Wayne’s World: On representing Kootenay-Columbia

MP Wayne Stetski writes about the challenges a large riding like Kootenay-Columbia

Wayne Stetski is the MP for Kootenay-Columbia.

“We’re going to have to buy some tissue for constituents coming into the office.”

One week into opening our office in Cranbrook and my assistant was already experiencing how emotional some of the issues are that we deal with. I now have offices and staff across three time zones, and every day they work with me to provide service for our 107,589 (2011 census) constituents, many of who are dealing with difficult personal situations.

Kootenay-Columbia (K-C) is one of the largest ridings in Canada at 64,336 square kilometres, with a driving time of just under six hours from corner to corner — quite a contrast to some urban ridings that you can drive across in 20 minutes! K-C incorporates three provincial ridings: Nelson-Creston (MLA Michelle Mungall), Columbia River-Revelstoke (MLA Norm Macdonald) and Kootenay East (MLA Bill Bennett). In a riding this size being home often means I am on the road.

While I am in Ottawa six months of the year, my four great staff in Cranbrook and Nelson are busy answering thousands of emails, hundreds of phone calls and meeting one-on-one with constituents. The most common topics raised relate to accessing and understanding federal government services like Employment Insurance, Immigration (including Syrian Refugees), Child Tax Credits, Canada Pension Plan and access to the Temporary Foreign Workers Program. We do our best to help people individually while also working to improve how the federal government operates long term.

My staff help me to hear what issues are most important to you, so that I can give you a voice in Ottawa. So far I have heard most about the need to fight climate change, the desire for proportional representation voting, eliminating tax loopholes for the rich, stopping the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal, the desire to have Canada-wide child care and pharmacare plans, better pensions for seniors, the need to have both a healthy economy and a healthy environment, reducing student debt, and concern over Canada’s growing budget deficits.

What do my staff in Ottawa and the riding like best about their jobs? “Working with constituents. Advocating for good public policy. Learning more about, and strengthening, our communities. Making a real difference for people on issues that matter to them. Helping people where I grew up. Building understanding about political and democratic processes and educating people on how to better participate in these processes. Advocating for National Parks. Working each day to help build a better Canada.”

I am so fortunate to have great staff who truly care about helping people!

Parliament takes a break from the end of June to mid-September so I look forward to connecting with many more of you in Kootenay-Columbia in the coming months. To find out when I’ll be in your neighborhood, please go to waynestetski.ndp.ca or email us at wayne.stetski@parl.gc.ca . Have a great summer!