With children returning to school over the past few weeks, I can appreciate this has been a more difficult time for families who are figuring out new schedules and uncertainties.

Many residents are also reaching out to our office as different tax and payment deferrals start coming due and federal programs change. In my next update, I’ll go into more detail about possible EI program changes working their way through the legislative process in Ottawa.

Before recently heading back to Ottawa for a couple of weeks, I endeavoured to meet (safely) with as many people in the community as possible who wanted to connect.

We set up a virtual roundtable meeting with local business leaders who rely on international trade. I wanted to see if there were any issues that are a priority for them — specifically around my new shadow ministry portfolio of Export Promotion and International Trade.

Even with short notice, there were many issues and suggestions brought forth, which will be useful in my work on Parliament Hill.

Much of what we heard in the Speech from the Throne on Sept. 23 sounded like it was cut and pasted from the last one 10 months ago.

When you add statements made over the last few months, there is nothing we hadn’t heard before.

The prorogation of Parliament and cancellation of all scheduled committees to achieve seems more like a cover the government used to distract from uncomfortable political circumstances with the WE scandal investigations.

Planting two billion trees was in the last Throne Speech. Planting two billion trees is in this Throne Speech. Yet, no trees have been planted. What a lost opportunity to plant trees this summer when people were looking for work, and they could have been safely outdoors.

What was not said in the Throne Speech speaks volumes. Unity, sovereignty, freedoms.

These are values I hear are top of mind for people right now and it is unfortunate that these do not seem to be priorities for the government.

The Throne Speech states, “the government will also continue to address the opioid epidemic tearing through communities.”

“Addressing this” in the manner they have been focusing on over the past five years has not led to a reduction in overdoses, which are actually up substantially, including in our community and in B.C.

Small businesses are mentioned, but there is nothing new or hopeful to grasp onto. There is no inspirational ‘relaunching the economy’ plan. It’s simply a listing of existing programs, many of which don’t work for small business owners who do not meet the requirements.

The speech mentions creating one million jobs. However, two million people lost their jobs at the height of the pandemic and one million people are still out of work.

Other G7 countries have the same challenges with COVID-19, and yet we have the highest unemployment rate. If the government creates stability and certainty, businesses and workers can have hope.

Please reach out any time. Stay safe.

Tracy Gray is the Conservative MP for Kelowna-Lake Country. Phone: 250-470-5075. Email: tracy.gray@parl.gc.ca. Web: tracygraymp.ca.