IN THE SPOTLIGHT: 2011 – A federal year in review part I

B.C. Southern Interior MP, the federal NDP's Alex Atamanenko discusses the year that was 2011 on the federal government level.

The past year has been a challenging one for many of us.

It was difficult for those of us in my party and for many Canadians to lose such a principled leader as Jack Layton. However, life goes on as we work to try and build the country that Jack envisioned.

As a re-elected MP, it has been refreshing to work with the new crop of Orange Wave MPs in my party, especially the youth. Their energy and passion has been an inspiration to all of us in Opposition during this current Parliament.

It has also been a pleasure for me to work with Elizabeth May, who seconded my Private Member’s Bill to create a Department of Peace.

As discussions continue on the renewal of the Columbia River Treaty, I plan to work closely with David Wilkes, the newly-elected MP for Kootenay-Columbia to ensure Basin residents’ interests are put first.

As well, I have given my full support for a Private Member’s Bill of Dan Albas, MP for Okanagan-Coquihalla , which would allow citizens to bring wine purchased at local wineries across inter-provincial borders.

One issue that has taken much attention this past year has been the requirement of Canadians holding U.S. dual citizenship to report their financial assets to the U.S. government, under the threat of heavy penalties.

We have been working with the government to try and resolve this issue. The Americans have made gestures indicating that they are backing down on their threat of heavy penalties, in some cases, but are not willing to change their requirements.

In general, I would say that it has been extremely difficult trying to work under the current federal Conservative majority government.

Whether at committee or in the House, they have limited debate and rammed through legislation at an unprecedented rate.

It doesn’t matter, for example, what lawyers, judges and American legislators have said in regard to the Omnibus Crime Bill (C-10).

The Conservatives have passed legislation that will put more people in prison and strain federal and provincial budgets, in spite of the fact that our crime rate is going down and that this approach has failed in the U.S.

Another ideological move has seen the Conservative government gut the Canadian Wheat Board, without allowing farmers to have a say in the future of what is supposed to be a farmer-controlled organization.

I will continue this federal review of 2011 in my next column.

– Alex Atamanenko is NDP MP for the B.C. Southern Interior