It’s been a year of positive highlights punctuated by a few disappointments for Kootenay-Columbia MP Wayne Stetski, who stopped by the Cranbrook Townsman on Tuesday to reflect on the last 12 months.
Stetski says helping constituents address and solve problems and concerns is one of the best parts of his job, while being in Parliament — and all the history and gravitas that it represents for Canada’s 150th anniversary — is exciting and noteworthy.
“Every day is different, every day is interesting,” Stetski said. “The best part is learning every day. Learning about Canada, learning internationally about things that are happening around the world and you learn about your riding.”
The federal NDP, which is Stetski’s political affiliation, isn’t in a position to drive the legislative agenda, but there are issues that he is continually raising to hold the Liberal government to account.
The big three, which he campaigned on, are democratic reform, medically assisted dying and the legalization of marijuana.
All three issues have been raised by the government in some form or another throughout the year and will likely be ongoing in 2017 as well.
The biggest issue moving ahead will be upcoming legislation for the legalization of marijuana.
The federal government just released a report from a task force that recommended the legal age to purchase marijuana be set for 18. Other recommendations included preventing the sale of liquor and marijuana at the same business while people should be allowed only four plants for personal use.
Stestski said that studies show the brain doesn’t fully develop until 25 years of age, noting that maybe the legal age should be set there. However, he conceded that youth would be going to the black market and organized crime to get marijuana anyways.
He is planning on reaching out to Kootenay-Columbia residents in the new year to hear how constituents want the issue to move forward and what should and shouldn’t be in the legislation.
“There were some good recommendations in there,” Stetski said, “assuming it’s going to proceed but there are things still worth discussing which is why I still want to hear from constituents.”
Democratic reform has been a priority for Stetski, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberals campaigned on getting rid of the first-past-the-post system. However, now that the Liberals have a majority government, that enthusiasm to reform seems to have waned, Stetski said.
He suggested a proportional representation system would cut down on partisan politics, which currently plagues Parliament.
“We have to find a way to get rid of partisan politics,” Stetski said. “Proportional representation would help that because it would force parties to work together more closely, but what it currently means is — heading into Canada’s 150th anniversary — 149 of those years partisan politics has played a role.
“What it means is that good ideas do not make it into law because it’s not the governing party putting forward the good idea, and that’s wrong. It’s just wrong. We have to find a way to fix that.”
He also brought up the issue of medically assisted dying, noting that following the Supreme Court of Canada striking down a ban on the practice, the Liberals introduced the legislation to allow people the option of ending their lives. However, Stetski says the legislation is a little flawed; it allows people who are already dying to choose to end their lives, but it prevents those with degenerative conditions and people living with chronic pain from choosing to end their lives.
Outside of those big three issues, Stetski has also spent time introducing a private member’s bill to make the last Friday before Thanksgiving National Local Food Day and risen in the House to make speeches on Jumbo and Ktunaxa, poverty reduction, infrastructure and importance to stabilize infrastructure funding for municipalities and potential cuts to HIV/AIDS funding in the BC interior.
Other issues include meeting with Catherine McKenna, the Environment Minister, to talk about national parks, climate change and the Columbia River Treaty. He’s also got his eye on nominating Sophie Pierre, who was named to the Order of Canada in June, to succeed David Johnston, the Governor General, when he chooses to retire.
Heading into the New Year, Stetski is hoping to tour the riding in the second week of January to meet with constituents. He is also heading over to Europe as part of an all-party committee to visit Ukraine, Latvia, Kazakstan and Poland on behalf of the federal government.
“That’s basically to show Canada’s support for those countries because they are all border with, or are heavily influenced by, Russia,” Stetski said, “and there’s a lot of concern about Russia on an international scale, so it’s very well received and appreciated by those countries, particularly when an all-party committee come to those countries and show how you can have differences of opinion but still work together in the name of democracy.”