COLUMN: Serving the constituents of Kootenay-Columbia

MP Wayne Stetski describes his role locally, regionally and in the House of Commons

Over the last three and a half years I have been your MP, and I hope you have seen some of the information I’ve sent to you that says “Serving you is the most important work that I do.” Nice words, but what do they really mean?

As Member of Parliament for Kootenay-Columbia, I represent you and 112,353 other constituents, serving you six months of the year in Parliament in Ottawa and six months here in the riding. I have six amazing staff in my three offices in Cranbrook, Nelson and Ottawa, all of whom are dedicated every day to solving problems you are having with federal government services. For example, my staff have helped recover thousands of dollars the government owes to constituents like you through inquiries related to: the Canada Child Benefit, Old Age Security, Guaranteed Income Supplements, taxation issues with Revenue Canada, mistakes made by the Phoenix pay fiasco, veterans benefits, employment insurance, and disability tax benefits.

My staff help resolve most of these issues by working directly with federal department/agency/ministerial staff – and their work on your behalf is truly exemplary. If they are unable to resolve the issue, or the problem is related to government policies or procedures, they will ask me to intervene with the responsible Minister, which I am happy to do via email, letter or directly. While we don’t always get the results we want, my interventions shine a very bright light on your concerns, requiring Ministers to explain their actions, or inaction, and have sometimes even helped to change government policy. For example, we succeeded in changing a requirement for victims of domestic abuse to get the signature of their abuser in order to qualify for the Canada Child Tax Benefit.

My staff also help me seek your input on important issues, scheduling town halls, pop-up offices, one-on-one meetings with constituents and other events around our 64,000 sq. km. riding, and they keep you informed on my activities through social media, press releases, monthly e-news, and quarterly mailings.

My offices play an important role in ensuring millions of dollars in federal funding comes to communities in the riding by writing letters of support for municipalities, non-profit organizations and small businesses, and lobbying on their behalf. One example is youth employment – I will be announcing shortly almost three quarters of a million dollars coming to the riding this summer to employ youth through the Canada Summer Jobs program.

My role in Parliament is to make government better, and to be your voice in the House of Commons. This is accomplished by questioning government in Question Period, making statements celebrating constituents and highlighting important issues, sponsoring and presenting petitions, making speeches on legislation and questioning the Liberal government and the Conservatives on shortcomings of their proposed legislation. I put forward a Private Member’s Bill C-281 to create a National Local Food Day in October each year and it is currently being debated in the Senate.

I am a Vice-Chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development, reviewing all environmental legislation and contributing to important studies on issues like reaching Canada’s targets for conservation, better protecting Canada’s Heritage Resources, reporting on how Canada can become more of a leader dealing with climate change, and, most recently, fighting plastic pollution.

As NDP Critic for National Parks, I meet regularly with the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to discuss Canadians’ concerns, and as Chair of the federal NDP’s BC Caucus I coordinate the discussion of, and action on, the issues that are important to all British Columbians.

I also meet regularly with organizations with a wide variety of interests. Organizations I have met with recently include Nature Canada, the Paramedic Association of Canada, the International Association of Fire Fighters, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, and Global Water Futures.

People often ask me, “Wayne, how do you like being a Member of Parliament?”

My answer – “We help people every day, I learn every day, I get the opportunity every day to try and make a better Canada, and I get to serve the great people of Kootenay-Columbia.”

It just doesn’t get any better than that! Until we are elected as government, that is.

Wayne Stetski is the Member of Parliament for the Kootenay-Columbia riding.

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