Three key issues are on horizon

Looking forward to the New Year, I wish to highlight three important issues I intend to work on throughout the spring session of Parliament.
In addition to following up on some issues that arose in the fall session, namely ensuring that the federal government helps to resolve the pension shortfall for AbitibiBowater retirees and informing the public about the HST and how it will affect them after July, 2010, I also intend to forcefully take on the issues of fair gas pricing, combating U.S. subsidies in the pulp and paper sector, and working with the rest of the New Democratic caucus on CPP and EI reforms.
The price of gas will continue to be a major focus of my work moving forward, and especially so given the eight percent price hike we will be hit with when the Harper-McGuinty HST comes into effect next summer.
I have no idea why Greg Rickford, Bill Mauro, and Mike Gravelle would support an eight percent hike in our gas prices, especially in Northwestern Ontario, but I feel a responsibility to work on your behalf to lower those prices.
Or at the very least, ensure we are not being gouged by the oil and gas companies because of our geographic location and dependence on their products.
I also will be monitoring the development of—and fighting against—any new U.S. pulp and paper and forestry subsidies.
The “black liquor” regime in the U.S. very nearly put an end to Canada’s pulp and paper sector. And while I’m happy it is set to expire at the end of 2009, I have been monitoring a new subsidy that appears to be two-three times larger.
If those mills across the border begin to receive payouts from that subsidy, as I fear, then the federal government must do everything in its power to level the playing field by negotiating an end to, or matching, those subsidies for mills on our side of the border.
I’m actively monitoring developments on this issue and preparing to act should the new U.S. subsidy begin this year.
Finally, the NDP caucus and I will continue to enact CPP and EI system reforms because too many of us are paying into those funds but getting nothing in return when we need to cash in that investment.
The predecessor of the New Democrat Party, the Canadian Commonwealth Federation (CCF), was the first major government in North America (in Saskatchewan) to introduce the “radical” idea of creating self-funded employment insurance and pension funds so we have something in the bank when we become too old or sick to work, or in case we find ourselves unable to find employment in tough times like those we are going through today.
Our party is proud to have established these systems in Canada, and New Democrats again can be counted on to fix them after years of Liberal and Conservative neglect.
In short, my NDP colleagues and I will work to make sure those who have paid into CPP and EI their whole life can access those funds when they need to.
With that, I would like to thank you for your support throughout my first year as your MP. It has been a tremendous honour and pleasure to serve you, but I know that there is much more work to be done in the year ahead.
I will continue to do my best to reach out and seek your opinions and feedback on many issues, and assure you that I will continue to make decisions that are in your interests while I am in Ottawa.
Thank you, again, and please have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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