
June 8, 2020

Mr. Richard Cannings:

Mr. Chair, today is World Oceans Day. My riding is landlocked, but beautiful rivers run through it: the Okanagan, Kettle, Slocan, Kootenay and the mighty Columbia. Each year, the ocean returns to my riding in the form of salmon; sockeye, chinook and n'titxw, as they are known in the Okanagan language. Salmon have nourished people in this region for millennia. Tragically, their numbers collapsed in the 20th century when dams were built throughout the Columbia system. Although a few managed to return each year to the Okanagan, the upper Columbia stocks were wiped out with the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam.

Thanks to the recovery efforts of the Okanagan Nation Alliance, salmon numbers in the Okanagan have increased dramatically in recent years, and I say Lim'limpt to them. The renegotiation of the Columbia River Treaty opens the possibility that once again salmon will return to the upper Columbia, bringing the ocean back to the Kootenays.

Direct and timely support needed for tourism industry
June 10, 2020

Mr. Richard Cannings:

Thank you, Madam Chair. I'm going to be sharing my time with the member from Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke.

Tourism is a critical part of the economy throughout my riding, and after struggling with years of forest fires and floods, tourism was set to have a record-breaking year in 2020, but the COVID epidemic has burned tourism to the ground, in the words of a local leader. Thousands of jobs have evaporated. Over half of the tourism businesses in the region are facing imminent insolvency. Many of them are small seasonal operations that don't qualify for any of the government's COVID support programs.

While funding for ad campaigns is appreciated, these businesses need direct support and they need certainty about that support. Can the finance minister pledge now to provide direct and timely support to tourism businesses in my riding?

Hon. Mélanie Joly:

Thank you to my colleague for his important question.

I agree with him. The tourism sector has been deeply impacted by the pandemic and the economic crisis. Yes, we were looking forward to another record-breaking year in 2020, but unfortunately the pandemic happened, and therefore many businesses were impacted. That's why, as a government, we're there to help with the wage subsidy, which has been extended until the end of August, as the tourism sector has been asking us to do; with the CEBA loans, the $40,000 loans, which also include a subsidy; and with the commercial rent relief.

That said, we know the tourism sector also sometimes falls through the cracks. That's why we wanted to have a backstop. We came up with funding through the regional development agencies. In my colleague's riding, it's Western Economic Diversification. Some businesses have applied and have received funding. If there are more that need help, please come and see me. I would love to be there to help your community, help tourism—

Mr. Richard Cannings:

A big part of tourism in my riding is the wine sector. One thing that has allowed the wine industry to grow so dramatically in the past few decades is the excise tax exemption. That exemption could likely end very soon if it is found to be non-compliant with our trade agreements.

The industry has proposed a trade-legal replacement, the wine growers' value-added program. The finance minister has known about this situation for months. Can he assure this House and the industry that the government will act immediately to implement this program?

Hon. Bill Morneau:

We continue to work on this issue. We recognize how important the wine industry is in B.C., and I assure the honourable member that I will come back to him and give him an update.

Wage subsidy supports need to be expanded
June 15, 2020

Mr. Richard Cannings:

Thank you, Madam Chair. I'll be splitting my time with the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley.

In my riding, Theo's in Penticton is a beloved restaurant. They've been serving great food for 40 years, but now they're struggling, because they don't qualify for the emergency wage subsidy.

Why is that? The original owners retired last year and sold it to another operator. The new owner can't use a year-to-year comparison to apply for the wage subsidy because he didn't own the restaurant last spring. He is forced to use receipts from January and February, the darkest doldrums of the restaurant year, to compare with the results from May, traditionally one of their best months. Now he has to compete with other local restaurants that can access the subsidy.

When will the government fix this inequity and let Theo's compete and survive?

Hon. Mona Fortier:

Madam Chair, the Canada emergency wage subsidy is supporting over 2.5 million workers across the country. To help even more businesses support their workers and rehire people as they reopen, our government is extending the CEWS, and we will continue to extend the CEWS for an additional 12 weeks to August 29 to ensure that Canadian workers continue to have the support they need during these very difficult times.

By extending eligibility, our government is ensuring that more Canadian workers in more sectors have the support they need.

Mr. Richard Cannings:

The owner just wants to be able to apply for the wage subsidy, and right now he cannot, and he will not be able to. Thousands of other businesses are hit that way as well.

I'd like to move on to forestry. Canada's forest sector has been declared essential during this pandemic, but it's been hit hard after a very difficult 2019. Despite soft markets and thousands out of work, government support programs have left many Canadian forest product companies behind.

In my riding, the pulp mill in Castlegar is closing for the month of July because local sawmills aren't producing enough wood chips.

What is the government going to do to finally support Canadian forestry workers and communities?

Hon. Seamus O'Regan:

Thank you, Madam Chair.

We have supported and we will continue to support the forestry sector, including through regional development programs.

In fact, in Quebec, partnering with Les Bois Francs DV Inc., we have widened market access to our products and updated technology systems. In North Bay we've partnered with the Canadian Wood Council to promote the sector. In Vancouver we're working with FPInnovations to create the indigenous forest sector technical support program.

We are supporting the forestry sector and its different needs region by region.