Townhall: Peter Julian, MP and Mayor Jonathan Cote

On May 5, 2020, a wide range of topics were covered in a virtual Town Hall hosted by Peter Julian, MP, for New Westminster-Burnaby with his guest, New Westminster Mayor, Jonathan Cote.

Peter extensively questioned Mayor Cote on what's happening in the city as it deals with the effects of Covid19 on residents. Cote explained that the city immediately set up a number of working groups to deal with key issues, number one being to look after those who are most vulnerable, mostly by playing a coordinating role with non-profits. Notably, the city collaborated with St. Barnabas Church in getting a $75,000 grant to help with developing greater food security in the city.

As the Mayor is head of the Transportation Group for the whole of the Lower Mainland, he had a lot to say about the disastrous state of the transit system, a problem not exclusive to this area of Canada. As transit fares and gas taxes are the financial foundation of these systems, in this time of low transit and vehicle use, the systems are in danger of collapse. This could be a calamity for the residents of cities, and for climate change mitigation, in future. He says that the Municipality had to reduce transit availability in New Westminster.

Cote recently met with the federal Finance Committee to press for financial help for transit. While the federal government has not been forthcoming to date, he says that the Provincial Government has been much more responsive. Peter Julian, House Leader for the NDP, says he and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh have been pressing the feds hard to do something to help cities, which are in great need across the country.

As the NDP holds the balance of power at the federal level of government, Peter Julian says that Jagmeet Singh and the party have been pressing the government on many issues. Some of their successes include upping the financial support for employees from 5% to 75%. A New Westminster initiative was the re-starting of the Parliamentary Question Period, seen virtually twice weekly now. They also pushed through the student benefits of $2000 for those with disabilities or with children and $1250 for all others.

To summarize the main thrust of the NDP effort is to make sure that nobody is left behind when it comes to re-orienting federal policy for the coming years. Julian says that we don't want to go back to normal where people are living on the edge, as is the case currently with 50% of the population. The NDP is hoping that Canadian citizens will see the value in investing in people, as it has become so obviously necessary in these dark times. As Julian says, there is $266 million dollars sitting in tax havens that should be helping to buttress Canadian Society for things such as pharmacare, post-secondary education and so forth.

What can the average citizen do? Let their views be known. Write to their MP. Write letters to the editor. Let one's views be known.

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