February 22nd, 2017

Reflections on the past year


By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on January 6, 2017.

Three main themes defined 2016

The beginning of a new year is often the perfect time to reflect on the past year. It has been a little over a year since I first took my seat in the House of Commons. Some of the common questions I get when I meet people in the community are “how are things in Ottawa?” or “how has your first year been?” There are three big themes that define 2016.

The first theme is jobs. Ensuring that families are able to get good-paying jobs to put food on the table is my most pressing concern. As a member of the Alberta Jobs Taskforce, I have conducted roundtables, consultations and toured many of our local businesses in order to gain a first-hand perspective on how to get Albertans back to work. I have also participated heavily in events organized by our local chambers of commerce – building relationships with the innovators, entrepreneurs and job creators in our local communities. The federal government has a massive impact on the future success or failure of these businesses, which in turn affects the ability of Albertans to find work. As we enter into 2017, this issue is top of mind for my Conservative colleagues and me and we will continue to advocate for Albertans!

This leads me to the second priority – lower taxes. Canadians know better than the federal government when it comes to how to stretch a dollar. This is why I fight to keep your hard-earned money in your wallet. Whether it is parents being able to keep more of their money to provide for their children’s future, or entrepreneurs being able to invest in their small businesses, Canadians know how to spend their money more efficiently than inflexible federal programs. Which is why I am so concerned about the negative impact of a federally imposed carbon tax. The Liberals have already increased payroll taxes, they have increased small-business taxes and they have increased taxes on Canadian families. Now they’re going to bring in the largest tax increase in the last 50 years. Our local businesses compete every day against their American competitors – in agriculture, beef, oil and gas, and a host of other industries. Under Trump’s administration, the United States will not be imposing a carbon tax. This means that Canadians’ jobs are going to disappear to south of the border because Canadian businesses won’t be able to compete. Canada produces less than two per cent of the world’s greenhouse gases – so this sacrifice will do nothing to address climate change. It will simply put Canadian families at a significant disadvantage and potentially out of work.

The third thing I’ve taken a strong stance for is ethics in government. I don’t believe it’s right for a person to be able to purchase privileged access to the prime minister or his cabinet ministers. Simply put, it’s just not good governance. The Liberal cash-for-access scheme has shattered the faith Canadians put in this government. When wealthy donors have preferential access to the prime minister it undermines the basic principles of our democracy. As the Youth Critic, the biggest damage I have seen is the broken faith of young voters that put their trust in the prime minister. They took him at his word when he stated he was going to uphold the highest ethical standards.

This year still had several positive developments for our constituency. The approval of the Kinder-Morgan pipeline is good news for Alberta. The likely approval of Keystone XL will also help generate local jobs. These decisions combined with the ratification of the Canada-European Free Trade Agreement provide some optimism for Canadian businesses. There was also unexpected cross-party collaboration to study the effects of violent and degrading pornography on Canadian society.

Looking to the next year there will be a few big things that will impact Canadians. Our economy has become increasingly fragile. Low oil prices and increased taxes have put a lot of pressure on Canadian jobs. If Trump brings in his proposed tax cuts, many business opportunities will shift to the United States. This could mean tough times for Canadian businesses if the next Liberal budget doesn’t include significant tax cuts.

Secondly, the legislation to legalize marijuana will be introduced. How this is implemented could have significant health impacts for Canadians. We will see how closely the Liberals pay attention to the science when they form these policies. Thirdly, the Liberals will have to decide whether they will keep or abandon their promise to change how Canadians vote. Any changes for the 2019 election would have to be made this spring in order for Elections Canada to have time to implement them.

As we enter 2017 together, let me pause to say thank you for your on-going feedback and insights. In an informal survey I did with some of my colleagues, it is apparent that the people of the Lethbridge constituency communicate with their Member of Parliament at a much higher rate than other ridings. Whether it is letters, emails, Facebook messages or tweets, we are living up to the populist reputation of southern Alberta.

When I entered public office, I made it clear I wanted to embrace a relational approach to politics. I believe in serving the people of Lethbridge by being an active part of this community. Politics for me is about building relationship with my constituents in order to be a strong advocate on their behalf. Thank you for allowing me to share in your stories in order to serve you better in Ottawa.

As always, if I can be of any assistance to you and your family, please be sure to contact my office at 403-320-0070 or Rachael.Harder@parl.gc.ca.

Rachael Harder is the Conservative MP for Lethbridge. Her column appears monthly.


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