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My Week in Parliament: March 8-12

Monday, March 8th

Monday was International Women's Day. The theme this year was #ChooseToChallenge. This was decided upon in response to a recent UN Women Count report that found the pandemic could wipe out 25 years of progress towards gender equity. I chose to challenge and call out inequality. I also expressed my support for a just recovery, a bold equity policy, and a guaranteed livable income. I am proud to be part of a caucus that is two-thirds women, and to serve in a Parliament made up of 100 female Members, the most in Canadian history.

During debate on Bill C-19, An Act to Amend the Canada Elections Act, I brought up something this bill is lacking - electoral reform. The Green Party has been advocating for electoral reform for years. Greens got almost 1.2 million votes in the 2019 election, just short of what the Bloc Quebecois got, but they have 10 times more Members of Parliament than us because of our first-past-the-post system. This is not representative of what Canadians voted for, and this needs to be changed to ensure fair representation in Parliament.

Today marked the first day of electronic voting in the House of Commons. This method of voting is a safe and secure way for MPs to vote in a more timely manner. I was really happy to see this method of voting implemented to adapt to the realities of Parliament in the pandemic.

The House voted on 2 bills:

  1. An opposition motion regarding the financial situation of seniors. I voted in favour of this motion and it passed. The motion calls on the government to increase Old Age Security by $110 a month for those aged 65+.

  2. Bill C-14, An Act to implement certain provisions of the economic statement. I voted in favor of this bill, which provides promised COVID-19 financial relief for Canadians. It passed second reading and will now be referred to the Standing Committee on Finance for further study.

I also tabled a petition on Guaranteed Livable Income (GLI) initiated by my constituents in Nanaimo-Ladysmith. This petition calls on the government to implement a GLI for all Canadians to replace the current patchwork of income supports with a universal benefit, reduce poverty and ensure a financial safety net for all Canadians through major economic shifts.

Later this day, there was a debate on Bill C-24 to extend Employment Insurance and COVID-19 recovery benefit supports. I expressed my support for the newly announced extension of EI, but there are still areas where our social programs are lacking. This is the time to establish long-term and permanent programs, like GLI, to ensure that Canadians will always have the support they need. Economic studies show that a GLI will increase employment and increase economic activity.

Tuesday, March 9th

On Tuesday morning the House of Commons sat to discuss a Conservative motion on pandemic support for the tourism industry and airlines. I expressed my approval of the motion’s call to restrict executive compensation in any airline bailouts. However, the motion does not go far enough. Any bailout needs to be focused on supporting the workers, and come with restrictions on shareholder compensation and dividends. Ultimately, this bailout should not happen without reimbursing customers for canceled flights.

In Question Period I asked the government to introduce stronger regulations to stop the predatory activities that are making homes unaffordable in Canada. Out-of-control housing markets in Vancouver and Toronto have created deepening inequality. Now the crisis has spread to every part of the country. House prices are reaching new highs and more people are on the edge of becoming homeless. We need more affordable housing, but we can't build our way out of this crisis. We need strong regulations to protect existing affordable housing.

Tuesday afternoon, I put forward a motion in the House of Commons on frozen UK pensions that received unanimous consent. The UK government does not provide annual indexed increases to the 136,000 recipients of UK pensions in Canada. It's an issue that costs Canada approximately $500 million each year. Pensions are "frozen" at the annual amount from the time they are first claimed. This means longtime pensioners receive very little. These people worked hard and made their contributions, and it’s appalling that they are not getting their due. UK pensioners living in the USA, Germany, Italy, and other countries receive annual indexed increases, and they should in Canada, too.

Unanimous consent is a term used a lot in the House of Commons, but unless you regularly watch CPAC you may not be familiar with it. It means every MP present must give their consent for the motion to be carried. It happened on Tuesday, and for the sake of the 136,000 pensioners impacted by this problem, I'm glad I was able to bring forward this motion.

Later that evening, I had a chance to speak more about Bill C-18 on the Canada-UK Trade Continuity Agreement. I expressed my support for the addition of a sunset clause and raised concerns about Canada’s manufacturing base being hollowed out by the implementation of the agreement as it stands.

On Tuesday evening I had the second meeting with the newly formed Youth Advisory Council (YAC). The Nanaimo-Ladysmith YAC is open to youth 15-25 years of age. It is a non-partisan council, and participants do not need to be supportive of me or any specific political party or cause. They just have to commit to doing their part to ensure that the YAC is a safe and respectful space for all participants.

Wednesday, March 10th

On Wednesday the House voted on six items:

  1. C-221, The Environmental Restoration Incentive Act. I voted “yea”, however, the bill did not pass.

  2. C-205 An Act to amend the Health of Animals Act, which would make it an offense to enter a place where animals are kept if it could expose them to disease. I voted against this bill. The provinces already have trespassing laws. The bill passed and will now be referred to a committee for further study.

  3. C-237 An Act to Establish a National Framework on Diabetes. I voted in favor, and it passed unanimously on to the committee study stage.

  4. C-216 An Act to amend the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Development Act. This bill would require the government to better protect Canadian dairy, poultry, and egg farmers when negotiating international trade agreements. I voted in favor of this bill, and it passed on to the committee study stage.

  5. C-18 on the Canada-UK Trade Continuity Agreement. I voted against this bill. It does not include enforcement provisions to protect Indigenous rights, workers’ rights, consumer health, or environmental standards. The bill passed and moved on to the Senate.

  6. Opposition Motion about pandemic support for Canadian workers in the tourism and airline industries. I voted “yea” and it was agreed to.

I had the opportunity to present two petitions initiated by my constituents. The first petition is about ending the privatization of community drinking watersheds in communities on the east coast of Vancouver Island. There is a high risk of drinking water contamination due to industrial and human activity in these watersheds. These petitioners are calling for the government to work with First Nations, all levels of government, and private landowners to begin the process of bringing these community drinking watersheds under public ownership and control to maintain a secure source of clean drinking water for future generations.

The second petition is concerning human rights abuses that have been sanctioned by the Chinese Communist Party. The petition urges the government to deploy legal sanctions against perpetrators, freeze assets, and bar their entry into Canada.

I followed up on a question I asked the government earlier this month about the need for a COVID-19 intergovernmental task force. We need to follow in the footsteps of countries like Australia, New Zealand, and Taiwan that were successful in stopping the spread of COVID-19 and implement a unified national strategy.

This pandemic has taken a severe toll on Canadians and the government needs to have the political courage to do what is necessary at the federal level, to stop the spread; the sooner we implement a national response, the better the results will be. With the threat of new and unpredictable variants, this government needs to take leadership and cooperate with the provinces to ensure the wellbeing of Canadians. We are not out of the woods yet, and a lack of national coordination can still have negative consequences.

Thursday, March 11th

Thursday was the National Day of Observance to commemorate those who have died from COVID-19. The Green Party put out a statement to mourn the loss of more than 22,000 of our neighbors, friends, and fellow members of the Canadian community. We reaffirmed our commitment to working cooperatively and holding the government to account.

On Thursday morning, I took part in a housing press conference with Green Party leader, Annamie Paul. Predatory investment has deepened the housing affordability crisis in Canada. Vancouver and Toronto are among the least affordable cities in the world. We are seeing the spillover effect in smaller cities and rural communities from coast to coast to coast.

In our riding of Nanaimo-Ladysmith, rents have gone up 59% in five years. Five years ago it was already a struggle for people with low and fixed incomes to find affordable housing here. Now solid middle-income earners are struggling to afford rent and will never be able to purchase homes unless proper measures are put in place.

The House of Commons sat to discuss Bill C-24 on Employment Insurance and COVID recovery benefits. I reasserted my previous points about the dire need for a national pandemic strategy. I also spoke about the need to expand EI reforms on a permanent basis, so that they can be more accessible to support workers during and post-pandemic. The Green Party caucus supports Bill C-24; we need to be doing everything in our power to help Canadians through this public health and economic crisis, and improve our current patchwork of financial assistance.

During question period, I asked the government if they will work with First Nations and the provinces to protect endangered old-growth ecosystems on Canada’s west coast, stop the destruction of the boreal forest and ban unsustainable forestry practices. I support the government’s commitment to plant two billion trees, but seedlings don’t come close to matching the capacity of old-growth forests to sequester carbon. More action on this front is desperately needed.

I voted against the closure motion on Bill C-7 on Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD). The government put forward this closure motion to permanently end debate on the bill. I believe more time was required for MP’s to carefully consider the witness testimonies and Senate amendments.

The closure motion passed, and the House voted on C-7. The decision on how to vote on this bill was a challenging one. Having insufficient time to study the Senate amendments ultimately informed my vote. I believe that granting terminally ill people the right to die with dignity at the time of their own choosing is compassionate and humane. I am not comfortable with extending MAiD to people suffering from mental illness who are not facing imminent death. For this reason, I voted against Bill C-7.

If people living with mental illness and disabilities feel that MAiD is their only option, then we as a society have failed to provide adequate social support and health services. Mental health services should be included in universal healthcare, and we need to implement pharmacare and a Guaranteed Livable Income (GLI). I will work hard to ensure that we in the House of Commons do our due diligence and study this issue well before the sunset clause expires and access to MAiD is expanded. We cannot let a sunset clause set policy that should be proactively set through in-depth consultations, deliberations, and study.

Friday, March 12th

On Friday morning, the House of Commons continued our conversations surrounding Bill C-24 on EI and COVID supports. I spoke about the need for an amnesty for low-income people who received CERB and the extension of EI benefits.

I presented a petition initiated and signed by my constituents on the topic of holistic health.

I seconded 3 items of Private Members Business that were presented to the House of Commons throughout the week to formally state my support for them.

  1. M-74- Establishment of fair banking options to protect vulnerable consumers from predatory lending practices.

  2. C-275- An act that would allow tradespersons and apprentices when filing their taxes to deduct work-related travel expenses.

  3. C-274- An act that would lower the threshold at which an interest rate is considered criminal.

This marked the end of my week in Parliament until the House sits again on Monday, March 22nd.


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