Reflecting on past four years

As the House of Commons rises for the summer and the 41st Parliament comes to an end in a few short months, it seems fitting to reflect back on the past four years.
I’m sure we all remember the historic election results of May 2, 2011 that propelled the NDP into our new status as the Official Opposition and government-in-waiting, as well as the tragic loss of our leader, Jack Layton, just a few months later.
Both came as a huge shock, and the bittersweet sense of triumph and tragedy is something that will be remembered forever by New Democrats.
We all miss Jack but the MPs he helped bring to Ottawa, our tens of thousands of volunteers, and the party he led all have been changed forever as a result of his leadership.
We are guided by the same principles and values as Jack, and we are more united than ever thanks to the adversity we have faced in this Parliament.
Following Jack’s passing, New Democrats were forced to do something we didn’t expect to be doing for quite a while—choosing a new leader. With nine strong candidates for the job, a majority of New Democrats elected Quebec MP Tom Mulcair to lead our party into government.
I was happy to support Tom given his strong leadership skills and valuable experience serving as a cabinet minister in the Quebec government.
As a well-respected lawyer and a lifelong federal New Democrat who served in a Liberal government that was led by a former federal Progressive Conservative, Tom is not only smart and skilled, but also used to working with others for the greater good.
I think he will make an excellent prime minister.
As your MP, I’ve always tried to take your priorities to the floor of the House of Commons. You told me you were concerned about ensuring Northern Ontario gets fair treatment from the federal government, about the effects of the Harper governments spending and service cuts, and about the lack of pension and retirement security facing Canadians.
It was my job to keep these issues on the agenda in Ottawa, and I worked hard to do just that.
Following Tom’s election as NDP leader, he asked me to serve as the our critic for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario (FedNor).
In this new role, my staff and I found the annual budget for FedNor was being slashed dramatically—by 41 percent—since the Conservatives came to power ($76.7 million in 2005-06 vs. $45.5 million in 2013-14).
We also found that the amount of money that was budgeted—but never spent—at FedNor each year has skyrocketed, and now accounts for 18.75 percent of the annual budget (just $36.9 million was spent in 2013-14).
These figures, provided by the non-partisan Library of Parliament, clearly show the Conservatives have turned their backs on the economy of our region.
Once the Conservatives had secured their majority in 2011, they immediately began to bring in service cuts. They insisted they only would be “cutting red tape,” but my staff and I found otherwise.
Locally, the Conservatives closed the Thunder Bay Veterans’ Affairs office (one of nine closed across Canada) because of a budget shortfall.
However, we found that for just $686,000, our local office could have stayed open. And that in the same year it was closed, more than $1 billion of the budget at Veterans’ Affairs went unspent.
Not only were the Conservatives’ cuts unnecessary and hurting Canadians, but they were hurting veterans and hurting local veterans, in particular.
Finally, earlier this year, Tom asked me to serve as the NDP critic for pensions. He asked me to continue my work to ensure that what happened to workers at AbitibiBowater and Buchanan Forest Products didn’t happen to those working at Bombardier or other companies.
Since assuming this role, I’ve continued my work to secure pension plans when employers go bankrupt, to better help seniors access their own retirement funds when they want and need, and to enhance and expand the Canada Pension Plan (CPP).
I’ve been very proud to serve as your representative in Ottawa for the past six-and-a-half years, and I am offering to serve in this role again on Oct. 19.
As always, you will decide who fills this role but your decision is particularly important this year in what could be an historic federal election.