MP plans to take what she heard in riding over the summer to Parliament

Returning to Parliament

Parliament resumes this month and being out in the community extensively over the summer, gaining feedback from residents, has been important work.

Outreach involved various ways of hearing from people, including meeting in-person with individuals, touring businesses and not-for-profit organizations and connecting at many community events, including setting up my MP community booth where people could spend time chatting and discussing important matters.

My annual farming tour included meeting with farmers and those who support the agriculture industry.

These activities provided me with valuable feedback about what is important to individuals and local organizations.

Thank you to all who responded to my last survey, which went to every home (in the riding) at the beginning of the summer, about how the high cost of living is impacting the personal financial decisions of members of our community.

I’ll bring the voices of many (through the comments in the survey) to the House of Commons this fall. A quick summary of responses show 70% are buying fewer groceries, 81% are taking fewer trips, 78% are donating less to charity and 89% are putting less into savings, which truly speaks to how the cost of living crisis is affecting many here in Kelowna-Lake Country.

The top issues I heard about consistently included the rising cost of living, including for recent back-to-school shopping, the unaffordable cost of housing, increases in local not-for-profit and charity use due to the squeezing of family finances and the administrative burden of red tape, bureaucracy, and delays with federal government programs and services.

These, as well as new regulations affecting childcare operators and options, concerns about the potential loss of natural health products in Canada, federal government program and service delays, the rising cost of personal and business debt due to high-interest rates and mental health, addiction, and crime issues are all important concerns that were brought to my attention by residents.

The devastating fires in our community and surrounding areas this summer will be felt for a long time. My heart goes out to all who are affected and to anyone who has suffered losses.

People in our community opened their hearts and homes and there will be many who will still need help for a long time while they rebuild. Thank you again to all responders and volunteers who helped save lives and protect and support people in our community.

I have mentioned previously how the community support for those affected by the fires is emblematic of what I often refer to as “the spirit of Kelowna-Lake Country”. It was truly heartwarming to see our community come together to support each other during what has been an incredibly difficult time.

The crisis highlighted the importance of a concerted effort to address wildfires, including looking at federal government promises from the past. During the 2021 election, the prime minister promised to train and equip 1,000 woodland firefighters and provide $500 million to the provinces and territories to buy essential equipment to increase their ability to fight fires before the 2022 fire season. That promise was not fulfilled in the timeline, nor as of now.

I take all of the issues I heard over the summer seriously, including during the wildfires in Kelowna-Lake Country, and will bring our community’s voice to Ottawa when studying and debating legislation, questioning the government to hold it to account, working on studies at committee to make recommendations to the government and working with colleagues on future policies.

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

Tracy Gray is the Conservative MP for Kelowna-Lake Country.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


'Spirit of Kelowna-Lake Country' shines through in an emergency

MP praises wildfire response

Thank you for supporting our community

It is with the utmost gratitude that I want to thank all responders and volunteers who helped save lives and protect and support our community during this very difficult time.

The Central Okanagan Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) is activated during a major emergency, where municipal and provincial representatives from our region come together to coordinate responses and resources, facilitate decisions and where all official communications regarding the emergency originate. Continue to follow cordemergency.ca for updates.

The EOC has been called a “gold standard” for emergencies in Canada.

We heard over and over at the news conferences how resources from various jurisdictions were working closely together to save lives and property. The day the state of emergency was declared in the City of Kelowna and the District of Lake Country, I formally requested to the federal emergency preparedness minister to take whatever steps were necessary to expedite requests of the EOC, and I continued to reiterate this.

I can say, on a personal note, I have seen civil servants and locally elected leaders from all levels of government communicating and working together during the emergency to keep people safe and get information out.

As we emerge from this immediate crisis, we have to recognize the great loss that will affect many for a long time. We have to remember most lost “structures” are homes. Not only will there be property and both personal and business financial losses, but supporting each other’s mental wellness will also be important.

Residents have been calm and overwhelmingly compassionate opening their homes and hearts. It was important for me to visit the emergency shelter at Prospera Place (in Kelowna) and the Emergency Support Services location at Royal LePage Place (in West Kelowna) to connect with organizers there.

Though there will likely be operational lessons learned, all staff and volunteers I spoke with were trying their hardest to serve and help as best they could.

It was an honour to volunteer at the Salvation Army Kelowna’s Emergency Disaster Services kitchen stationed at the firefighting base camp at UBC Okanagan, which fed hundreds of firefighters from our community and from outside our region.

While I volunteered beside someone whose family lost their home, I heard how many restaurants and caterers were donating substantial quantities of food and high-quality meals to feed to firefighters. I’ve run into many people who, like myself, volunteered and supported the Central Okanagan Food Bank during the past week. I extend my thanks to you.

There are many stories emerging across the community of what I’ve often called “The Spirit of Kelowna-Lake Country”. Thank you to the many cultural groups, worship centres, businesses and charities doing what they can to provide food and needed supplies to our community members. There will be an ongoing need at local food banks to maintain supplies and I’ve heard one of the best ways to help people is to donate or volunteer at food banks and other local not-for-profits as they have distribution and organizational capabilities.

It will also be important to support our local businesses now more than ever. As well, if it’s possible to buy locally made products to donate, that helps the greater community even more.

My constituency office team is always here to help as best it can with any federal services. Thank you again to all civil servants, responders, community organizations, businesses and (residents) helping people in whatever ways they can. Stay safe and stay well.

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

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

New rules could increase cost, or decrease availability, of natural health products says MP

Natural health product rules

One of the top items that local residents, small businesses and health professionals have reached out to me about recently is proposed federal policies which will affect natural health products (NHPs).

At the same time as they are putting new labelling requirements into effect, Health Canada recently proposed new and considerable costs for manufacturers of NHPs. These new policies on health supplements are so dramatic that several supplement manufacturers, particularly small businesses, claim it will be simply too expensive and burdensome to continue doing business in Canada.

Retailers, distributors, health professionals, and (residents) say this an attack by Ottawa on personal health choices, and there is genuine concern many NHPs that people rely on will become unavailable to Canadians.

Existing regulations on health supplements already keep Canadians safe. In fact, the Government of Canada’s website states, “Health Canada regulates natural health products (NHPs) so that Canadians can have confidence that products they use are safe, effective, and of high quality”.

Unnecessary new regulations put Canadian businesses at a disadvantage in the global market. Furthermore, Canadians stand to lose access to the health supplements they choose to use as a result of red tape and bureaucratic gatekeeping, rather than health impacts. This new red tape is about giving more power to Ottawa, not protecting Canadians.

My Conservative colleagues and I believe in enhanced freedom for Canadians in their choice of natural health products and complementary treatments, and this is something we will continue to fight for.

The Office of the Auditor General of Canada released a 2021 report that indicated about 70% of Canadians regularly use NHPs to maintain their health and prevent minor health problems. In a 2016 survey, more than half of the Canadian participants said they used vitamins and minerals weekly.

The federal government brought forth Bill C-47 in the House of Commons and Health Canada has undertaken initiatives aimed at adding, or amending, fees, labelling and other aspects of the regulation of NHPs.

Bill C-47 has provisions that affect the Food and Drugs Act and NHPs. Conservatives moved specific amendments that would have removed these changes. However, due to the NDP-Liberal partnership and their combined voting power, these amendments were voted down. Conservatives voted against the entirety of Bill C-47.

These new regulations do nothing to further protect Canadians but, instead, give more power to the federal government and its bureaucracy, adding unnecessary costs to products that many Canadians use and rely on.

Canadian businesses will be put in a difficult predicament due to these new restrictions. Many small and medium-sized businesses in Canada could be forced to close their operations or reduce product lines because of these unrealistic, unfair and costly changes. Retailers and natural health professionals could have fewer products available for sale and importers could look to reduce product lines to Canada due to added red tape and extra costs.

The burden of the costs for products that remain on shelves will be passed down to the consumer, once again, fuelling the cost-of-living crisis and making life more expensive.

I will continue to hold the federal government to account to ensure Canadian businesses are competitive and Canadians’ access to safe natural health products is protected.

Please note, that there is a mechanism in place for the public to provide feedback to the government on these proposed changes. If you are interested in this, and in seeing more details on this issue, please email my office and (my staff) will send you additional information.

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

Tracy Gray is the Conservative MP for Kelowna-Lake Country.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Another interest rate increase hurts home owners, businesses

Pain of interest rate hikes

We've now seen the 10th consecutive increase in Canada's benchmark interest rate in under a year and a half, rising to 5%. While many economists expected the Bank of Canada's increase, it was terrible news to local mortgage holders and small business owners in the Okanagan, who are already struggling with the ripple effects of the last interest rate hikes.

A 5% interest rate has not been seen in Canada since March 2001, 22 years ago.

In June 2020, when the prime minister was asked whether his historically high spending might trigger higher inflation and interest rates, he downplayed any possibility of rate hikes. The governor of the Bank of Canada (BoC) said at the time that interest rates "are going to be unusually low for a long time."

The BoC kept hiking interest rates after failing to keep inflation at a 2% target, yet we heard recently they rewarded themselves $20 million in executive bonuses in 2022.

I've heard from many local young adults about how high interest rates have already forced them to postpone their first home purchase, creating a domino effect in the rental market as they stay renting longer. I'm also hearing from many local mortgage holders who are being hit hard with increases in mortgage payments. One resident stated their mortgage payment is now 48% of their take-home pay.

Affordable housing is defined by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) as being 30% or less of a household's before-tax income. A 2022 Re/Max Canada Housing Affordability Index showed that the percentage of monthly income that people in the Kelowna/Central Okanagan region were paying for their monthly mortgage was a whopping 78.35%, which was before several more interest rate hikes.

The BoC examined variable-rate mortgages with fixed payments where certain mortgages will reach trigger rates sooner, in particular, those mortgage holders who signed on when interest rates were very low. These represented about one third of the total outstanding mortgage debt as of November 2022. Trigger rates occur if fixed payments cover only interest and not principal. The BoC outlined how different approaches may occur, such as some lenders automatically increasing mortgage payments, others allowing for negative amortization, or some connecting with borrowers to offer options such as switching to a fixed-rate mortgage or making a lump-sum payment.

Any way you look at it, people will be paying more, squeezing family finances.

According to the Globe & Mail, mortgages with loan repayment periods longer than 30 years between February and April comprised more than a quarter of the residential loan books at TD Bank, Canadian CIBC, BMO, and RBC.

Prolonged periods of interest rate hikes, like we've seen since March 2022 in response to the government's inflationary deficits, will only stretch longer if current trends continue. Bloomberg reported last month 70, 80 even 90-year repayment plans on mortgages.

The International Monetary Fund recently warned that Canadian households run the highest risk of mortgage defaults out of the 38 mostly advanced economies using data provided by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD).

Home sales overall will be affected too due to these recent interest rate hikes, with the Canadian Real Estate Association reporting cutting its forecast for home sales activity for 2023 and 2024 due to new uncertainty in the housing market.

Homeowners were told for years by both the BoC and the government that their deficit spending would have no impact on inflation or interest rates. We know this is not true, and people's households are feeling the effects.

I will continue to push the government to stop their inflationary spending and tax increases, which are causing inflation which is causing high-interest rates, which will cause increases in mortgage defaults.

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

Tracy Gray is the Conservative MP for Kelowna-Lake Country.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

More In Your Service articles

About the Author

Tracy Gray, Conservative MP for Kelowna-Lake Country, is her party's critic for Employment, Future Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion

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]


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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