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Mark Gerretsen, MP for Kingston and the Islands, spoke to the club on six topics suggested by club, plus answered a number of questions from the members in attendance.
  1. Situation in the Ukraine

The Canadian government has punched “above its weight” according to Gerretsen. We have sanctioned over 1500 individuals, banded the import and export of luxury goods, worked with our allies to remove Russia from the SWIFT global payments system, banned Russia propaganda such as the Russia Today program, closed our air space and our ports of entry via water, renewed our commitment to ‘Operation Reassurance’, made a contribution of $320 Million in humanitarian aid and provided $274 Million in equipment to their military effort.
Before Russia even invaded, we made a half billion loan to Ukraine to help them domestically through the coming war. And with respect to immigration, we automatically extended people stay here if they were here temporarily, approved 120,000 applications for refugee status, set up a Canada Information Centre in Warsaw, Poland, and provided transitional financial assistance to help them survive once they get here.
  1. Housing in Canada

On the home front Gerretsen focused on the Canada wide housing problem. One of the reasons for the problem he explained was the impact of increasing numbers of immigrants, 1.5 million since 2015 to be more precise.
A key program to help us with the housing issue Gerretsen  outlined was the ‘National Affordable Housing Strategy’ which committed $70,000,000 over a ten year period to improve the affordable housing stock in Canada, an examples of which are a local redevelopment of a building at 113 Union Street, another $4.7 M rent geared to income development at 27 Wright Crescent and a third mixed income building on Princess street near Sir John A MacDonald Blvd.
  1. Electric vehicles and Kingston’s advantage

Obviously comfortable in his battery powered car, Mark emphasized the potential of a new battery manufacturing factory coming to our area.  Next year, Umicore, a Belgium based global metals refining giant, will begin construction of the $1.5 billion facility - the largest of its type in North America.
Gerretsen said it will mean 3000 jobs during the construction phase, and 300 to 400 permanent high skilled jobs. However, Mark found the three reasons why Loyalist Township was chosen most informative. The reasons were:
  1. Kingston has pool of skilled labour supported by a university.
  2. Umicore is a company that creates a ‘sustainable product’ meaning they picked Ontario rather than the USA because we no longer produce any coal fired electrical energy.
  3. The existence in Kingston of Li-Cycle, a now publicly traded company which recycles lithium-ion batteries.
  1. Getting to Net Zero in Carbon Emissions by 2050

Gerretsen defined this as Canada will remove as much carbon from the air as we put into it by 2050. As an example, he mentioned that two new ferries are being launched both of which are all electric vehicles.
  1. Health care

Mark said the Federal Government has increased its contributions to the provinces by “$4.5 billion dollars” and largely with the insistence of the NDP built a plan for introducing dental care into the health system. It will start with families that make $90,000 or less per year and their children who are 12 years or under. By 2025 all family members in that threshold will be covered.  
  1. Old Age Security Support for Seniors

One of the things this Liberal government has done is restore the eligibility age from 67 back to 65. It has also “enhanced the Canada Pension Plan, increased the GIS for 900,000 single seniors, and increased Old Age Security for singles over age 75. This latter initiative was controversial but was done because seniors over that age were burning through their savings after that age. The government has also established a $90 million fund to help seniors stay at home.
Finally, Mark hosted a boisterous and thoroughly enjoyable question period which can be viewed below.
Watch and Listen to Mark's Talk