Just weeks after being sworn in as the new Member of Parliament for our riding, I had the pleasure to attend the annual New Year’s Levee at Navy Hall in Niagara-on-the-Lake. It was a spectacular sunny day, allowing us to look forward confidently, to the promise and future ahead.
No one could have imagined at that time that a deadly virus was encircling the globe and would have an unprecedented impact on our communities and country.
COVID-19 has significantly changed our world, our lives, and has greatly impacted our livelihoods, for the time being.
After living through this pandemic for more than 10 months, we are finally seeing some progress being made by the federal government on the fronts of vaccine approval, deployment and rapid testing. Unfortunately, poor federal leadership has caused Canada to lag far behind our allies and other countries in responding quickly and effectively to this deadly virus.
In March, when COVID-19 was starting to take hold, it was the federal Conservatives who held the Trudeau government to account to ensure that Parliament — the voice of Canadians — was considered an essential service, and needed to meet, in order to develop and provide the emergency programs and supports that Canadians require.
Throughout this pandemic, my Conservative colleagues and I have worked to raise the concerns of our residents to improve the needed federal emergency response programs that will help get us through COVID-19. By directly collaborating with Canadians, businesses, and not-for-profits, programs such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS), the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), and the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA), are all better off today compared to when they were originally introduced by the federal Liberal government.
Despite all political parties coming together to work on the needed emergency response programs, Canadians still witnessed the serious ethical lapses and poor judgement from our prime minister. Justin Trudeau is now under his third ethics investigation, and the WE Charity scandal forced the Liberal government to prorogue Parliament for six weeks, in the middle of a global pandemic crisis. This precious lost time could have been better spent responding to the challenges faced by struggling Canadians, but instead, the prime minister used this as an opportunity to deflect attention away from his errors and poor judgement.
In August, Conservatives elected a new leader in Erin O’Toole, and on Sept. 9, I was pleased to be appointed special advisor to our Conservative leader on the matter of tourism recovery. Since my appointment, I have been extremely busy meeting virtually with stakeholders in our Canadian travel and tourism industry.
COVID-19 has hit this industry particularly hard. As travel and tourism were hit first, they were hit hardest, and will take the longest time to recover from this pandemic. Businesses and organizations in this industry desperately need sector-specific support, and a formal federal tourism recovery plan. While we are seeing a strong tourism recovery response in Ontario through the provincial government, needed federal initiatives continue to lag far behind on this important file. I will continue to pressure the Trudeau government to deliver these critical support measures, when Parliament resumes in the new year.
Our vitally important wine industry has also suffered greatly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the failures of the Liberal government to protect this growing and internationally recognized Canadian industry. It was this Trudeau government that triggered a World Trade Organization (WTO) challenge from Australia against our wine industry, when they imposed the escalator tax in Budget 2017. Conservatives opposed this Liberal decision, and we warned this government it would result in a trade challenge, but they refused to listen. As a result, it is incumbent upon this government to provide certainty and fair compensation to vintners to offset the tax increase they are now facing, in order to protect the thousands of jobs in this important industry.
Until vaccines and rapid testing are deployed widely around our country, we must continue our individual responsibility to keep ourselves, and each other, healthy and safe. So many of us have made great sacrifices in 2020 to protect our health and loved ones. We need to continue these habits as we enter 2021.
While many businesses and our border remain closed, we must also remember to support and shop local. For years, local businesses have strengthened our communities by giving. Now is the time for us to support them, as well.
2021 is a new year, and a new year offers refreshed hope: Hope for vaccines. Hope for rapid testing. Hope to visit our loved ones again. Hope for travel. Hope for good health. And hope for life to return to normal again soon.
I hope for all these things, as do so many of you. As your MP, who proudly serves the communities of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Falls and Fort Erie, I will continue to represent our interests in Ottawa, and ensure your views and concerns are heard by this federal government.
No matter our challenges ahead, we shall carry on and carry forward, together.