COLUMN: Until we meet again

Outgoing Kootenay-Columbia MP Wayne Stetski reflects on his parliamentary tenure

Psychologists tell us that if you’ve experienced loss it can be healthy to write about it. Let’s see if that’s true…

I want to thank the people of Kootenay – Columbia for giving me the honour of being your Member of Parliament for the last four years. Taking my seat in the venerable 95 year old House of Commons (HoC) in 2015 was an unforgettable experience. The walls are alive with the stories and words that helped to create this amazing country we call Canada, and it was truly a privilege to be your representative. Every word I spoke in the House, as is the case with all MPs, is now part of Hansard and part of Canada’s parliamentary history.

The 42nd Parliament had its rather sad moments – ElbowGate and SNC Lavalin to name two with the highest profile, but it also included the passing of historically important legislation that fundamentally changed Canada – medical assistance in dying and legalizing the recreational use of cannabis. One of the key Liberal election promises in 2015, to bring in proportional representation for the 2019 election, was abandoned – a topic for another day.

I am proud of my voting record over the last four years – I voted against Liberal Legislation and Motions (L&M) 69 per cent of the time, voted in favour of Conservative L&M 27 per cent of the time, and voted differently from my own party four times. My Private Members Bill C-281, celebrating the Friday before Thanksgiving every year as National Local Food Day, passed unanimously at all votes in the HoC, which is extremely rare. Unfortunately, it was killed in the unelected Senate by Conservative Senators.

While there are many things I am proud of from my four years I will highlight a few here: getting the long-awaited maximum 20HP regulation enacted on the main stem of the Columbia River from Fairmont to Donald; helping to secure over $16,000,000 for the Ktunaxa to help make Qat’muk (Jumbo) potentially become an indigenous protected area; helping to secure $25,000,000 in an endowment fund to ensure the future of Avalanche Canada based out of Revelstoke; changing government policy so custodial parents leaving abusive situations do not need to get to sign-off from their ex-partners to receive the Canada Child benefit; changing government policy so that married seniors living in separate accommodations due to medical/care reasons could qualify for the Guaranteed Income Supplement based on individual rather than combined incomes, rather than being forced to divorce in order to qualify.

I also served as a Vice Chair on the HoC Environment and Sustainable Development Committee, producing important reports on expanding protected areas, climate change and plastics; met regularly with Canada’s Chief Negotiator for the Columbia River Treaty to ensure my constituent’s concerns were well understood; and kept in touch with the riding’s lumber mills, demanding the Liberal government work with the USA to eliminate the 21% Softwood lumber tariff. On the last issue, there was promising news in September when a NAFTA panel said there is no evidence that Canadian producers of softwood lumber have damaged US producers – they gave the USA three months to rethink the tariffs.

Within the riding we provided excellent non-partisan public service, helping hundreds of people who were having problems with federal government departments and reclaiming hundreds of thousands of dollars owed, but denied, to qualifying constituents for CRA refunds, EI, Child and Disability Benefit claims. My sincere thanks to Cheryl and Tanya in my Ottawa office; Gail and Jaime in my Nelson office, and Trina and Brianna in my Cranbrook office. You, along with former Assistants Shannon, David, Wassim, Laura, Patti, Curtis and Jane, were all rock stars who truly understand what it means to “live to serve.”

I also want to thank the hundreds of people who volunteered to help all of the candidates who ran in this election – it is you who keep democracy alive! Thank you to everyone who contributed to my own campaign; your contributions of time and money, your dedication, and your kind messages following the election has meant the world to me. Thank you also to everyone who believed in me enough to earn your vote. Lastly, a very special thank you to my family – Audrey, Shawn and Rhonda, Kellie, Adrian and Brianna, and Lalita. I am looking forward to having a lot more time to spend with you!

Several media outlets have asked me if I have any advice for MP-elect Rob Morrison, so I’ll offer up a few thoughts.

Make serving the 112,300+ people in our 64,000 sq. km riding a priority by having offices in Cranbrook AND Nelson, taking Pop Up Constituency offices on the road into the other communities on a regular basis. Keep them informed and ask for their input regularly. Show that you care about them and their community.

In order to save taxpayers some money, fly economy as often as possible on your many trips between Cranbrook and Ottawa. You’ll pass by your MP colleagues from Alberta sitting up front in business class but you’ll feel better for it (I know I did…)!

Never forget what an honour has been bestowed upon you and remember you serve all of the people in this great riding equally. Do it without partisanship. That is how one truly serves as Member of Parliament. Best of luck – it is a big job!

Now that I’ve written this I do feel a bit better…!

Best wishes until we meet again!

Wayne Stetski

Member of Parliament for Kootenay – Columbia from 2015-2019

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