Letter to the Editor re: Open letter to the electorate of the Kootenay-Columbia
Thank you to the 63,203 people who voted in the Oct. 19 election. Almost 74 per cent of eligible voters in Kootenay Columbia took that walk to the polls, which was amongst the highest in Canada. This election was an excellent example of how every vote counts, and it is an honour to serve you as your Member of Parliament. So what’s been happening in the first month?
Starting out as a Member of Parliament is incredibly busy. One of the challenges is setting up offices – my plan is to have staff in Ottawa, Nelson and Cranbrook for Jan. 4, 2016. This involves leasing new space and furnishing the offices with the recycled inventory used by the former MP as the furniture, computers, etc. are all owned by the House of Commons. I plan on having one staff person in Ottawa and four in the riding so that you get good service here at home.
We are assigned office locations in Ottawa based on “standing,” so for this 42nd Session of Parliament Liberal MPs picked their offices first, Conservative MPs second, and we are in process of picking our offices now. The next update will include my Ottawa office information – even if we’re picking third it is an honour to have an office on Parliament Hill.
I also have to hire the staff. The NDP has unionized Constituency and Parliamentary Assistants and since we went from 103 seats to 44 in the election, there are several hundred qualified people in Ottawa who, under the contract, get the first opportunity to bid on the jobs both in Ottawa and across the country. That process is underway.
The MP has to serve their constituents whether permanent staff is in place or not. In the last month I have attended meetings and events in Fernie, Cranbrook, Creston, Invermere, Nelson, Kaslo and Johnson’s Landing. There have been phone calls (250.919.9104) and emails (firstname.lastname@example.org) and letters (PO Box 872, Cranbrook V1C 4J6) until Jan. 1 and then send mail to (Unit B – 111 7th Ave S, Cranbrook V1C 2J3) to answer.
There have been about 100 letters so far including those waiting for me in Ottawa. Experienced MPs have told me that once everything is up and running an MP can expect to get between 300 and 500 emails per day. If you have sent me some correspondence and haven’t heard back yet please be patient – you will get a response! Phone me if it is urgent.
In the last month I was also in Ottawa for five days participating in an intensive orientation focused on finance and admin and the non-parliamentary aspects of being an MP. We are given a budget that includes staff salaries, office leases, providing information to constituents, in-riding travel, etc. If we go over it we pay for it out of our own pockets!
On average we spend over six months of the year in Ottawa participating in Parliament and other national responsibilities (for example I am the NDP critic for National Parks) so I also have to find accommodation in Ottawa. The balance of the year is spent traveling around the riding meeting with constituents.
Our job as the Progressive Opposition is to make government and Canada better, and that is exactly what we will do.
Parliament begins on Dec. 3 and continues until Dec. 11 before breaking for Christmas. My next update will include a look at what it’s like to sit in the House of Commons as your MP. I’m sure it will be an exciting and humbling experience.
Have a happy Holiday Season and a great New Year. I hope to see many of you during the break when I start my Coffee With Your MP sessions around the riding.
Member of Parliament, Kootenay-Columbia
Letter to the Editor re: Future of Fishing
The summer of 2015 wasn’t what we were hoping for. Campfire bans in combination with provincial restrictions on fishing, made many feel they didn’t get to enjoy the summer. The reality of a rapidly warming climate is of significant concern to the hydrology of British Columbia.
The region-wide closures that we experienced this year are unprecedented. The cumulative impacts of a meager snow pack and record-breaking heat waves resulted in drought and dangerous levels of warming in our lakes and rivers.
The combination of increased water temperature and decreased flow, create a favourable environment for abundant algae growth, which is detrimental to spawning habitat, the invertebrate community and water quality.
Current climate models are predicting future seasons to consist of mild, wet winters, and long hot summers. The impacts of this changing climate will continue to become calamitous for many species. With this awareness we have the opportunity and responsibility to work with management as they continue to develop the best practices as changes occur.
This is not an isolated problem, but one of the many consequences of excessive carbon emissions. The preservation of natural resources must be of paramount concern. It is important to be respectful of future restrictions to sustain fish populations. If fishing is in our future, we have to start mitigating for expected challenges. We can all start by living and supporting a low carbon lifestyle.
Ashley McWhirterGenelle, B.C.
Letter to the Editor re: B.C.’s Carbon Tax
I often recall those times, with a group of close friends, when we would reflect on our many shared adventures. Now, with age and arthritis comes the need to make the best of the new reality.
When I read about B.C.’s Premier Christy Clark continuing to float on the past glory of a now frozen carbon tax, I can’t help but think that she too needs to step in to the new reality.
The current carbon tax, frozen at $30 per metric ton, will not achieve the emission reductions that are required.
To be effective, a carbon tax needs to gradually increase to fairly reflect the real costs of carbon on the health of the planet and to send signals to industry to help them transition to a carbon neutral economy.
The current B.C. carbon tax and Alberta’s anti-in of $30 per metric ton should not be interpreted as the “final solution”. It is the minimum bid to enter the game of effective climate action. In B.C., if you place the minimum bid and also invest in new carbon based industries, it becomes clear there is no serious intent to effectively play the game.
Johanna SandkuhlNelson, B.C.