THUNDER BAY – Last week, the spring sitting of parliament ended and MPs headed back to our constituencies for the busy summer months. This week’s edition will recap the legislation and motions that I tabled this spring, while next week’s column will be more of a national issues recap.
This spring I tabled three separate motions or bills. The first motion that I tabled this year was numbered ‘M-417’ and was drafted in consultation with some local veterans and others who volunteer at one or more of the eight legions in Thunder Bay – Rainy River. The text of M-417 is as follows; “That, in the opinion of the House, the government should establish a Royal Canadian Legion Infrastructure Renewal Fund to assist individual branches and their infrastructure renewal efforts by matching their investment in infrastructure projects at their respective branches, to ensure all branches throughout Canada will continue to provide a high level of service to veterans, active personnel, their families, and the public.” If implemented, it is my hope that any investment made by individual Legion branches to preserve or enhance their physical infrastructure – such as heating or ventilation upgrades – would be eligible for matching funds by the Federal government.
In the middle of the spring session I tabled a second motion titled M-433. This wording of this motion is as follows; “That, in the opinion of the House, the government should consider working with all levels of government to establish a long-term Rural Infrastructure Fund spanning a period of 20 years to assist rural municipalities with populations of ten thousand residents or less, in their efforts to develop, repair and upgrade core public infrastructure.” It was drafted after consulting many local leaders throughout Thunder Bay – Rainy River and Northern Ontario and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) who agreed that there is a funding shortfall for infrastructure in Canada, but also that small rural communities are at a particular disadvantage when it comes to raising money from property taxes because their populations are smaller and more spread out than urban centres. Since matching funds are often required between the federal, provincial, and local governments many small towns are simply not able to access most programs today. We need to remedy this if our small rural communities are to be healthy and prosperous places to live and do business tomorrow, next year, and a decade from now.
The third legislative initiative that I undertook this spring was the tabling of a bill to help protect transit drivers by changing the Criminal Code. If debated and passed, this bill titled “C-531: An Act to amend the Criminal Code (public transit operators),” will require the court, at sentencing, to consider as an aggravating circumstance the fact that the victim of an assault is a public transit operator. I hope this bill will act as a deterrent to such violent incidents upon transit drivers in our communities, and complement what I hope will be more vigorous efforts by provincial and local governments to offer greater physical protections to our transit operators while they are on the job and serving the public. The idea for C-531 came from some recent local news stories on a pair of assaults that have occurred on Thunder Bay Transit buses since the start of this year. These two incidents put the health and well-being of the drivers, the passengers, and the nearby public at risk. This point was underlined to me in a meeting that I had with ATU local 966 President Sheila Kivisto and Union Steward Andrew Parr who I had the pleasure of meeting in early March.
I was happy to table these motions and bills in parliament, but especially so because these matters were brought forward by constituents in response to local issues of concern. If you have an idea for a bill or motion, then please visit my website (www.johnrafferty.ndp.ca) and contact one of my offices to share your ideas or concerns.
John Rafferty MP