North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney will be working in some familiar areas this time around.
Blaney’s critic roles were announced earlier on Friday, the MP will be revisiting the Seniors spokesperson role as well as the Veterans Affairs role. New to Blaney will be the Rural Economic Development file, but she has been putting in some work in that area already.
“The leader said to me ‘you’re the one who talks about this so much, we want to make sure that you have the file,’” she said about the Rural Economic Development role. “I think it’s really important, especially as we look at the future and where we’re going in terms of addressing climate challenges, getting to targets that we need to so that Canada can be the leader that we need to around the world and in terms of the environmental sustainability piece.”
Blaney previously advocated for a Pacific Economic Development Canada office to be established in Campbell River, ensuring local representation at the federal level, and ensuring that the small communities in her riding are not left out of the national conversation on economic transition.
“We are often left behind,” Blaney said. “I don’t want to see that happening anymore. It’s really about how we work with communities to make sure that their voices are heard and there’s actually resources and support.”
The role of seniors’ spokesperson is not new to Blaney, she previously held the role from 2017-2019. One of her main goals will be to ensure seniors have access to their Guaranteed Income Supplements, especially those who have applied for and used pandemic recovery benefits.
“We know that the aging population is growing, and what the NDP has been encouraging the federal government to do is to have a national seniors strategy where levels of government, both provincial and federal, come together to make sure that there’s a plan moving forward that’s comprehensive and really meets the needs of the growing population of seniors so we can keep them as healthy as possible and keep them at home as long as possible. We need to be prepared for this changing demographic,” she said.
She will also be coming back to the Veterans Affairs file, working especially to eliminate the backlog of benefit applications. She also will be working to eliminate a “gold digger clause,” which prevents veterans’ spouses from receiving benefits if the couple got married after the veteran turned 60.
“It was created in the early 1900s to stop young women from marrying veterans to get their pension. It’s 2021, and we’re still having that mentality that there’s these predatory young women… it’s appalling. It’s ageist and it’s just not fair,” she said.
All NDP MPs named in the critic roles announcement will be wearing multiple hats. Blaney expects to be kept busy with the roles, as well as her previously announced role as party whip.
“We’re a small, but fiesty caucus,” she said. “I’ve just decided to stop sleeping.”