MP Alex Atamanenko calls the present session of parliament the most critical in a decade.

Most critical session in last decade, says Atamanenko

Last week marked the beginning of the toughest and most critical session of Parliament in the last decade, says the region’s MP.

  • Feb. 5, 2012 4:00 p.m.

By Timothy Schafer, Trail Daily Times

Last week marked the beginning of the toughest and most critical session of Parliament in the last decade, says the region’s MP.

Alex Atamanenko said the issues facing the current session of Parliament are some of the biggest he has witnessed since he assumed office in 2006 for BC Southern Interior.

The pension fund and its reform will likely dominate discussion, as the Conservative government attempts to grapple with sustainability of the Old Age Security fund, knowing that within 20 years, half the number of working people will have to support three times the level of benefit expenditures.

As well, the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline from Alberta to the BC coast is a major environmental issue the Conservatives want to push through for approval this session.

“We are looking at a direct attack on the environment, we are looking at a direct attack on pensions, this is pretty critical right now,” Atamanenko said. “Decisions made today will have far reaching effects into our future.”

Atamanenko pointed out a recent announcement in Davos, Switzerland by Prime Minister Stephen Harper about pension reform was a surprise development, with no mention of the reform in the last election.

However, there will be significant opposition from seniors’ groups and the provinces, said Atamanenko, who will have to pay social assistance for two extra years to support low-income 65 and 66-year-olds, if the new retirement age of 67 comes into effect.

The amount of OAS pension people receive who reach retirement age could also be reduced under the changes, meaning less disposable income for seniors and a hard hit on the small business communities across the nation, said Atamanenko.

But with the Conservatives opting for time allocation on the debate on pension reform the chance to stall or block the changes will be limited.

“Experts have looked at the fund before and they have said there is really no need to tinker with it,” he said. “I think it is important for people right across the political spectrum in Canada to get mobilized, and it’s not just seniors.”

He was disappointed with the pension announcement, especially considering the federal government wants to spend up to $29 billion on new F-35 fighter planes to update its aging air force.

“All sorts of arguments are there that say we shouldn’t be going blindly to purchasing these F-35s, specifically the cost, and at the same time (Harper) is saying we don’t have money for seniors? I think that is morally wrong,” Atamanenko stated.

In addition to pension reform, a new copyright act, changes to environmental assessment reviews, an end to the long-gun registry and tough criminal justice reforms are all on roster for the current session.

Deteriorating conditions on First Nations reserves will also be discussed this session, Atamanenko said, as will Harper’s refusal to call for a new health accord, instead giving the provinces a “take it or leave it policy” on health care transfers.

The Conservatives also need to find around $8 billion to cut from the next budget as Finance Minister Jim Flaherty tries to reign in the deficit and implement deep spending cuts.

But making cuts to the pension fund should not be part of the solution, said Atamanenko.

“Good policy is not made by blindly following some left or right ideology, it’s made by having some compromises, by looking at what’s making sense and building upon what we have rather than changing or destroying what we have.”

Just Posted

VIDEO: Happy birthday Kaslo

Village marks 125th birthday with reopening of city hall, sealing of time capsule

B.C. declares state of emergency as more than 560 wildfires rage

This is only the fourth state of emergency ever issued during a fire season

Nelson council gives next council a raise

Size of increase disregards advice of appointed committee

Four-storey development slated for Hall-Front intersection in Nelson

Building will be mixed commercial and residential

Interim GoFundMe payments approved in Humboldt Broncos crash

$50,000 to be given to each of the 13 survivors and each family of the 16 people who died

Altidore nets 3 as Toronto drubs Whitecaps 5-2

Vancouver falls 7-4 on aggregate in Canadian Championship final

Ottawa intervenes to get B.C. ball player, 13, to Little League World Series

Before immigration issue was resolved, Dio Gama was out practicing the game he loves Wednesday

Pet goldfish invades small B.C. lake

Pinecrest Lake is located between Whistler and Squamish

Mounties deployed to help B.C. communities affected by wildfires

RCMP officers heading to places particularly within central, northern and southern B.C.

Chinese medicine practitioner in B.C. facing historical sex assault charges

71-year old Kit Wong practiced acupuncture from his home during the time of the assaults

Quebec sets aside $900 million for companies hurt by U.S. tariffs

Premier Philippe Couillard says his government will make $863 million available over five years

Ex-B.C. teachers’ union leader among latest pipeline protesters to get jail time

Twelve people have been sentenced for violating court order to stay away from Kinder Morgan terminal

Most Read