MP Richard Cannings is in self-isolation after attending a Toronto mining conference with 25,000 others. (File)

MP Richard Cannings is in self-isolation after attending a Toronto mining conference with 25,000 others. (File)

Pandemic shows the cracks in our systems: MP Richard Cannings

The MP for the South Okanagan West Kootenay talks his year in review

2020 was a year of revelations for MP Richard Cannings on how flawed some Canadian systems are, and how much work needs to be done in 2021.

“I think when something like a pandemic hits, it pushes people, companies and whole society to the edge; the cracks widen up and shows where the cracks are,” said Cannings. “We need to fix them, not just in case there’s another pandemic, but because it will help people get through their lives.”

The year was also a busy one for the South Okanagan-West Kootenay MP, who spent much of the year working with others to put together plans and legislation to mitigate COVID-19’s impact.

“It was a very different year, we had two months of normalcy, and then it very quickly changed,” said Cannings. “Most of us were working from home for the year, and the work we were doing changed for most of the spring and summer, 90 per cent of our work was trying to help those impacted.”

Ensuring that businesses could keep employees, and people keep feeding their families, was one of the most important things, with Cannings proud of how he and the other members of the NDP caucus pushed for more than a waiving the time to apply for EI, with CERB and for a higher wage subsidy.

“I think the NDP has been very successful in helping Canadians get through this whole nightmare of a year,” said Cannings. “That’s what we’ve been focused on. What can we do to help Canadians, that has been our whole lens on this year.”

Figuring out how the House of Commons could work, now with a hybrid system where a portion of representatives can stay in their home ridings while still participating in government.

“I got to spend much more time with my wife than I have in the last five years,” said Cannings. “I hope we retain some aspects of that as we move on beyond the pandemic.”

Coming out of the pandemic, Cannings will be looking at how to help businesses such as performing arts, travel, tourism and others that were hard hit by the pandemic, as well as how to pay for all those stimulus efforts.

“I think the pandemic has exposed issues that were there all along,” said Cannings. “It has brought things to the fore, like wealth inequality.”

Cannings noted how there were businesses and wealthy individuals who found their wealth rising through the pandemic, and that he and the NDP are in support of a wealth tax, for those with over $20 million in assets. He also plans to support a push towards a greener nation and more jobs in renewables and in retrofitting homes among other NDP initiatives.

Long-term care, its underfunding and how many are not under the direct purview of health authorities was another revelation for Cannings, and addressing that will be another focus of his going forward.

“We have to take profit out of long-term care,” said Cannings. “It’s been one of the main reasons why long-term care has been sliding; because profit was brought into it.”

The ongoing opioid epidemic, as well as the lack of housing for many people, are further issues that Cannings wants to see tackled in 2021 as the nation comes out of the pandemic.

“It’s killed far more people in B.C. than COVID,” said Cannings. “They’re being killed, by poisoned, illegal drug sources. If we decriminalize that, and allow people to access clean drugs, they have a medical problem, addiction is a medical not a criminal problem.”

“Those are the kind of things, we have to say this is not the new normal. The new normal will be better. That’s the attitude we need to have.”

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