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In-Your-Service

MP calling for more rapid tests be made available to Canadians

More rapid testing needed

As many of us turned the page on 2021 looking towards a more promising 2022, the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has put a damper in our plans. With Omicron becoming the dominant strain, the federal government leaped to action with new travel restrictions.

However, in contrast to similar policies made earlier in the pandemic, much of what was put forth lacked backing from our country’s scientific professionals – or at times, even basic common sense.

An expansion in rapid testing and the availability of the testing kits have long been advocated by medical professionals across the country to help prevent Covid-19 surges allowing for greater information and the ability to react.

Rapid tests are available across the world, yet for some reason, in Canada they’re incredibly hard to come by and in short supply. I want residents to know I share their frustrations. With the overwhelming of PCR testing capacity across the country, rapid tests have become even more important than ever. Yet we should have been using these tests all along; they’re not new.

It was back in 2020 that I started advocating about using all the COVID-19 tools available, including rapid tests, which were recommended by health experts from within Canada and around the world. Two years into the pandemic, we have to ensure we are utilizing all the COVID-19 tools to keep people safe while ensuring people’s lives can get back to normal.

On Wednesday, the federal government announced it will send 140 million rapid tests to the provinces. To put that in perspective, the U.K. recommended daily at home testing due to Omicron. This announced Canadian supply means just four days of daily testing for every Canadian.

This week my party called upon the federal government, on an emergency basis, to immediately: Increase transfers to the provinces to increase healthcare surge resources; find innovative ways to boost surge capacity across the country such as emergency credentialing of foreign-trained health professionals; provide support to the provinces to increase testing capacity (including the deployment of rapid tests to schools, businesses, gyms, and public recreation centres); ensure game-changing therapeutics are rapidly but effectively reviewed, obtained and distributed to hospitals; procure and distribute n95 masks to all Canadians; support provinces in getting booster shots to Canadians; and bolster efforts to provide vaccines to countries that have limited supply.

However, we can’t look at Canada’s COVID response in a silo. Healthcare experts have stated the rise of variants like Omicron is directly related to the lack of vaccines provided in developing countries. Canada took COVID-19 vaccines from the global COVAX initiative, which supplies vaccines to middle and low-income countries.

I believe the current wave of lockdowns was avoidable.

I wish you and your family a safe and healthy 2022. I look forward to hearing from you.

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



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Kelowna MP says 2021 was 'one of the challenging years' for the community

2021, a challenging year

2021 was undoubtedly one of the most challenging years for our community of Kelowna—Lake Country.

While still coping with COVID-19, we suffered through extreme heat, wildfires, mudslides, and floods. These extreme weather events took homes, livelihoods and loved ones. Those who bravely worked to protect and save lives, from our first responders to front-line health care workers, have been the heroes of our community. We owe each of them a tremendous debt of gratitude.

While these events were difficult, they gave our community the opportunity to shine. Thousands volunteered with time and resources to help people and animals impacted by the devastation. The spirit of Kelowna-Lake Country is stronger than ever before.

While we’ve faced challenges at home, as your MP, I’ve continued to pressure the government in Ottawa to take meaningful action on issues like inflation, tax increases, border rules, affordable housing and free speech that are impacting members of our community.

Prior to the election, while serving as the export promotion and international trade critic, I helped form the Canada-US special economic relationship committee. Its focus was on important issues including demanding action on unjustified and unwarranted softwood lumber tariffs which also increased lumber costs at home. Unfortunately, Liberal inaction on the trading relationship with the United States has actually caused it to worsen.

The Canadian Press recently named the horrific discovery of the bodies of 215 children in a mass grave at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops as the most significant news story of 2021. The discovery caused all Canadians to pause and reflect on the importance of truth and reconciliation. That’s why I joined colleagues to call on the Liberal government to immediately implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action 71 to 76. Unfortunately to this day, we have seen no meaningful action from the government.

However, in a year as tragic as 2021, I was proud to join my colleagues in the Conservative Party in taking real action for Canadians. Despite serving in opposition, we were able to win support across party lines to pass bills that will offer more bereavement leave, reduce fuel costs for farmers, keep the environment free of plastic waste dumping, reduce recidivism and remove the unfair tax burden families face transferring farms or businesses to their children.

While some (proposed) legislation will now have to be re-introduced after (Prime Minister Justin) Trudeau’s unnecessary snap-election call, much of it, and more, is now the law of the land. These were important changes and I’m proud to have been a part of them.

It’s an honour to have a new role as small business recovery and growth critic. Small businesses were some of the hardest hit during the pandemic. I’ve made suggestions to the government for addressing labour shortages and I asked the government to halt all scheduled tax increases in 2022, however a minister shockingly responded that businesses “can afford this”.

Some of my most important work I do as your MP remains right here in the riding and through the feedback I receive from local residents.

This spring and summer, I spent days delivering Canada flags to homes for Canada Day, spent a week meeting with local farmers and touring farms and agriculture production facilities and held five roundtable discussions to further policy on critical local topics to our community—mental health, housing, affordability, small business and tourism.

I was proud to fight alongside many of you to end the closure of Kelowna International Airport to international travel without rationale or metrics from the Liberal government. It was with the help of our entire community that I was able to pressure the government to safely fully re-open our airport.

I want to thank my team both in Kelowna and Ottawa for their hard work during this exceptional time, and their dedication to serving our residents.

After the snap election this summer, I would like to again thank the residents of Kelowna—Lake Country for re-electing me to continue to serve you in Ottawa. It is a privilege to earn your confidence to fight for you each and every day.

Merry Christmas, happy holidays and a happy New Year to all for a prosperous 2022.



Wrong time for increased taxes on small businesses says MP

Not the time for tax hikes

On Jan. 1, while we’re ringing in the New Year, the federal Liberal (government) will be busy raising taxes on small businesses.

As small businesses try to look forward to a brighter 2022, the government will increase taxes on the same businesses that haven’t recovered from the initial impacts of COVID-19. Right as the clock strikes midnight at year-end, payroll taxes will once again see an increase. Now is not the right time to be raising the cost of doing business in Kelowna-Lake Country, especially after all our region has faced this year.

According to Statistics Canada's most recent survey of business conditions, more than one in four Canadian businesses expect their profitability to decline before year's end. There were many times this year when more businesses closed than opened. A rise in payroll tax won't raise much revenue if more and more small businesses end up having to close.

But my calls, and those of my Conservative colleagues, for the Liberals to freeze this increase have fallen on deaf ears. This is what happens when you have a small business minister who isn’t an entrepreneur and has never run her own business.

People frequently ask me about the increasing costs of almost everything these days, from lumber to ground beef to gas. No one can catch a break with inflation reaching a 20-year high. Similarly, small businesses in Kelowna—Lake Country are telling me how this is causing a drop in their sales in what should be the busiest shopping season of the year. Increased costs combined with supply chain issues, a labour crisis and COVID-19 are continuing to place small businesses under strain.

Of equal impact to our region is the U.S. decision to double tariffs on Canadian softwood lumber. Many in Kelowna are still reeling from more than 200 good jobs lost due to the closure of the Tolko mill last year and now more are at risk.

The government was forewarned of this. I have raised the issue of our softwood lumber dispute with the U.S. since my first time speaking in the House of Commons two years ago. Conservatives advocated for softwood lumber be included in CUSMA (the new North American Free Trade Agreement). I even warned the minister of international trade of these tariff increases at an emergency committee meeting on the issue in June.

But, less than two weeks after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau travelled to the U.S., the American government doubled their tariffs. It was simply another failure on the international stage by this Liberal government.

The Liberal response to the tariffs was one of "disappointment." Workers in our softwood industry won't be comforted by this continued mismanagement by the Trudeau government over six years, with four trade ministers and three different U.S. presidents in office.

Without an agreement, downstream effects will persist here in Kelowna-Lake Country, such as increasing construction material costs. Getting an agreement done, like the one signed under the former Conservative government, is a top priority for me and my colleagues.

Through the holiday season, and as we enter into the New Year, I want to remind everyone of the incredible small businesses, not-for-profits and charities we have here in Kelowna—Lake Country. After a difficult last two years, remember to shop local, and, if you can, volunteer or donate to not-for-profits or charities that serve our community.

As always, please reach out if you have any thoughts, ideas or concerns or if you need any assistance with federal services. I also encourage you to sign up for my regular emails (through my website) to stay up to date on my work in both Ottawa and Kelowna-Lake Country at tracygraymp.ca. I can also reached by email at [email protected].





The road to post-pandemic recovery could be a long one

Road to recovery

In the last couple weeks, we’ve seen hundreds of people seeking refuge in Kelowna-Lake Country as a result of the floods and road closures facing our region.

The response here in Kelowna, and from across our nation, has been heroic. My thanks go out to the efforts of municipal and provincial officials, first responders, Indigenous leadership, Canadian Armed Forces personnel and of course the thousands of residents who selflessly are volunteering their time.
There are many ways to donate as well, such as bringing transit tickets, cash and gift cards for clothing or food to the Salvation Army, Central Okanagan Food Bank or the Emergency Support Services Reception Centre currently at Willow Park Church on Hwy 33. The Canadian Red Cross, the United Way and the BCSPCA, among other organizations, have also established their own donation funds.

I’ll be working alongside my colleagues on Parliament Hill to ensure the federal government does its part to support those who need help during this crisis.

Meanwhile, in Ottawa, it is a privilege to once again be named to the official Opposition’s shadow cabinet as the Conservative Party's shadow minister for small business recovery and growth.

I have always looked to champion small businesses here in Kelowna-Lake Country and have spoken with hundreds of local employers and entrepreneurs about the challenges they face. They are at the centre of our economic well-being as small businesses provide the paycheques for two out of every three working Canadians in the private sector.

That’s why our road to recovery cannot be permanently lined with Help Wanted signs.

I hear frequently from local businesses and from colleagues about crippling labour shortages here and across the country in all sectors.

Since the pandemic hit, many small businesses have been put into survival mode. Even before Covid-19, Liberal tax changes, red tape, and regulations were already damaging the ability of small businesses to grow. We need to ensure small businesses on our main streets and around our community not only survive, but can thrive.

Addressing rising levels of business debt is vital to this goal. With average small business owners taking on $170,000 in new debt, even with government programs, it’ll be difficult for many to keep the lights on. Newly opened businesses in late 2019 or early 2020 have been some of the hardest hit as they were not applicable for most of the recovery programs.

Talking to small business owners locally, they tell me that even if it becomes business as usual now - they’ll take five years to recover, let alone get ahead.

Here in Kelowna-Lake Country the success of our tourism and hospitality sector is critical to restarting our own economy as these are among our economic engines. Extending work visa’s would allow tourism businesses, in particular ski hills, who rely on this program, to staff up during the winter tourism season in order to offer the activities they need, to sustain their businesses.

The recovery and growth of Kelowna Lake-Country and Canada as we come out of this difficult time will rely on the drive, hard work and entrepreneurial spirit of small business owners. As a former small business owner myself, I know what it’s like to make payroll and have everything on the line. As we enter this new parliamentary session, I will be the voice of small business and fight for you in Ottawa.

As always, please be sure to reach out if you have any thoughts, ideas or concerns and if you need any assistance with federal services.

I also encourage you to sign up for my regular emails (through my website to stay up to date on my work in both Ottawa and Kelowna-Lake Country—tracygraymp.ca and [email protected].



More In Your Service articles

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About the Author

Tracy Gray, Conservative MP for Kelowna-Lake Country, is the official Opposition’s critic for Small Business Recovery and Growth.

She is a member of the national caucus committee’s credit union caucus, wine caucus, and aviation caucus.

Gray, who has won the RBC Canadian Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and the 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, sat on the Passenger Transportation Board from 2010-2012 and was elected to the board of Prospera Credit Union for 10 years.

In addition, she served on the boards of the Okanagan Film Commission, Clubhouse Childcare Society, Kelowna Chamber of Commerce, Okanagan Regional Library and was chairwoman 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]

 



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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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