Let's move forward together

Since the 42nd Parliament has ended, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the past few years as your member of Parliament.

First, thank you. Thank you for the trust and confidence you placed in me back in 2015 when I was elected.

As your MP, my responsibility was to represent you all in our nation’s capital to ensure your opinions were considered during policy discussions and that our community received our fair share of federal fiscal support.

Additionally, my office often supported constituents with great success on a number of personal issues, which include immigration, taxation and labour, just to name a few.

We also ensured solid federal visibility for our riding. We hosted a number of high-profile events including:

  • a national caucus
  • several Pacific caucuses
  • national pre-budget consultations
  • a post-budget tour by the minister of Finance.
  • We’ve also enjoyed a consistent parade of ministerial visits to support federal funding announcements or to consult with us on a wide array of issues. 

From a federal funding perspective, we’ve enjoyed some of the strongest fiscal support the riding has seen. 

The government’s commitment to invest in infrastructure materialized in big support for clean water, flood protection, and our university and college infrastructure.

Small businesses, arts and culture, affordable housing initiatives and seniors centres all received solid support.

Our local Rail Trail effort also received nearly two million dollars to assist with the completion of phase one of this legacy project. 

From a national perspective, the government moved the yardsticks significantly on a number of issues that were important to you.

We have:

  • a new healthcare accord
  • a funded national housing strategy
  • better support for our seniors and our veterans.
  • Families are better supported with a more generous, tax free, indexed Canada Child Benefit, a program that is making a real difference in the lives of nearly 17,000 local families. 
  • We have also developed a National Poverty Reduction Strategy that has lifted 825,000 Canadians out of poverty, including more than 50,000 seniors, and resulting in a poverty rate that is at the lowest it has ever been.
  • New policy on cannabis legalization and medical assistance with dying was also enacted.

From an economic perspective, the country has fared very well during challenging times: Unemployment is currently at a 42-year low and we are seeing some of the best economic growth among our G7 partners.

Foreign direct investment is at a five-year high and Canada is the only G7 country that has a formalized trade agreement with every other G7 nation.

Investments made in Canadians are closing the gaps in social and infrastructure deficits and we are better prepared for the effects of automation, artificial intelligence and a digital economy. 

As for one of the most important priorities for Canadians, Canada now has a national price on pollution and is investing nearly 70 billion dollars in the effort to fight climate change.

It is unfortunate this is still a divisive issue in our country, but this government is committed to living up to its responsibilities on the climate file.

Democracy often slows necessary progress, but this fight is essential for the prosperity of future generations. We can succeed; we must.

So, as you gather around your dinner tables to discuss the political future of our Canada, I’d ask you to consider the following:

  • Are we in a better place than we were?
  • Are we headed in a better direction?
  • Which party can reasonably deliver on the things you care about; the things that matter. 

Have a careful look at recent Provincial leadership results and policy direction. Is it working, is it not?

I highly suspect there is no one party that will satisfy everyone’s wants so a focus on policy and outcomes is necessary. 

The reliability of the information you receive therefore will be important:

  • Consider the source
  • verify the claims
  • look to impartial, non-partisan sources such as Statistics Canada, the Auditor General, the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the Bank of Canada.

This is a rational decision not an emotional one.

As you know, I’m putting my name on the ballot again in 2019. 

I believe in the progress we have made in our community and our country and I believe it is this progress that makes Canada one of the best places in the world to live.

Let’s continue to move forward together.

Fighting for pristine waters

Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson had welcome news for many in our community last week.

The federal Fisheries and Oceans minister announced that the Rocky Mountain Ridged Mussel would not be reclassified under the most recent Species at Risk Act review. 

It was a testament to how the combined efforts of local organizations and elected officials can ensure that well-intentioned actions do not have unintended consequences on communities.

The government of Canada actively engages in the protection of at-risk aquatic species making classification decisions based on scientific advice and in keeping with the concerns of communities, while carefully considering the health and stability of the economy.

This year, the government was considering adding or re-classifying 31 aquatic animals under the Species at Risk Act

These species include 23 freshwater fish and eight molluscs, including the Rocky Mountain Ridged Mussel.   

The government did a comprehensive 30-day public comment period and considered further evidence provided by the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.

In April, Dr. Anna Warwick Sears of the Okanagan Basin Water Board travelled to Ottawa to provide testimony to the Fisheries and Oceans committee to make the case that reclassifying the RMRM would risk the OBWB’s efforts to manage invasive Eurasian milfoil in the Okanagan’s lakes.

As Dr. Sears noted, as our source of clean drinking water, and as a water-based economy we depend on keeping these water sources clean and pristine.

She said there were too many unanswered questions and lack of recent data to reclassify the Rocky Mountain Ridged Mussel, which had the potential to make it difficult to control harmful Eurasian water milfoil.

Probably the most important job I have as a member of Parliament, apart from ensuring that our community’s funding priorities are met, is to avert potential risks to the community when legislative changes are being considered.

Previously, I had worked with Minister LeBanc to ensure we received federal funding to support OBWB efforts in the fight to prevent zebra and quagga mussels entering our Okanagan lakes.

I am pleased that Minister Wilkinson was sensitive to the potential impact the listing of the RMRM would have on the OBWB’s ability to control the watermilfoil.

We have averted a risk to our local economy and our environment by not reclassifying the Rocky Mountain Ridged Mussel as endangered under the Species at Risk Act.

I would like to thank Dr. Anna Warwick Sears and the OBWB for their excellent work and attention to this important issue, as well as the local communities who provided input and support.

British Columbians value our clean, healthy waters and understand the irreversible impact invasive species can have both on the economy and our quality of life. 

As your member of Parliament, I am committed to working with the OBWB and local municipalities to ensure the federal government continues to recognize the challenges we are facing, and where possible, provide support so that we may preserve this valuable and essential resource for future generations. 

OK tourism golden

More economic good news is coming out of a sector that is vital to the Okanagan — tourism.

In 2018, Canada experienced a second consecutive record-breaking year for tourism, welcoming more than 21 million tourists for the first time ever.

In B.C. alone, international visitor arrivals increased 13.8% in April 2019 compared to April 2018.

Total tourism revenues in 2018 from domestic and international travelers were $102.1 billion, an increase of 5.2% over 2017.

And the tourism sector is a job generator, supporting 1.8 million jobs — the largest employer of youth and a major source of employment for new Canadians and permanent residents.

It's the concerted effort of our communities and those who support the creation of cultural experiences for visitors, as well as regional organizations like the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA) that have made the Okanagan and Canada a destination of choice.

It's worth noting that TOTA, which represents business and community tourism interests throughout the region, was named 2018's winner of the prestigious Tourism for Tomorrow Destination Award.

TOTA is also assisting regional Indigenous communities with tourism development and leading the way in sustainable tourism, developing a regional Charter of Sustainability — the first of its kind in North America, and seeking Biosphere Tourism Certification as a sustainable destination — the first destination in the U.S. or Canada to do so.

But not all regions have the advantages we do. Without an award-winning wine sector or resorts like Big White, other Canadian communities are finding it a challenge to realize the economic benefits of tourism.

Since 2016, federal budgets have provided concrete measures to accelerate the tourism sector's expansion.

At the same time, historic investments have been made in developing the transportation, communications, social and cultural infrastructure that enables the industry's growth.

Here at home, we have welcomed direct federal funding support for local arts and culture events, museums and galleries, infrastructure, recreational facilities, and popular attractions like the Okanagan Rail Trail, all of which enhance the visitor experience in Kelowna-Lake Country and generate revenues in the local economy.

Additionally, the federal government has developed a tourism growth strategy, in tandem with provincial and territorial strategies, to unleash the potential of tourism, recognizing that every community has something to offer and can aspire to be a destination.

Budget 2019 established the Canadian Experiences Fund, a $58.5 million investment fund that will support development of products and experiences that play to communities' strengths and entice international visitors to look beyond the usual destinations and the summer season.

By putting the focus on communities that take advantage of their unique cultures, heritage, and locations, the government of Canada, in partnership with all levels of government and the private sector, is giving Canadians the tools to show the world what our country has to offer year round.

This will enable growth in the tourism sector, and drive economic growth and job creation in all regions for many years to come.

Economic forecast positive

The July Monetary Report by the Bank of Canada has been released and the economic outlook is generally positive.

It confirmed assertions by the government that the economy continues to be supported by solid job and wage growth.

To help inform constituents about the strength of the Canadian economy, here are some of the Report’s highlights:

  • GDP growth is expected to increase from 1.3% in 2019 to about 2% in 2020 and 2021, slightly above potential growth.
  • Growth in the economy is expected to be broad-based: Investment and exports are projected to expand at a moderate pace and consumer spending is expected to grow steadily, supported by sustained income gains, which include climate action incentive payments from the federal government, and solid consumer confidence.
  • Paying attention to Canadian household spending, consumption has rebounded and continues to be supported by a solid labour market; wage growth has picked up, unemployment is still near historic lows and employment is strong, partly due to growth of the working age population resulting from increased immigration.
  • Household imbalances, as measured by the ratio of household debt to income, have stabilized, and mortgage stress testing has improved the quality of mortgage borrowing.
  • The housing market is evolving as expected at the national level as major markets, including the Greater Vancouver Area, adjust to previous speculative activity and changes in housing financing conditions.
  • At the same time, interest rates on five-year fixed-rate mortgages have fallen recently to around where they were five years ago, which is relevant for people buying a new house or renewing their mortgage. It also reinforces the view that residential investment is once again contributing to growth.
  • While the oil sector continues to undergo significant adjustment, investment in this sector is forecast to stabilize by 2020, and its exports should gradually increase. Despite challenges, the sector continues to contribute $65 billion annually to the Canadian economy. In addition, construction related to Trans Mountain and to the liquefied natural gas terminal in British Columbia will add to business investment, while investment outside the oil and gas sector is still expected to expand.
  • Recent export data for Canada have been encouraging. Exports are forecast to grow moderately over the projection horizon, supported by the ongoing expansion of foreign demand.
  • The most important risks to the Canadian economy are related to global trade policies. Because protectionist trade policies can disrupt trade flows and global value chains, they can simultaneously lower output and put upward pressure on prices. While the lifting of tariffs with the U.S. has been positive, recent actions by China, as well as ongoing uncertainty in US–China trade are concerning.
  • Nevertheless, the bank assesses that upside and downside risks to the projected path for inflation are roughly balanced and are expected to hold near or at the target rate of 2%.

The Bank of Canada is the nation's central bank led by chief executive officer, Stephen Polos who was appointed in 2013 for a seven-year term.

The  full report can be found at www.bankofcanada.ca

More MP Report articles

About the Author

Stephen Fuhr was born in Edmonton, AB and grew up in Kamloops, BC. He is a former CF-18 fighter pilot with the Canadian Air Force.

After serving with distinction for 20 years, Stephen retired from the Canadian Forces in 2009 with the rank of Major. He joined his family’s Kelowna-based company, SkyTrac Systems, which develops aviation communication and tracking equipment. As CEO and Director of Business Development, he led the company to financial success in a challenging economic climate.

In 2012, Stephen left the company to pursue his first love of flying.

With growing interest in politics and a desire to serve his country again, Stephen ran for office in the 2015 election.

Today, he proudly serves as the Member of Parliament for the Kelowna-Lake Country riding. 

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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