Thunder Bay, Vancouver and Taiwan on Hyer’s Holiday
THUNDER BAY – Federal Politics – My so-called holiday this year was a productive and enlightening one, which brought me across Canada and around the world with my family and on parliamentary business. On December 23, I boarded a VIA train with my wife Margaret to Vancouver, after a combination of very cold weather and getting bumped onto sidings by CN freights put the train 9 hours behind schedule. Even so, we had a wonderful 2.5 day excursion, highlighted by superb VIA meals, wonderful VIA staff, and lively companions of a wide range of social and economic strata. We decided to take the train rather than fly because rail is the most energy-efficient way to travel, it is a great way to experience our magnificent Canadian landscape, and it was a first-hand opportunity for an MP to assess the challenges and opportunities facing VIA rail.
We arrived in Vancouver late on Christmas Day and met with a variety of organizations regarding issues concerning Canada’s energy future, as well as with fellow Green MP and party leader Elizabeth May. We then flew to Taiwan, which is the small free and democratic part of China on the island formerly known as Formosa. While less than a third of the size of my riding, it has over 23 million citizens! I was part of the Canadian Parliamentary Delegation invited by the Republic of China (Taiwan), composed of two Conservatives, two NDP MPs, and myself as the newest member of the Green caucus in the House of Commons. Taiwan covered most of our costs, and I covered any remaining costs – the trip was not paid by the Canadian taxpayer.
I remained in Taiwan until January 4, meeting with many government Ministers, including for Education, Agriculture, Defense, Finance, Foreign Affairs, and Economic Affairs, as well as the President of Taiwan. During these meetings I was able to develop relationships with Taiwanese legislators in the interest of business and trade opportunities for Canada and northwestern Ontario. During my trip, I was able to experience Taiwan’s fast, efficient, safe, comfortable (and on time) high-speed passenger rail…over 280 km/hour! I also met with the Canadian Trade Office in Taipei.
The visit was also an important opportunity to learn more about the draft Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a major proposed trade agreement between twelve Pacific Rim countries, including the US, Canada and Taiwan. Trade agreements like this one have great potential for benefits… and for problems. Canada certainly needs to diversify our international trading partners. But, like CETA, Canadians should have major concerns about the negotiation process. Once again, the devil is in the details, and we don’t yet know what they are. The Harper government has been very secretive about the details of this proposed treaty, refusing to share them with most MPs, including their own backbenchers.
According to leaked documents, the TPP could have wide-ranging implications for copyright, open access to information and investor-state relations. These provisions could potentially restrict access to affordable medicine in developing countries, impose excessive copyright restrictions and limit access to information and research, and allow multinational corporations to take the Canadian government – and the Canadian taxpayer – to court, if they feel a law is enacted that hurts their bottom line. I hope to hold the Prime Minster to account in regard to both the excessive secrecy and the consequences of the provisions. While the treaty is many years away from adoption, having input in the early stages can help to prevent future problems, and optimize the benefits for Canada.
Now that I’ve returned home to the riding, I will be spending time meeting with constituents throughout the riding until the House sits on January 27. I wish a very happy, safe, and prosperous New Year to everyone in Thunder Bay-Superior North and northwestern Ontario.
Bruce Hyer MP
Thunder Bay Superior North