By Greg Price
As MP LaVar Payne looks to retire from politics later this year to enjoy more family time, his look back on 2014 will feature an interesting year in his long career.
Given the attack on Parliament Hill in the fall of 2014 where Michael Zehaf Bibeau shot and killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, who was standing guard at the National War Memorial, before entering Parliament’s Centre Block, anti-terrorism legislation has dominated Parliament Hill late in 2014 and into 2015.
Making some changes in gun registration with reclassification by the chief firearms officer, the conservative government is set to introduce new anti-terrorism legislation by the end of this week aimed at giving more powers to police and security agencies. It will make it a crime to promote terrorism and further restrict the movement of suspected extremists.
Payne still remembers the mayhem that ensued on Oct. 22 on Parliament Hill.
“That was unbelievable. I certainly don’t think anyone knew (at the time) what happened to Cirillo and the other incident. We were actually in a caucus meeting at the time when it went all down,” said Payne.
“It was actually quite scary. Some of our colleagues actually ran out of our caucus meeting, running up some of the stairs and through the hallways. That was really not the right thing to do because this guy was actually running to the library, down the Hall of Honour. It potentially could have caused an incident. We heard all the gunfire and no one could tell if it was one individual or 10. We tried to remain as calm as we could.”
More positives, federally speaking for 2014, was the Family Tax Cut which would in effect, allow a spouse to transfer up to $50,000 of taxable income to a spouse in a lower tax bracket, providing tax relief up to a maximum of $2,000. More than 1.7 million families were expected to benefit from the Family Tax Cut. Also, the universal child care benefit per child under six rose from $100 to $160 a month or $1,920 a year. For each child six to 17 years sold, families can also now receive a federal tax credit of up to $720 per year.
“We wanted to help families and lessen their tax burden. It will be additional funding to families, particularly those with small children,” said Payne.
Other inroads the federal government has made, according to Payne, is extra infrastructure funding that is expected to trickle down to the provincial and municipal levels as well. The grain also got moving with the help of a political federal push.
“We made a number of inroads as far as the bills we brought forward. One that I would highlight would be our farm bill, making the railways ship 5,500 cars per week of grain to catch up on the backlog,” said Payne. “It was a tough one going through, but it helped the agricultural sector here in this riding.”
Payne was none too pleased with the proposed constituency boundary changes. Under recommendations handed down by the Alberta Electoral Boundaries Commission in Ottawa, the M.D. of Taber is slated to become part of the huge new riding of Bow River. The riding would stretch north-south across the province, and would include the counties of Vulcan, Newell, Wheatland and parts of Kneehill and Rocky View. Payne filed an official protest in January of 2014.
“That continues, and I have more and more people come up to me and tell me what a crazy decision that was,” said Payne. “It’s past history now.”
Speaking of boundaries and borders, a movement Payne has pushed before he was even an MP, was to make the Wild Horse port of entry into the United States 24 hours like is found at the Coutts border.
“I’m hoping to get some (infrastructure) funding for that before I leave. I only have about nine months now (until) retirement,” said Payne.