Dec 23, 2020
Dear friends and neighbours,
I write to wish you a safe and fulfilling holiday season, and happy New Year 2021! 2020 has been extraordinarily difficult for most Canadians, and through hardship and tragedy people have come together to support each other, making personal sacrifices for the greater good. 2021 brings renewed optimism as COVID-19 vaccinations have started, with our government projecting that every Canadian who wants a vaccine will have received one by September. A lot has happened in 2020, so here are a few notes from my year as your MP!
Responding to COVID-19
In just 300 days, our federal government rolled out the largest suite of new programs and supports in peacetime history, as Canadians faced a dual health and economic crisis. Business bankruptcies, people losing jobs, lives lost…it has been an unthinkable challenge. Members of the federal Cabinet have been very busy, developing and reviewing multiple responses including direct individual payments, wage and rent subsidies, and interest-free loans for struggling businesses. Not to mention, we made Canada the world’s biggest buyer of vaccines per capita, pledging to donate any surplus to disadvantaged countries.
Helping stranded Canadians
When the pandemic hit, 3 million Canadians were abroad and faced a complicated journey home. Global Affairs Canada and its hardworking public servants stepped up to the plate and helped 62,500 stranded Canadians in 109 locked-down countries return home. MP offices were fundamental to this effort, connecting those abroad to the necessary resources. My MP office staff worked long hours assisting constituents. One particularly nerve-wracking case was a group of students from Vancouver College trapped in remote Peru with seemingly no way out for 2 weeks! Thanks in part to my staff member Jonathan who wouldn’t take no for answer, Global Affairs officials got them safely home on a government flight.
When the coronavirus pandemic hit, my ability to connect with constituents was suddenly upended. In a normal year I host multiple policy-based public gatherings, attend community events, and engage with people one-on-one throughout Vancouver Quadra. This March my office shifted to online meetings and events and, like you perhaps, I experienced both benefits and challenges. Our virtual MP Brunch Connections arranged guest speakers on topics from restarting Canada’s economic recovery, to rooting out anti-Black racism, COVID’s lessons for climate action, and Indigenous reconciliation. I hosted virtual discussion roundtables with a wide variety of groups, ranging from Canadian experts in digital cybersecurity, to my local Constituency Youth Council. Attending meetings hosted by others, and responding to the floods of letters and calls helped me stay in touch. And the series of physically-distanced visits with neighbourhood businesses to understand their challenges resulted in some satisfying local purchases!
(Virtually) Recognizing Hidden Heroes
Nothing could prevent me and my team from recognizing Vancouver Quadra’s 2020 Hidden Heroes, however. Thank you to everyone who nominated someone. Here you can see this year’s wonderful awardees, our neighbours, who quietly contribute time, energy, and expertise to worthwhile causes and make our community and country better!
Governing in Unprecedented Times
Parliament was challenged with figuring out how 338 people from every part of the country can safely come together in the midst of the crisis. Our government ultimately campaigned for and executed a hybrid version, from May throughout the summer. This allowed MPs living close to Ottawa to attend in person while distant MPs participated virtually. Since reconvening in September, I’ve attended Parliament in Ottawa six weeks, and virtually from Vancouver the other sitting weeks. Our Government has tabled 19 Bills, all while managing a pandemic and supporting Canadian individuals and businesses. From a Speech from the Throne in September, to a Fall Economic Statement in November, it’s been a busy autumn.
Digital is at the Heart of Everything We Do
As Canada’s Minister of Digital Government, I was very impressed by the herculean effort across government to quickly transition the majority of our public servants to remote work. Enabling tens of thousands of people to continue serving Canadians remotely and securely was a truly unprecedented task, and Digital Government public servants, among others, certainly rose to the occasion!
We also saw projects that would normally have taken months or years, roll out in a matter of weeks. Services like the COVID Alert exposure notification app, the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit and the COVID-19 Benefits Finder highlight the government’s shift to making our services digitally accessible to Canadians.
Climate and a Green Economy
I hope you are as thrilled as I am by recent progress on climate action. A key Liberal 2019 campaign promise – legislate targets to achieve net-zero emissions in Canada by 2050 – is already being delivered, through legislation to hold Canadian governments accountable. Further, our pandemic economic recovery plan is based on a job-creating and fair green economy: Prime Minister Trudeau’s comprehensive $15 billion plan to exceed Canada’s 2030 Paris Climate Targets A Healthy Environment and a Health Economy was widely applauded by key climate experts and activists. And the government’s commitment to plant two billion trees will contribute. As you may know, the Greening Government initiative to reduce the federal government’s own emissions, which I spearheaded in 2016, is on track to achieve a 40% reduction by 2030.
Protecting wild salmon
This year also brought big news for protecting wild salmon, from the start of consultations to ban open-net pen salmon farms by 2025, to the recently announced phasing out of fish farms in the Discovery Islands, to creating a permanent fishway at Big Bar. Salmon stocks still face multiple hazards and I will continue to push on your behalf for strong measures to protect these iconic fish.
Despite the unprecedented challenge of responding to the pandemic emergency, there were many other positive policy developments in 2020, of which I will share just these:
From me and my family, to you and yours – Season’s Greetings – may the coming year bring you good health, joy, and satisfaction!
The Hon. Joyce Murray, P.C., M.P.
Member of Parliament for Vancouver Quadra
Minister of Digital Government
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