FROM THE HILL: Syrian refugees, climate conference
Parliament opened for a brief two-week sitting in early December. For a newcomer to Parliament Hill, I found the pomp and ceremony, borrowing from centuries of parliamentary tradition, a moving reminder of the deep trust my constituents have placed in me. I gave my first speech in the House towards the end of the sitting; you can see it online at http://on.fb.me/1U0qGuA.
On Dec. 4th, the new Liberal government outlined its priorities in the Speech from the Throne. It was a very short speech, especially considering the lengthy list of promises in the Liberal campaign platform. It was heartening to hear some important pledges emphasized, especially regarding the fight against climate change.
Canada’s large delegation to the Paris climate conference made headlines with some strong words aiming for a 1.5-degree limit to global warming. While we in the progressive opposition were happy to see this outcome, we will be watching future announcements carefully for the new carbon emission targets and green technology investments that we will need to achieve this critical goal. Since Canada went to Paris with no new plan, the government has promised to come up with some details within the next three months as to how this country will quickly transition to a low-carbon future.
The government’s plan to bring in thousands of Syrian refugees by the end of February was also a frequent topic of debate in the House. As I mentioned in my previous column, I’m happy to say that the overwhelming majority of comments I have received on this issue have been positive. Last Wednesday I met with representatives of community groups that are working together to settle refugees in the south Okanagan and they also mentioned the great support they had received from hundreds of local residents.
The Throne Speech also briefly mentioned plans for increased infrastructure spending. Last week I met with mayors and councillors from a number of communities on the Kootenay side of the riding, and infrastructure is certainly on the top of their lists regarding help from Ottawa. I promised them that I’ll be watching for details on this initiative as they emerge.
At this time of year, it is especially important to remember those less fortunate than us. Our cold winters make conditions even more difficult for the homeless, and local food banks need your donations to ensure that no-one in this wealthy country is hungry over the holidays. I’ve been involved in a couple of recent meetings that took giant steps toward bringing groups together to house the homeless in Penticton. It was so encouraging to see the City, several churches and dedicated activists pledge to really get things done on this issue in the coming months.
My staff and I will be moving in to offices in Penticton and Castlegar on December 30th, and I’ll be advertising open houses at both locations in January to welcome you all to those locations and meet my staff. In the meantime, have a Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year!