COLUMN: A July update from MP Gray

Kelowna-Lake Country MP Tracy Gray’s column

Thank you to everyone who reached out to our office for a Canadian flag set.

It was wonderful delivering flags to residents in every corner of our community, and having so many people post photos of themselves displaying their flags on social media. Canada Day looked different for most of us this year with all major community events cancelled.

Our MP office has reopened to the public by appointment, please email or call if you would like to connect. Our team has been working diligently to serve our community during COVID-19, and we have safety precautions in place so that we are able to serve the community in person once again.

Many businesses and not-for-profits I talk to every day are dealing with employment challenges, increasing costs to meet health and safety standards, and continued extended revenue decreases. Most will have little opportunity to recover this year, therefore, it is important we support our local businesses, not-for-profits and artists as much as we can. Consider ordering from local neighbourhood businesses where possible, instead of multinational companies.

I am also listening to concerns from local farmers and orchardists, who are having real challenges getting workers for their farms. Every year they have to look elsewhere for a large part of their workforce. Many of their regular workers from Mexico and Quebec are not coming this year due to COVID-19 health or travel restrictions and rules. If you know someone who is out of work, let them know that our local orchardists and farmers are looking for many people to help them prune and pick right now and through the fall.

As individuals, businesses and not-for-profits decipher their way through various government programs, I’ve heard confusion over the most recently opened program, the $900 million Canada Student Service Grant (CSSG), which was announced in April and opened on June 25. The intent of this program is to allow students or recent graduates who cannot find work to receive a “grant” for volunteer hours with a charity or not-for-profit organization. The government initially outsourced the administration of this large contract to a third-party organization, WE Charity. There were also reports that part of the funding would include paying teachers to find and coordinate students.

Since this announcement, many organizations across Canada who said they had the capacity and technology to administer the program questioned why they were not able to participate, and saw no request for proposal (RFP) from the federal government. Right here in Kelowna, there is at least one tech company that partners volunteers with not-for-profits, and can fully track hours and activities as well. Questions were also raised why the government wasn’t administering the program internally through our public service. The Official Opposition wrote the Auditor General asking to include the CSSG in her detailed post-pandemic spending audit report and asked the federal procurement ombudsman to review. The Ethics Commissioner is now also investigating the Prime Minister due to his close family ties to the charity, and WE Charity and the government have parted ways on this program. Surely we will hear more about this situation over the coming months.

As always, please reach out to me to let me know what is important to you, and I appreciate all the follow-ups on federal programs as businesses and individuals work their way through them. 250-470-5075, tracy.gray@parl.gc.ca

In case you missed it:

COLUMN: A thank you from MP Tracy Gray

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