From the Hill

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

It’s been a busy month in Ottawa and I’d like to provide a short update on what my colleagues and I have accomplished in that time.

The big news is of course the passage of Bill C-31 which will bring interim dental care support for children under the age of 12 who do not have a dental plan at present. This will allow parents to apply for up to $650 per eligible child if their household income is below $90,000.

This NDP-led dental support is interim in that it will be eventually replaced in the next two years by a full-fledged dental plan for all Canadians who meet the two main criteria around a lack of dental coverage and a lower income.

I’ve also continued my efforts to obtain proper funding for graduate students who are paid for their research work through one of the federal funding councils. The amounts paid by these scholarships have remained static since 2003, meaning that many students are receiving as little as $17,000 per year for full time work, forcing them to work for below minimum wage and living in poverty. I recently presented a large petition asking for this issue to be resolved.

I have met repeatedly with representatives from the beer and wine sectors who have deep concerns over the alcohol excise tax, which now escalates automatically with the cost of living. This escalator was brought in during a time of very low and stable inflation, and no-one anticipated the dramatic increases we are seeing this year. I met with the Deputy Minister of Finance last week to press their case for various measures to lessen the impact on these important industries.

As NDP Tourism Critic, I’ve been meeting with members of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada to discuss the challenges in that sector. Most of the concerns are around continuing difficulties at the border and in airports, and while the discontinuation of the ArriveCAN app has been a big relief there is still much to be done.

During the Thanksgiving week I was selected to be part of a parliamentary delegation to Malta and Albania. We met with parliamentarians of both countries to discuss important international issues such as the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean, cybersecurity, and trust in government. I was particularly interested to hear of the important role Albania has been playing in the transfer of Afghani refugees to Canada. Albania has also been an inspirational example of how a country can emerge from a half-century of extremely repressive totalitarianism to become a modern progressive country in only two or three decades.

My Private Members Bill on environmentally friendly building materials is scheduled to be debated at the end of November. I had a very encouraging meeting with Public Works in which top bureaucrats expressed full support for the bill, so I’m confident it will pass and become law. My bill on the Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights will now be debated next January or February.

And finally on the affordability front, my NDP colleagues and I have been working hard to put money into your pocket to help make ends meet. The doubled GST rebates will be sent to eligible Canadians starting on November 4th. The whole NDP caucus has been pushing for this help since early May.

The NDP has also been calling out the windfall profits made by big oil and gas companies and the big-box grocery retailers that have been driving inflation in Canada, much more than the 2 cents per litre increase to the carbon tax kicking in at the end of April that the Conservatives have been focused on. A recent NDP motion called on all parties to launch an investigation of grocery chain profits. It received unanimous support in the House in mid-October and has forced a study by the Competition Bureau on grocery chain profits and how our government can take action to help Canadian families cope with rising costs.

This Thursday, the government will release its Fall Economic Statement, and we will all be watching that for important initiatives and critical details of how the government will be dealing with the inflation and climate crises we are all facing. I’ll report back in my next column!