Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison. File photo

Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison. File photo

COMMONS CORNER: Challenging the government on vaccine availability and more

The first of a quarterly column from Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison

By Rob Morrison

Kootenay-Columbia MP

Recently, it was announced that the government will extend the eligibility of several emergency benefit programs, including the Canada Recovery Benefit. Recipients will be able to receive the benefit for a maximum of 38 weeks between Sept. 27, 2020 and Sept. 25, 2021, up from 26 weeks.

I will continue to support getting help to those in our region who have been impacted by loss of work. Canada lost 213,000 jobs in January. That’s 213,000 more families wondering how they will make ends meet or when they can get back to work. The government needs to present a budget, their first in two years, that will get Kootenay-Columbians back to work and bring our economy back to life. That means jobs and growth in every sector in every part of our riding. I will continue to work for those who have been left behind, such as seniors, and focus on securing jobs and getting Kootenay-Columbians back to work.

After the release of the latest COVID-19 modelling data, Canada’s chief public health officer has acknowledged that very few Canadians will be vaccinated over the next few months. Kootenay-Columbians have been in contact with my office on this issue and are feeling let down by the current pace of vaccinations. They are wondering if the government’s slow response will mean more job losses, and lockdowns while we continue to wait for vaccines. We need a steady supply of vaccines now in order to secure jobs, rebuild our economy, and secure the future. I will continue to call for the clarity and competence that Kootenay-Columbians deserve from their government.

On Feb. 22nd, the House of Commons passed a Conservative Opposition Day motion calling on Parliament to recognize the genocide being carried out by the People’s Republic of China against the Uyghurs. While the motion passed with support from members of all parties, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Cabinet were absent, with the exception of Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau, who abstained from the vote. Members from all parties voted to recognize the genocide, despite the Prime Minister and his Cabinet refusing to vote. Their co-ordinated absence speaks volumes and Canadians deserve more. Canada may be a smaller country in terms of population, but we are a towering giant when it comes to our commitment to human rights.

Law enforcement agencies have acknowledged that 82 per cent of illegal guns are being smuggled into Canada. I have assured the government, based on first-hand experience as Chief Superintendent of the RCMP in B.C., that illegal weapons, upon entering our country, are not being registered and the criminals who own them won’t be complying with a gun ban. Targeting law-abiding Canadians, such as the sportsmen and hunters in Kootenay-Columbia, will not address the problem.

This government needs to walk away from its billion-dollar buy-back program and instead protect Canadians by sending gun-smuggling criminals and gang members to prison. Let’s remove automatic bail for those accused of gang crime, create tougher sentences for violent crimes, and make it easier for prosecutors to convict organized crime. A gun ban on Canadians who already obey the law does nothing to keep our country safe. This government’s approach falls short of addressing the real problem – criminals who smuggle and use guns to commit violence.

Canada and the United States are in a process of negotiations to renew the Columbia River Treaty. Global Affairs is working closely with the province, Columbia Basin First Nations and local communities. As the treaty is primarily in our riding, I wrote to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, respectfully requesting that I be delegated observer status. It is important to ensure those impacted by the negotiation, hundreds of millions in revenue, be given a voice.

A modernized treaty must be favourable to the constituents of Kootenay-Columbia and include co-operative development of water resources, flood risk management, power generation and recreation. Of equal importance is the reintroduction of the salmon to the Upper Columbia River. At its inception, the treaty displaced over 270,000 acres of our ecosystem, including local farmers, ranchers and Indigenous communities. This is an important issue in our riding and I look forward to hearing from the minister.

As always, should you need assistance please do reach out. The constituency office remains open for in-person meetings and we are also scheduling Zoom meetings for constituents who prefer to meet virtually. I look forward to being of assistance.

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