Mike Kelloway

GLACE BAY: The Member of Parliament for Cape Breton-Canso said he will be attending the upcoming session of parliament virtually, but before it begins, he laid-out his priorities.  

MP Mike Kelloway said he is preparing for the upcoming session of parliament, which is slated to begin on Monday, September 21.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kelloway said the House of Commons will be continuing with a “hybrid model” of parliament allowing members to attend in-person and virtually. Kelloway said he will be participating virtually.  

According to Kelloway, whips from each party in the House of Commons are allowing only a certain number of MPs from each side to attend in-person for periods of time. The local MP hopes he will soon be able to attend personally.

“It’s a numbers game really,” Kelloway said. “In this case, in the first part of the fall sitting, I’ll be working virtually from home, attending the house via Zoom. I suspect what’ll happen is that it will be a rotating system so perhaps later in the term, later this year, I’ll be one of those who go in the next rotation.”

Kelloway does not expect this will hurt his ability to fully serve as a Member of Parliament.

“Would l like to be there in person, absolutely,” Kelloway stated.” There’s a great benefit to having a coffee with someone off to the side. As with most, if not all Canadians, we have to adapt.”

To prepare for a new sitting, MPs from across Canada were asked to submit their top priorities for the second session of the 43rd Parliament. These priorities are intended to deal with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and restart the economy, Kelloway said.  

Among Kelloway’s priorities are a Guaranteed Basic Income program, and a program designed to combat several social issues including child poverty, crime rates, and mental health, among others.

“What I’m proposing is that we need to look at how do we strengthen and enhance the safety net,” Kelloway noted. “What we need to do as a society, as a country, as a region, and the local area is to have deep, meaningful and inclusive discussions with business, with levels of government, with the not-for-profits with respect to the guaranteed income idea.”

Other priority items for Kelloway include, increased support for community organizations; strategic investments in community infrastructure, which would include improving access to high-speed Internet; decentralization of the public service to bring more jobs to Cape Breton-Canso; increased support for seniors; and improved access to healthcare in rural communities.

He said that better Internet connections can help attract and keep more people in the region, and allow it to become a hub for innovation.

“High-speed Internet was a problem before COVID, connectivity in general was an issue and a challenge before COVID,” Kelloway said. “The light now has been put on high speed Internet, why because of the economic development opportunities, education opportunities, health opportunities, and just the general importance of having it from a social perspective. We need to up our game on connectivity, but once again, COVID has exacerbated that.”

Another priority for Kelloway is to make sure that healthcare transfers from the federal government to the provinces help fund improvements to primary healthcare in rural Canada. While a member of healthcare committee, a major need identified across the country was the necessity of a national strategy and standards for long-term care.

“That’s something that has taken on so much prominence during COVID,” Kelloway said of outbreaks at nursing homes around the country.

“We need to do better.”

Another priority for the Strait area MP is an increase by 10 per cent to the Old Age Security allowance.

Kelloway added that theses priorities come from working closely with individuals, stakeholders, national experts, local organizations, and members of the business community.  

“Every Friday we go out to a different part of the community and meet with folks on the streets, in the corner stores, healthcare, private business, not-for-profits, and it’s been an amazingly important and critical thing to do. Much of what we presented to government, in terms of the COVID response, came from everyone we talked to in Cape Breton-Canso,” Kelloway added. “I want to reflect the ideas, the opportunities and the challenges, and put viable policy opportunities on the table that amazingly and uniquely come from Cape Breton-Canso.”