By John Rafferty
As your elected representative for Thunder Bay-Rainy River, I was sent to Ottawa with a clear mandate: to work with the other MPs and political parties, and to address the economic crisis.
I believe in joining the proposed Liberal-New Democrat coalition that I have done just that.
Canada is facing its worst economic crisis since the 1930s. The manufacturing, forestry, and mining sectors all are suffering. The communities in our riding have been hit hard by this crisis.
Inaction by your Parliament and by your representative is simply not an option. You know this—and I know this.
Many of our mills and manufacturers have closed in recent years, more are on the verge of closure, and the well-paying jobs they provide are disappearing.
Days ago, closures were announced at forestry product companies in a neighbouring riding. On the manufacturing front, Bombardier is working at half-capacity—and even that is tenuous.
Hundreds of local investors and jobs are at risk, so I have chosen to act.
Mr. Harper, as the leader of the largest party in the House of Commons, was given the first opportunity to form government and to obtain the confidence of the majority of MPs. But in his government’s economic update, Mr. Harper failed to recognize that we, as Canadians, are suffering through a deep and dangerous economic crisis.
Mr. Harper chose to not address this problem. He offered no assistance for the forestry and manufacturing industries. He refused to make Employment Insurance more accessible for the 75 percent of laid-off and unemployed workers and their families that pay into the fund but cannot obtain benefits.
He attacked the rights of women and workers. He ignored the needs of First Nations and Métis people.
In short, Mr. Harper has failed his test of leadership, rejected his mandate, and lost the confidence of the majority of MPs.
The Liberal-New Democrat coalition is built upon the foundation of fiscal responsibility, and is supported in writing and without exception by every single member of the Liberal and New Democrat caucuses, including Liberal leadership contenders Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae. We are ready to replace the failed Harper government immediately.
The coalition will act in the interests of all Canadians, but particularly for those in ridings with serious challenges like ours. The coalition is ready to step up and deliver the economic stimulus that our riding urgently needs. Our action plan is prompt, prudent, and effective.
From within government, I can help to direct resources to our ridings. As a government, the Liberal-New Democrat will:
•Protect good local jobs by extending credit guarantees for our forestry producers and small businesses, like Thunder Bay Hydraulics, who have good business plans for innovative, value-added products;
•Create new jobs by creating and enhancing programs for retrofitting homes and building affordable housing that will start immediately, as well as invest in renewable energy;
•Fast-track municipal infrastructure projects and expand public transit across Canada, including using Bombardier’s excellent workers and technologies;
•Ensure income security and support for families (we will end unfair waiting periods for Employment Insurance while seniors will get help with lower minimum RRIF withdrawals and increased Old Age Security); and
•Work with the new and like-minded Obama administration in the United States to make trade fairer.
The Bloc Quebecois is not part of the Liberal-New Democrat coalition; it simply has agreed to not vote non-confidence for at least 18 months.
Since the Bloc is not part of this coalition, it will remain an opposition party—just as it has been since its founding. The only promise the Liberal-New Democrat coalition has made to the Bloc is to work hard to stimulate the economy, and to treat all Canadian families and workers with justice and respect.
As a New Democrat, I am proud of the role our leader and our party have played in bringing the coalition together. All of the opposition parties have set aside our differences in order to move this country forward and address the economic crisis.
As your elected representative, I am fulfilling the mandate you gave me a few short weeks ago—to make Parliament work and to address the economic crisis.
We are at a remarkable crossroads in our shared history as Canadians. Let’s be part of the change.
By John Rafferty