Kootenay-Columbia MP Wayne Stetski shows off some local flowers at a market in Invermere. Photo submitted

COLUMN: What Wayne Stetski did on his summer vacation

The Kootenay-Columbia MP talks cimate change, farmers markets and Bill C-281

Wayne Stetski

It is an honour to serve you as your Member of Parliament. One of the things that I like best about the job is that I learn from you every day, and this summer was no exception.

One of our main focuses this summer was providing information on, and gathering support for, my private member’s Bill C-281, which would see the Friday before Thanksgiving celebrated across Canada as National Local Food Day. I participated in farmer’s markets in Fernie, Jaffray, Cranbrook, Creston, Salmo, Nelson, Revelstoke, Golden, Radium, Invermere and Kimberley. Support for the bill was extremely positive with hundreds of people signing petitions and mailing in postcards — thank you for that! The bill comes back to the House of Commons on Oct. 19 for third reading and debate.

We received many positive comments for the work my staff and I do on your behalf ranging from recovering money owed to you by the federal government, to intervening when you are being treated unfairly by a government department, to helping with immigration and passport issues. Helping our constituents is the most important work that we do.

I also heard your concerns: single seniors, many who are women, trying to live on $17,856 a year that is the maximum they can receive from Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement combined, when in 2017 the poverty level in Canada was $22,133; Canada is not doing enough to combat climate change and forest fires and smoke-filled summers may be the new norm; there is a lack of affordable housing in many communities in Kootenay Columbia resulting in everything from homelessness to businesses not being able to expand; the Liberal government spending 4.5 billion of our tax dollars to buy the 65-year-old Kinder Morgan pipeline when the money could be better spent on universal pharmacare or putting a solar panel on our homes or even investing in an oil refinery; the need to ensure good public transportation linking our rural areas together with Greyhound phasing out; U.S. President Trump and the need for a fair trade deal that doesn’t punish our lumber or dairy industries; concerns from refugee committees in a number of our communities who are frustrated with how long it is taking to bring approved families here from international refugee camps.

In between farmers’ markets I spoke on the need for an improved Columbia River Treaty, particularly around ecosystem considerations and respecting Indigenous concerns, at a stakeholder and political panel at the international Pacific NorthWest Economic Region Summit in Spokane. Negotiations have begun between Canada and the U.S. on potentially renewing the treaty, which expires on Sept. 16, 2024. I have met with Canada’s chief negotiators in Ottawa and will continue to ensure our voices are heard as the negotiations progress. At the summit I reminded our American friends that we are the headwaters for both the Columbia and the Kootenay Rivers, so they really should be nice to us!

One of the priorities for a new treaty must be bringing Pacific Ocean salmon back to Columbia Lake. It was an honour for me to join with Shuswap Chief Barb Cote and Ktunaxa Chief Alfred Joseph in the ceremonial paddle and grand entry march for this year’s Salmon Festival in Invermere.

I also had the pleasure of being part of Kaslo’s 125th birthday celebration in August and touring their newly renovated historic city hall. As a former mayor I truly appreciate the challenges and joy of taking care of our heritage structures, and the people of Kaslo are rightfully proud of their village! We need to continue to ensure there is adequate federal funding.

When I was mayor of Cranbrook we held the city’s first ever Multicultural Festival and I was pleased to represent Canada at this year’s fifth celebration. We need to continue to ensure Canada continues to be a warm and welcoming country – diversity enriches our lives and our communities.

College of the Rockies is a great place to go to school for trades and also for some university transfer courses and degrees! I used to chair the university studies math and science committee at the college and it was a pleasure to be part of this year’s College of the Rockies Community Showcase, and chat with students from across Canada and around the world (this year there are 423 international students registered at six campuses). While College of the Rockies and Selkirk College in the West Kootenay are relatively inexpensive compared to many other post-secondary institutions, imagine what Canada could look like if we offered free tuition to all Canadians.

Last weekend I participated in the first annual Wasa Children’s Festival and reflected on the future of our children, the things I learned this summer, and the challenges facing our riding and our country. It reaffirmed the decision that I made a few weeks ago after discussion with my family — I have decided to seek your support to continue to serve you as your Member of Parliament in the 2019 federal election.

Best wishes for a great fall!

Wayne Stetski is the Member of Parliament for Kootenay-Columbia

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