A dedicated YouTube channel testifies to some of the questions she raised during Question Period in the House of Commons. Prior to becoming our member of parliament in 2015, Rachel was the Executive Director of Campbell River’s Immigrant Welcome Centre. Her husband, Derek Blaney, is a former Chief and council member of the Homalco First Nation. In the second of my interviews with the candidates, I skyped with Rachel Blaney, NDP candidate for Powell River - North Island.
What Is The Most Important Issue?
“In this riding, I’ve heard two things: … First: addressing climate change; looking at a future that is not so scary and wanting to see some real action. The second thing that I’ve heard from people is about housing. It is across the board, from some of our smallest communities to the bigger communities that I represent. People are looking for a place to live. They are looking for places to rent; they are looking for homes to purchase. It seems that housing is becoming less and less affordable and so either renting or buying is becoming more of a challenge.”
Emissions: Canada vs Europe
Q/ At a time when most of Europe’s emissions are more than 20% below 1990 levels, Canada’s emissions are still 20% above that benchmark. Do you care to comment on this?
” … Canada is falling farther and farther behind in these areas. You know, when I am in the house I hear again and again from the Conservative side of the House, ‘Well Canada emits so much less than many of the other world’s countries so we shouldn’t worry about it.’ And yet when we look at how we are doing, compared to a lot of other countries internationally, it is a bit of an embarrassment.”
“I also think we have a good platform. We address issues, like Climate change and looking at how do we move forward in terms of real action for climate action? … When we watch what is happening in the Amazon right now, I think we all know that if we do not take action it could mean the very end of our lives on this planet.
“I was rather upset, after the last election, to see the Liberals continue to implement only the Harper emissions targets … that when they were opposition they mocked and said ‘This is not good enough. If we want to get serious about climate action, we need stronger targets.’ And they kept those [Harper era] emissions targets. That didn’t change at all.”
“When we know we are seeing the permafrost in the Arctic melt 70 years faster than we were told it was going to, we know we need real action.”
Why Should We Vote NDP?
“I have worked hard for constituents and have been a strong voice for this riding in Ottawa. There is no doubt that a lot of times, when we are working with Ottawa, that they do not understand where we live. I remember a few months after I was elected, we had a significant challenge with some licensing from Transport Canada. A small business in North Island had transported propane to communities. As we were going through that process, trying to support the business and get things happening for constituents who were calling the office … we had an interesting conservation with people in Ottawa; encouraging us to just get a truck to drive over … ; not understanding at all that a lot of these communities are only accessible by water and you just can’t build a bridge where there isn’t one.”
“You need a strong voice in Ottawa. I have a methodology of being pleasant, persistent and making things happen as much as I can.”
Why Is It Taking So long To Resolve First Nations Issues?
Q/ Though British Columbia has been part of Canada since 1871, we still have unresolved First Nations land claims throughout most of the province. Why has it taken so long to resolve this problem and what steps is your government prepared to take to bring about a resolution?
“Part of the reason it is taking so long is that the initial plan, for BC and Canada, was that through the residential school system and the reserve system of isolating indigenous communities … They were going to take the Indian out of the child. I think that was the exact language they used. That is part of the history …”
” … The BC Treaty process started in 1993. Here we are, about 26 years later, [and] still not seeing as many treaties signed as a lot of Canadians would hope …”
“I was the Vice Chair of the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Committee. One of the challenges that I know, from talking to many of the indigenous leaders in the riding and across the country, is … the engagement between the federal government and indigenous communities is still not … respectful … At the negotiating table and other tables, the people who make decisions in the federal government are not there … You have people coming in to negotiate who have no decision making power … That is a waste of time.”
“One of the things that I supported … in the House of Commons was Bill C-262, which was presented by the member of parliament Roméo Saganash (one of the NDP members) … What it talked about was how do we implement the United Nations Declaration On The Rights of Indigenous Peoples in this country? How do we look at legislation moving forward, looking through that lens? [Bill C-262] did successfully pass through the house, but I was absolutely devastated when I saw the senate block it.”
UNDRIP: A Seat At The Table
Re the BC Treaty process: “I had this one indigenous chief in the community call me to say ‘I feel like I’m negotiating poverty for my people. That is not why I am sitting at this table.’”
“Just last year I had to go back early to Ottawa, as the Vice Chair of the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Committee, because we had a court case come down that said the … [Trans Mountain Pipeline] process that was negotiated with the indigenous communities was not a negotiation, was not a discussion, was not a consultation. And that is not a place at the table.”
“We need to hold the governments to account. We need to see the full implementation of the United Nations Declaration On The Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). I’ve heard some Conservative members saying this is just a way of giving indigenous people the power to say ‘no, not doing that.’ What I’ve heard from indigenous communities across this country, and across British Columbia and this riding, is that what this really means is a seat at the table … We are tired of not being at the same table with the same resources and the same ability to communicate our concerns as other people at the table.”
Is Canada Breaking Treaty #8?
Q/ Do you believe Canada and British Columbia are breaking Treaty #8, which (to give my paraphrase) granted use of the land that will be submerged to local First Nations?
“I fundamentally believe in the rights of indigenous people in this country and Support strongly the United Nations Declaration On The Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I hope that this process comes to a solution for the first peoples of those lands.”
The National Debt
Q/ Under the current Trudeau government (2015 -2019), Canada’s national debt is expected to grow another $73 billion. What did the nation get for this money?
“When I think about budgets, they are all about priorities … and I don’t see the [Liberal] priorities focusing as much on the everyday hardworking people of this country.”
” … We’ve seen people and reports that come forward that say everyday middle class people in Canada are actually paying more taxes than the wealthiest [people] in this country because the wealthiest are taking advantage of different loopholes and different ways of hiding or sheltering their money. So we need to start to address those issues.”
“we would look at cost saving solutions. … We had the parliamentary budget officer come forward and do a report and say, Look, if we had a national Pharmacare program we would save over $4 billion … I was so excited and thought ‘This was great. We have it right in here, so let’s get on it. We need to lower the cost of our medication. We need it more accessible for people in this country. So what do we have two years after that report? – another Liberal study. So I guess [the Liberals] like to spend money on studies and not on [actions].”
National Debt Under Harper
Q/ While the national debt grew $150 billion under Harper (2006 – 2015), he also had to contend with the great recession. Was his administration better or worse than Trudeau’s?
” … When we look at both of those governing bodies [Harper’s Conservatives & Trudeau’s Liberals], there was no real approach at addressing the ultra rich of this country … Both of those governments … rely on everyday Canadians, like the ones I represent in this riding, to pay the way … I think we need to make sure everyone is paying their fair share.”
“In the Harper era, we saw a significant erosion of environmental protection. We saw terrible emissions targets … which the Liberals continue to implement and have no plan to actually meet those terrible targets. [Both governments have] a lack of understanding of … the everyday lives of Canadians…”
Bringing The National Debt Under Control
“One of the first things is that we would focus on the affordability for people and not just making sure that corporations have their hand-outs … We would roll the corporate tax breaks back to their 2010 levels, where they paid 18%.”
” … At the same time, we would ensure that our small business tax stays at its current level. Small businesses in this country are building a huge part of our economy. We need to support those local small businesses … We want to make sure we do not tax them out of existence. They need to be strong.”
“We would look at cost saving solutions [like a National Pharmacare program, which could save Canada over $4 billion].”
“Basically, when we look at dealing with debt, it’s about ensuring that everyday Canadians do well. That really will help stabilize the economy. It is also about making sure that everyone pays their fair share.”
Are ‘The Rich’ Evading $Billions Of Taxes?
“Yes, we are losing [money the rich should be paying in taxes] a lot and that is where I am frustrated with both of these governments [Harper’s Conservatives and Trudeau’s Liberals]. They are not taking this on. I can remember sitting in the House of Commons with the Conservatives yelling at the Liberals about how money was hidden in another country – I think it was Barbados – and I was so frustrated because the agreement that was the treaty that allows Canadians to hide their money there was signed by a Conservative.”
[Editors Note: According to an article in the Vancouver SUN, Joe Clark’s Conservative Government gave Canadians easy access to an offshore tax haven through the 1980 Barbados tax treaty. In 2011, Harper passed an amendment closing some of the loopholes, but exempted Barbados and then “negotiated a tax treaty with the Cayman Islands, which taxes zero per cent on international income and investments … As of 2016, more than $261 billion Canadian dollars were invested in the world’s top-10 tax havens.”]
Do We Need More Pipelines?
Q/ Does Canada have sufficient pipelines to service its current needs? And if so, why is Canada fostering the expansion of oil sands production while the rest of the world is preparing for the shift to a low carbon future?
” … I fought hard against the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. I was so frustrated when Canada stepped forward and bought an old leaky pipeline that we do not need.”
” … We are not going to be leaving the oil and gas industries tomorrow. Obviously that’s part of the reality today, but … one of the things that we know and have heard economists say … across the planet, is that there is a growing economy in sustainable energy and we absolutely need to start investing in that. One of the things that concerns me is that Canada is often not investing and looking towards the new economies that are growing. Just sticking in the same old, same old.”
“We must start investing meaningfully in a low carbon sustainable economy that is going to build up this country and save our lives, basically … That is the bigger question. How do we work to move to this new reality, because it is going to happen whether we want it to or not.”
Diversifying Our Economy
Q/ Canada’s economy is currently so closely intertwined with the price of oil that some economists call it a Petro-economy. Is your government prepared to take steps that will foster diversification? And if so, what negative impacts (like a possible recession) will these steps have on the economy?
“I think this is why need to have the investments start sooner rather than later.
“I grew up in northern BC. I remember when our mill shut down and what it did to our community. It was pretty profound, as a teenager, to live through that and see those things happen. There was nothing for the workers. There was no consideration of what that meant to the community. So I think it is important that we have supports in place. A lot of our communities are doing their best to build diversification. A lot of small businesses are doing that work, but they need a little extra support.”
“You know not too long ago we saw the current government give $12 million to Loblaws, or Superstore as we call it in our part of the country to help them have more energy efficient refrigerators. I remember getting an email from a constituent saying, ‘I ran a business, where is my fridge?’ … We need to see investment come to local communities and not just big corporations that have the resources and the capacity and the money to have big tax write offs to address big expenses like that.”
Towards A Low Carbon Future
“We need to look at local solutions. Some of them would be things like retrofitting our homes. We want to make sure we support local jobs and also build healthier buildings, and retrofit homes, so that they recapture the emissions we so desperately need. Modernizing and expanding public transit and looking for solutions that make sense in remote and rural communities. We know that transportation over longer distances is one of the biggest challenges …”
” … One of the goals that the NDP has proposed is having a Canadian Climate Bank; having a Clean Communities Fund; working with the communities that are seeing these transitions; making sure there is proper training dollars attached …”
Turning Raw Materials Into Finished Materials
Q/ Almost 80 percent of Canada’s raw materials (wood and paper products, fuel, minerals, aluminum, wheat, oil etc) are allegedly shipped as exports around the world. Many of these materials return as finished goods. What steps is your government prepared to take to encourage the production and development of these items within Canada.
“Canada does have a history of being a bit of a rip and ship country with many of our resources, some which were once processed and made into secondary goods within our communities are now simply leaving our country. I think all of us on the coast are watching our logs float by on a regular basis … For our riding, we’ve seen what that does and the impact it has on jobs and how hard that can be.“
” … Our government is wanting to work with communities and industries to find solutions to this issue and start finding out how we can be competitive in our market.”
Q/ British Columbia’s old growth forests are disappearing and the average cut rate is now between 50 and 80 years. As a result, the market is flooded with lumber that has a much higher proportion of sapwood than 50 years ago. Is your government prepared to protect our old growth forests and introduce more sustainable forestry practises?
[In the podcast, Ms Blaney talks about her experiences growing up in a family dependant on logging and the effects a downturn in the market had on her hometown.]
“A lot of forestry policy is largely under the provincial government. I can only speak from a Federal perspective. Our plan is to look at what we can do to address emissions and protection. That includes reforestation in a more meaningful way …”
” … BC’s largest trees are irreplaceable. They are treasures to us and really an important part of who we are in this country. I think it is also important to recognize and respect that there is a large portion of this goes back to indigenous rights and title.“
” … There is a lot happening in the industry, I am excited to see the changes. I hope we continue to build on this because we must support our forests …”
” … Some foresters are actually supporting the tree migration. As the climate changes, planting trees that don’t traditionally grow [in our area] but now that the weather is changing, they are testing them out to see if they will grow there.”
“I also had an opportunity to talk to a forester who is working with a lot of [indigenous] elders in the north, in places that need to be reforested. He is asking them, ‘What did you see? What used to grow here?’ …”
Q/ How does your government intend to deal with the fish farms off our coast?
“First of all , I guess the way that I would start out is just by acknowledging the work that has been done and led by indigenous communities in the Broughton [Archipeligo]. The agreement that has been put in place between those nations, BC, the Federal Government and the industry has really set up a framework of conversation and communication which simply was not there before. It ia good to see everyone coming together and working in a more cohesive way …”
“I, personally, have always supported moving to a land based closed containment process. I am watching closely some of the work that is being done in the U.S. and in Europe. We are seeing some significant resources being put into closed containment and that works. So the research that is being done in places like Kuterra in the Namgis Nation near Port McNeal; they have learned so much in those testing sites; what can be done more effectively …”
Q/ Roughly two-thirds of Canada’s work force does not have a work place pension program. How will senior citizens fare under your government?
“I want to acknowledge that a lot of seniors have saved enough money … [and] are doing well, but there is also a significant increase in senior poverty across this country … I have actually met people in their 70s who are couch surfing house to house to house because they cannot afford a place to live. I’ve talked to seniors who are cutting medication in half because they simply cannot afford the cost of the medication they desperately need … I will never forget sitting in a [Powell River] hotel with a senior who thought she wouldn’t make it and her family let go of her rental unit. She got better, which was great, but the hospital told her she had to leave. She had no where else to go and was living in a hotel that she couldn’t afford – it was $500 a week. When I look at what is happening to seniors across Canada and the poverty that is growing, we have some really specific challenges that we need to address.“
“The NDP has talked about several things. One of the most important for me is the implementation of a comprehensive national seniors strategy. right now we are looking at the reality that a lot of the services to seniors are filtered through each province and territory. Gaps are increasing across the country. One of the things that a senior strategy would do is bring together all the provinces, territories, communities and federal government and start to look at where are seniors falling through the cracks.”
” …. Living on the CCP, OAS and guaranteed income supplement can mean very different things, depending where you live. If you lie in the Lower Mainland, it means you are in destitute poverty unless you are living with someone who can afford to support you.”
One Year Period Of Grace
“Another proposal that we have, … actually a private members bill that I put forward in the House, was to give all seniors across this country a one year tax relief. What that means is that if you, as a senior, get your taxes in late … you would have one year to get it done.”
“What I have personally learned, both in our riding and across the country, is that a lot of seniors will face some sort of issue. They had a health issue; they were sick; they were in a hospital; a loved one got very sick or passed on – and for one reason or not they just did not get their taxes in on time. It is very rare that a senior we’ve talked to doesn’t get their taxes in, they just got them in a little bit late. What that means is that they will lose their guaranteed income supplement on July first.”
“That means suddenly they can’t afford their medication; they can’t afford that extra bit for their rent or their mortgage and they are really in trouble. We pulled in the stats and found it was tens of thousands of seniors that were losing their guaranteed income supplement for up to four months and then they were being reinstated.”
“75% of those seniors that were getting a guaranteed income supplement were getting more than the year previous. This is not a group of people that are high risk or trying to get away with anything, it is just people with low income. So we want to make sure that they have that grace period and alongside that they actually have someone calling to find out why they didn’t get their taxes in.”
Q/ At a time when many European Nations offer free university education, the average Canadian student is roughly $30,000 in debt by their studies are finished. Is your government prepared to take any steps to remedy this situation?
“I’m definitely hearing from young people … getting out of university with a lot of debt, sometimes having difficulty finding meaningful employment … and at the same time looking to buy their first house or save up for their first house. They just can’t afford to do that. I talk to young people who do not know if they’ll ever be able to purchase a house. I remember talking to one young person who said, ‘I’m not going to have children, I just can’t afford it.”
” … Our long term plan is to join those European nations and make post secondary part of the public education system. That is our long term plan, but in the short term we want to do two important things:
- ” … eliminate interest on the Canada student loans”
- ” … increase the non-repayable part of the Canada student grant.”
Q/ For most Canadians, the most expensive investment they will ever make is a home – but for the first time, a large segment of our working population cannot afford to purchase a home. We know that is largely because of the large number of properties purchased by non resident investors or used for B&Bs. What is your government prepared to do about this situation?
“Housing is one of the biggest issues that I’ve heard in this riding during the last four years … I remember talking to one family who had a tent in the back yard of their parent’s and that is where they were having to live because they couldn’t afford any other units. In some cases there simply isn’t any [housing available].”AFFORDABLE HOUSINGAFFORDABLE RENTALS