This is the second week of a two week break before the House of Commons resumes sitting on Monday, March 24th. Over the past many days I have travelled throughout Okanagan-Coquihalla and met with many citizens, groups and local government leaders. Last week there was a strong level of enthusiasm for the recently announced Canada-South Korea free trade agreement. Given that British Columbia, with its strategic gateway location, strong business and cultural ties with the Asia- Pacific region, is considered to be first of the Canadian Provinces to benefit from this agreement. At a very recent round table in Kelowna there was positive reaction from exporters who in the past have faced tariffs anywhere from ten to as high as forty percent. The elimination of these tariffs and certainty for access to this market will create some real opportunities for Okanagan producers and fruit growers.
Also this week I have also come to better appreciate and understand the critical value of trade to Okanagan-Coquihalla for a different set of reasons, with the current trucking dispute at Port Metro Vancouver. In addition to affected businesses throughout Okanagan-Coquihalla, I have heard from concerned Mayors, councillors, regional directors and MLA’s on the very real possibility of large scale employers considering temporary closure as a result of not being able to import/export much needed goods either to or from the Port. The movement of goods in many cases is critical to the cash flow of small business operators who also must make payroll, pay taxes and other expenses related to running a business. The sheer volume and scope of different business operations that rely on trade are large scale and affects many sectors of our local economy that in turn can create ripple effects into other areas.
One other issue that I continue to hear feedback from citizens on a Private Member's Bill, known as Bill C-442, "An Act Respecting a National Lyme Disease Strategy". For many citizens in Okanagan-Coquihalla Lyme disease is a very real concern and as a result I can confirm that I will be supporting this Bill to move forward to committee review stage for further study. In the event the Bill passes, I will also follow the review carefully and provide further updates as they become available.
While this will be another busy week of meetings, I would like to sincerely thank the many citizens who do take the time to offer questions, comments and also criticism. I believe it is important for citizens to always hold your elected officials from all levels of government to account. If there is a decision or policy you do not agree with, please take the time to contact your elected representatives and ask for the reasons why a decision was made. Part of how we achieve better government decisions is from hearing from all sides and I certainly welcome your views in this regard. I can be reached at [email protected] or toll free at 1-800-665-8711.