One year after sweeping to victory, energy and enthusiasm for Canada's Liberal government remains strong, according to Pam Goldsmith-Jones, MP for the West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country riding.
"The fact that we've made middle class tax cuts really matters to people, and the Canada Child Benefit, which is one of the most progressive social policies in our country's history, has been really meaningful to people, really helpful," Goldsmith-Jones said, during a stop in Whistler last week.
"More recently, to have finally been able to announce our carbon pricing solution I think is exciting, and it's so wonderful to be from British Columbia and be a leader in that, so that's good."
It's been a busy year for Canada's new government, and especially the local MP, who has taken on the additional role of parliamentary secretary to Foreign Affairs minister Stephane Dion.
"(The learning curve) is steep, but we are well supported by colleagues and by professional staff," Goldsmith-Jones said. "The challenge of course is to be everywhere in our riding, because I live three weeks out of four in Ottawa now... as soon as I come home I'm on a ferry or up the corridor, so I would really, really appreciate it if constituents or interest groups can let me know ahead what they are interested in so that we can just book the times."
Anyone hoping to schedule a meeting with Goldsmith-Jones can email her executive assistant in the riding at pam.goldsmith-jones.C1A@parl.gc.ca.
ON THE DESIRE FOR ELECTORAL REFORM
Recent comments from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sparked concern that the government is preparing to back away from its commitment to reform Canada's voting system, but Goldsmith-Jones said she still sees the desire for reform.
"I think what (Trudeau) is doing is saying, 'This is serious, we want to know what you think, we need to know where we should go,'" Goldsmith-Jones said. "We're listening to all Canadians. That is really the message."
The Liberals held 150 town halls on the subject across the country this summer, which has helped inform the process.
"I would say one of the biggest lessons from the whole exercise was that there is no shortage of interest, and a lot of thought about how we can provide ourselves with an electoral system that reflects the people better," Goldsmith-Jones said.
For more on the process, head to www.canada.ca/en/campaign/electoral-reform.html.
ON WOODFIBRE LNG, CLIMATE CHANGE and PROTECTING OUR COASTS
The Woodfibre LNG project in Squamish was a difficult decision for minister of environment and climate change Catherine McKenna, Goldsmith-Jones said, in that she "only had the opportunity to comment on the environmental assessment."
"She's not really the decision maker. It was a harmonized process from the previous government, and it's really been driven by the provincial government," Goldsmith-Jones said.
The Squamish Nation's independent environmental assessment process plays an important role as well, she added.
"I actually think it's a shift in how we make decisions as a federal government, and we want to be working with First Nations interests on resource development," she said. "I think that the cooling system for the plant is a serious issue for the federal government, for the Squamish Nation (SN), and certainly for the health of the Sound, so we're watching that very closely."
(On Oct. 21, Woodfibre announced the SN has selected air-cooling for the plant — a decision applauded by community group My Sea to Sky).
Safety concerns around projects on B.C.'s coast were exacerbated after a tug pushing a barge near Bella Bella ran aground on Oct. 13 and later sunk.
"Those waters are really rough and the rocks are really challenging, and it's a stern reminder of how we have to think long and hard about additional tanker traffic on the North Coast, because that's where it's really, really challenging," Goldsmith-Jones said, adding that Marc Garneau, minister of transport, is expected to come down with new shipping regulations in the coming weeks.
"That's going to be brand new for us as well, and I think you can expect a policy in the next couple of weeks that talks about marine safety and ecological health for the coast," she said.
Though there are many in the riding that would rather not see such projects move ahead at all, Goldsmith-Jones said the government is trying to strike a balance between economic strength and environmental protection.
"Our belief is as we transition to a low carbon economy... we can't stop everything. But we can signal it's going to be increasingly challenging," she said. "I think that the public interest can be served across a broad spectrum of interests."
ON BILL C-51, AND SELLING ARMS TO SAUDI ARABIA
Much has been made of the previous Conservative government's "anti-terror" legislation — better known to most as Bill C-51 — but it's not a matter of simply reversing the law, Goldsmith-Jones said.
"Bill C-51 doesn't exist anymore, in that the previous government made it the law, so now it's just there, in various clauses, so the new national security policy will address what we need... it's really good that we now have an oversight committee, which we didn't have before," she said.
The federal government is currently doing public consultation, which will inform what changes, if any, it makes to the bill.
"It's a fine line between privacy concerns and between what we have to do in order to maintain public safety and security," Goldsmith-Jones said. "We're not trying to scare people. We're not trying to exaggerate. But I do think that discussing this report will allow us to tell Canadians, 'These are some security concerns that you should know about.'"
Asked why, in her role as parliamentary secretary, she would support the sale of arms to notorious human rights abuser Saudi Arabia, Goldsmith-Jones said she understands the concern, but it was a deal that was in place from the previous government.
"This has been a real challenge, because I think Canadians pretty much put human rights above the sale of arms. On the other hand, it was a contract that was signed, and Canada does not sign contracts that then it moves to renege on," she said, adding that the final decision for such matters belongs with Minister Dion.
The good news, she added, is that Canada will soon join a global treaty aimed at regulating the arms trade.
"By acceding to the arms trade treaty we're bringing greater transparency and accountability to the arms export business," she said.
ON TEMPORARY FOREIGN WORKERS, AFFORDABILITY AND DAYCARE
While finding an exception for Whistler amongst the new rules for Temporary Foreign Workers was a key campaign pledge for Goldsmith-Jones, she admits that the issue is tricky.
The minister has listened to a wide range of opinions country wide, and the situation is different sector by sector.
"First of all, we need to hire Canadians. The minister is entirely dedicated to making sure that we are creating as many opportunities as we can for indigenous people, including education and training. We also have to make sure that workers rights are respected, because there are abuses of the system," she said. "And then we also have to figure out, and this does happen in the case of Whistler, where is it just not possible to find workers?
"So we're going to be very public about our findings of that. It's not a single solution or a single subject... I would say the previous government would try to deal with that issue in black and white terms. It's not like that."
Asked how the federal government is planning on stemming the flow of foreign capital into Canada, Goldsmith-Jones said there is money in the 2016 budget to study the Vancouver and Toronto housing markets in particular.
"We've also asked StatsCan to start keeping records in a more in-depth way so we can have the data, so that's kind of this year from the federal perspective," she said.
In terms of enhancing daycare offerings in the riding, Goldsmith-Jones said the initiative has to start at the local level.
"With regard to infrastructure funding, which (daycare spaces) would qualify for, we really care about what are the priorities set by the community and also what partnerships are established with the provinces," she said. "So if that's a priority for Whistler council then that makes it easy for me to tackle it."