In the last couple weeks, we’ve seen hundreds of people seeking refuge in Kelowna-Lake Country as a result of the floods and road closures facing our region.
The response here in Kelowna, and from across our nation, has been heroic. My thanks go out to the efforts of municipal and provincial officials, first responders, Indigenous leadership, Canadian Armed Forces personnel and of course the thousands of residents who selflessly are volunteering their time.
There are many ways to donate as well, such as bringing transit tickets, cash and gift cards for clothing or food to the Salvation Army, Central Okanagan Food Bank or the Emergency Support Services Reception Centre currently at Willow Park Church on Hwy 33. The Canadian Red Cross, the United Way and the BCSPCA, among other organizations, have also established their own donation funds.
I’ll be working alongside my colleagues on Parliament Hill to ensure the federal government does its part to support those who need help during this crisis.
Meanwhile, in Ottawa, it is a privilege to once again be named to the official Opposition’s shadow cabinet as the Conservative Party's shadow minister for small business recovery and growth.
I have always looked to champion small businesses here in Kelowna-Lake Country and have spoken with hundreds of local employers and entrepreneurs about the challenges they face. They are at the centre of our economic well-being as small businesses provide the paycheques for two out of every three working Canadians in the private sector.
That’s why our road to recovery cannot be permanently lined with Help Wanted signs.
I hear frequently from local businesses and from colleagues about crippling labour shortages here and across the country in all sectors.
Since the pandemic hit, many small businesses have been put into survival mode. Even before Covid-19, Liberal tax changes, red tape, and regulations were already damaging the ability of small businesses to grow. We need to ensure small businesses on our main streets and around our community not only survive, but can thrive.
Addressing rising levels of business debt is vital to this goal. With average small business owners taking on $170,000 in new debt, even with government programs, it’ll be difficult for many to keep the lights on. Newly opened businesses in late 2019 or early 2020 have been some of the hardest hit as they were not applicable for most of the recovery programs.
Talking to small business owners locally, they tell me that even if it becomes business as usual now - they’ll take five years to recover, let alone get ahead.
Here in Kelowna-Lake Country the success of our tourism and hospitality sector is critical to restarting our own economy as these are among our economic engines. Extending work visa’s would allow tourism businesses, in particular ski hills, who rely on this program, to staff up during the winter tourism season in order to offer the activities they need, to sustain their businesses.
The recovery and growth of Kelowna Lake-Country and Canada as we come out of this difficult time will rely on the drive, hard work and entrepreneurial spirit of small business owners. As a former small business owner myself, I know what it’s like to make payroll and have everything on the line. As we enter this new parliamentary session, I will be the voice of small business and fight for you in Ottawa.
As always, please be sure to reach out if you have any thoughts, ideas or concerns and if you need any assistance with federal services.