It’s December 31, 2018, and I’m sitting in my Cranbrook office as I write this. It is interesting that while some days seem very long, the years go by very quickly! I want to share some personal thoughts with you on the last 12 months.
Helping you is the most important work we do! I have great staff in Nelson (Gail and Jaime), in Cranbrook (Brianna and Trina) and in Ottawa (Cheryl and Tanya) who field thousands of inquiries and take on hundreds of personal cases each year. Because we live in a rural area, and because of declining access to federal government services (have you tried calling the Canada Revenue Agency – you have to have incredible patience and tenacity to actually get through to them!), we deal with everything from cuts to Greyhound services to postal services to providing letters of support to municipalities looking for grants and even to helping seniors access money they are due from Old Age Security.
While the work is hard, it is extremely rewarding. Helping a senior get the Guaranteed Income Supplement he deserves so he can stop sleeping on his brother’s RV sofa; helping a mother with four small children get retroactive Canada Child Benefits and avoid being evicted and becoming homeless; recovering over $60,000 in “back-pay” in Child Tax Benefits for three families just a few weeks before Christmas; helping to bring an immigrant family together who were separated in a refugee camp. These are just a few examples of the 350+ people that we helped personally in 2018!
In Ottawa I had the pleasure of seeing my Private Member’s Bill C-281, National Local Food Day, pass unanimously through the House of Commons at all stages, which does not happen often! It has moved on to the Senate where the challenge will be to get it approved by the end of June 2019, which is likely the last day the 42nd Parliament will sit before the federal election next fall.
I co-chair the House of Commons’ Environment and Sustainable Development Committee, which is currently studying Climate Change and Pollution Pricing (I was able to bring one of our leading environmental groups, Citizen’s Climate Lobby Canada – Nelson West Kootenay Chapter, to testify before the Committee) and will move on to Plastics and possibly Species at Risk later this spring. I also co-chair the All Party Cycling Caucus promoting cycling for parliamentarians and across Canada. Finally, I am Vice Chair for the Filipino Parliamentary Friendship Committee. (I will be bringing the Philippines’ Ambassador to Canada, Petronila P. Garcia, to the riding early in 2019!)
I have spoken on your behalf in the House on many issues, including: getting a Department of Fisheries and Oceans Office back in the Kootenays, advocating on behalf of our small scale outdoor cannabis growers, requesting Environmental Assessments for all developments in National Parks (I am the NDP “Critic” or advocate for National Parks), the need to invest in green jobs and technologies and the importance of an improved Columbia River Treaty to our communities, a tribute to Cranbrook’s Clayton Murrell and Joan MacKinnon, who died as a result of a tragic highway accident, to name just a few. I want to continue to hear from you on your priorities in 2019!
Another highlight was bringing federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh to the riding last November. Having a national leader from any federal party come to Kootenay–Columbia shows a great deal of respect for our 112,500+ citizens! It was a pleasure to introduce so many of you to Jagmeet and to experience his true love for people (from my perspective you really shouldn’t be in politics if you don’t truly love people!) and his sincere devotion to building a better Canada for all! When you meet him personally you can’t help but like him.
I wouldn’t be doing this “reflection” justice if I didn’t say thank you to my wife Audrey and to my family for their personal support on a daily basis. I also want to thank you, my constituency family, for your willingness to share your priorities, ideas and desires for a better Kootenay– Columbia riding, your interest in a Canada that we can continue to be proud of and, for a better world. These are very concerning times when we look globally, and there is no more important time than now to reassert our values of inclusiveness, fairness, of caring for the environment and for one another, and for true equality for all. Let’s all do our part to ensure we continue to make those values shine in 2019!