A local Member of Parliament is committed to taking Chatham-Kent-Leamington to Ottawa, not the other way around.
Dave Epp is a Canadian politician who was elected to represent the riding of Chatham-Kent—Leamington in the House of Commons of Canada in the 2019 Canadian Federal Election. The Conservative is also a member of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food.
As a third-generation Leamington farmer whose farm grows processing vegetables and cash crops, Epp is familiar with farming.
When Aaron O’Toole became the Conservative Party leader, Epp was thrilled to be named to the Agriculture Committee.
“It is an area that I’ve personally had some experience with. But more importantly than that, agriculture and value-adding to the raw materials that we can produce here is such a bedrock component of our local economy,” said Epp.
The Member of Parliament has been busy making Chatham-Kent-Leamington’s voice heard in Ottawa. Most recently, in the House of Commons, Bill C 206 was passed at second reading. It is a bill to exempt farm fuels and eating fuels from the carbon tax.
According to Epp, he will be given the direct opportunity to hear from witnesses on the matter and move that through the legislative process.
“It’s an honour and a privilege to serve all aspects of the economy, not just AG,” said Epp. “It does feel good to be able to contribute to the national scene in an area that my previous experience, hopefully, adds value, both to Chatham-Kent-Leamington and to Canada.”
While agriculture is a topic near and dear to Epp, he understands there is more on the agenda while representing Chatham-Kent-Leamington than just his own agenda.
“When I threw my hat into the nomination race to become the candidate, and then into the election campaign, I very much committed to taking my cue from the riding that, yes, agriculture is important, but it’s not Dave Epp’s agenda that we’re going to be furthering here, but it’s Chatham-Kent-Leamington’s,” said Epp.
Epp also played a key role in advocating for the access to wireless and internet services for remote parts of the riding.
Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) announced it would begin $19.3 million worth of projects, beginning February to November, to bring high-speed fibre-optic broadband services to more than 4,584 homes and businesses across the municipality.
Epp said this is a good first step forward, but more work needs to be done. Epp added this would level the playing field for all, including farmers, small businesses, and families.
Additionally, Epp is calling for action to stop the practice of bringing in undocumented migrant workers to satisfy the labour needs on farms and greenhouses. Epp said while nobody knows the exact number, he is confident there are more than 2,000 people employed in the Ag-sector that are undocumented.
“Obviously, as individuals, as people caring for people, we never want to see people in vulnerable situations,” said Epp. “Unfortunately, when one is undocumented, you become vulnerable, just by your status.”
Epp said the question becomes where to go from here? However, that is an ongoing debate.
“We can’t set up a process whereby people are jumping the queue to legitimate folks that are standing in our immigration lines or are trying to get into our temporary foreign worker or season leg programs. We simply can’t wave a wand to legitimize the illegal attempts to this country,” said Epp. “Allowing bad behaviour simply leads to more bad behaviour.”
While Epp hopes to be a voice for the people, having already accomplished so much, he admits there are several challenges with becoming a Member of Parliament.
“One of them is simply adjusting to the sheer volume of information that comes my way, by way of text, by way of messenger, by way of email, by way of phone, hundreds of emails, on all sorts of issues, and on all sorts of perspectives on issues,” said Epp.
The Member of Parliament said he is committing to listening and representing his riding in Ottawa.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s people that voted for me, didn’t vote for me, or didn’t vote at all. I have an obligation and responsibility to represent. That doesn’t mean I agree with a review, but I have to represent it.”
Epp said he is committed to Chatham-Kent Leamington, and that means sometimes working and building relationships with other MPs locally.
“I am not ashamed at all of the facts,” said Epp. “In fact, I’m proud of the fact I have a relationship with both my colleague Chris Lewis here in Essex and the two MPs in Windsor, an NDP and a Liberal member, where we address some of these issues.”
He added while there are a great number who are blue, they work across party lines when that provides the most benefit back to the riding of Chatham-Kent-Leamington
Epp said since he was elected, his number one goal has and will continue to remain consistent.
“My number one goal is to take the voice of Chatham-Kent Leamington to Ottawa, and not the other way around.”
Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News