Outreach and collecting feedback this summer in Kelowna – In Your Service


Tracy Gray – | Story: 380666

Though Parliament rose in June, my work as your Member of Parliament here in Kelowna-Lake Country has not stopped.

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to speak with me in-person, at community events, while I was out meeting with small businesses and not-for-profits, and everyone who has sent me emails about their issues and thoughts.

Last week, I had the opportunity to visit several local farms and processing plants including many of our proud multi-generational local cherry orchardists. The technological advancements of growing, processing, packaging and quality assurance is creating world class product desired locally and from around the world. It was good to hear about the expansion opportunities that opened up when the Canada – Korea Free Trade Agreement came into effect on January 1, 2015 and how the industry has been working towards being able to diversify their cherry exports with some shipments sent this year to South Korea with opportunities for other agricultural products. Our orchardists are a major employer and economic driver for our region.

I also toured some of our great value-added agri-businesses including wineries and a fruit beverage company hearing their thoughts and ideas. It’s important to support all our growers and producers. Some issues I heard about were rising costs, labour shortages, concern about classifying plastic as a “toxic substance” and how this could affect their industries, as well as concern about possible changes to policies on nitrogen fertilizer usage.

Residents and visitors are enjoying all Kelowna-Lake Country has to offer with recreational and sporting events, music, arts and culture, and – from the activities I attended – the attendance has been very strong.

Speaking with diverse local groups provides valuable feedback. This summer so far has included meeting with business groups, networking groups, not for profits, and a women’s breakfast group at a senior’s retirement home.

With last Tuesday serving as National Peacekeepers’ Day, I was honoured to stop in and pay my respects to all Canadians who have served – and continue to serve – in peacekeeping operations around the world at an open house at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 26. Our efforts as peacekeepers are foundational to Canada’s international reputation and we should all take immense pride in their service.

As our team at our constituency office says, they are “overflowing with opportunities to serve”. I’ve mentioned before how most federal government departments are not meeting their own service standards, their phone lines are difficult to get through to and department responses oftentimes are extremely delayed. Our team is working very hard to help everyone who reaches out, in what ways we can, and I am very proud of all their dedication to serve.

We are still too familiar with the complex addiction crisis here in Kelowna-Lake Country, both in the rising number of overdoses and the increasing number of families who have lost a loved one. Numbers released this week are sad and shocking. Over the last few weeks, I have been meeting with organizations on the front lines including law enforcement and many community organizations helping and providing hope, all of whom are true heroes.

Lastly, I wanted to have a quick reminder, keeping in mind some of the tragic vehicle and water accidents and the increasing prevalence of local forest fires here in the Okanagan, for everyone to take extra precautions and be safe.

If you need any assistance with programs or have any thoughts to share, feel free to reach out, at 250-470-5075 or at [email protected]

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Tracy Gray – Aug 5, 2022 / 11:00 am | Story: 378750

Many Canadians woke up a few weeks ago across the country to discover the entire Rogers telecom network wasn’t operating.

The widespread outage affected financial institutions, law enforcement, government services and consumers. Not only were internet users affected, but Interac (banking) was also down and the most concerning issue was 9-1-1 and emergency alerts were not working across much of the country.

As sitting members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry and Technology, Conservatives called for emergency committee meetings, which took place last week. The purpose was to not only hold Rogers Communications to account, but to press the federal government and the telecommunications regulator, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) on answers of their oversight.

In my line of questioning, I wanted to know from Rogers why no risk-based, back-up existed for 9-1-1 and public emergency alert systems on their network and why neither the industry minister nor the CRTC was upholding the CRTC’s own stated mandate of, “Canadians can access services such as 9-1-1 and are warned through a public alerting system in the event of imminent perils.”

We know that during the outage, areas of the country were without notifications of one dangerous person alert from the RCMP and three Environment Canada tornado warnings. That was unacceptable and put lives at risk, especially in an era of increasing cyber-attacks.

Rogers’ apparent lack of strict protocols and risk assessment for emergency responses was disappointing, especially considering how integrated the connectivity of their network is to public safety.

We heard the outage was due to internal technology decisions, not external factors such as a weather event. I questioned the Rogers CEO as to why there was no senior executive overseeing risk management, which many smaller and less complex corporations than Rogers now have.

The minister responsible for telecommunications in Canada has seen two 9-1-1 service outages for Canadians in just over a year. It became evident from the minister’s answers that after an outage in 2021 that left 9-1-1 services inoperable, there was no action, leadership or questioning of the regulator to investigate.

For the CRTC—as the federal government regulator—the disinterest in risk assessment and proactive oversight of those who regulate, and their inaction to fulfill their mandate, was concerning. I felt like the answers they gave were coming from a telecom executive rather than from a regulator. In former roles, I’ve been a regulator and worked within two regulated industries and was frankly shocked by their testimony.

My questions on whether CRTC executives received bonuses went unanswered.

Despite having an action plan on the books since 2014 to identify vulnerabilities in Canadian networks when reaching 911, it is obvious we are still unprepared for future outages of this nature.

Much has been said recently by the government expanding the CRTC’s mandate with Bill C-11, giving them roles of oversight of the internet. It is clear that they are not fulfilling their current mandate and the Minister hasn’t made it a priority to hold the CRTC to account.

My questioning and observations of Rogers, the CRTC and the Minister received national media coverage and I believe there is more work to do holding all these parties to account.


On another note, I would also like to take an opportunity to remind everyone that public nominations are still open for Queen’s Platinum Jubilee pins and local recognition medals to recognize worthy individuals in our community.

I am asking for your help to nominate those who you feel have contributed significantly to our community of Kelowna-Lake Country. Please get in touch with my office via email at [email protected] to receive a nomination package or for more information.

Nominations will close at 4 p.m. Pacific Time on Aug. 15.

If you need any assistance with programs or have any thoughts to share, feel free to reach out, at 250-470-5075 or at [email protected].

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Tracy Gray – Jul 22, 2022 / 11:00 am | Story: 376554

Many residents here in Kelowna-Lake Country woke up to the news last week that the Bank of Canada had hiked its benchmark interest rate a full percentage point.

It represents the most significant one-time increase since August 1998.

The governor of the Bank of Canada, Tiff Macklem, made clear the Bank was moved to take this historic step because of the inflation rate, which was announced this week to now be 8.1% – the highest it’s been in 40 years.

Inflation, as everyone has noticed, is taking a hit on our wallets whenever we look to buy groceries, gas or even housing.

Many of you have written to me with alarm about what interest rate hikes will mean to mortgages and personal finances here in the Okanagan.

I wanted to provide some answers and explain what our Parliament should be doing to provide fiscal relief. It is always best to consult with those who work in the field to gain the best advice for your personal situation. Here are a few high levels points.

Those currently on fixed-rate mortgages will not see a change in their payments unless their fixed-rate plan is up for renewal. Those with variable mortgages, however, will be more immediately affected, with larger shares of their payments going to interest and potentially an increase in monthly payments.

Those with loans such as variable rate lines of credit, personal loans, or car loans will also see more of their payments going to interest. This is especially punishing, as increased or lengthier debt payments will compete with inflationary gas and grocery prices and eat into household savings.

Debt payments could also affect local small businesses, despite already being strangled by rising inflation, snagged supply chains, and onerous tax burdens. Let’s all continue to do our part to support local small businesses.

Lastly, the Bank of Canada rate hikes will be particularly crushing for renters who are looking to get into home ownership. With Kelowna’s average rental prices already among the highest in the country, this is punitive.

Many people ask how Canada came to an inflation crisis where the Bank of Canada needed to drastically hike interest rates. The root of our inflation crisis comes from a government too willing to spend public money.

Our last two federal budgets were unfocused, as even the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s report noted much of the touted pandemic spending did not actually go to pandemic relief.

I have repeatedly joined colleagues in calling for the government to break free of its spending habits and to stop printing money. The Liberals attempted to deny that there would be an inflationary effect and then, as inflation increased, said it would be transitory.

Now in Summer 2022, with record high inflation stretching our wallets thinner than ever and with the looming weight of crushing debt, rent and mortgage payments overhead, the government insists on maintaining the course of unfunded spending.

They tout even more spending as the “solution” to our inflation crisis while passing the buck on their responsibility by suggesting Canada’s inflation crisis is solely global.

Halting the practice of political money-printing and controlling discretionary spending will, of course, only be a start. In the short term, I continue to call for much-needed tax relief. Halting all scheduled tax increases and temporarily lifting the GST on gas to lower our prices at the pump will help with transportation costs, which make everything cost more.

These are measures I would have pushed the Prime Minister for in person had he come to the Okanagan this week to hear from residents and elected members. Unfortunately, as we learned, his visit was simply a photo-op, and local media outlets reported they were forbidden from asking questions.

I will continue making the case to Ottawa of leaving more dollars in your pocket and protecting the value of the money you earn.

If you need any assistance with programs or have any thoughts to share, feel free to reach out, at 250-470-5075 or at [email protected].

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Tracy Gray – Jul 8, 2022 / 11:00 am | Story: 374642

Getting the basics right to serve people is the first step of customer service small businesses deal with every day.

It’s unfortunate it has not been the rule for the current federal government. The basic services Canadians deserve and pay for with their taxes are not being achieved through blatant mismanagement and lack of leadership from our federal government, and it’s a mess.

I have countless constituents reach out to me every day regarding backlogs and non-responsive issues from every federal department, including CRA, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (IRCC), Service Canada (including passports), and veteran’s disability applications.

While many Canadians were hoping to go camping this summer, they were likely not expecting it to take place in the parking lot of a Service Canada office.

We’ve now seen wide-scale reports of unmanageable backlogs, dawn to dusk line-ups and mounting frustrations of people seeking a basic service like a passport application. This isn’t federal employees not working hard, it’s mismanagement from above. Our constituency office deals with heartbreaking situations daily.

The government can say it’s deeply concerned about backlogs, but it cannot say they were not warned about potential issues months ago. (Oh, if the government only had a way of knowing when passports expire. Of course it does).

The government even allowed many senior officials to get bonuses, even though many of their departments were failing.

Another fact is the amount of passport applications is less than at pre-pandemic levels. Andrew Griffith, a former director-general with IRCC, and a former top official at Service Canada, said IRCC’s own 2022-23 department plan told the government there would almost certainly be a surge in passport applications as COVID restrictions were lifted.

Common sense would dictate that as borders opened abroad, Canadians would seek the opportunity to travel. Common sense would also dictate a response should have been ensuring appropriate processes and staffing at airports and for passports.

Yet again, the government waited until we were deep in dysfunction before moving to hire more workers, of whom only a fraction will be able to issue new passports due to a lack of full training, according to Kevin King, president of the Union of National Employees, which represents Service Canada workers.

That was despite the government’s claims of trying its best to handle “unprecedented” volumes.

The truth is, the government’s 2022 stats show, on average, 54,200 passport applications per week, with spikes up to 75,000 per week. That falls well below the 90,000 to 98,000 per week Service Canada issued before the pandemic, discrediting the government’s claims of “unprecedented volumes.”

This dysfunction has also imperilled the ability of my office to serve constituents in Kelowna-Lake Country and help with IRCC applications. The case backlog has now surpassed more than two million applications across all categories. As a result, it limits the number of cases an MP office can reach out to help with to only five at a time.

Immigration cases at our office range from temporary foreign worker visas to refugee status. Upon questioning this at the Industry Committee I sit on, IRCC officials said it would take until the end of this year to even meet the regular service standard processing times.

Writing off a year’s work of immigration will have wide-ranging and adverse effects on the Okanagan economy, including our agricultural sector and for others who are suffering labour shortages. Limiting my office’s ability to serve local families and small businesses isn’t acceptable.

We now hear Canada topped the global list of flight delays last weekend.

The government’s response to all this? A ministerial task force to better “listen to concerns,” according to its co-chair. Canadians have made their case very clear as where (the feel) the problems lie, and it’s time for the government to do its job to ensure the basic services your tax dollars pay for are accessible in a manner that doesn’t involve sleeping bags in parking lots.

If you need any assistance with programs or have any thoughts to share, feel free to reach out, at 250-470-5075 or at [email protected].

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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