Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo Member of Parliament Cathy McLeod, and Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Peter Milobar attended the District of Barriere’s Regular Council Meeting held virtually, on Monday, Jan. 11, to speak as a delegation. (see ‘MLA Milobar connects virtually with council’ in our Jan. 14, 2021, issue).
MP McLeod opened by saying, “It seems hard to believe that a year ago when I met with Barriere council some of our biggest concerns were the forestry industry, which of course is always very important to our rural area, but what a difference a year makes in terms of what we are now focused on.”
“We shuttered down in March, with the exception of some emergency legislation and some very modest committee participation, ,” said McLeod, as she gave a quick update on what has been happening from a Federal perspective. “Following the prorogation that lasted about six weeks we did return, and I have to say that upon return we managed to have a reasonably functioning parliament. You are only allowed 60 of 338 in the chamber so we met in this hybrid of virtual and in the chamber. But at least we started back in terms of the normal business of what a parliamentary session would look like, and committees also went back into full form.”
She noted the focus was on general legislation instead of focusing only on emergency met measures for the pandemic response.
“We have no budget,” said McLeod, “I don’t think Canada has ever gone as long as this, we haven’t had a budget since the last parliament, but we have had an economic update.”
She noted that in the spring and the summer, parliament’s focus was on the roll out of COVID supports, regarding individuals or for businesses.
“There were some gaps in those programs when you roll out something that quickly,” commented the MP, “But I think that to the degree possible, the parties have been working together on programs for people all across the country in a reasonably fast way. Also, in hearing from people in Ridings across the country in terms of what are the real flaws of some of the programs. For example some of the business programs had some real issues, and those have had a number of adjustments along the way. But there is still adjustments that need to be made to fill in significant gaps in some programs.”
She noted another responsibility of the Federal government has been vaccine procurement.
“We hear lots in terms of the number of vaccines that have been procured, and we are trying to get a very clear picture in terms of the delivery dates,” said McLeod, “The numbers are important, but it’s also important to know when it gets distributed to the provinces, and of course the province is responsible for the delivery. Also the recommendations around who gets the vaccines first. There was an advisory committee who created the tiers, and then the provinces get to adjust according to their unique needs, with recommendations by the advisory committee.”
As an aside, she noted an item of interest that there is now an App available to the public, “you enter your age, status and other information, and the App then provides you with an estimate of when you might anticipate getting the vaccine”.
She notes that parliament anticipates a budget will be tabled in the Spring,
“In the government’s fiscal update they indicated that they were going to set aside approximately $100 billion dollars for economic recovery, obviously there are very few details given about that,” said McLeod, “Our deficit for 2021 is going to be in the $100 billion dollar range–possibly more. I think everyone realizes now that we have to spend the money, but of course the big question is what is the economic plan for going forward. Our deficit is now over a trillion dollars.
“I look back with nostalgia to when we worried about $27 billion as we looked at some really difficult numbers,” said the MP.
McLeod commented that each year she does a pre-budget submission for the finance minister, and she advised mayor and council to pass along any suggestions from Barriere before the end of January so she can put them in her submission.
“For the most part structure,” said McLeod in regards to the kind of submissions that will be considered, “Certainly Internet. What this crisis has shown is how important rural Internet is in these days. The minister has made significant commitments in terms of what they will be doing in terms of accelerating adequate Internet especially to rural and remote communities.”
In terms of the Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo constituency, McLeod noted when Service Canada closed early this year due to the pandemic there were numerous people, businesses and others who contacted the constituency instead.
“We found ourselves in a position where we were pretty extraordinarily busy for a number of months, and it’s starting again now with tax season coming up,” said McLeod, “And Service Canada is still not fully mobilized. People are terribly frustrated spending all day on the phone and feel basically hung up on because the work day was over.
“So we have found the constituency has been very busy, and we do want to give a shout out for Jennifer and our whole team because it has been a pretty trying time for many.”
McLeod aslo serves as the Shadow Critic for Indigenous Affairs, and she says it is a job that has kept her busy.
“We have some certain legislation that’s on the table that we’re going to be in the process of starting to debate,” said the MP, “In particular the UN Declaration – we have some concerns around the clarity of that.”
In terms of the dollars that have been given to each community, McLeod said, “It tends to be per capita to the provinces and then the provinces determine the distribution.
“Certainly, I look at some of the money that’s been spent and I’m concerned. I think that probably the most important document that we’re going to see in our history is going to be the budget and the plans going forward.
“It’s a minority government – does the government have the confidence to continue on with its economic plan, and economic recovery plan?
“I think that is going to be absolutely critical. I know that Canada has spent more in terms of its economic plan.
“I think there is lots of room for criticism in terms of how we are going to move forward. But I give a lot of leeway in terms of trying to do things fast, in order to respond to the people who were immediately out of work.”