NewmarketToday is launching a new monthly series, View from the Hill, in which we ask Newmarket-Aurora MP Tony Van Bynen questions about the major federal issues of the day in a video format.
A summary of the interview is below. If you would like to submit a question for consideration for View from the Hill, send it to [email protected].
NewmarketToday provided topics of discussion prior to the interview, but not specific questions. However, Van Bynen has agreed to take on any questions asked.
Q: How have your public consultations been going for the federal budget?
“What we decided to do for the second year in a row now is to get some feedback from the community in terms of what their priorities are,” Newmarket-Aurora MP Tony Van Bynen said in a Feb. 25 interview.
He said that includes sending postcards to every household in the riding that ask residents for their top five priorities.
He also spoke about a telephone town hall event Feb. 23, which he said more than 950 different attendees called in throughout the night.
Van Bynen said he is also consulting with specific groups, including both the Newmarket and Aurora chambers of commerce.
Q: Housing affordability was a major topic at the telephone town hall. The federal government has put forward a national housing strategy, but what would you say to residents who have grappled with this issue for years and might be running out of patience?
Van Bynen said the federal government is making efforts, citing the project at 212 Davis Dr., of which 25 per cent of units will be affordable thanks in part to a loan from the federal government.
“There are a lot of projects underway. The challenge is it takes a long time,” Van Bynen said.
He said he is meeting with industry professionals, including developers and Blue Door for input.
“Unfortunately, it’s going to take us a long time to turn the corner on that, and I’d be surprised if we’re able to catch up if supply is going to be the only thing,” Van Bynen said. “There needs to be a number of ways we attack that challenge.”
Q: Now that the Ottawa protests have ended, what can the federal government do to address what we saw in the protests: the anger and frustration with the pandemic and its mandates, but also the hatred, the misinformation, and the extreme parts of the movement?
“The message that comes to mind from me is the enemy was the virus. It’s not your neighbours. It’s not ourselves. We need to conquer the virus,” Van Bynen said.
He said Canada is making good progress on vaccinations, and “we’re on the threshold of turning the corner,” with restrictions lifting.
He said social media can stir up emotions.
“There were a lot of people who went to Ottawa with the genuine intent to be a peaceful protestor, but what I think happened is a small group —a very minority group —got over-involved. And we can’t just let a good initiative, a good program, be derailed by a minority of people who are focused on sedition and economic sabotage, and also disregard the rights of the people who are living in Ottawa.”
He said it was important the Emergencies Act was soon revoked after it was implemented. He further said there is a need to understand how the protest was able to happen.
“And how can we avoid something like that happening in the future?” Van Bynen said. “How can we have respectful disagreements? How can we have conversations where we respect each other, and we respect the rights of others, and we also acknowledge our responsibility to society?”
Q: What are your thoughts on Russia's invasion of Ukraine and what the federal government’s response should be going forward?
“Canada has been unequivocal in its condemnation of Russia’s totally unprovoked and unjustified attack of Ukraine,” Van Bynen said.
He said Canada has already taken actions, including advancing more than $500 million to help stabilize Ukraine’s economy, sanctions against Russian leaders and banks and previously sending approximately 500 soldiers to train Ukrainian soldiers.
He also said weapons from Canada have arrived at Ukraine, with a valuation of about $10 million, and 3,400 Canadian troops will support the NATO response.
“We stand with the rest of Ukraine. We stand with people from the Ukraine community.”