MP looks back at his year in federal politics

Political hits and misses

This past year has been a difficult one for many Canadians,struggling to find a home they can afford, pay for their groceries and access proper health care.

And on top of that, we faced the worst year for climate disasters with widespread fires, floods and droughts.

Throughout the year, my colleagues in the federal NDP caucus and I focussed on making life better for all Canadians, using the power we have with the minority (Liberal) government to put forward solutions that tackle the many crises facing the country.

Yes, we made some significant inroads, but I know as well, many entered the holiday season with too much worry on their minds. The price of food hit Canadians hard, something we especially noticed during the holidays.

But while folks scramble to pay their grocery bills, the big box grocery stores continue to make bigger and bigger profits. The NDP successfully pushed back on this “greedflation” by forcing the government to give the competition bureau stronger powers to investigate food price gouging, enhance competition and help stabilize and even reduce prices.

The cost of housing, and even the availability of rental units, continues to be the biggest problem for many. As part of our supply and confidence agreement with the government, the NDP forced changes to housing programs, pushing developers getting government assistance to create twice as many units of affordable housing and offer them at half the rental cost as in previous programs.

We finally got the GST taken off housing construction projects, making them easier and more affordable to build.

I think the biggest victory for Canadians was the new national dental care plan that will be a fully operational, free dental insurance plan for all qualifying children, seniors and people with disabilities by the end of 2024 and for all Canadians who don’t have a dental plan now and whose family income is less than $90,000 by the end of 2025.

Another big victory for Canadian workers was the introduction of “anti-scab” legislation, covering federally-regulated sectors such as transportation and banking.

British Columbia has had this legislation for decades, but workers in those sectors will finally be able to strike without the threat of employers bringing in replacement workers that effectively neutralizes the effect of a strike, thus lengthening labour disputes and often tearing apart communities.

The NDP tabled “anti-scab” legislation eight times over the last 15 years, but the Liberals and Conservatives voted it down each time—until now.

We haven’t been successful in all our negotiations with the Liberals. As the small business critic for the NDP, I continually pressed the Liberals to extend the deadline for small businesses to repay their CEBA loans, put in place to help companies through the pandemic. For many small businesses, recovery has been slow and thousands of companies are facing the prospect of closing their doors, putting tens of thousands of workers out of their jobs.

Unfortunately, both the Liberals and Conservatives have been deaf to calls from businesses across the country.

As emergency preparedness critic, I’ve also tried to convince the minister responsible to form a national wildfire fighting force. After a series of bad fire years, 2023 was by far the worst fire season in Canadian history and local and provincial forces were often overwhelmed by the intensity of the firestorms. I will continue that press in 2024, as we are obviously living the effects of climate change and must make the investments to adapt to that new reality.

There is still much to do in 2024. It was a pleasure to serve the South Okanagan – West Kootenay in 2023 and I will continue to represent your ideas, struggles, and voices in Ottawa to strive for a Canada where everyone belongs and no one is left behind.

The holidays are a time when compassion, generosity, and community giving are at their strongest. I am continually inspired by the organizations and families who embrace the true spirit of giving to help those most in need in our communities.

Please take up that spirit as well, now and throughout the year. I wish you all happy, healthy and peaceful New Year.

Richard Cannings is the NDP MP for South Okanagan – West Kootenay.

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

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