Video: MP hears pot, pipeline and politics concerns

South Okanagan-West Kootenay MP hosts town hall forum in Penticton

Lifting the B.C. wine ban in Alberta “made my life a lot easier,” local Member of Parliament Richard Cannings said after a town hall meeting Wednesday evening.

From nuclear armistice and U.S. trade to a South Okanagan national park and Alberta-B.C. trade to #MeToo, the South Okanagan-West Kootenay MP heard it all in an event that preceded a visit from national NDP leader Jagmeet Singh by a couple of days.

“It went very well, I thought. We had some good questions, and people want to know what’s really going on in Ottawa and how things affect them,” he said. “It was quite a wide-ranging discussion from marijuana to world politics to steel tariffs.”

Among those issues, though, at the top of mind of many attendees was the situation between B.C. and Alberta — a tense trade cold war that saw the temporary ban on B.C. wine sales in Alberta and a potential bitumen export freeze heading to the Supreme Court of Canada — which has Cannings feeling a bit torn between the B.C. NDP and Alberta NDP.

“Luckily, that was resolved. I was concerned about that and how it would affect us here in the Okanagan. I was very glad when they found a face-saving way to put an end to that dispute,” he said.

“We’ve got an NDP government in Alberta sticking up for their people and an NDP government in B.C. sticking up for what the people who elected them asked them to do. The difficulty was getting caught in the middle of the wine ban. When that was lifted, that made my life a lot easier.”

Cannings echoed Singh’s own sentiments on the issue, suggesting the National Energy Board needs an overhaul in its processes to include more environmental concerns, “and we feel that hasn’t been done with this pipeline.”

More broad topics of the evening were pot and electoral reform, indicating people are still feeling unclear about how the new legislation will work and still stung by the proportional representation snub from the governing Liberal Party last year.

“I think (governance) would work well, better for them if they were more open to discussing things with the opposition parties,” he said.

“That’s why my belief, you know people always can say minority governments would be terrible because they would be so slow, and I don’t think that would be the case. It would force them to talk to the other parties first before they bring in legislation.”

On pot, Cannings shared attendees’ concerns about roadside testing for cannabis, with sister legislation moving through Parliament, alongside legalization of cannabis, currently set to be finalized in August.

Cannings also spoke on the planned South Okanagan national park, which has not seen any new updates since the federal government officially announced its renewed intentions to create the park in October.

“I haven’t heard. As I said here tonight, I called Parks Canada today to try to get an update on what’s exactly going on, and I left a message, they didn’t call back,” he said.

“I think things are happening in the background, so this will be a discussion between the federal government and the provincial government and the First Nations. It’ll be a discussion on how to make the national park, not whether or not to create a national park, what kind of park it’ll be.

I think the federal government is open to different kinds of national park, whether it’ll be more of an Indigenous park or more of a park that celebrates the ranching community type of thing. So it won’t be a park like Banff or Jasper.”

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Dustin Godfrey | Reporter

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