It’s been quite the year for newly-minted Kootenay-Columbia MP Wayne Stetski.
Twelve months ago, the former mayor of Cranbrook was kicking off his unofficial federal election campaign that was eventually called in August. Now, he’s back home in the Key City after experiencing his first parliamentary session since winning the riding in the federal election held on Oct. 19th.
Stetski said he had two objectives heading into the 42nd federal election.
“The first one was to see that Canada got a new government, a different government and the second objective was to see change here in the Kootenay-Columbia riding,” he said.
Those were accomplished on Election Day, as the reigning Conservative majority was reduced to opposition status, as the federal Liberals—led by party leader Justin Trudeau—captured 184 seats to form a majority government.
The New Democratic Party, which Stetski ran under, is also in opposition but shares many of the same platform ideals that were unveiled during the election.
“Many of the promises that the Liberal government made were similar to what was in the NDP platform, so we are supporting those things in Parliament,” Stetski said.
Stetski, who is a member of the NDP shadow cabinet as opposition critic for the National Parks, says that while the NDP isn’t driving legislation, they are committed to holding the Liberal majority accountable to their election promises.
“We are also committed to holding their feet to the fire,” Stetski said. “They’re already starting to say the books are in way worse shape than what the Conservatives had led us to believe.
“What that will mean in the end, we won’t really know until they release their first budget, that’ll be the key. When they release their budget, we’ll be able to see what’s in it in terms of what they promised and what’s not in it, in terms of what they promised.”
So far there have been a few dust ups in the House of Commons, as the NDP pushed for a planned tax break to include lower income individuals. The tax cut, eligible to those with incomes between $42,000 – $200,000, however, the NDP amendment was to bring the floor down to those with incomes starting at $20,000.
Another issue has been the all-too-familiar acrimonious tone of Question Period, which has been a problem that both the Liberals and the NDP are trying to address.
Stetski notes the new Speaker of the House—Liberal MP Geoff Regan—who was voted into his position in early December, is already taking initiative to shut down any partisan heckling.
“Question Period is still not quite where I would like to see it. It’s not as respectful as I think we can get to. We did elect a new speaker of the house and he was elected partly because of his commitment to seeing a House that has a little more decorum moving forward,” Stetski said.
“He has already started to do that during some of the Question Period heckling.”
Other issues that have had some positive movement is the progress on Syrian refugees, which has a movement nationally and in the riding. According to Stetski, outside of government efforts, there are private sponsorship groups in Cranbrook, Kimberley, Nelson and Kaslo hoping to bring in refugees.
Stetski also said he attended the media scrum for the announcement of the Liberal plan for the inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls and is pleased to see movement on that issue.
In between navigating public policy and legislation in Ottawa, there are also more equally important matters closer to home.
Stetski is on the verge of opening up his campaign offices in Cranbrook and in Nelson, and is learning the balance of managing his time back home in Cranbrook and the Kootenay-Columbia riding when Parliament is not in session.
“I’m really excited about January,” Stetski said. “What I committed to during the election was good quality public service—I’ve spent my entire life in the public service, so I said no letter to go unanswered, no phone call, no email will go unanswered and that’s the objective.”
Stetski and his staff are working out of a temporary office in Cranbrook at the 1710 WorkSpace on 10th Ave, but will move to permanent digs at 111 7th Ave at the beginning of January, with plans for an open house on a date to be determined.