MP Richard Cannings Year in Review Message
This past year has been a difficult one for many Canadians, struggling to find a home they can afford, struggling to pay for their groceries, struggling to access proper health care. And then on top of that we faced the worst year for climate disasters with widespread fires, floods and droughts.
Throughout the year, my colleagues in the federal NDP caucus and I have been focussed on making life better for all Canadians, using the power we have in this minority government to put forward solutions that tackle the many crises facing the country. Yes, we have made some significant inroads, but yet I know as well, many are still entering this holiday season with too much worry on their minds.
The price of food has hit Canadians hard, something we especially notice during these holiday times. But while folks scramble to pay their grocery bills, the big box grocery stores continue to make bigger and bigger profits. The NDP successfully pushed back on this greedflation by forcing the government to give the competition bureau stronger powers to investigate food price gouging, enhance competition and help stabilize and even reduce prices.
The cost of housing, and even the availability of rental units, continues to be the biggest problem for many. As part of our agreement with the government, we forced changes to housing programs, pushing developers getting government assistance to create twice as many units of affordable housing and offer them at half the rental cost as in previous programs. We finally got the GST taken off housing construction projects, making them easier and more affordable to build.
I think the biggest victory for Canadians was the new National Dental Care Plan that will be a fully operational free dental insurance plan for all qualifying children, seniors and people with disabilities by the end of 2024 and for all Canadians who don’t have a dental plan now and whose family income is less than $90,000 by the end of 2025.
Another big victory for Canadian workers was the introduction of anti-scab legislation covering federally-regulated sectors such as transportation and banking. British Columbia has had this legislation for decades, but workers in those sectors will finally be able to strike without the threat of employers bringing in replacement workers that effectively neutralizes the effect of that strike, thus lengthening labour disputes and often tearing apart communities. The NDP has tabled anti-scab legislation eight times over the last 15 years, but the Liberals and Conservatives have voted it down each time—until now.
We haven’t been successful in all our negotiations with the Liberals. As the small business critic for the NDP, I have been continually pressing the Liberals to extend the deadline for small businesses to repay their CEBA loans. These were put in place to help companies through the pandemic, but for many small businesses recovery has been slow and thousands of companies are facing the prospect of closing their doors, putting tens of thousands of workers out of their jobs. Unfortunately, both the Liberals and Conservatives have been deaf to the calls from businesses across the country.
As Emergency Preparedness Critic, I’ve been trying to convince the Minister to form a national wildfire fighting force. After a series of bad fire years, 2023 was by far the worst fire season in Canadian history and local and provincial forces were often overwhelmed by the intensity of the firestorms. I will continue that pressure in 2024, as we are obviously living the effects of climate change and must make the investments to adapt to that new reality.
There is still much to do in 2024. It has been a pleasure to serve the South Okanagan – West Kootenay in 2023 and I will continue to represent your ideas, struggles, and voices in Ottawa to strive for a Canada where everyone belongs and no one is left behind.
The holidays are a time when compassion, generosity, and community giving are at their strongest. I am continually inspired by the organisations and families who embrace the true spirit of giving to help those most in need in our communities. Please take up that spirit as well, now and throughout the year. I wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and peaceful holiday season.