The Delta Optimist recently spent some time with Delta MP Carla Qualtrough at her office in Ladner where we talked about issues in Delta and at the federal level that Qualtrough dealt with in 2022 and things upcoming in 2023.
The following is the Q&A interview we conducted with her on Jan. 20.
Q: What do you think was your greatest accomplishment in 2022 for your constituents here in Delta?
A: Good question, and actually a tough one to answer. It got me really thinking about how busy we were as an office and how busy we were as a government and over the years, how much I've come to rely on Delta businesses and Delta community leaders in organizations to help inform government policy. Personally, one of the most lovely moments was when we released the Disability Inclusion Action Plan here in Delta. There are so many impressive organizations that we work with and it meant a lot to me.
There was also a lot of work that my office did in helping to secure a lot of money that went to support organizations like Delta Farmland and Wildlife Trust and Dan’s Legacy to just name a few. This work speaks to the relationships we have within the community.
Q: Please speak about some of your accomplishments at the federal level.
A: Obviously, the big one from a government perspective, is the Canada Disability Benefit. And, of course, that's the cornerstone piece of the action plan that we released here in Delta. It will lift potentially hundreds of thousands of people out of poverty. The poverty rates of working age Canadians with disabilities in this country is about 23 per cent. That's one in four of us living below the poverty line. That's crazy, right? And it shouldn't happen and doesn't need to happen.
Q: Have you identified any sort of top issues or things that you want to focus on in 2023 for you constituents here in Delta?
A: We still have the two big issues – the Massey Tunnel replacement and T2.
I suspect this year you'll see a decision on T2. As I've watched the process, and as I've been advised and updated, there seems to be a bit of a cycle going on where the environmental impact assessment needs more information. The port provides it, it's assessed, and then they come back with more questions and answers. It's been ongoing since 2013, so I really hope we can provide certainty one way or another on T2.
The Massey Tunnel replacement project is the gift that keeps on giving. Again, my understanding is that it's a provincial environmental impact assessment that's going on. It will be completed by 2024. It's time now for the federal government to make an investment. I have recently informed the Transport Minister of BC that the financial commitment is solid. Now we're waiting to see just the logistics and where the money is needed. I think it is important for our government to signal in a financial way to the province and to this community and others that we are prepared to invest.
Q: What are some issues at a federal level that are on your radar?
A: We are still working on the modernization of EI, and again, when that lands, I suspect Delta businesses in particular, will see a lot of their feedback in whatever that plan is like. I've really leaned heavily on Jill [McKnight] at the Delta Chamber of Commerce and their members. We need people to be able to access EI more easily and we need to be able to provide training to deal with labour shortages. I'm obsessed with labour shortages and workforce development, so making sure that we maximize the participation of every single Canadian who can and is able to work, making sure we have immigration pathways that that lead to the kinds of economic opportunity in our country. Making sure that every student is not so burdened by debt when they leave university that they have a good start in their career. The labour shortage is probably the number one concern of businesses in Delta.
Q: How can your office work with North Delta MLA Ravi Kahlon, the province’s new housing minister on housing issues here in Delta?
A: We have many local developers who are very interested in building affordable housing. We have a very open-minded and willing mayor and council who are amenable to removing any kind of roadblocks at their end, and now we have a provincial approach that is all about reducing red tape. We also have some really interesting federal programs that I think Delta could leverage big time, so there are lots of opportunities for all three levels of government to work on this issue and improve the housing situation in Delta.
Q: The federal budget will likely come down in April. Any preliminary thoughts on what we could see in the budget for Delta?
A: I think what you are going to see is a recognition that Canadians are going through tough times, but in saying that, Canadians should have confidence in the macro economic situation of our country. We have record low levels of unemployment, lowest debt to GDP ratio among the G7, triple A credit rating…these are all indicators of economic stability at the highest level that have put us in a really good position globally to deal with whatever comes our way and allowed us to deal with what has just happened in the past three years. But on the ground, how people are living, it is tough times. Housing, food, inflation, interest rates, there is a lot of uncertainty. We hear from people in Delta every day who are worried about the high cost of living and not being able to make ends meet. It is small comfort for me to say, don't worry because at the macro level we're solid, so I think the budget will reflect that.
I think there's going to be another year of tough times. It's going to get better, but there's going to be tougher times before there's better times, but we should all be really hopeful about the future in this country and in this community?
Q: Do you have any specific goals in 2023 things that you want to see accomplished?
A: I'm very hopeful that we can provide some certainty on these two big outstanding files, the tunnel and T2 for our community. I'd like to land the disability benefit for Canada and for, again, for families in this community who are worried about the future of their loved ones. I would like to keep going as a team locally and continue to build our relationships and networks and simply just continue to work hard on behalf of all Deltans.
Q: Is the federal boundaries commission report still on your radar?
A: We really are keeping a close eye on the electoral boundaries review process. I made a very passionate submission, I would say to the commission about keeping our community together. It is devastating to think that our community might be served by three MPs. I will fight for this community to keep this community together.
Q: What are your thoughts on a possible election in 2023?
A: In a minority government situation, it should always be on the radar. I, as a candidate, and us as a team, will always be ready if and when that happens.
There's a lot of work to be done. There's a lot of things we need to land, there's a lot of common ground amongst political parties that I’m hoping we can finish. We have an agreement with the NDP that is supposed to be in place for the next two years, but you can never take that for granted. Personally, I work very well with all of the political parties. Every single person in Delta deserves the same level of service no matter if they voted for me or not, and they get it, and that's how I work on the floor of the House of Commons as well with other parties. Canada deserves all of us to work together and that continues to be and always will be my commitment.