The Penticton Western News caught up with South Okanagan-West Kootenay MP Dick Cannings

The Penticton Western News caught up with South Okanagan-West Kootenay MP Dick Cannings

Rookie MP reflects on his first year in office

Richard Cannings admits he wasn’t sure what to expect when he was elected to federal parliament last year.

Richard Cannings admits he wasn’t sure what to expect when he was elected to federal parliament last year.

Cannings ran for the NDP in the 2015 federal election, and was successful in his bid to become the first minister of parliament for the new South Okanagan West Kootenay riding. A year into his term, he said he’s learned a lot.

“It’s a job that is pretty amazing and it is a real privilege and an honour. But because not many people get to do it, it’s hard to know what to expect; you don’t get a lot of chatter from your friends about what it is like to be an MP,” said Cannings.

Read more: Cannnings finds new appreciation for South Okanagan riding

Cannings said he understood what he was getting into working in the riding: helping people, meeting groups, finding out what makes this region run. But working in the capital was a different story.

“The life in Ottawa is a bit of a black box, so that has been a huge learning experience,” said Cannings. “I didn’t really know what kind of influence, what kind of opportunity I would have to speak to issues about my riding or about my other concerns.”

Cannings, a biologist and an environmentalist, was named vice-chair of the Natural Resources Committee, giving him just that chance to speak to issues.

“That is a huge opportunity for me to learn and for me to have input into some of the big issues facing the country,” said Cannings. “I’ve also sat in on other committees when they feel my expertise is needed.”

Read more: Cannings winner in South Okanagan-West Kootenay

At home, Cannings said he has experienced staff to help him with the riding work and people that come into his offices looking for help, which he said is a key part of the job.

“That work falls mainly to my staff.  It takes a real knowledge of how to negotiate the arcane alleyways of Ottawa,” said  Cannings. “One of the surprises, and a disappointment for me in a way, is how much easier it is for an MP to get action in Ottawa than it is for a citizen.”

Things move slowly in Ottawa, Cannings said, adding that his experience on provincial and national boards, like the Nature Conservancy, has aided him.

“There are issues I have been concerned about, local issues like the Columbia River treaty; these are things that take years,” said Cannings.

Most of the MPs, he said, have similar backgrounds, some coming through municipal politics, others through service groups, and other informed backgrounds.

“They are all very competent people and are working  hard. That what makes it so energizing for me,” said Cannings. “There is no boredom involved. Every hour is different. Overall, I very much enjoy it. It is a real privilege to do this and I don’t forget that.”

But it can be difficult to make progress, like in discussing renewable energy, one of the items the Natural Resources Committee was mandated to work on.

“I can’t seem to get our committee going on it. It’s a big part of our mandate,” said Cannings. “It’s a committee dominated by Liberals and they don’t seem to be interested. So instead, we’ve been studying how to help the oil and gas industry.

“I’m not one to say we don’t need an oil and gas industry. But I don’t think it was what Canadians were expecting us to do.”

The issue of a national park for the Similkameen is one Cannings said he continues to follow, though he said the ball is in B.C.’s court right now.

“I’m still hopeful something will happen in that regard. It probably won’t be as big a park as most people want. The government is trying to make sure the ranching industry is taken care of and I fully support that,” said Cannings, adding that he has met with HNZ Helicopters, a local business that will be affected by changes.

“Once the province comes out with some sort of a plan on that I would be happy to get involved as seriously as I can.”

Cannings said there is a range of issues he is working on: renewable energy, softwood lumber, pipelines and others. But one of the biggest issues, he said, is the Liberal’s promise of electoral reform, which appears to be stalled.

“This is one of the most important things that this parliament will do, if they do it,” said Cannings. “If they don’t do it, it will be important in that they just squandered a huge opportunity to fix our electoral system.

“I think that is the most important at thing that is going to happen over the next year. “

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Mainly clear and sunny skies are expected for the Okanagan-Shuswap region this week. (Maxpixels photo)
Warm, sunny week ahead in Okanagan-Shuswap

Daytime highs will reach the low 20s with mainly clear skies this week

The City of Penticton will offer large item garbage collection later this month. (Black Press file photo)
Penticton to offer large item garbage collection

Items will be collected April 19 to 23

These nails were collected off the Campbell Mountain bike trails in Penticton this weekend. Someone placed them all over the trail. (Facebook)
Hundreds of nails placed on popular Penticton bike trail

A mountain biker took to Facebook to warn others about the nails

Chrystina Barnard, owner of Lucky’s Pet Supply, has made it her mission to visit as many patios in Penticton as a way to promote restaurants. Here she is enjoying an eggs benny with her best fur friend at Loki’s Garage in Penticton. (Facebook)
Penticton foodie commits to 19-day patio crawl to promote local restaurants

The small business owner wanted to help out eateries hurt by the new restrictions

Flight with COVID
Another Kelowna flight with COVID-19 exposure

Westjet flight on April 5 from Kelowna to Edmonton

People take part in an anti-curfew protest in Montreal on Sunday April 11, 2021. Hundreds of people gathered in Old Montreal tonight in defiance of a new 8 p.m. curfew. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Giuseppe Valiante
VIDEO: Hundreds defy Montreal’s 8 p.m. curfew in violent, destructive protest

Quebec reported 1,535 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, as well as five additional deaths linked to the virus

Interior Health improves access to mental health supports amid COVID-19 pandemic. (Stock)
Interior Health connects people to mental health resources amid COVID

310-MHSU line receives positive feedback in early months of rollout

Construction has begun on Phase 4 of the Kicking Horse Canyon Project, with lengthy closures on the way. (Claire Palmer photo)
Construction has begun on Phase 4 of the Kicking Horse Canyon Project, with lengthy closures planned for the next four weeks. (Claire Palmer photo)
24-hour Trans-Canada closures begin east of Golden

It’s the final phase of the Kicking Horse Canyon construction project, which is realigning and widneing the higwya

A volunteer disinfects a historical Mohabat Khan mosque ahead of the upcoming Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, in Peshawar, Pakistan, Friday, April 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Muhammad Sajjad)
For Canadian Muslims, second pandemic Ramadan is a time of hope and sadness

Many members of the association are trying to find ways ‘to help people stay connected to one another’

The Okanagan Symphony Orchestra performed Exsultate, a live-streamed all-Mozart concert, on April 10. (Contributed)
REVIEW: Okanagan Symphony Orchestra exalts in Mozart

Live-streamed, all-Mozart concert was held on April 10

South Surrey farmland, March 2020. The province’s crackdown on secondary residences sparked protests that have the NDP government engaged in a lengthy rewrite of its legislation. (Tracy Holmes/Peace Arch News)
B.C. NDP now wants to keep even ‘non-farmers’ on the land

‘Grandfathering’ of second residences extended again

Clarence Fulton is the latest in six Vernon schools to have COVID-19 exposures. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
COVID-19 exposures at six Vernon schools

List has grown over the last week, sending more students home for self-isolation

RCMP did not commit offense in arrest which seriously injured Lake Country man, finds IIO. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News/Stock)
No criminality suspected in sudden death in Vernon

Police responded to reports of a body near an Anderson Way business Sunday

Photos of Vancouver Canucks players are pictured outside the closed box office of Rogers Arena in downtown Vancouver Thursday, April 8, 2021. The Vancouver Canucks say 25 players and coaches have tested positive during a COVID-19 outbreak that involves a variant of the virus. It is now the biggest reported outbreak in the NHL this season. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canucks’ return to practice pushed back as player added to COVID protocol list

COVID outbreak has led to eight games being cancelled

Most Read