2021, an extraordinary year in which our province endured extensive wildfires and floods, is coming to a close, and I know everyone in our community is looking ahead to 2022 with a mixture of hope and apprehension. We’ve endured 21 months of an ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with the latest Omicron variant forcing further restrictive provincial health orders and making this holiday season feel eerily like last year’s. It has been a tough slog, and many of us are emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted. Leaving hope aside, I think we all need 2022 to be better.
Speaking of better, it was May 2020 when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau first used the term “build back better.” At that time, when it was slowly sinking in that COVID-19 was going to be with us for some time, the notion of unifying and re-building to create a more just, eco-conscious, and affordable country was something we could all get behind. The pandemic exposed the weakness of our social safety net, the precariousness of many people’s employment, and the gross inequalities and widening gap between rich and poor. This last point was illustrated starkly in last month’s parliamentary budget officer report, which showed that 25 per cent of all wealth produced in Canada goes to the top one per cent.
Fast forward to the end of 2021, where food prices have increased, the costs of homes have reached stratospheric heights, low-income seniors are learning that last year’s pandemic supports are being taken from their guaranteed income supplement, corporate profits are skyrocketing, a record number of people are dying from an ongoing opioids crisis, and climate-induced extreme weather events have terrorized our province. In the face of all these challenges and more, we were also subjected to an unnecessary federal election, costing over $600 million, which was called for the sole reason of the prime minister chasing an elusive majority government.
Optimism can be a scarce resource these days, and I can’t blame Canadians for being cynical about their government. On Sept. 20, the people of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford again put their trust in me to represent them, something I carry with me each day, and I will continue to work as hard as I can to provide hope and a reason to stay focused on what we can achieve if we work together.
As the NDP’s critic for agriculture and agri-food, public safety, and deputy justice, I look forward to working constructively with respective ministers on areas like soil conservation, RCMP reform, and a more compassionate criminal justice system that treats addiction as a health and social issue.
Let me close with this final piece of good news: the World Health Organization reports that in 2022, through increased global vaccination rates and developments of antiviral COVID pills, COVID-19 will likely lose its “pandemic” status and become more resemblant of a seasonal flu.
Now if that’s not a cause for optimism, I don’t know what is. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Alistair MacGregor, MP
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