The New Year provides a great opportunity to reflect on the year that has passed and anticipate the year that is to come.
The highlight of 2017 was definitely the celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday! This special milestone provided an opportunity for Canadians to celebrate and take pride in the country we call home, while reflecting on what it means to be Canadian.
In July, Lethbridge had the privilege of hosting the Imperial Princess of Japan when she came to help us celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Nikka Yuko Gardens.
Canada 150 provided me with the opportunity to create what will become an annual tradition: The Community Builder Awards. Eighteen medals were awarded to individuals and organizations from the Lethbridge constituency who go above and beyond to serve others.
Another highlight for me was the launch of my Youth Advisory Board. I meet with eight dedicated young people between the ages of 16 and 24 on the fourth Saturday of every month to discuss federal policy and issues that are important to the members of the advisory board. I have benefitted greatly from the insights provided by this group.
Since being elected, I’ve been asked a number of times to explain the purpose of the Official Opposition—especially in light of the Liberals having a majority. The year of 2017 demonstrates the power of an effective opposition.
Our Parliamentary System is set up to empower the opposition to challenge government policies and to ensure the people of Canada are made aware of the impact government policies will have on them.
The power of public opinion in a democracy can force even the strongest majority government to back down. It was after months of sustained public pressure from opposition parties that the Liberals abandoned their attempts to unilaterally change how Canadians elect their federal representative. Canadians overwhelmingly agreed with the Conservative position that any fundamental change to how we vote needed the support of Canadians in a referendum. More than 80 percent of Canadians held this view. When the Liberals realized they weren’t going to be able to force through a voting system that gave them the advantage, they scrapped electoral reform all together.
In May and June the opposition parties and public opinion were enough to stop the Liberals’ attempts to change the rules of the House of Commons in order to remove the ability of the opposition to oppose the Government’s agenda.
The Liberals also attempted to end income deferral with cash tickets for grain farmers. Strong opposition from grain producers and the Conservative Caucus forced the Liberals to abandon this budget promise.
Over the summer the Liberals tried to sneak through a massive tax hike on small businesses. Conservatives along with local business owners from every profession, industry and region of Canada made this the biggest political story of 2017. The opposition was fierce and effective. The Liberals had to water down their proposals significantly as the implications of their misguided policies became clear. My colleagues and I continue to advocate for the removal of these policies altogether.
The opposition also plays a constructive role in providing new legislation. This spring Rona Ambrose introduced the Just Act. This important piece of legislation will help to ensure that judges are properly trained on how to handle sexual assault cases. With the number of recent cases where judges have made inappropriate remarks or conducted themselves in a manner that is harmful to the victim, it is important for judges to receive adequate sensitivity training and to be held accountable.
Looking forward to 2018, I see three big policy initiatives that will affect the people of Lethbridge.
The first is the carbon tax. The Liberals are forcing every province to introduce legislation in 2018 to meet a federally mandated price on carbon. In Alberta, the Carbon tax will increase from $20 per tonne to $30 per tonne on January 1, 2018. This tax grab will significantly increase the cost of gasoline, home heating, groceries, and other daily necessities. Meanwhile, the cost of running a business in Canada will once again increase, thus making it difficult for Canadian businesses to compete with their American competitors who don’t have to pay this tax. I’m hearing from many worried business owners in our area and I’m concerned the carbon tax will result in the loss of jobs, while doing nothing to improve the environment.
The second big policy I’m concerned about is the mortgage changes for first time homebuyers. Those looking to purchase a home will find it more difficult to qualify for a mortgage. The majority of the changes took effect in 2017 but their full impact hasn’t been felt yet. It’s estimated these changes will take a billion dollars out of the real estate industry in 2018. A measure meant to calm the Vancouver and Toronto housing markets will mean lower housing prices and fewer new homes being built in Lethbridge. This will result in layoffs in the construction industry and real estate sector.
The third big news story is the legalization of recreational marijuana. The provinces and municipalities have repeatedly told the Federal Government they won’t be ready in time for July 1st. Police forces across the country have said they won’t have time to train their officers in how to detect impaired driving or in how to enforce the new laws. The Canadian Chiefs of Police have warned that organized crime will likely flourish for six to twelve months while the police try to catch up. Meanwhile, provinces, municipalities and private industry are stuck with a massive bill when it comes to drafting and implementing policy.
As you can tell, 2018 will likely be a busy year in Parliament. Hearing your personal stories and experiences is what empowers me to represent you in Ottawa. Please continue to make your voice heard. It is a tremendous honour to represent you and your family in our nation’s capital and I look forward to serving you in 2018!
If I can be of help you, please don’t hesitate to contact me. My office number is 403-320-0070 or you can contact me through my webpage at www.RachaelHarder.ca.