As I write this column, it is 1 a.m. or so on Wednesday morning and my colleagues and I are gathering in the House of Commons preparing to vote on C-39, the back to work legislation that will get CP Rail moving again.
It’s been quite the week with some big wins and one particular disappointment.
First and foremost, my mind is on our veterans. I was reassured to see The Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, and the Honourable Steven Blaney, Minister of Veterans Affairs, announce that the Government of Canada will not appeal the Federal Court’s May 1, 2012 decision regarding the offset of Pension Act disability benefits from the Service Income Security Insurance Plan (SISIP).
“The men and women who serve and sacrifice in Canada’s name need to know that their Government will stand behind them and provide the benefits they need when their service is complete,” said Minister MacKay. “I am pleased to announce our government will discontinue the offset for Long Term Disability benefits.”
Since 2006, the Government of Canada has put in place a wide range of programs and benefits to support ill and injured veterans, military personnel and their families. These complement the Long Term Disability group insurance plan for Canadian Forces (CF) members that is administered under SISIP.
This program has done a tremendous amount of good by giving veterans with a long-term disability a benefit equal to 75 per cent of their pre-release salary.
Secondly, with the help of my assistant Louise, I have been in discussion with Veterans Affairs to see if there is some way, despite the necessary cutbacks, to retain some local service for veterans here in Kelowna. I am confident that we will be able to come up with a better solution than requiring local veterans to drive to Penticton. It’s just too far for some of our oldest veterans to travel. So, stay tuned. I’m fairly confident we can turn this one around.
Speaking of confidence, I was fairly confident that Bill C-311, an Act to amend the 1928 Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act, tabled by my colleague MP Dan Albas, was going to pass this week.
Based on my motion 601, C-311, will allow Canadians from out of province to buy wine directly from our local vintners in B.C. and other provinces, a win-win for consumers and vintners alike.
Bill C-311 has had all party support from the get go, a testament to the common sense of the legislation and Dan’s hard work.
But, instead of popping a cork to celebrate the victory for consumers and our vintners, the NDP pulled the plug choosing that moment to refuse to allow the bill to complete third reading, the final stage a bill passes before it is sent to the Senate. Sadly, the NDP have just ended up hurting the industry, especially our smaller vintners, who were really looking forward to the bill’s passage.
There is a slim chance that something can be negotiated so that the bill can be put before the House again before it rises for the summer. If not, the bill won’t pass until the fall. The decision rests in the hands of the Opposition.
All in all, it’s been an interesting week with a few wins and some setbacks.
I’m signing off now to vote on C-39. By the time you read this, Bill C-39 will have passed—the trains will be rolling again, the growing disruption to the economy will be rectified and, hopefully, the two sides will be back at the negotiating table signing an agreement they can both live with.
Editor’s note: As of Friday, June 1, Federal NDP house leader Nathan Cullen had offered to ensure Bill C-311 passes before the summer break.