Directors with the Regional District of East Kootenay got the chance to meet with Kootenay-Columbia MP Wayne Stetski on Friday, peppering the federal representative with questions ranging from the legalization of marijuana to electoral reform.
Stetski, who served on the regional board during his time as Cranbrook mayor, used his time to talk about his role as a Member of Parliament within the context of being in opposition to a Liberal majority government.
Following his address, he took questions from the board, much of which centred on electoral reform and the legalization of marijuana.
“The plan is, by 2019 — the next federal election — we’d be going with proportional representation voting, rather than a first-past-the-post system,” said Stetski. “There’s been a lot of discussion in Parliament about whether there should be a referendum on that.
“The position of the Liberals is that Oct. 19 [the federal election] was the referendum and when you look at the party platforms, the Liberals, the NDP and the Greens all supported changes to proportional representation voting.”
A committee is currently touring Canada gathering feedback to determine what form of proportional representation to move to. Though the committee isn’t coming to Kootenay-Columbia, Stetski recently toured the riding to gather feedback from Kootenay constituents to present to the committee.
“The devil really is in the details in terms of how to make proportional representation work, but the issue is, we’re about 150 years now in Canada, anywhere 37-39 per cent of Canadians have voted generally for the party that ends up with 100 per cent of the power in Ottawa,” Stetski said.
Invermere mayor Gerry Taft raised his concerns that proportional representation may change the size of riding boundaries, while Fernie mayor Mary Giuliano said she was uncomfortable with electronic voting and the potential for manipulation.
Mike Sosnowski, Area A director, championed a motion to send a letter on behalf of the RDEK to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the electoral reform committee and Stetski asking for a referendum on the issue.
Legalization of marijuana was also a hot topic as the federal government has committed to introduce legislation by March 2017.
“It’s chaos right now in municipalities,” said Stetski. “If you’re on police forces trying to figure out what to do, the Minister of Justice says the laws currently in place should be enforced, so you can still be arrested for possession, but if you’re in a police force, why would you do that when you know the target is to have it legalized by next March?”
Canal Flats mayor Ute Juras was concerned with legalization in the context of if police have the ability to test for roadside marijuana impairment. Cranbrook Mayor Lee Pratt also brought up the application by a company hoping to set up a local medical marijuana facility that is currently going through the Health Canada approval process.
Physician-assisted dying also came up, as Stetski said the Liberal government’s legislation is currently being tested in Supreme court and wouldn’t be surprised to see it come back to Parliament for more tweaks.
Stetski also said he’d be introducing a private members bill to make changes to the Navigation Protection Act and restore protection to rivers, lakes and other waterways that was removed under Conservative legislation.
Later in the fall, Stetski also said he’s hoping to meet with B.C. government representatives in each of the three provincial ridings inside the federal Kootenay-Columbia riding to talk about small business issues.