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MP talks fish farms, forest workers strike, new role as NDP Whip

North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney wants to see the Western Forest Products strike come to an end.

In a media conference call this morning, Blaney expressed her frustration about the strike’s impact on workers.

“It’s been a long time, families are really struggling, I have sent an open letter to Western Forest Products as well to the union, just asking them to do their best,” Blaney said. “I feel that folks are working really hard towards a resolution within the workers, across the riding and their families are struggling and I hope we are taking every opportunity that we can to support them, and to support the other families across our riding who face financial challenges, every day.”

Blaney hopes a resolution will be reached “as quickly as possible.”

“We know that it’s having a negative impact on families and businesses across the riding. It also concerns me to see young people leaving the area for work. One of our challenges in North Island-Powell River is attracting young people to our region. We want to make sure they stay when they arrive and this is really putting a damper on that.”

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Protecting wild salmon 

Shifting gears to the fishing industry, Blaney said she’s looking forward to working with newly appointed federal Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan.

“She previously served as the Minister of Rural Economic Development and I worked with her on a couple of different files for the riding. So I will be connecting with her to talk about the chinook fishery,” Blaney said.

“We sent a report earlier this year; I knew it was an election year and there would probably be challenges in getting a response but I was really disappointed to see the former minister (Jonathan) Wilkinson not respond to our report and not even acknowledge the thoughtfulness of the people who were consulted across the riding that we brought their voices forward.”

Blaney said that she’s hoping Jordan will review the report.

“I will continue to extend an invitation to the riding to meet with people within the fishing community who really have a story to tell that I don’t know the ministry has been listening to.”

She also wants to make sure there is a measurable, concrete plan on preserving wild salmon.

“There are a lot of challenges facing the sea life in our oceans; we’ve seen a lot of our stocks dwindling dramatically. We need a comprehensive plan to address these issues and I will be asking for her to protect our wild Pacific salmon and to protect the ocean at large in making sure that the only way to do that is to have a really comprehensive strategy.”

Staying on the subject of fisheries, Blaney said she’ll be pushing the federal Liberals to hold their promise about moving fish farms from sea to land.

“I’m really curious to hear about what that plan will look like, and what the strategy will be to work with the workers across our riding who have their income coming from that (fish farms),” Blaney said.

“I want to see the close containment stay within our region but I also agree that it’s time to move our fish farms on land and that’s something I’ve stood for, for a long time.”

She said that while those jobs “mean a lot,” wild salmon has to be a priority.

New whip

On Parliament Hill, Blaney said she is excited and honoured to be named as the NDP’s party Whip.

The role of the Whip is to not only make sure members are in the House of Commons when they need to be and are ready for all of the votes, but to work with the other parties to make sure that rules are followed and everything is moving forward as smoothly as possible.

“It’s a formal leadership role,” Blaney said. “I’m really looking forward to the challenge. I know that when we’re in a minority parliament, there’s going to be significant challenges, but there are also some great opportunities for collaboration, and I’m hoping to use my skills to build as strong a parliament as I can and to keep strong unity within our party.”

Pharmacare and dental care

Blaney said in the new term, she’s looking forward to “pushing the issue of pharmacare and dental care.”

“Those were two issues I’ve heard (about) again and again from the constituents across the riding,” she said. “We know that in a Liberal minority government with the CCF which was the NDP predecessor, the government really moved forward with health care and that’s where it came from… it came from that history from Tommy Douglas. I hope that we’re able to push hard and make that happen and that will definitely be a priority for me.”

Government appeal on Indeginous ruling ‘shameful’

Finally, Blaney expressed her disappointment with the government appealing the Human Rights Tribunal’s decision.

The Tribunal ruled that the government compensate First Nations children taken by child and family services agencies, as well as their families.

She said it’s “absolutely shameful that we continue to fight Indeginous children in court.”

“I’m really, really disappointed that this has been the decision of this government. Cindy Blackstock is the executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and has been fighting the same battle in court for over 13 years.”

Blaney said this is about the Canadian government fighting a decision made by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, “ruling that children that were removed without cause be compensated and to compensate the parents and the grandparents, so we have to acknowledge that a lot of Indeginous children are continuing to be removed in a discriminatory way and we need to deal with this, we need to make it right.”

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