MP Wayne Stetski set up his pop-up office at the Revelstoke Library on Thursday to field questions and concerns from his constituents in town.
Stetski, the NDP representative for Kootenay-Columbia, has held office since the 2015 election.
This week Stetski travelled across his riding, setting up his office in Kaslo on Wednesday before his stop in Revelstoke.
Revelstoke Review editor Jocelyn Doll sat down with Stetski to discuss Three Valley Gap, the possible CP Rail strike, the Phoenix Pay System and a number of other topics of interest to the people in the area.
What have you been talking about in the house lately?
Well most importantly for me, I’ve introduced my local food day bill. So we get one opportunity to try and get a majority of the members in the House of Commons to vote in favour of a particular bill. So I put forward my bill, which is around National Local Food Day, which would have the Friday before Thanksgiving recognized across Canada as National Local Food Day to celebrate the great work that’s happening around agriculture and local food in communities. So that’s been very important.
Marijuana and its various iterations—of course legalization of recreational use of marijuana is still front and centre in a number of ways.
There are a couple of bills that are trying to fix the—I’ll call it damage because it really was damage—to environmental legislation that the Conservatives brought in under Stephen Harper. So they diluted a number of bills that helped protect the environment, including protection for lakes and rivers, environmental assessments, fisheries act and so there’s legislation moving through right now on those very important areas for people who live here, of course, in the best part of Canada.
I saw that you recently talked about the phoenix pay problems as well.
Yeah, it’s unbelievable.
And we’re now coming near the end of the third year of the Liberal’s tenure, they’re still trying to blame the Conservatives for starting the process. And it is true, the Conservatives laid off hundreds of public servants and brought in this Phoenix Pay System initially to save money.
But what has happened is there are now thousands of public servants, including many right here in our riding, that have not been paid properly for a couple of years. And it creates all kinds of issues, because in some cases, you’re not getting paid properly in 2016, so in 2017 you receive a large cheque that catches you up from the year before, but then you have to pay taxes on the higher level income that year.
We’ve had people whose taxes have been collected in the wrong province, we’ve had a student a couple summers ago who was into August and had not received her first pay cheque, and her tuition was due, and she said “I’m going to have to drop out of university if I don’t get some money soon.” So these are very serious issues, so we have been working really hard to bring those to the attention of the minister and of Parliament on a regular basis.
Has there been more talk about affordable housing?
I held three sessions around the riding here, one in each of the three provincial ridings, where I invited the mayor of each community, the MLA and myself representing all levels of government, and invited small businesses to come and meet with us.
I was really trying to respect their time, because time is money when you’re a small business, so that they could talk to all three levels of government at the same time.
In the communities here, and Revelstoke was certainly one of them, affordable housing was certainly an issue from a business perspective as well. There are businesses that want to expand, but in order to do that, affordable housing for new employees becomes an issue.
Now the Liberals have announced billions of dollars around affordable housing, they’re supposed to actually tell us what that might mean fairly shortly. And so once we find out what the affordable housing initiative will look like federally, we’re certainly going to make sure municipalities are all well aware of the opportunity.
We have a local woman named Shannon Smith who has been doing a letter writing campaign to our provincial government to try and make Three Valley Gap safer. I was wondering if there’s any conversations about that happening federally?
Not federally, and I know that’s an issue — I lived in Revelstoke here briefly back in the 70s working with Glacier Park — and the highway has been an issue for many many decades.
Because I’m federal, the work I do to try and get money for the highway is kind of limited to the pieces that are in Revelstoke National Park and Glacier National Park, and of course in between, where the hot springs are, that’s a provincial piece of highway, and as soon you get out of town here, that becomes provincial again. And so Three Valley Gap is a provincial initiative.
Having said that, I do keep in touch with the provincial district managers of highways to try and coordinate efforts. But particularly sort of from Revelstoke here through to the Alberta border, because that’s my riding. So there’s a piece in Yoho Park as well that’s also federal.
But in the end, it has to be a coordinated between the province and the federal government because the highway kind of has different pieces with different jurisdictions.
Have you heard from your constituents about the CP Rail strike?
Oh yes, very much so. We have a lot of people throughout the riding that work for CP Rail.
I’m really hopeful that they can reach a reasonable agreement. A strike, quite frankly, would be devastating to a number of industries. And I think the other somewhat unfortunate part is if there was a strike, I think we’d be seeing a bill introduced in Parliament very quickly to try and force everybody back to work.
I prefer negotiated settlements, not legislated settlements, but this will be a national issue potentially, so we will need to decide, when that legislation comes forward, which way we’re going to vote.
Generally, because we truly believe unions play an important role in our society, we are likely to be very supportive of the union and whatever their views and positions are on that legislation. But let’s hope we don’t have to vote.
Audience Question: How is your National Local Food Day bill going?
So Bill C-281, which is the National Local Food Day bill, I introduced in Parliament about a week and a half.
The first hour of debate there were four speeches given: one by one of my colleagues, a very supportive one by a member of the Conservative party, two from the Liberal party — one very supportive, the other one left a very wide door open to be supportive. So we’re going to be heading towards an actual vote in about two weeks, it’s looking very positive.
Not that usual to actually get a private member’s Bill through the House of Commons, they usually die somewhere along the way.
But all the indications so far are very good, and why not?
I call this ‘the Bill that’s easy to love,’ because it gives the opportunity for every member of parliament, and every senator ultimately, to celebrate the great initiatives around local food in their ridings—whatever local food is.
*This interview has been edited for clarity and length.