December 24th, 2021
A look back and forward
This is traditionally a time to look back on the year that was and forward to the year to come. Since 2021 wasn’t anyone’s favourite year with a pandemic, climate disasters, an opioid crisis, housing challenges and more, I won’t dwell on its shortcomings but instead concentrate on my hopes and plans for the future.
I hope the government has learned a lesson from last summer’s election—that Canadians don’t want more political games during the pandemic, and that they want Members of Parliament to work together to solve the difficult issues facing our country. And in our short fall/winter session in Parliament, we did accomplished a few important things. A bill banning conversion therapy was passed unanimously in both the House of Commons and the Senate, completing a process started five years ago by my former colleague Sheri Benson with her private members bill on this subject.
Although we are still in the grips of the pandemic, at the end of October the government cut off COVID supports to 900,000 workers and replaced those supports with programs that helped some hard hit businesses but left impacted self-employed workers out in the cold. As the NDP Critic for Small Business and Tourism, I’ve been hearing from many business leaders and industry groups that are concerned about workers and companies that have fallen through the cracks of government pandemic supports. I’ll continue to press the government to make sure no worker gets left behind in the pandemic recovery.
The opioid crisis continues to kill hundreds of Canadians with a poisoned drug supply. The NDP--and most health sector groups and many police forces across the country--considers this a medical issue and not a criminal problem and has long supported the decriminalization of small amounts of drugs and provision of a safe supply to keep those struggling with addictions alive while they access programs to get their lives back. My colleague Gord Johns, the MP for Courtenay-Alberni has already tabled a private members’ bill to do just that and we’ll be debating that early in the spring.
I participated in several important debates in the House of Commons this fall, including the federal government response to the flooding in British Columbia, renewed softwood lumber tariffs, and government supports for small businesses and the tourism sector. I also tabled two private members’ bills, one to return protection to rivers and lakes in South Okanagan-West Kootenay under the Navigation Protection Act and another to create a new Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights.
The latter initiative would add the right for all Canadians to live in a healthy and ecologically balanced environment to the Canadian Bill of Rights and provide rights to information about the environment, rights to participate in environmental hearings, and a right to bring a matter concerning the environment before the courts. I hope to have that bill on the floor of the House for debate before the end of the spring session.
I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year—at least a better one than 2021, though that’s a pretty low bar! Please enjoy time with friends and family as much as possible in these pandemic times and get out into our winter wonderland to recharge in the snowy woods and on the trails.