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ATAMANENKO: Reflecting on the new parliament

In reflecting on the short spring session of the new Parliament I must say the new reality on the Hill takes some getting used to. 

While I am excited that New Democrats were elected as the Official Opposition I find it rather disheartening to be up against a Conservative government, elected by 40% of Canadians but with 100% of the power to implement what I believe will be the most regressive agenda of deregulation and privatization of public assets we have ever had. 

Harper has already used the sledgehammer of legislation to strip locked out Canada Post workers of their collective bargaining rights. 

One of the strongest economic drivers, especially in our rural communities, are stable well paying jobs that enable people to spend money in our communities and local businesses. The loss of full time positions from our communities has a huge and negative spin-off especially during recessionary times.  

On the other hand, it is refreshing to work with so many new NDP colleagues, including those from Quebec.  They are truly a ‘snapshot’ of Canada’ representing different backgrounds and experiences and it is reassuring to see how serious they are taking their new role. 

These talented and committed young people have already begun to contribute to lively and passionate debates within our caucus and in the House of Commons.   

Although I remain as a sitting Member of the Agriculture Committee I am no longer our Party’s main spokesman for this portfolio.  In effect this frees me up to concentrate on specific agriculture issues touching our riding and Western Canada in general. 

Over the past five plus years I have worked closely with farming groups in our region such as the Okanagan Fruit Growers and the Grand Forks and Boundary Regional Agricultural Society. One area of great concern is the proposed genetically modified (GM) ‘non-browning’ apple that could devastate both our conventional and organic apple industry. 

I am in the midst of organizing public forums in the fall to talk about the critical implications of GM organisms on our farming industry and food supply.  

One fight that I hope will engage my constituents is the campaign to stop Harper from moving on his promise to eliminate the Canadian Wheat Board by August 2012. It will take the efforts of many Canadians to stop this heinous act of thievery that will see the government hand over the farmer owned, operated and funded CWB to multinational grain companies. 

Making up only 2% of the population, prairie grain farmers alone cannot defend themselves against a government with the determination and power to strip them of their market power. 

For five years I have witnessed the government wage an unparalleled propaganda and misinformation campaign coupled with extreme and illegal abuses of power against the board.  I urge everyone to dig into the facts and then take action. 

In closing, I am looking forward to meeting with constituents over the summer and especially to sharing in the excitement of the August BC Senior Games in Castlegar/Trail/Nelson.  Congratulations to the President of the Games, Pat Metge and his dedicated team of volunteers who have made this major event possible. 

As always my doors will be open to anyone needing assistance when dealing with the federal government. 

Have a good summer!

Alex Atamanenko is the MP for BC Southern Interior.