• Stephanie O’Hanley

Schiefke talks budget, asylum seekers, and legal weed at town hall meeting


Vaudreuil-Soulanges MP Peter Schiefke discusses his position on electoral reform (he's for it) and answers questions regarding the proposal to decriminalizing marijuana at the April 30 town hall meeting at the St. Lazare Community Centre.

For his 18th town hall meeting, Vaudreuil-Soulanges MP Peter Schiefke chose the recently tabled federal budget, the rise in asylum seekers and legislation decriminalizing marijuana as “hot topics” to discuss at the St. Lazare Community Centre last Sunday.

Schiefke said he chose the topics based on emails and phone calls about issues, “the ones a lot of people perhaps are concerned about or confused about.”

The gathering included young families with children and seniors. While most hailed from St. Lazare, some people traveled from as far away as Île-Perrot to hear what he had to say.

Schiefke said if people can’t make his town hall meetings, they can reach him online, by email or by phone. “I travel to Ottawa and come back three times a week. I spend a minimum of seven hours in my car. My terrific team books calls so I have a chance to answer citizens’ questions from my car. So perhaps that’s why there’s not a lot of people here today, we try to always answer people’s questions so people aren’t obligated to come here to have answers.”

Federal 2017-2018 budget

Schiefke said the Canada Child Benefit represents the largest single social investment in a generation and is, “having a huge impact specifically in our community here in Vaudreuil-Soulanges. Approximately $6 million is being invested here every month; it’s helping over 20,000 young Canadians, just in our riding.”

He said a 10 per cent increase to the Guaranteed Income Supplement will help 900,000 seniors across Canada. The government kept its election promise to extend parental leave from 12 months to 18 months, Schiefke said, something he gets emails about. “Parents are saying it will help us better organize their family life, especially from women who write us to tell us it’s something positive.”

Infrastructure investment

Schiefke said the federal government’s decision to invest $160 billion over 10 years to help municipalities and provinces with infrastructure is already having great impact in Vaudreuil-Soulanges since he’s been able to secure $12-million in investment from the Minister of Finance as well as the Minister of Infrastructure.

“There are a couple that I’ve already heard confirmation of for different towns that we’ll be able to announce by the end of the year,” he said. “I’m going to continue to work hard to get as much money as possible for our municipalities and also for Quebec.”

“I’m very proud that there are record investments in both the 2016 and 2017 budgets to protect and preserve our environment and to put in place a more sustainable development policy across the country,” Schiefke said, noting $20 billion in investments, and that the federal government is always trying to strike a balance between the environment and economic development.

Rise in asylum seekers

Schiefke said he wanted to clear up confusion about the increase in asylum seekers outside of the official border crossing points in recent months, “specifically since the election of President Trump and President Trump’s administration in the United States.”

He said there’s no truth to rumours that people who are coming to claim refugee status in Canada from the United States are essentially line jumpers. Under the terms of the Safe Third Country Agreement Canada has with the United States, they’re going to be turned back right away because they’re coming from a safe country.

“The ones that are coming over the border illegally in Quebec, in Manitoba, in British Columbia – those ones are being taken in, they’re being analyzed, they’re being judged, their claims are being looked at on a case-by-case basis and we’re making a judgement whether or not they have a clear and real fear of persecution, of injury or even death if they are returning back to the country of origin or whether or not we should keep them in Canada,” Schiefke said.

Contrary to rumours, when it comes to asylum seekers, we’re not breaking any records, he said, pointing out in 2001 we had over 40,000 claimants, asylum-seekers from the United States. Now we’re only at about 21,000 in 2016. “This hasn’t reached a state of emergency yet.”

Law decriminalizing marijuana

“Yes, we’re legalizing it, which is a way to make sure that the percentage of Canadians who currently smoke marijuana are able to do so without consequence of persecution and jail time and criminal records,” Schiefke said. “Because there are certain Canadians that are smoking marijuana right now but they’re getting a product that could be tainted or laced with God knows what and they’re getting it off (the street). But in our ‘projet de loi’ there will be a 14-year maximum penalty for selling marijuana to underage Canadians.”

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