smoke from wildfire over a lake in the mountains

2021 as seen by Rachel Blaney, MP for North Island-Powell River

Rachel Blaney, Member of Parliament for North Island – Powell River, gave Cortes Currents an overview of the important political issues and her family life during this past year. 

Screenshot of Rachel Blaney taken during the interview

Climate Change:

  • People were startled by some of the environmental impacts (fires, sub-zero temperatures, heatwaves) and reached out to Blaney’s office to find out ‘what we’re going to do and how we were going to behave differently.’
  • “I’ve heard a lot of people just saying we want to have more time and resources to figure out what our local solutions will be. We want to see  the emissions go down in our country.”
  • Stop giving oil and gas industries subsidies.
  • Blaney’s private member’s motion (Motion 53), “where I just really outlined some of those key issues, especially for rural and remote communities.”

The 2021 election

  • “… it sure cost us a lot of money in a time when I would wish that we would spend that money a little more wisely.”
  • “The liberals have three different parties to work with. Sometimes the Conservatives support them in legislation. Sometimes the Block supports them in legislation and sometimes the NDP supports them.  I think minority governments are more reflective of what Canadians want to see.”

Government clawbacks of CERB, CRB & GIS

  • “the last six months of 2021 were really around identifying vulnerable groups that were going to be punished by having money clawed back … seniors who have lost their homes, that are living in vehicles [or] that are couch surfing in their 80’s … Parents, who took advantage of this program because they could not work because their workplace was either not safe or was shut down, are seeing their child tax benefit clawed back … Creating more poverty in the poorest groups across our country should not be our solution to a pandemic.”
  • “then also to see at the same time, people who don’t live in our riding, who are big,  corporate, shareholders or management teams getting huge bonuses … and they’re also having a business that is getting the 75% wage subsidy. We don’t see the government clawing that back …” 

The Housing Crisis

  • In 2021 housing prices in North Island Powell River jumped 50%.
  • This is a nation-wide crisis: “if the federal government had been watching this across the country in a meaningful way, there would have been multiple solutions across the path of years to make sure that we didn’t get where we are today. Unfortunately, those weren’t taken.”
  • Blaney’s private member’s Bill C-207, which would add the right to housing to the Canadian Bill of Rights.

Fish Farms

  • “Now that the Discovery Island decision has been made, I have continued to push now to different ministers to make sure that there’s resources on the ground for workers to support the transition. And I think that also flows into what we’re seeing in our whole region, of course, around wild salmon and the deterioration of those populations and a lot of concern.
  • “The federal government announced a significant amount of resources to support rehabilitation, but we’re still not seeing how that’s going to roll out in a very clear and functional way and it’s something that cannot wait. So we’re working on many fronts with different stakeholder groups and organizations to figure out what that’s going to look like and how quickly that can be implemented.” 

First Nations

  • “a lot of non-Indigenous people, especially elderly Caucasian people, are mourning the loss of their illusion of what Canada was. They are suddenly feeling a sense of discomfort about being Canadian. “They want land claims to be addressed. They want to recognize that reconciliation needs to be done more meaningfully. There needs to be a sort of a reckoning with this country so that we can move on, but move on carrying the whole history and truth of the past … It has to be a history that all Canadians carry, not just Indigenous people.”
  • “ I have known people who were sterilized in residential school. I’ve known them, I’ve talked to them and heard them. This is happening and sadly, it’s still happening in Canada …”
Map of North Island-Powell River riding – Courtesy Elections Canada

A peek into Blaney’s family life 

  • “One of the parts of COVID that I did appreciate was I actually got to physically be home more”
  • Being on Ottawa time, while living in BC:  up at 4 AM & going to bed when everyone else wants to do things.
  • Her marriage to Chief Darren Blaney of the Homalco First Nation – “it is funny to have different politicians and people tease us a lot about who’s the senior politician, is it the Chief of a community or an MP? I kind of get a kick out of it, but I think that the best part for us personally is we really understand the amount of work that’s required … We’re so busy that we don’t have a lot of time to be annoyed that the other person is busy all the time, because we are both busy all the time doing the work that needs to be done for our communities.”
  • “I have to say my kids adapted, my husband adapted,  and my dogs have figured how to survive it, but they really struggle! They’ve missed me a lot!” (There is a story about Facetime with her dog in the podcast.) 

Top photo credit: Picture taken during BC’s 2021 wildfires by Λύραλύγξ via wikimedia (CC BY SA, 4.0 License)

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