Report from Parliament Hill:
Holding the government to account
Eric Melillo - Kenora Riding MP
I’m still working around the clock to hold the government to account and advocate for the Kenora riding.
On May 21st, I took part in virtual Question Period, questioning Public Safety Minister Bill Blair on the government’s overreaching new firearm regulations.
I asked Minister Blair why his government is cracking down on hunters and sport shooters instead of targeting violent criminals, and asked him for numbers on how many gangs and criminal organizations will comply with the new bans.
Unfortunately, the Minister sidestepped the questions.
I also participated in the Standing Committee on Finance, where I questioned representatives from the Stratford Festival about the economic impact of tourism.
I was eager to speak to these witnesses because, similarly to tourism operators in our region, the iconic theatre festival attracts a large influx of domestic and international tourists.
We discussed the types of support and information that tourist-dependent industries will need to weather this pandemic, concluding that this sector needs more clarity from the government. The tourism industry and other businesses who rely on revenues from visitors – restaurants, retail stores, etc. – need to know whether they will be able to have a season this year, and what that will look like.
I will continue to press the government for the information businesses need to plan for the future.
These sessions, which enabled me to scrutinize government policy and seek insight from stakeholders, underscore how essential Parliament is. That’s why Conservatives have been urging the government to deem Parliament an essential service and resume full sittings.
While allowing some accountability, the current set-up falls short of what Parliament is meant to be. For instance, the Government is still refusing to allow us to have Opposition Days, request Emergency Debates, debate Private Members Bills, order the publication of government documents, or debate and vote on committee reports.
Of course, health and safety should come first. Parliament can function effectively and safely at a reduced capacity that accommodates physical distancing.
The Liberal government’s refusal to bring back full Parliament isn’t about public health; this government simply does not want to be held to account.
My Caucus colleagues have spent the last two months working in the best interests of Canadians, which has included holding the government’s feet to the fire when necessary to get results.
Early in the crisis, we convinced the government to allow workers earning up to $1000/month to qualify for the CERB. Since then, we successfully advocated for an extension to the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, for measures to connect unemployed young Canadians with jobs, and for amendments to the CEBA loan criteria to enable more businesses to qualify.
But there’s still more to be done, and many of the government’s new measures desperately need improvement. The government has not fixed the CEBA criteria that automatically disqualifies sole proprietors who use personal chequing accounts for business. The 70% revenue loss threshold for emergency commercial rent assistance is far too high, and is forcing some businesses to close their doors entirely. And many struggling businesses are still falling through the cracks.
In times like these, Canadians need their elected officials to hold the government accountable. You sent me to Ottawa to represent your views, and I want to be able to work constructively with all parties to get results for you. But that’s becoming more and more difficult with the roadblocks the government is putting up.
I’m still working every day to serve you.
If there is anything I can help you with, please do not hesitate to contact my office by phone at 807-468-2170 or by email at [email protected]