Dan Albas

COLUMN: Local journalism more important than ever before

Response to recent farm worker situation was concerning

Most elected officials learn to develop a thick skin over time as criticisms and personal insults/attacks are an unfortunate by-product of public office.

This situation occurs more so if you are as active on social media as I am.

The reason I share this is related to recent criticism I received over my support for the compassion shown by the community of West Kelowna towards 19 foreign national farm workers who have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

My reason for sharing this is not over the criticism, but rather my concern for this situation.

To be clear this situation is in no way the fault of these workers.

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When these workers arrived in Canada on March 12, there was still no screening or travel restrictions in effect at Canadian airports.

These workers received no special instructions and by extension were uninformed.

This is a fault of a lack of federal leadership at our airports that fall under federal regulations.

If anything, this situation has demonstrated the critical need for screening and travel restriction at our borders and airports that for too long our Prime Minister refused to implement.

It is unfortunate that many provinces are now forced to supplement these efforts due to federal shortcomings.

For these farm workers, let us all remember that nobody wants to be sick with a potentially terminal virus in a country that is far from home.

I would like to commend the many citizens of West Kelowna who the Kelowna Capital News reports “reached out to offer help, food, or general support for our seasonal guest workers.”

It was further reported that this support has “helped with their morale and feeling of belonging in our community.”

On a personal note, I am very proud of the people of West Kelowna for their kindness and compassion. Thank you.

We must also not overlook that in many countries we have Canadians who, because of COVID-19, are trapped and are currently desperately trying to come home.

For any Canadian trapped in this situation, in another country far from home, I am certain they would want to be located in a compassionate, kind and welcoming community such as West Kelowna.

On a different but related note, I know that with so many Canadians currently laid off, many question why temporary farm workers from outside of Canada are still needed in local farms.

While I do not speak for farmers, I do hear from them.

This season there will be a significant labour shortage in many local farms and orchards and there will be many farm-related jobs available.

Already InfoNews has reported that a well-known Lake Country farm operation has received “hundreds of resumes” from laid off workers after posting help wanted ads.

Expect this trend to continue throughout the Okanagan.

I have purposely included references that these stories were reported by local news organizations.

The importance of local journalism is critical to our communities. Local media report on what occurs at your local council, regional district or school trustee meetings, as well as local volunteer initiatives or efforts.

Right now supporting local news is vital.

If you have a subscription based local news source, please consider subscribing.

If you are in a position to advertise, now is a critical time to do so.

Two questions this week: Will you support local journalism? If so, how?

Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan Similkameen Nicola. This riding includes the communities of Kelowna, West Kelowna, Peachland, Summerland, Keremeos, Princeton, Merritt and Logan Lake.

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