A new year and resources

As we move further into 2021, we leave behind a challenging and difficult year for many in
Kelowna-Lake Country.

The start of a new year always brings anticipation and the chance at a fresh start. Yet, we still find ourselves in the middle of uncertainty and adversity.

I remain committed to serving by:

  • Expeditiously helping with federal program inquiries
  • Continually connecting directly with you to be your voice
  • Holding the government to account
  • Working with my caucus colleagues on recommendations, motions, and bills that are important to the constituents of Kelowna-Lake Country and Canadians.  

Four topics I’ll be covering in this In Your Service report:

  • Fraud scams
  • The federal job bank
  • How to determine what federal support programs you may be applicable for
  • Mental health assistance. 

Unfortunately, the pandemic has led to an increase in scams, often from fraudsters claiming to be with the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA).

By phone or email, the CRA will never ask for information about your passport, healthcare card, or driver’s license and will never demand immediate payment by Interac, e-transfer, bitcoin, prepaid credit cards, or gift cards from retailers such as iTunes or Amazon. 

Legitimate communication from the CRA also won’t include aggressive language, threats of arrest, or threats of sending the police.

When it comes to these types of scams; seniors, international students, and newcomers are especially at risk.

I encourage everyone to speak to friends, family, and neighbours about these scams, especially with those who may be most vulnerable. 

Due to the pandemic and through no fault of their own, many individuals have permanently or temporarily lost their jobs. There are resources to help with finding employment, including job listings at jobbank.gc.ca.

You can also download the app, set up job alerts, look for skills matches, and build your resume.  I’m talking to people every day who genuinely want to get back to earning a good living to provide for their families and plan for their retirement.

If you are in need of government assistance benefits, visit www.canadabenefits.gc.ca. After answering
20 multiple choice questions, you will be provided with a list of the benefits you may be eligible for.

For those affected by COVID-19, there are a number of resources available. Often, we find people may be uncertain of what they may be applicable for, and this online resource tool can help. 

The pandemic not only poses a physical health risk, but many societal impacts including social isolation. Mental health and wellness are of increasing concern. 

No one should suffer in silence. If you need to speak with someone, call a friend or family member, call 811 or the Mental Health Helpline at 1-877-303-2642.

For youth, help and a listening ear is available through Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868.

There are many dedicated local organizations serving our community in this field and a new mental fitness app for men that was developed locally called “he.”

Despite the obstacles we face both as a community and as a country, I know that we will support each other together. 

I wish you and your family a safe and healthy 2021. I look forward to hearing from you, and stay well. 

If you need any assistance with programs or have any thoughts to share, feel free to reach out. 250-470-5075 or [email protected]

Spirit of Kelowna

We are amidst a very different holiday season than we’ve ever seen in our lifetimes.

With health restrictions in place, instead of gathering around the dinner table, we’ll be gathering around webcams.

Familiar traditions have been put on pause as we wait to come together to connect with friends and family.

This has been a year filled with unprecedented challenges and uncertainty, including mental health and social isolation. Many of us have lost loved ones and this year has made it particularly hard.

While it may not feel like the holidays of old, what has remained unchanged is our community spirit.

Whether it be shovelling a neighbour’s driveway, or raising money for one of many wonderful charities and not for profits serving our community, we continue to find ways to connect and support one another.

These acts of service and caring for each other are what inspire hope for us all.

It is more important than ever to support our local artisans, farmers, arts, faith organizations and small businesses, who’ve had a tough year. And, not only during the holiday season, but as we progress into 2021.

Thank you to everyone who has stepped up and shown your strength and resiliency.

From my family to yours, I wish you Seasons Greetings and a safe and Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy New Year.

If you need any assistance with programs or have any thoughts to share, feel free to reach out. 250-470-5075 or [email protected].

Stay Well.

Looking for a plan

I’ve been hearing many stories from residents whose lives and livelihoods have been upended and who have sacrificed so much during this time.

While each of us has been affected in unique ways, everyone I talk to seems to have a similar question of our government - after nine long months, what’s the plan to help us get back to normal? 

Canada has been without a budget now for almost two years and the best the government offered was the recent Fall Economic Statement. We put our hope in the government to deliver a plan to get back to normal, however, they fell very short.

Canada’s unemployment rate is 8.5%, among the highest in the G7. Common sense, clarity, competence, and concrete action rooted in certainty is urgently needed to get us through this time. 

You deserve a plan that will protect your health while ensuring your Canadian Charter rights are upheld. A plan:

  • That will allow you to see family and friends. 
  • To  jump start our economy.
  • For rapid testing, at-home testing, and access to vaccines for those who want them.
  • That reduces regulatory burdens and encourages investment.
  • To spur inter-provincial trade and exports.
  • To keep businesses open and get people back to work.

After numerous conflicting statements by federal ministers, and the government not answering questions, the Conservative Official Opposition brought forth a motion for the government to release their detailed vaccine plan to the public by Dec. 16 on deployment, storage, and distribution. 

Many organizations I talk to express uncertainty with this government’s regulatory regimes and the high cost of energy as primary reasons for not investing in Canada. I talked to a Canadian company recently who opened a new manufacturing facility in the U.S. They said it just made better sense. 

There are tens of billions of dollars of projects on hold in resource and manufacturing sectors due to the current government’s red tape, regulatory regimes, and new policies they are working on that invoke uncertainty. These are all good paying jobs on hold, and many existing jobs are now under threat.

More than a million Canadians are still out of work, and businesses are wondering when and if they will re-open. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business released a statement, saying that one in seven businesses may not survive this second wave of shutdowns. 

The Liberal government has been behind from the start. From shutting down Canada’s world class Pandemic Early Warning System, to being late to close our borders, and failing to provide rapid tests. Now, it’s unable to provide details on vaccination distribution and fixes on many of the government programs will come too late for many.

Until vaccines and rapid testing can be rolled out, the government must do everything it can to create jobs. Conservatives are calling for: 

  • Releasing the complete details of the Highly Affected Sectors Credit Availability Program (HASCAP) by Dec. 16. 
  • Reducing restrictions and amending the interest rate schedule on the Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF) 
  • Postponing the increase of CPP payroll, carbon, and alcohol escalator taxes.

These are all concrete steps the government can take to help businesses and workers during the holidays. 

Our government will continue to hold the government accountable and ask the tough questions. 

In the early panic of the pandemic, local distilleries and others across the country proudly stepped up. They produced thousands of litres of hand sanitizer for first responders and health care workers and gave it away free, while the federal government spent $375 million on bringing in non-Canadian hand sanitizer.

It’s important we support our local small businesses who have contributed so much during this time. 

I will continue to stand up for answers and advocate for legislation that supports workers and entrepreneurs. Please reach out to me with your thoughts. 

If you need any assistance with programs or have any thoughts to share, feel free to reach out. 250-470-5075 or [email protected]

Stay Well. 

Protecting, supporting local

As restrictions are increased by provincial health officials, we are looking ahead to a very different holiday season than we’ve ever seen.

With November being Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month and Movember, we are reminded how important focusing on our mental health is.

One important issue the Official Opposition and I have been pressing for is to give Canadians all the tools that other countries have to fight COVID-19. Tools that will keep our families together and keep businesses and schools operating through wide accessibility of rapid at-home tests.

There have been few approvals from Health Canada and distribution has been slow. I was able to press the Health minister about this, specifically about British Columbia.

However, the information I received was not helpful in when rapid tests or at-home tests will be coming to Kelowna-Lake Country.

Our Official Opposition Health shadow minister, Michelle Rempel Garner, wrote an opinion piece in the National Post titled, “It’s Time For A Better COVID Strategy.”

I fully agree with our health critic that we need a new plan. She talks about starting with the basics of good public data to make decisions.

It is unacceptable that there is conflicting or limited information about how many people have had COVID-19, who is most vulnerable and why and how it is spreading.

I recently debated a Conservative Opposition Day motion regarding national security in the House of Commons.It passed with the support of all the Opposition parties, but was not supported by the Liberals.

The motion called for the government to decide on Huawei’s involvement in Canada’s telecommunications networks within 30 days of the motion’s adoption. This is reasonable, as the government produced a report and twice in 2019 stated they would announce a decision.

However, they broke those promises. This is creating uncertainty for infrastructure investments. The motion also called for a robust plan to be developed to combat the Chinese government’s concerning growing influences here in Canada.

Under Chinese law, Huawei must support, assist, and co-operate with China’s intelligence activities. Canada is a member of the Five Eyes, an intelligence alliance with the U.S., the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand.

We are the only Five Eyes member not to ban or restrict Huawei from networks.

Another issue is many businesses, including those in Kelowna-Lake Country, rely on trade with the United Kingdom, Canada’s third largest export market.

With the U.K. pulling out of the European Union due to Brexit, if a deal is not signed and through all the parliamentary processes by the end of the year, many Canadian industries will face stiff tariffs.

A deal was just announced, and legislation will have to be rushed through the House, committee, and the Senate.

Many businesses have expressed concern with the government leaving this until the 11th hour and that there was not a fulsome consultation process with Canadian businesses, which normally occurs with trade negotiations.

As we are making our Christmas wish lists, I encourage you to consider shopping local as much as possible.

Many local businesses have been hit hard due to COVID-19 and are very concerned about surviving the winter months. Delivery or pick up options are offered by many.

I’ve been doing a “small business spotlight” on my social media showcasing various businesses I’ve visited. Our region has an abundance of unique and interesting stores, with plenty of gift options. Stay Well.

If you need any assistance with programs or have any thoughts to share, feel free to reach out. 250-470-5075 or [email protected].

More In Your Service articles

About the Author

Tracy Gray, MP for Kelowna-Lake Country, is the Official Opposition’s Shadow Minister for Export Promotion and International Trade.

She also serves on the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, and is a member of the National Caucus Committees Credit Union Caucus, Wine Caucus, and Aviation Caucus.

Gray, who has won the RBC Canadian Woman Entrepreneur of the year, and Kelowna Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Award, worked for 27 years in the B.C. beverage industry.

She founded and owned Discover Wines VQA Wine Stores, which included the No. 1 wine store in B.C. for 13 years. She has been involved in small businesses in different sectors — financing, importing, oil and gas services and a technology start-up — and is among the “100 New Woman Pioneers in B.C."

Gray was a Kelowna city councillor for the 2014 term, on the Passenger Transportation Board 2010-2012, and elected to the board of Prospera Credit Union for 10 years.

In addition, she served on the Okanagan Film Commission, Clubhouse Childcare Society, Kelowna Chamber of Commerce, Okanagan Regional Library as a Trustee and was chair of the Okanagan Basin Water Board.

She volunteers extensively in the community and welcomes connecting with residents.

She can be reached at 250-470-5075, and [email protected]

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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