Let’s build on past participation and progress

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith

As we move into the new year, it’s a good time to reflect on what we accomplished in 2016. Much more work remains to be done, but last year marked a good beginning.

We resettled tens of thousands of Syrian refugees, and brought compassion back to our immigration system. We restored the long-form census, invested in science, and made decisions based on evidence, including our move to ban asbestos.

We ratified the Paris Climate Agreement, committed to a progressive national carbon price and to phasing out coal, restricted oil and gas development in the Arctic, and made major investments in public transit, green infrastructure, and clean tech.

We lowered taxes for nine million Canadians by reducing the middle income tax bracket, our Canada Child Benefit is projected to cut the child poverty rate by 40 per cent, we increased the seniors’ guaranteed income supplement by 10 per cent, and reached a historic agreement with the provinces to enhance CPP. We also doubled the Canada Summer Jobs program, and made post-secondary education more affordable.

Finally, we made significant investments in First Nations communities, from education to clean water, and initiated an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women.

My office also had its share of highlights.

I represented Canada on the world stage, debating global drug policy, human rights protections, as well as gender equality, diversity, and youth engagement in politics.

I introduced bill C-246 to modernize our animal protection laws, which was endorsed by every major animal welfare organization across North America, put the issue on the government’s agenda, and led to the creation of an animal welfare caucus in Ottawa.

I worked on committee reports related to PTSD, access to information, privacy, and national security, and I’ve been vocal on behalf of constituents: presenting petitions, voicing concerns, calling for policy changes, and helping hundreds of constituents with case files. As I said in my first speech in the House, “I am a proud member of the Liberal caucus, but I am prouder still of standing here in this House as the voice of all residents of Beaches-East York.”

To that end, I have earned something of a reputation for independence in my work as a parliamentarian. Our Prime Minister promised freer votes, he has encouraged independence, and it is both an important democratic reform and a significant contrast to the heavy-handed approach of his predecessor.

In Parliament, I’ve also recognized many local accomplishments, from Olympian Penny Oleksiak, to the Balmy Beach Rugby Club, the Beaches Lions Easter Parade, and 105-year-old Michael Garron Hospital volunteer Olive Dodds.

In our riding, we’ve hosted a number of town halls, helped to secure federal funding for local agencies, affordable housing, and Canada 150 projects, volunteered at holiday hamper and Out of the Cold programs, and participated in local parades, Remembrance Day ceremonies, and many more community events.

Through our door-knocking efforts, we’ve connected with more constituents than any other MP across the country as we seek input and feedback.

As the youngest MP in the GTA, engaging youth in politics has also been a priority. I regularly visit schools to talk about why politics matters, and we’ve created a non-partisan youth council that meets once a month to advocate for change and to volunteer in our community. With Canada’s 150th anniversary celebration ahead of us, we’ve also sponsored a Canadian literacy challenge in local schools.

Looking ahead to 2017, let me know if you have an idea for me to take to Ottawa, a person or organization you think should be recognized in Parliament, or a suggestion for how our office can improve in its communication or advocacy.

As we look around the world, and as we may worry about the direction our world is headed, the answer is participation.

 

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