Although I still have much to learn about life in public office, there are a few unwritten rules that I have become aware of. One of those rules is that it is generally considered ill-advised to comment publicly on the actions of other levels of government, and by extension other elected officials. That being said some recent actions within local and regional government are from my perspective, a cause for concern. As elected officials one of our primary responsibilities is to collectively vote and make decisions on behalf of those whom we are elected to represent. At times this can be a difficult process as some decisions can be controversial and as is always the case in every healthy democratic environment there are always those who are in agreement and those who oppose.
Currently I am in support of further changes to the MP pension plan that are more respectful to taxpayers. My position on this is one that is not popular with some colleagues in Ottawa. Conversely I am also supportive of Budget 2012, my position on this is opposed by some citizens within Okanagan-Coquihalla who do not believe that Government should consolidate or eliminate programs and Budget 2012 does call for a reduction in the spending of your tax dollars. My vote in support of eliminating the long gun registry was supported by most citizens I heard from, however it was strongly opposed by others. From my perspective, part of being accountable to taxpayers is to not only to take a position on issues of importance and vote accordingly, but also to explain that position in a timely manner that citizens can be aware of.
Where my concerns arises is that recently I have noted several circumstances where some elected officials have basically abstained from having to take a vote on controversial decisions. There are legitimate situations arising around a conflict of interest when an elected official can state the reasons for absenting from a vote however in several recent vote abstentions no public reason for not voting was provided to taxpayers and from my perspective that is wrong. Over the past weekend I have consulted with many former elected officials who served in variety of roles on this subject and have learned that my concerns are not alone. As this has not been an issue raised though the local media I have instead decided somewhat reluctantly to raise this issue in my weekly MP report to you.
I believe that as members of the public you deserve to know where your elected representatives stand on issues of importance. If we allow the practice of abstaining from a difficult vote in public to become more common I believe that it will result in more decisions being made behind closed doors and in private. When elected officials of any level remove themselves from discussions for any other reason than a perceived or real conflict of interest, this lack of representation lessens the eventual decision as not all constituencies have their views presented. This is not a partisan issue and not one that I take any enjoyment in raising but I firmly believe that a fundamental obligation of public office is that we make our views known through discussion and debate. Decisions can at times be unpopular and challenging however as public officials we must make these decisions publicly and be held to account for them at election time, that is the very essence of our democratic system. I welcome your views on this or any subject.
Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for Okanagan-Coquihalla and can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org
As a first time Member of Parliament I often wonder how the role of being a Parliamentarian has changed since the advent of the internet. Although I am active electronically and communicate through mediums such as Twitter, a website and blog along with email I am often amazed that in the era of information just how much misinformation and even fabrication exists online. I have also noted that people in person are generally civil and respectful of others whereas some of the language and tone contained in certain emails is at times well over the top and even alarming in some cases. For whatever reason the most nasty of comments are largely restricted to online emails and anonymous commentary. I have noticed that while one cannot deny that email is superior in terms of speed and immediacy, you cannot beat a phone call or a face to face meeting in terms of interaction and mutual understanding & respect. I certainly appreciate it when people also include their phone number with their email or letter- a good conversation will often cover more ground than a dozen letters!
More recently I have noted a trend of online urban myths where a picture of a fancy jail or a photo of politicians playing electronic solitaire in a democratic chamber is suggested as to be Canadian in origin. In both circumstances these online photographs were taken outside of Canada and are from other countries. While it is unusual to comment on something so trivial the amount of inquires I have received on these two particular photographs has been very significant.
One other area I have received a number of inquiries pertains to MP pensions on account of some media reports that had wrongly suggested that MP pensions would continue to be protected. Budget 2012 contains provisions that will see changes being made towards MP pension plans that will ultimately result in a 50/50 contribution. As I have stated previously I am in full support of changes to the MP pension plan that will be more respectful to taxpayers and as such I will be voting in favor of this proposal. I will also stand on record in support of further changes to MP pension plans that continue to be more respectful to taxpayers. I have heard from a majority of citizens who understand that our Government must make some challenging decisions with respect to reducing spending and in some cases consolidating or changing programs but there is also an expectation that as Members of Parliament we should also be involved in this process. Citizens may often disagree on the decisions of Government, however this is one area where I have heard a strong consensus and I appreciate the time many of you have taken in sharing your views with me on this and other topics.
I have also received a surprising number of inquiries regarding the phasing out of the penny. Beginning this fall, the Royal Canadian Mint will no longer be distributing the penny. Although the penny will retain its value indefinitely, our Government encourages Canadians to either redeem them at financial institutions or to consider donating them to charity. In the absence of the penny a process of rounding up or down will be implemented as follows. For transaction between $1.01 and $ 1.02 cents the total would be rounded down to $ 1.00 For amounts of $ 1.03 - $ 1.04 the total would be rounded up to $ 1.05 while conversely amounts of $ 1.06-$ 1.07 would also be rounded down to $ 1.05 and an amount of $ 1.08 or $ 1.09 would be rounded to $ 1.10. If you are a business owner or an interested citizen who would like to have further information on this change please contact me at the email address below. Alternatively, if you have a further question on this or any topic please give my office a call at 1(800) 665-8711 or local (250) 770-4480.
Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for Okanagan-Coquihalla and can be reached at email@example.com .
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.