It’s been a busy few months since Kootenay-Columbia MP Wayne Stetski was elected to office in the Oct. 19 federal election. The NDP’s critic for national parks toured the riding extensively last week for the first time since he ousted David Wilks in the fall and stopped in Golden on Feb. 9 to meet with Town officials, leaders of various community groups and any other constituents who wanted to chat.
Stetski has had the opportunity to speak in parliament on several occasions since taking office in Ottawa, putting forth one query during question period in an area that he is very familiar with: Canada’s national parks.
To celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017, Parks Canada has decided to waive all entrance fees for entry in its national parks.
Several million dollars are raised for the parks through its entrance fees every year, and Stetski is concerned that will mean a smaller budget for the system that year.
“Will the government guarantee that they replace that funding in 2017 so it doesn’t end up being a cut to the national parks budget?” he questioned.
He also questioned whether the Liberals would restore the cuts made to Parks Canada under the Conservative government.
He received what he called a hopeful, but political, answer from Catherine McKenna, the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change. He plans to follow up on this issue in the near future.
Locally, the problematic changes to the Temporary Foreign Workers program remain a concern, despite this being less of a problem during the quieter winter tourism season. This was among the issues that Stetski discussed with Mayor Ron Oszust and Town CAO Jon Wilsgard during his Golden visit.
“It’s still an issue. It’s not as prominent as it was six months ago…but it is recognized, and it’s certainly recognized by the Liberal government that the current system is broken,” Stetski said, adding that he has faith that the government will take the right course of action in fixing the program.
Of course, a review of local concerns wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the Trans-Canada Highway, which will remain at the top of a list of regional priorities until a time where it is expanded and twinned.
On a broader scale, one of Stetski’s chief concerns is that of the election process itself. Much has been made of the seemingly dated “first past the post system” and the Liberals promised during the 2015 election campaign that they would change that once they were elected. Still, Stetski remains concerned that the governing party might opt for a ranked-ballot system that would seemingly favour the Grits, the centrist party being the second choice of most Conservative and NDP voters.
A petition in the riding has been signed by 700 people, including several Goldenites, to see the federal government move to a proportional representation system that would tie the percentage of a party’s popular vote directly to that party’s number of seats in parliament.
“It’s pretty straightforward…if the Green Party got 15 per cent of the votes across Canada, they should get 15 per cent of the seats in parliament,” Stetski said.
“I hear from people all the time that say the reason they have lost faith in democracy and in voting is because of that first past the post system, which in many cases people are voting against a party rather than for a party, and that was certainly true in this election.”
Stetski strongly advocated for strategic voting in the 2015 election, including in Kootenay-Columbia, but also said that he was hopeful that it would be the final election under the first past the post system.