Richard Cannings had just left a rather heated question period in Ottawa when the Trail Times talked with him on Wednesday. The day’s talking point, Bill C-4, was up for a vote that afternoon.
That was all quite fitting, considering the South Okanagan-West Kootenay MP was first welcomed to Trail as a federal-hopeful during a dinner at the Local 480 hall last fall.
On that occasion, the Canadian and American labour leader, Leo Gerard, (President of United Steelworkers) introduced the NDP candidate to local constituents.
Now, one year into his federal term, the MP was voting to repeal Bill C-4, which Cannings says was union bashing legislation passed by the former government.
“The Liberal government is very popular and was elected with a lot of promises,” Cannings began.
“We are the progressive opposition so my role and the rest of our caucus is really to remind them of those promises. In some cases, we’ve been quite happy, today we are voting on Bill C-4, which is some really regressive anti-labour laws the Conservatives passed … that made it more difficult for people to form a union and easier for companies to disband unions,” he added.
“Basically it was harassing unions to do so much paperwork they wouldn’t have time for anything else, paperwork for things above what any other group or public organization has to do. The Liberals and NDP were very keen on getting rid of it, and so I am happy about that.”
After winning the SOWK riding with 37 per cent of the vote last Oct. 19, Cannings’ ensuing first year has been a bit of a roller coaster ride with long and challenging days.
But he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“On a personal level it’s a very steep learning curve, a series of learning curves, really,” he shared.
“Whether it’s working in the riding, the House of Commons, or on committees — there is a big manual for all of it, but you really have to learn by doing,” he continued.
“That’s been very interesting for me, I’ve enjoyed every minute of it … every hour is different and there is never a dull moment.”
Some days are more stressful than others, but at the end of each day, the job is a privilege, said Cannings.
“It’s challenging and a long work day but I really have enjoyed the year.”
And with the highs, like the Wednesday repealing of a bill, he says there are some low points as well.
Lack of progress on climate change and climate action is a concern Cannings hears day after day in the SOWK riding.
“I’ve been disappointed in the government’s response to that,” he explained.
“How slow it’s taking and that they are actually moving forward on the old Conservative Action Plan — we aren’t going to meet our Paris targets, which is really unacceptable.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rode a wave of popularity to France last winter for the 21st United Nations Climate Change Conference. There was plenty of fanfare and selfies mixed in with promises on Canada’s future gas emission targets.
Since then, Cannings says the matter has fizzled.
“There was a surge of optimism early on, I was happy to see Canada go to Paris in such a positive way,” he said. “But very disappointed how slow things are going and how really mediocre the Liberals’ goals and aspirations are — we are disappointed but still holding out hope that things will pick up.”
Another pressing topic especially looking into next year, is softwood lumber.
“This is a very big issue in the forestry industry in our riding and across the country,” he said. “Again the Liberals had a full year to do something. As time goes on it gets harder to get a deal with this crazy election in the States.”