The Senate and expenses of individual Senator’s continues to be the single most discussed topic I have heard from local citizens throughout my travels over the past week. In fact, there are few issues in the past two years that have generated as much feedback and anger from citizens as this particular topic. Public officials at every level of Government have an obligation of trust to spend tax dollars in a fiscally transparent and responsible manner. If an elected official breaks that obligation, in my view, there should be penalties and I will continue to support initiatives that increase transparency and accountability to taxpayers. However, I also believe that it is important to recognize that while there are legitimate questions regarding the practices of some senators, this should not unfairly taint those who conduct their affairs accountably. There are many Senators who work hard on behalf of taxpayer’s and who use taxpayer provided funds in a responsible manner.
An example of the good work that is done in the Senate can be found in Senate Bill S-10 that will come before the House of Commons this week. Bill S-10 is called the “Prohibiting Clusters Munitions Act”. It should never be overlooked nor taken for granted that there are some regions in the world where innocent lives are taken through the use of explosive “cluster bombs” also known as “fragmentation bombs”. These types of military ordinance may be loaded with shrapnel, fragments of metal, incendiary related combustible materials or even chemicals. The intent is to inflict as much collateral damage to an areas as possible. These types of devices have been used in modern day conflicts such as Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq and more recently rumored to have been used in Georgia, Libya and possibly Syria. These types of explosive devices are most frequently the cause of death for innocent families including children in conflict areas and have been universally condemned by a large number of organizations and countries around the Globe.
In 2008 at the Convention of Cluster Munitions our Government signed on to an international treaty process to eliminate the use of cluster munitions. At the same time Canada withdrew over 12,000 cluster munitions that are currently in the process of being destroyed with an estimated completion date of 2014. More than 100 countries have also signed on to this same agreement and are in the process of withdrawing and destroying cluster munitions from active service. As this is an international treaty, under our Canadian constitution it must be passed in Parliament and implemented in legislation to be deemed valid and allow Canada to meet our obligations under this agreement. That is where Bill S-10 comes in. The intent of my comments on this topic is to point out that there is important work that is performed in our Canadian Senate that should not be overlooked. Bills like S-10 do not receive much media attention however it is important that Canada continues to take a lead role in helping to protect innocent victims from potential harm. S-10 is a Senate Bill that I intend to support and am proud that Canada is taking a role in eliminating the use of cluster munitions.
Also being debated in the House this week is another Senate Bill, S-2 “The Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act”. This is a bill that proposes to create basic rights and protections for individuals on reserves in the event of a relationship breakdown, or on the death of a spouse or common-law partner. This Bill references the family home and other assets to ensure that families living on reserve have the same rights and protections as people living off reserve when it comes to matrimonial property. Bill S-2 will also allow courts to apply First Nations matrimonial and real property laws for those First Nations who have enacted related legislation. It also targets violence against women and children living on reserve. It will allow courts to grant emergency protection orders to remove a violent partner from the home.
Also occurring this week is continued debate on Government Bill C-54, “Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act” and Bill C-48 “Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012”. There will also be a number of Private members Bills and Motions up for debate along with multiple votes. With such a busy parliamentary schedule the House has extended the sitting hours until midnight meaning many of my days will be in the 16-18 hour range thus delaying the times I have available to return your calls and emails. As always I welcome your comments, concerns and questions on these or any matter before the House. I can be reached at 1-800-665-8711 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
With the Provincial election now concluded and the respective campaigns left to reflect and ponder the past thirty or so days I was reminded of the campaign I was involved with when running for Member of Parliament some two years ago.
One of the messages I heard loudly and clearly from a wide variety of citizens was the need to take immediate action on the MP pension plan, which was widely seen as grossly unfair to taxpayers. It was a message I shared in Ottawa as one of the first MP’s to publicly call for changes to the MP pension plan that would make it more respectful to taxpayers.
It was rewarding to have the chance to vote in favour of those changes in the last budget implementation bill which will ensure the MP pension plan moves towards equal contributions and also penalizes previous early retirement benefits. These are changes Canadians expected and asked for and our Government delivered on that request. It is for this reason that I am particularly disappointed by some recent events that I know a number of citizens are concerned about as well. In fact, I have heard from an overwhelming number of constituents this past week who are united in sharing their strong opposition to unaccountable Senators who engaged in actions that are unbecoming of public officials and that concern is justified, in my view.
The Senate remains a challenging institution to abolish or reform, more so given that particular provinces (arguing through the Courts), maintain that our constitution requires Provincial consent to make such significant changes. While Canadians await further clarification from the Supreme Court of Canada on the legal basis by which Senate reform or abolishment can occur, that delay should not be an excuse to engage in actions that are offensive to taxpayers. As I have in the past, I will continue tosupport changes that increase accountability to taxpayers.
Ottawa is also very busy this week as a result of our Government introducing a motion to extend the sitting hours of the House of Commons into the evenings. Some of the Bills coming before the House from Government this week include continued debate on Bill C-48 Technical Tax Amendments Act, first debate on Bill C-52 Fair Rail Freight Service Act, and report stage for Bill C-51 Safer Witnesses Act. Senate Bill S9 Nuclear Terrorism Act will also come before the House for third reading debate. Private Members business will include the first debate on Bill C-489 An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (restrictions on offenders). Business of Supply will also come before the House as will a number of votes.
Although I have discussed the majority of these Bills in previous MP reports if there is a Bill coming before the House you would like further information on, or would like to comment or share a concern please do not hesitate to contact my office at your convenience. I can be reached via email at email@example.com or toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
Before this week’s report comes to a close I would like to congratulate those newly elected and re-elected MLA’s who will be representing our region in Victoria. I would also like to thank retiring MLAs such as Bill Barisoff and Harry Lali who gave many years of service to citizens in their respective communities Finally I would also like to recognize all of those who ran for the office of MLA who were not successful.
It takes great courage to run for public office and requires a significant personal commitment during the writ period. A special thank you to the many volunteers who work tirelessly behind the scenes helping candidates in their respective campaigns. I look forward to working with our new and re-elected MLA’s along with the dedicated representatives in local Government to ensure we take action on issues of concern for the citizens we collectively represent.
This week the focus across Canada will be on British Columbia as the Provincial
general election will have occurred by the time you read my weekly report. At
the time of my writing, the election outcome is unknown, however one thing I can
guarantee is that there will be no shortage of pundits, media and interest
groups speculating on what the election results mean for British Columbians. As
it happens, this is also a constituency week for the House of Commons as the
House resumes session next Tuesday, May 21st.
In spite of this being a constituency week, an interesting report was released by a
non-partisan organization that studies political participation in Canada. This
particular report looked at the House of Commons and studied 54 days of
discussion within the House in an effort to analyze which MP’s speak the most.
From a demographic standpoint the results were interesting. MP’s under 35 years
of age represent 9% of the House composition but spoke for 11% of total time
during the 54 days studied, while 89% of the discussion was dominated by the
remaining 91% of MP’s who are over 35. From a gender perspective female MP’s
currently make up 25% of the House and spoke just in excess of 30% of the time
period under study. From a Political perspective the parties speaking times were
listed as NDP 44%, Conservative 36%, Liberal 16%, Green 2% and Bloc Quebecois
During this same period of time my own content in this study was listed at just over 6,000 words spoken in the House of Commons. This put me ahead of Justin Trudeau at 5,400 words but well behind Tom Mulcair who as opposition leader spoke some 44,000 words in this time frame. The focus of this study is solely on words spoken and does not take into account Parliamentary Committee work nor does it take into consideration those who have introduced Private Members Bills or Motions in the context of words spoken, however the results do indicate those who have a preference for talking. From my own perspective my focus is more on listening- it is why I do my annual summer listening tour and why I make a point of retuning phone calls and attending meetings. In my view, people deserve to be heard and as elected representatives listening to others is how we better understand the concerns of Canadians.
Whatever the outcome of the BC general election is this week I believe it is
important to recognize that through democracy, the people have spoken. Although
it is inevitable that some will be disappointed by the election outcome, we must not overlook the importance of respecting our democratic process and thanking those citizens among us who had the courage to put their name forward to serve the public interest. Let us never forget the freedom we enjoy as Canadians in electing our representatives.
Each week I look forward to hearing from dozens, sometimes even hundreds, of
different citizens on issues and concerns of importance to them. Although common
issues may often parallel events in the media, others may be unique or related
to an unreported matter that many citizens share a common interest with. One of
the more recent concerns I have heard about involves the CBC. If you have been
following some online websites, you may have heard of a diabolical plan where
the Government will secretly “take control” over the CBC and convert the
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation into a political propaganda machine. Like most
rumours, speculation and innuendo, there is generally some factual validity at
the core of an issue that is often then stretched or otherwise exaggerated to
the extent that what is really occurring is at odds with the allegations. In
this case these concerns relate to Bill C-60, the Economic Action Plan for 2013.
Bill C-60 does not in any way compromise the journalistic independence of the
CBC, nor does this Bill enable the Government of Canada to actively engage in
the creative or political direction of the CBC. Let's start by pointing out that
this provision applies to all crown corporations and does not unfairly single
out the CBC. The provision requires each board of directors for these crown
corporations to have their labour mandate approved by Treasury Board. These
mandates currently are and will still be created independently by the crown
corporations. This is the same criteria that ministries follow to ensure
that there is responsible management. Crown corporations have either received,
or continue to receive billions of taxpayer dollars every year and the
shareholders are the Canadian public. If a crown corporation were not to be run
responsibly, it would be the taxpayer that would ultimately foot the bill.
Given these challenging fiscal times it would be irresponsible of Government
to not retain the ability to control costs that are shared by Canadian taxpayers
as a result of public sector labor agreements. While some may favour the “blank
cheque” approach with respect to Crown corporation labor agreements, it should
also be pointed out that the vast majority of Federal public sector workers are
already subject to Treasury Board oversight and this legislation will provide
greater parity within the public sector and will also protect the interests of
Canadian taxpayers. If you would like to read the actual text of the Bill
please do not hesitate to give me a call or send an email. Another concern that
I have heard from many citizens on is the billboard that I inherited and have
continued to use along Highway 97 (heading south) at the northern boundary of
our Okanagan-Coquihalla riding in West Kelowna. Many citizens have taken the
time to share concerns over this billboard and the dislike for billboard signs
I believe it is important to listen to the concerns of citizens and in this case there was a strong consensus opposed to this billboard sign. The challenge from my perspective is that this sign was extremely effective in relaying my contact information to citizens in West Kelowna, an important consideration as it is rare for a community that size to not have an MP office located directly within the municipality. Fortunately one of the
citizens who had expressed displeasure about the billboard sign also offered a constructive suggestion; that opening an office in West Kelowna would help negate the need for the sign. After much investigation this is precisely the course of action currently underway. The billboard sign contract has not been renewed and later this month I will have a new constituency office to assist West Kelowna and area residents with the many federal concerns that arise in the area. This office will also be more strategically located for citizens in Peachland, Merritt and Logan Lake who frequently travel through West Kelowna on a more regular basis. My existing Penticton office will continue to offer service to Penticton and the southern portion of Okanagan-Coquihalla as before.
It will also be another busy week on Parliament Hill as debate continues on Bill S-209 “An Act to amend the Criminal Code” (prize fights) Bill C-60 (second reading) along with private members bills S-213 “Korean War Veterans Day Act”,C-460 “Sodium Reduction Strategy for Canada Act”, C-463 “Discover Your Canada Act”, and C-479 “An Act to Bring Fairness for the Victims of Violent Offenders”. For more information on these or any Bill before the House of Commons I can be reached at 1-800-665-8711 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.