Residents in Vancouver this morning will be saddened to read the front page Vancouver Sun story on the tragic murder of a 17 year old girl. Charged with this murder is a man who was released from prison after serving a 22 year sentence for a violent sexual assault that also included robbery and forcible confinement. These are the types of disturbing actions that create fear and anxiety not just for the victims, friends and families of these crimes but often for entire communities.
In my riding of Okanaghan-Coquihalla, the community of West Kelowna has many citizens who share a similar concern of mass murderer David Ennis (formerly David Shearing) being released from prison and returning to the area. For those unfamiliar with Mr. Ennis he is the individual who brutally took the lives of the Johnson and Bentley family of 6 while on a camping trip in August of 1982. While this horrific act may have taken place over 30 years ago the sense of loss and concern from the community remains real to this very day.
This week I had an opportunity to hand deliver a petition from over 15,000 concerned citizens (15,258 to be exact) to Minister Blaney opposing the release of Mr. David Ennis. On a personal note I would like to thank West Kelowna resident Tammy Arishenkoff, classmate and friend to one of the Johnson girls who faithfully leads this petiton parole hearing after parole hearing. Tammy has given me a lot of input on a variety of government and private member`s bills that has been invaluable. I would like to recognize the many people who took the time to participate in this petition and to remind all citizens of the need to always remember the victims in acts of deplorable and senseless violence.
When I was first elected as a city councillor I set up my own blog site called “Penticton Politics" where I hoped to communicate city policies, provide information and create an online forum where local citizens could exchange views and provide input. The site very quickly proved to be a success (in my somewhat humble view) as many citizens did take the time to participate and get involved. I must also credit Jordan Bateman who is now with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation but was formerly a Langley Township councillor who first championed this idea with his Langley politics website. When I started Penticton Politics at that time the City of Penticton had no communications officer and the Penticton Politics blog site was something I financed out of my own pocket which was easily done given the low cost of many online communications tools.
Once I became elected as a Member of Parliament one commitment that I made to myself was that I would never stop communicating frequently with citizens. The daily interaction and exchange of dialogue is very valuable and even more so given the great distance between Okanagan Coquihalla and Ottawa. Although my online website has grown from the days of being a blog it is still something that I finance entirely out of my own pocket. It has always been my view that constituency funds must be spent in a non-partisan manner and with my online communications and web site it is important to freely communicate in a manner that may at times be of a more partisan tone and as a result I make a point of personally paying to maintain those freedoms.
Why mention this? Recently I learned that regardless of paying for my website personally if a website is linked to the MP parliament profile then said website becomes the “designated” website and must conform to the guidelines as outlined in the” Members Allowances and Services” manual. It should also be noted that the House of Commons has a web operations coordinator who with the assistance of staff ensures that designated websites are in compliance with the established guidelines.
As you may have heard, from time to time MPs are referenced publicly for inappropriate use of constituency funds in a partisan manner– usually in these instances it is expected that the MPs in question repay these funds personally or have their affiliated political party repay.
Obviously I have now discovered that even if using your own personal funds there can be an expectation that communication conform to regulation– provided of course your communications are “designated” to the official Parliament of Canada MP profile page. Today’s blog post is largely to illustrate the extent to which Members of Parliament are monitored (in some areas) to ensure compliance with established regulation. In many ways I am reminded of my arrival in Ottawa when I was informed we were not allowed to water the plants (see www.danalbas.com/dan-in-ottawa-blog/power-to-the-plants)- curiously due to budget considerations the plants are no more unless we desire to buy our own. Fortunately if you do purchase a plant at your own expense there is no official monitoring on the watering of said plant(s)!
In addition to his weekly MP Report. the Dan in Ottawa blog is another resource for residents of Okanagan-Coquihalla. Chronicling Dan’s personal experiences as he travels to Ottawa and throughout the riding as your MP.
For more information about Dan Albas, click here.