June brought the end of what seemed a very long session of Parliament, especially since the Conservatives forced sittings to midnight every night for the last month. They also set a new record for cutting off debate by using time allocation 75 times in the last session.
As soon as Parliament adjourned the Conservatives started making announcements in the hope of escaping scrutiny during Question Period in the House of Commons. Several of these announcements will have big impacts locally. Hot on the heels of adjournment came Jason Kenny’s “reforms” to the Temporary Foreign Workers Program. Previously the Conservatives had argued there was nothing wrong with a program that had brought nearly 450,000 temporary workers into the country and left them vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous employers, not to mention the program’s impact on keeping service sector wages low and making it hard for young Canadians to get entry level jobs. Kenney’s changes promise to cut the number of future temporary workers in half, but will not displace those who already came here under the program in good faith.
Just after adjournment we also learned that the Harper government has cut the funding to the Pathway Youth Employment Project on the Westshore. This is an extremely successful program for getting at risk youth into jobs or back into school, something that happened over 90 per cent of the time over the 13 years it has been operating. When you think of the loss of potential for these youth and the future social costs associated with the failure to meet their needs, this program is a bargain. I issued a press release expressing my concerns about the canceling of this project and I also wrote to the Minister asking that this bad decision be overturned.
June marks the beginning of what some call “Pride season” in Canada with events stretching across the country throughout the summer. This year Toronto hosted World Pride and the World Pride Human Rights Conference. I was honoured to be asked to chair a session at the conference and to be part of what was probably the largest and most diverse LGBTQ human rights gathering ever. I am disappointed to report that the Conservatives in the Senate are continuing to block my Private Member`s Bill C -279, the bill that would close the gap in Canada’s human rights record by guaranteeing equal rights for transgender Canadians.
Just days before MPs left Ottawa the Conservatives announced their unpopular decision to approve the Northern Gateway Pipeline. That day I was proud to stand with NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair and all 12 of our BC NDP MPs at a live news conference to express our unanimous opposition to the Northern Gateway project. As most of you know I have long been an opponent of expanding pipelines for oil export and the resulting increase in tanker traffic on our wild west coast. These pipeline projects not only threaten our local environment and existing sustainable jobs in tourism and fishing, but they also represent a stubborn failure to recognize the urgent need to begin the transition to a low carbon economy now. Let me wish all of you a happy and active summer. Have a great summer!