On August 12th, I was in the House of Commons in Ottawa, and had the opportunity to question Finance Minister Bill Morneau about Canada losing our AAA credit rating from Fitch Ratings earlier this summer. Little did I know at the time that I would be the last Member of Parliament to question Morneau prior to his resignation as Finance Minister and MP.
I focused on two reasons Fitch Ratings cited for our downgrade. First, Fitch cited Canada’s lack of an economic recovery plan, and I questioned when the government would be releasing a plan. Second, Fitch stated it was due to Canadian interprovincial trade barriers. I reminded the House about my questioning to Deputy Prime Minister Freeland about this three months ago, as it fell within her portfolio. The government had announced earlier in the year that they were putting a hold on all work being done to remove interprovincial trade barriers, and Minister Freeland answered that this was due to the pandemic. That was months ago, and with Canadian businesses working on recovery, many I talk to want to know when the removal of Canadian internal trade barriers work restarted and when there would be an update. As we work on economic recovery, now is the time to embrace made-in-Canada products and services. Unfortunately, we did not hear clear answers to either question.
It has become more evident than ever how important parliamentary standing committees are in a minority government, in particular with parliament not sitting fully since the pandemic was declared. Many revelations have come out through committee studies and questioning, such as improper government planning for the pandemic and its related programs, the WE Charity scandal, requests for proposals for various contracts, and more.
Since the beginning of this pandemic, the Industry, Science and Technology Standing Committee that I sit on has conducted studies on fraud and on the Investment Canada Act. We looked at whether Canada has strict enough laws against foreign state-owned enterprises purchasing Canadian companies. We’ve focused on the effects of the pandemic on institutions, workers and businesses. Recently, our Conservative team put motions forth to question the Privacy Commissioner about the COVID-19 mobile app and Amazon about reports of anti-competitive behaviour. In this minority Parliament, there are as many opposition party MPs as government MPs on committees. There are 6 Liberals (1 being the chair, who only votes in a tie), 4 Conservatives, 1 New Democrat, and 1 Bloc Québécois. The opposition parties have more often than not voted together to call witnesses and do studies.
Tourism is very important to our economy here in the Okanagan. It was one of the first to be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and I’m hearing it will continue to have serious ongoing challenges. It’s disappointing that the Industry Committee scheduled only one short meeting to hear from the tourism sector, which contributes $100 billion to the economy and employs 1.8 million people in Canada. I made a statement to this effect prior to my questioning witnesses. I believe it is important that the committee hear from all aspects of tourism, from many stakeholders – whether individual businesses, local associations, or national groups, and from all regions so that a comprehensive report with recommendations can be given to the federal government. Tourism operators and organizations can write and share your thoughts with the committee so your voice is heard via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can view videos of my comments about tourism and questioning about our credit downgrade on my Facebook page or website. It has been wonderful being out in the community more lately connecting (safely) with residents and businesses. Please be sure to reach out if you need assistance or have thoughts you’d like to share: 250-470-5075, email@example.com; tracygraymp.ca.
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