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CANNINGS: Employees helping people navigate federal bureaucracy

Image Credit: Contributed
August 20, 2017 - 12:06 PM

 


OPINION


It seems hard to believe, but the summer school break is three-quarters gone. Members of Parliament are home for the summer too, however we do continue to work on local and national issues.  I thought this would be a good time to highlight some of the work that we do here in the riding—especially the work of my staff.

I have two assistants in my Penticton office and one in my Castlegar office who are kept busy year-round with a wide variety of tasks. Much of their work is helping constituents navigate the federal bureaucracy, and with their years of experience and expertise they can certainly make that often daunting experience more fruitful, if not more enjoyable.

The big federal files of taxes, pensions, employment insurance and immigration make up about three-quarters of constituency work. A lot of baby boomers are applying for pensions for the first time, both through Old Age Security and the Canada Pension Plan. This process usually goes smoothly, but any number of hiccups can occur that can cause significant cash flow problems for seniors. 

Federal taxes of all sorts—notably income tax and GST—can be problematic for some and we can help you through some of that. Many people aren’t aware of certain benefits such as the Disability Tax Credit, and some constituents have received thousands of dollars in tax refunds after registering.

Crossing international borders is getting more difficult these days, and we can help there, too. For some, even getting a visitor’s visa to allow relatives to come to Canada for a special occasion can be a real problem. It’s always best to start well ahead of time for any issue regarding passports and visas, and if you run into problems please get in touch. 

Over the past two years my staff have helped community groups working hard to bring families in from Syria, Somalia, and other war-torn countries. Welcoming those families as they start their new lives in Canada is one of the most heart-warming tasks I’ve been honoured with.

Sometimes we have to pass on requests for help to more appropriate government agencies, since not all bureaucracy is federal! Some provincial files include health care, highways, public utilities, labour, forestry and other natural resource extraction practices. And, of course there are many important services provided by municipal and regional governments. 

Not all constituency tasks are about frustrations with bureaucracy. My staff often create certificates of appreciation and congratulations to thank community members for their dedication and hard work. Every spring we assist the Canada Summer Jobs program, which provides hundreds of local youth with valuable job experience in the South Okanagan and West Kootenay.

Please get in touch through email at Richard.Cannings@parl.gc.ca

If you want to chat in person, I’ll be hosting my second annual community barbecue on August 23 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., at the Rotary pavilion in Skaha Lake Park, Penticton.

And I’ll be cycling around the riding from August 23 to 30 with frequent stops for public breakfasts, coffee and lunch. The full itinerary is posted on my website: http://richardcannings.ndp.ca/.  

— Richard Cannings is the MP for South Okanagan-West Kootenay


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