Securing our future

A data-driven plan and securing our future

It has been more than a year since the start of the pandemic, and with many businesses still struggling and friends and family apart, it can sometimes be difficult to remain optimistic.

But as winter melts away, and Kelowna-Lake Country residents look ahead, I hear every day that people are looking for hope and a practical path to recovery.

It’s that time of the year when we all sit down and begin the process of filing our taxes.

To protect yourself against fraud, it’s important to be vigilant when receiving phone calls, mail, texts, or emails from someone claiming to be with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

If you search, "Slam the scam — protect yourself against fraud,” you’ll find an informative section on the CRA’s website on tips to recognize and protect yourself from a scam.

I was able to ask questions in the House of Commons last week about two topics — Buy American restrictions and vaccine export controls.

First, government representatives state they are only negotiating sector specific exceptions from Buy American policies, meaning the federal government will be handpicking which sectors (and potentially which businesses) fail or succeed.

Conservatives were able to negotiate a full exemption in 2009. Without an exemption, Canadian manufacturing jobs are at risk of moving south of the border.

Second, we have a right to be concerned and need assurances about the export measures being put on vaccine exports from the European Union and India, and how this may affect shipments to Canada.

I also had the opportunity to make another statement in the House of Commons about the affects of lockdowns on businesses. This time, I focused on local fitness and martial arts owners who have been hit especially hard.

As Conservatives, we called on the federal government to present a clear, data-driven plan to support the gradual, safe, and permanent lifting of COVID-19 restrictions.

Many businesses are on the brink and family and friends remain separated. I’ve heard from many constituents about the pandemic’s severe impact on their mental health.

Our communities have sacrificed so much and we need a plan for hope.

Conservatives led Canada through the last recession. As we look forward, we are once again putting forth a recovery plan that champions workers, families, and communities.

Here are our five priorities for Canada to secure the future.

Secure Jobs:

  • Take immediate action to help the hardest hit sectors (including women and young Canadians who have been impacted the most)
  • Assist small business and provide incentives to invest in, rebuild, and start new businesses

Secure accountability:

  • Toughen the Conflict of Interest Act and impose higher penalties
  • Toughen the Lobbying Act to end abuse by insiders

Secure mental health:

  • Boost funding to the provinces for mental health care
  • Provide incentives to employers to provide mental health coverage to employees

Secure our country:

  • Partner with pharmaceutical companies to increase production of critical medicines
  • Strengthen domestic production of PPE
  • Overhaul and rebuild Canada’s National Emergency Stockpile System

Secure Canada’s economy

  • Responsibly wind down emergency COVID support programs as Canadians are vaccinated and the economy re-opens
  • Ensure that stimulus measures are targeted and time limited

The approach we are taking is rooted in security, certainty, and accountability, not untested economic models. Time and time again this government has demonstrated an Ottawa-knows-best-approach.

You can see my continued “small business spotlight” features that I post on social media.

It’s also been wonderful to be out in the community again (safely) such as volunteering in Joe Rich at a community-led initiative and at a Rutland community spring clean up.

During the next few weeks, many Kelowna-Lake Country residents will be celebrating significant religious holidays including Passover, Holi, and Easter. While these holidays will be different than in years past, I wish you and your family meaningful celebrations in what way you can.

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

Priorities, recommendations

We recently passed the one-year anniversary of COVID-19 being declared a global pandemic.

While I continue to be impressed by the spirit of Kelowna-Lake Country, there is no doubt that the physical, mental, and economic impacts of COVID-19 have been severe.

I’ve heard from many in our community who are not only concerned about their own physical health and that of loves ones, but those whose mental health has suffered due to the pandemic.

Many people are struggling financially as businesses have shuttered and personal or business savings have dried up.

A report published by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, the COVID Misery Index, rated overall well-being and misery due to COVID-19 policies.

It showed that of 15 similar advanced countries, Canada has the fifth highest number on the scale, with higher scores indicating more misery — showing Canadians have suffered more than many other countries as a result of the pandemic.

Three main categories captured the disease impact, economic impact, and management response of each nation by measuring performance on 16 metrics.

It’s time for the Liberal government to step up and show a clear data-driven plan for a path out of the lockdown. It is also the federal government’s responsibility to provide an economic roadmap.

As we rebuild our economy, fiscal transparency and accountability are more important than ever. However, the federal government has continually delayed the release of a budget for two years now.

The government prorogued parliament last summer in order to give themselves a new mandate, and yet seven months later, Canadians still do not have an economic recovery plan or budget.

While the federal government has spent a lot of time talking about a budget, referring to it as “the most significant one of our lifetimes,” the reality is every G7 country made it a priority to present a budget to its citizens in 2020, as did all Canadian provinces and territories.

It is the role of the Official Opposition to hold the government to account and put forward recommendations. Like all Canadians, we want a successful vaccine rollout as well as utilization of other tools to get us through this pandemic.

On March 11, we put forward an Opposition Day motion calling on the government to include in the next federal budget support for workers in sectors heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic including industries such as hospitality, tourism, charities, airlines, and small-and medium sized business.

We’ve recommended practical measures such as providing repayable loans to airlines in exchange for consumer refunds, job guarantees, and restrictions on executive compensation, and the restoration of regional routes.

We also called for improvements to support and lending programs to prevent a wave of bankruptcies and layoffs.

We cannot allow the pandemic to destroy livelihoods in many sectors. By helping those most impacted, we can secure jobs, and quicken our economic recovery.

The government continues to bring forth bills in no logical order on their legislative agenda in parliament. Instead of prioritizing legislation on Canada-U.K. trade so that a deadline would be met in order to continue having tariff-free trade, the government instead prioritized legislation so they can have an election.

The Official Opposition were able to negotiate debating the trade agreement so businesses have certainty, and this bill passed in the House of Commons.

I was slated to debate on what would have been my third speech last week, but did not have an opportunity because the government, supported by the Bloc Quebecois, shut down debate on Bill C-7.

This bill came back to Parliament from the Senate dramatically expanding medical assistance in dying (MAID) to include those whose sole underlying condition is mental illness.

This expansion goes far beyond the original C-7 and against the serious concerns mental health and disability groups brought forth to the Justice committee.

I’m continuing with my “small business spotlight” features and on my social media you’ll also see several short videos about a number of topics such as International Women’s Day and the Kelowna Canadian Italian Club’s 55th anniversary.

There are a couple community clean-ups being planned, so reach out to my office if you are interested, and as details come in, we can pass the contact information on.

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

People, business legislation

Though there is much work to be done to focus on economic recovery, there are also other bills being debated and voted on in Parliament.

I’ll touch upon four pieces of legislation I was happy to support that were brought forth by Conservatives to support people and businesses in a number of ways, and which showed leadership on important issues.

First, it is imperative to support and recognize caregivers – who are often unsung heroes. Bill C-220 would extend compassionate care leave for caregivers up to three weeks after a loved one’s passing. Currently, eight million Canadians act as informal caregivers to loved ones.

These caregivers often experience physical, emotional, and financial stress and need time to make appropriate arrangements and grieve.

Second, Bill C-204 seeks to take action and ban the export of non-recyclable plastic waste from Canada to foreign countries.

Since we have means to properly dispose of much of our plastic waste domestically, Canada has a responsibility to ensure it’s not exported where it is then often dumped, burned, or left in landfills. This is a practical measure that will protect the environment globally.

Third, from heating barns to farm equipment, farmers face steep energy costs, which have skyrocketed in many parts of the country due to the increasing federal carbon tax.

Bill C-206 would exempt farmers from paying the carbon tax on gasoline, propane, and natural gas.

It is a practical measure to help alleviate the financial strain on the agriculture sector. Supporting our food security is more important than ever.

Lastly, Bill C-208 would allow the transfer of a small business, family farm or fishing corporation at the same tax rate when selling to a family member as they would when selling to a third party.

I was happy to jointly second this bill in the first session of this parliament. This was a poor tax policy change brought in by the government.

This policy bothered me so much, it was one of the factors that led me to run to become an MP.

Succession planning is a challenge at the best of times for small businesses and farmers and it is unfair that it is more financially advantageous to sell to a stranger than to your children who often grow up around their family business and contribute over a long time.

I recently received an email from a local small business owner:

“I am just writing to thank you for supporting Bill C-208, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (transfer of small business or family farm or fishing corporation). My wife and I are ready to hand over the reins of our business to our children.”

These four bills above were all passed in the House of Commons recently, and at committee for study.

On another topic, the changes to the government’s Bill C-71 on firearm legislation includes downloading the responsibility of handgun possession, storage, and transportation to by-laws within municipalities.

This will create a patchwork of rules across the country and with neighbouring communities.

This bill also includes changes that will dramatically affect airsoft and indoor paintball recreational usage and may negatively affect the Canadian film industry as well.

I recently participated in a few local virtual events including the Boys and Girls Upstream Kelowna’s launch ceremony. I was also a panellist on a local workshop, “Expanding Awareness of Financial Abuse to Seniors.”

This included great questions from participants about how to protect seniors from various types of fraud. Be sure to let me know if you are planning any local virtual events or would like to connect.

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


Standing up for you

As we make our way through February, there’s plenty to report on.

I’ll discuss a motion I put forward in Parliament, Canada’s vaccine rollout, reports of the government’s attempt to hide pandemic information from the public, and meeting with local youth.

I was proud to bring forward a Conservative Opposition Day motion in the House of Commons to create a special committee focusing on our economic relationship with the United States.

We must start planning to rebuild, to reopen our economy, and to get Canadians back to work.

Trade between Canada and the United States exceeds $1.5 billion per day. The business relationships between our two countries provides countless jobs across Canada, including here in Kelowna-Lake Country.

There are a number of pressing economic challenges Canada faces. The cancellation of Keystone XL, other existing pipeline issues, tariff issues, disputes on softwood lumber and dairy, stricter Buy American policies, and U.S. investigations on several of our fruit and vegetable exports have all impacted our economy, businesses, and jobs.

Here in Kelowna-Lake Country, apple orchardists are selling below cost due to large quantities of low-priced apples coming in from the U.S., and we hear many are near bankruptcy.

I’ve heard from local businesses who are wondering if the new Biden administration’s restrictive Buy American policies will shut them out of U.S. federal government contracts.

The European Union announced mechanisms to withhold vaccines from countries. While more than 100 countries were exempted from these measures, Canada was not listed. My Conservative colleagues and I on the International Trade Committee requested an emergency meeting where I questioned the minister about this.

This received extensive national and local media coverage and you can go to my website to see some links to interviews and articles.

People are waiting on a vaccine rollout plan. It’s clear that each day the government fails to address vaccine delays and cancelled deliveries, businesses continue to shutter, and families are forced to be apart.

Canada lost a staggering 213,000 jobs in January. Compared to the rest of the G7, we have the lowest vaccination rates per capita, the biggest deficit, and among the highest jobless rates.

In addition, while the United Kingdom and the U.S. have disclosed details of their vaccine rollouts to the public, questions from the public and Premiers here have remained unanswered.

In good faith, Canadians have endured lockdowns, work at home orders, and travel restrictions. It’s time the government was honest and presented a real plan to roll out vaccines, rapid testing and other measures to get our economy back on track.

Concerning documents were released to the Parliamentary Health Committee through a motion at the committee, which was not supported by the Liberal committee members, to disclose to the public the Liberals pandemic response.

Documents, including emails, showed how various numbers were being manipulated for what ministers were disclosing to the public.

Documents were also obtained by Global News where they reported:

“Senior political staffers from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office and the office of another federal Liberal cabinet minister privately discussed how to withhold information from Canadians about the government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis last June, newly released emails show.”

Thank you to everyone who has reached out to let me know your thoughts and ideas.

It was wonderful this past week to meet virtually with a local Grade 5-6 classroom and a Girl Guides group, both of whom had great questions about being an MP and how government works.

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

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.

Previous Stories