The House of Commons will not be in session for Veterans week and will resume sitting on Monday, November 14th, 2011. For the duration of this week I will be attending close to thirty different meetings and events throughout our region with stops in Merritt, West Kelowna, Peachland, Summerland, Penticton and Okanagan Falls. Two of these events involve waste water treatment that as infrastructure projects are either soon to get underway or have reached completion. While is encouraging that these types of projects are getting completed on time and on budget, what I enjoy most during my travels throughout the riding is meeting with taxpayers and hearing firsthand what concerns and events are occurring in our local communities.
The past week on Parliament Hill was an unusual one. While an overwhelming number of citizens have taken the time to voice support for the elimination of the long gun registry, the opposition has taken the position to oppose efforts to wind down the registry. That said, two NDP MP’s did not agree with the NDP position on the gun registry and instead voted with Government in favour of elimination. In response both NDP MP’s were punished by the NDP and various penalties were imposed on them. However that was not the largest issue of the week as the vast majority of political debate from both the NDP and the Liberals was focused on our new Auditor General Michael Ferguson, who will be replacing recently retired AG Sheila Fraser. The opposition was not angered over the competency or integrity of our new AG but rather that Mr. Ferguson has only recently begun lessons to speak French and is not yet fully bilingual. The Liberals have suggested they may pursue legal action over this matter.
While those issues occupied most of the headlines and airtime during question period, one of the most interesting experiences I have yet had on Parliament Hill was to view life in Parliament from the perspective of a wheel chair as a volunteer in the “chair leader” for a day event. The Canadian Paraplegic Association hosts this annual event with MP’s from all political stripes who agree to spend the day in a wheelchair for the duration of our parliamentary duties. This is a brief but very important chance to see life from a very different viewpoint. While there is much to be said on this topic, I will summarize to say that the amount of obstacles I encountered in such a short period of time has given me a whole new level of understanding for the daily challenges that disabled Canadians face on a daily basis. What was most surprising was the amount of wheelchair accessible infrastructure that proved to be inaccessible for a variety of different reasons. This is an issue that I believe needs to be paid greater attention to in all of our communities and regions.
As this is Veteran’s Week I would like to ask all citizens to take part in your local Remembrance Day ceremony in your community. While I still have much to learn as a new Member of Parliament, the opportunity to meet with democratically elected MP’s from all across Canada speaks of the diversity of this great country. As British Prime Minister David Cameron recently reminded the House of Commons, in the world’s toughest times and darkest hours, Canada has always defended democratic freedom and fought against tyranny. As Canadians we have been defined by the sacrifices of the brave men and women who serve in honour of our nation. In an era where some are content to protest in wanting for more I submit that on this Remembrance Day we should all give thanks to our veterans for all that we have. May we never forget.
Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for Okanagan- Coquihalla and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament elect for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.