On the same day that he was in Ashcroft for a town hall meeting last week, Jati Sidhu—the Liberal Member of Parliament for Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon—officially announced that he would be seeking re-election in the 2019 federal election.
“I am very grateful and privileged to have had the opportunity to represent the residents of Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon in the House of Commons over the past four years,” Sidhu said in a statement on July 23. “It has truly been the greatest honour of my life, and I am humbled by the opportunity to serve once again.”
Sidhu is the first MP elected to the riding, which was created in 2015, and says he is confident that his work on behalf of his constituents will see him in good stead come October’s election. He highlighted his delivery of funding for the riding and his outreach to constituents.
“I am proud of the work my team and I have done since 2015. A top priority for us was much-needed infrastructure funding, and we delivered: a new water treatment plant in Ashcroft, plus ongoing support for infrastructure improvements in Lillooet and Lytton.”
Sidhu also said that given the size of the riding, keeping constituents informed was a key priority.
“During my term I have tried to provide all my constituents with useful information on government programs and policies through quarterly mailers,” he said. “I also have an employee in Lillooet acting as a liaison between the northern region and my office. I am regularly told by constituents that they have never been so engaged by their Member of Parliament.”
In addition, Sidhu has regularly met with key stakeholders throughout the riding, including district regional directors, mayors and councillors, and Provincial representatives. He has also held regular town halls, both on general concerns but also specific policy needs such as poverty reduction and a proposed national seniors’ strategy.
During his town hall in Ashcroft on July 23, Sidhu focused on another priority: the creation of a national drug agency to help cut prescription drug costs, which would be a step toward creating a national pharmacare plan. He noted that Canada is the only country that has a national health care service but does not have a national pharmacare service.
“Twenty per cent of Canadians can’t afford their prescriptions,” he said, because of inadequate or nonexistent drug coverage. “Three million people in this country go to their doctor and then don’t get the prescription filled, and one million people compromise on food or heating so they can afford medication. Then they get worse, and have to go to the emergency department for treatment.”
Under a plan proposed by an advisory council, Canadians would pay $2 for each prescription of essential medicines, and $5 for all other drugs covered by the plan, up to a maximum cost of $100 per household per year. This would save the average household $350 per year, and the average business that provides drug coverage for its employees would save $750 annually per employee.
Sidhu says that the plan is projected to start on Jan. 1, 2022 for essential medicines, and a plan for more expensive drugs needs to be in place by the same date. “The program would negotiate the best price on drugs for all Canadians,” said Sidhu, noting that the provinces currently negotiate drug prices individually.
“That would save more than the provinces’ [negotiated prices]. But we need to consult with the provinces and First Nations.”
Sidhu also said that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) needs to work to help property owners clear debris from waterways, to allow owners to be more proactive in the event of floods.
“The climate is changing so fast that we have to act now.” He acknowledged, however, that this was not always easy. “Anything we do with rivers involves three [federal] ministries.”
Other topics covered by Sidhu at the town hall included the Liberals’ creation of a federal rural minister for the country’s more than 100 rural ridings; making it easier for many Canadians to get assistance filing their income tax forms; increases to the Canada child benefit; the need for clean energy; and the creation of a stress test to bring down housing costs.
“Over the past three-and-a-half years, we have seen Canadians create a million new jobs and cut unemployment to a 40-year low. More than 800,000 people have been lifted out of poverty, including 300,000 children.
“The middle class is growing and more Canadians are sharing in our nation’s prosperity. This Liberal government’s plan is working—and I want to keep working with it.”