To the Editor:
With September just around the corner, summer is coming to a close. The break from Parliamentary business in Ottawa has been a welcome one as it has given me the opportunity to once again visit a number of communities throughout this huge riding.
Peace River-Westlock presents logistical challenges from a travelling point of view. The riding covers 105,095 square kilometres and contains 198 municipalities, First Nations, and Métis communities. The density works out to one person per square kilometre! It takes nearly six hours to travel from La Crete in the north of the riding to Westlock in the south.
In just two summers, I’ve logged 12,000 kilometres, participated in Canada Day celebrations and summer parades, hosted softwood lumber and defence policy roundtables with industry stakeholders, discussed topics of concern with First Nations and Métis members and elders, and met with constituents throughout the riding to discuss personal, local and regional concerns.
The (federal government)’s plan to eliminate the deferrals on cash purchase tickets for grain sales has many farmers worried. I oppose this proposal and I will work to protect this program. For decades, Canadian producers have been able to defer cash grain income from one year to the next in order to balance their income.
The (government) wants to take away this important cash management tool without clearly understanding how this decision will affect farmers across the country.
Also of concern is the ongoing Canada-U.S. softwood lumber dispute. This riding is home to thousands of workers who rely on the forestry industry for income and security. Nearly 60,000 direct and indirect jobs in Alberta are affected by the dispute. I have called on the Minister of Natural Resources to give priority to the task of completing negotiations on a new framework agreement for softwood lumber exports. It is in Canada’s best interests to recognize the importance of this issue and to stabilize the situation as quickly as possible.
Another pressing issue is a bill the (government) introduced on June 6, 2017: Bill C-51. One of the purposes of this bill is to streamline the Criminal Code of Canada by removing certain provisions that no longer have any relevance in contemporary society.
While I generally agree with some of the revisions, I am concerned about Clause 14, which proposes to remove the only provision in the Criminal Code that directly protects the rights of individuals to freely practice their religion, whatever that religion may be. In a time where news stories are increasingly reporting attacks on religious communities in Canada, this proposal greatly concerns me. I will always stand up for the rights of my constituents and all Canadians to practice their religion without fear of recrimination, violence, or disturbance.
I greatly appreciate hearing the viewpoints and concerns of the people who reside in my riding. My office is always open to take your calls, emails, and visits. Your input allows me to better serve you and protect your interests in Ottawa.
Arnold Viersen, MP
Peace River – Westlock