By Richard Cannings, Member of Parliament for South Okanagan-West Kootenay:
News from Parliament Hill has been overshadowed in the past two weeks by news of tragic events in Beirut, Paris and Mali. The terrorists that carried out these attacks may have had different local political goals, but they had one overarching aim in mind—to sow fear. And here in Canada the fear generated by these mass killings, especially those in Paris, has led some to question the plans to welcome thousands of Syrian refugees to Canada.
We must not let ourselves fall prey to this fear. We must continue to open our hearts and our communities to these people who have suffered so greatly and risked so much in leaving their homes. They will have been screened at multiple levels by the UN High Commission on Refugees and the Canadian government, and initial plans are to bring in women, children and families.
I have heard from all sides on this debate, but the overwhelming majority of messages I receive are very positive, including several requests for information on how to privately sponsor refugees. My colleague Nathan Cullen has put together a concise guide on sponsoring refugees on his website, so for more information go to: http://nathancullen.ndp.ca/refugees .
Last week I was given the roles of Critic for Post-Secondary Education and Deputy Critic for Natural Resources. These are interesting and important portfolios with direct pertinence to this riding. During the campaign I met with the presidents of both Okanagan College and Selkirk College to better understand the issues they face in providing appropriate and affordable education. I also heard from many students who face increasing tuition costs and crushing student debt burdens. Since most jobs now require some form of post-secondary education, we need to ensure that young people can quickly join the workforce with the right skills.
And natural resources—forestry and mining—are also critical to the economy of South Okanagan-West Kootenay, from the smelter in Trail, the pulp mill in Castlegar, to forestry operations and mines throughout the riding. Issues are similar across Canada, and I look forward to working with industry leaders and land managers to find the policies that bring the greatest benefits to Canadians in developing these resources while protecting the natural environment.
On Monday I was officially sworn in as the Member of Parliament for South Okanagan-West Kootenay. I’ll be in Ottawa for the next three weeks, setting up my office here and attending the House after it opens on December 3rd. While work in Ottawa keeps me busy now, I realize that my important work as an MP is in my riding. I have finalized plans for two offices that will open shortly. The Penticton office will be at 202-301 Main Street, where local MP offices have been for many years. The Castlegar office will be in the Century 21 building at 1695A Columbia Avenue. It will take time to get these offices furnished and have the phones and internet working, but in the meantime please contact me by email at: Richard.Cannings@parl.gc.ca.