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A View From The Hill – A Year of Challenges and Accomplishments

2022 has been, by all accounts, an interesting year. It’s been filled with surprises, significant world events that have tested Canadians, and advancements that will make life better for people. As 2022 draws to an end, and we ease into the Christmas season, it’s important to look back on some of the challenges that have occurred, the successes that have been achieved, and the work that’s still ahead of us.

Let’s start with some of the challenges we’ve faced. We entered the year with Covid still at the top of minds, with the Omicron wave taking its toll across the country and around the world. While the virus is still with us, that early wave was when we really saw Covid hit its peak in Canada, with a steady decline in the number of cases since that time. Coming off the back of that wave, the Freedom Convoy rolled into Ottawa. It was a protest unlike any seen in Canada, and one that proved divisive and challenging for many Canadians.

Thereafter, Russia illegally invaded Ukraine which saw Canadians quickly open their hearts to those fleeing war and committed to supporting our allies in Ukraine to the largest extent possible. The world was then gripped by an inflation crisis and, although we are seeing the worst impacts easing off, many are still feeling the effects, particularly in the cost of food.

In the Summer, the Papal visit was an important moment of reflection on the role the Catholic Church played in Canada’s residential school system, with Pope Francis finally naming the system what it had always been: a genocide against First Nations peoples. The government followed suit, which saw parliament pass an NDP motion unanimously which recognizes what happened at residential schools as genocide.

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Canada lost its longest-serving Sovereign, Queen Elizabeth II. Her passing was met with a variety of emotions and some difficult conversations. Many loved and mourned her, others opined that it was time to have a difficult conversation about Canada’s role in the monarchy.

And the cracks in our cherished public health care system started to become more visible, with many hospitals running over capacity, which has seen some concerning moves towards privatization of some aspects of our health care by a few provinces.

Given these challenges, it can often feel like the world is an overwhelming place, but there were important accomplishments that are worth highlighting to show that we can move in the right direction if we push hard enough.

This year’s federal budget featured the single largest expansion in public health care in Canada in over 50 years with the inclusion of $5.3 billion toward the development of a universal dental care plan, made possible because of the work New Democrats did in securing a Supply and Confidence agreement with the government.

On housing, we managed to secure significant investments to make affordable housing more available. This included a $1.5 billion investment to extend the Rapid Housing Initiative to build affordable housing, and $4.5 billion in Indigenous housing investments, double what the government promised in their platform. Additionally, we pushed for and gained a $500 one-time top-up to the Canada Housing Benefit to help 950,000 low-income households.

New Democrats secured a doubling of the GST rebate for those who qualify, despite insistence from the government early in the year that this would not be necessary. This was an important first step in protecting families during a difficult time.

There remains a lot of work ahead of us. We are expecting details of a national universal pharmacare plan by the end of 2023, an important expansion of the Canada Health Act that will have a major impact on people’s ability to get the drugs they need at an affordable rate. We are also expecting more to be done to help provinces deal with our ailing healthcare system to ensure that Canadians remain confident in their ability to access ERs and put a stop to overcrowding.

We also need to continue to push for better access to daycare and childcare. The government has finally recently introduced its Early Learning and Child Care Act, a bill that we’ve been pushing for, and one that will prioritize public and not-for-profit providers, consequently making child care more affordable.

There’s still so much that needs to be done in 2023.

On that note, please take the time to have a safe and happy holiday season.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Carol Hughes, MP for Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing

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