Highlights: Our Government
Welcoming thousands of Syrian refugees.
The situation in Aleppo recently reaffirmed the importance of our work in resettling tens of thousands of Syrian refugees this year.
As I said in my first speech in the House, our resettlement initiative was “an important reminder that long-term peace is forged by a compassionate and inclusive society,” and it was amazing to see the outpouring of good will and support in our own community.
Minister McCallum’s recent changes to improve immigration processing for family reunification and to repeal the unfair aspects of C-24 bring a similar sense of compassion to our immigration system.
Tackling climate change and protecting the environment.
We have a responsibility to future generations to tackle climate change. Thanks to federal leadership, we ratified the Paris Climate Agreement, committed to a progressive national carbon price and to phasing out coal, and made major investments in public transit, green infrastructure, clean tech, and an oceans protection plan.
We also brought the provinces together to establish the Pan-Canadian Framework for Clean Growth and Climate Change, “outlining critical actions that we will take to grow the economy while reducing GHG emissions”, and our government joined President Obama to restrict oil and gas development in the Arctic.
Fairness for the middle class and those working hard to join it.
We immediately reduced taxes in 2016 for the middle income tax bracket, lowering taxes for 9 million Canadians.
The Canada Child Benefit began in July, a tax-free monthly benefit for low and moderate income families. It is projected to bring hundreds of thousands of kids, and their families, out of poverty. It will make a real difference in our community, as the child poverty rate in Crescent Town is over 30%.
We also worked to ensure that every Canadian will live in dignity in retirement. Minister Morneau reached a historic agreement with the provinces to enhance CPP, and Budget 2016 increased the guaranteed income supplement by 10%, improving benefits for an estimated 900,000 seniors.
Budget 2016 delivered historic investments in First Nations communities (from education to clean water), setting aside $5 billion over our mandate, and we also initiated an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women. But much more work remains to be done.
Restoring science and evidence-based decision-making.
We acted quickly to restore the long-form census, and Canadians set a new record with a response rate of 97.8%. We also unmuzzled scientists, we’re hiring a chief science adviser, and Budget 2016 included major investments in science and research.
Evidence-based decision-making was also on display as we reversed course on the previous government’s “tough-on-crime” agenda, adopted a sensible and evidence-based approach to drug policy, and moved to ban asbestos by 2018.
Highlights: Our Office
Representing Canada on the world stage.
Our Prime Minister deserves the credit for restoring Canada’s international reputation. I hope that I’ve helped.
In February, I represented Canada at a UN Parliamentary Hearing in New York, and participated in a debate on the global response to the world drug problem, alongside Mexican Senator Laura Rojas. We spoke to the human and financial cost of our prison systems, the unintended consequences of prohibition, and the importance of a health-focused approach to drug abuse.
In March, I represented Canada at a global parliamentary conference in Zambia. I gave a speech and took part in a panel discussion on the topic of diversity and equality in politics, and then addressed the general assembly on the question of how to engage youth in politics.
In October, I represented Canada at a global parliamentary conference in Switzerland, and gave a speech to the general assembly in relation to how parliaments can play a role in preventing human rights abuses.
Working to improve our animal protection laws.
In February, I introduced Bill C-246, the Modernizing Animal Protections Act.
It was endorsed by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, every major animal welfare organization in North America, and the Toronto Star in two separate editorials.
Bill C-246 put the issue of animal welfare on the government’s agenda, and my Liberal colleagues have now created an animal welfare caucus to ensure that the conversation continues.
Due to my advocacy, I was the keynote speaker at the 2016 National Animal Welfare Conference, and received Animal Justice’s 2016 Humane Legislator Award.
Recognizing and representing Beaches-East York.
I have recognized, in Parliament, a number of local events, volunteers, and accomplishments from our riding, including the 105 year-old Michael Garron volunteer Olive Dodds, the celebration of International Mother Language Day in our Bengali community, the success of our Balmy Beach Rugby Club and Rugby Canada, the 50th anniversary of the Beaches Lions Easter Parade, and both Penny Oleksiak’s Olympic feats and DECA and the Beach Village’s work in organizing the local Olympic parade.
I have also been vocal on behalf of constituents, presenting petitions, voicing concerns about our government’s more restricted approach to assisted dying, calling for an end to the arrests for simple marijuana possession, speaking out against the gay/bisexual blood ban, and adding my voice to the plight of Iraq war resisters.
We’ve also helped hundreds of constituents with case files, and raised many issues internally with Ministers where they have been brought to our attention by constituents.
As I said in my first speech in the House:
“I want to…stress the importance of independence in this House, the importance of thoughtfulness, and the importance of respectful disagreement. I am a proud member of the Liberal caucus, but I am prouder still of standing here in this House as the voice of all residents of Beaches-East York.”
Bringing thoughtful independence to Parliament.
In addition to my committee work on PTSD, access to information, privacy, and national security, I take my role as a parliamentarian seriously in the House of Commons. Our Prime Minister promised freer votes, he has encouraged independence, and it is both an important democratic reform and a significant contrast to the heavy-handed approach of his predecessor.
In June, CBC News’ Aaron Wherry wrote about the importance of independence in the House of Commons, and my relatively independent streak.
“Erskine-Smith says he was inspired to run by Justin Trudeau’s commitment to a different style of politics. His party might arguably look good for periodic dissent like his.”
In July, Althia Raj from the Huffington Post wrote a longer profile piece in which I explained my voting record, and general philosophy on free votes.
And in September, the Star’s Susan Delacourt wrote about my work in parliament, and the idealism I bring to the job.
“Erskine-Smith says that if he has any agenda, it’s simply about staying true to his principles — and also his idealism about politics. He likes the big-picture work that political life can accomplish. While he gets job satisfaction from the casework at a constituency level, for instance, he still has his sights on making a bigger difference.”
I work hard to be transparent in my decision-making, and have published reasons where I have departed from the government’s position on different votes, including the assisted dying legislation, a motion to declare ISIS’ atrocities as genocide, and a motion to condemn BDS. This year, we will be putting together a vote tracker on our website with a short explanation for every vote in the House.
Highlights: In Our Community
I attended International Mother Language Day events and new year’s parades with our Bengali community, marched in the annual Beaches Lions Easter Parade along Queen Street, hosted a budget breakfast and assisted dying town hall, and visited local schools and rotary clubs to talk politics.
We hosted Beaches-East York school visits in Ottawa, held a town hall on the Canada Child Benefit, helped to organize the Olympic parade, marched in the annual East York Canada Day Parade, and handed out water at the Beaches Jazz Festival.
I also participated in a citizenship ceremony, the Crescent Town flea market, an Eid prayer in Dentonia Park, the Toronto Pride parade and the Pride flag raising at True Davidson Acres, and I helped out at the East Toronto Baseball Association’s awards banquet.
More than that, we held 10 meet and greets around the riding in July, and through our door-knocking efforts, we connected with more constituents than any other MP across the country. Oh, and Mackinlay was born.
We hosted two large town halls, first on climate change, and then on electoral reform. We also hosted our first youth council meeting, I visited East York Collegiate to talk politics, and I attended the 15th anniversary of 9/11 at Woodbine Park, and an Eid prayer in Dentonia Park.
My office staff and I were joined by my wonderful wife and chef Amy Symington to cook and serve dinner through the Out of the Cold program at St. Aidan’s for about one hundred people. We had done the same thing in January, and plan to do it again next year.
Finally, I attended Remembrance Day ceremonies at the East York Civic Centre, and the Naval Club.
My office and I, and our youth council volunteers, helped out the holiday hamper programs at both Community Centre 55 and the Neighbourhood Centre, delivering hundreds of hampers to families in need.
We also marched in the Santa Claus parade along Kingston Road (looking ridiculous as ever), we hosted a C-51 & National Security Town Hall, I visited the East York Rotary Club and Malvern Collegiate to talk politics, and I participated in EY Rotary’s annual TV auction.