I have always been a strong believer in the principle of accountability. It is why I make every effort to ensure that my MP expenses are amongst the lowest in Western Canada, why I spoke out in favor of changes to the MP pension plan that were more respectful to taxpayers, and is why I do not use over-the-top rhetoric or profanity in the House of Commons. Since being elected, another belief I continue to act upon is personally returning phone calls, emails where possible, and compose weekly reports on events that occur in Ottawa and in the riding. As taxpayers, you provide significant resources to all levels of government and I believe firmly that your calls and concerns deserve to be heard. We may not always have agreement in a democratic country as diverse as Canada but I submit that one thing that sets us apart from others is that we are respectful of our differences and tolerant, at times even open minded, to the views and values of others.
With the final sitting of the House of Commons for the year of 2012 now concluded this will be my second year in Ottawa representing the citizens of Okanagan-Coquihalla in Parliament and I would like to take a moment to reflect on this milestone. For me the past two years have been an immeasurable learning experience, and a great honour serving as your MP. There is one overarching issue that continues to concern me and that is the lack of accountability in information that is presented online. To be clear, there are many justifiable reasons to disagree on policy and decisions of our elected representatives at all levels of government. However I am certain that most would agree that a genuine disagreement should be based on factually accurate information. More and more frequently, information being presented is not only factually inaccurate; at times it is even intentionally distorted in an effort to mislead. Frequently this misinformation is located online and often authored by “internet experts” or other “anonymous sources”. At times even conventional media sources can report on a story that may leave out important factual information, an example of this I will share:
Many of you have likely heard media reports of our Government “committing” to purchase the F-35 stealth fighter aircraft. The reality is that not only have no F-35’s been purchased to date, the decision to commit Canada to the joint strike fighter program (JSF) was actually made by the Liberal Government of the day back in 1997. In 2001 after a design competition the Lockheed Martin F-35 was awarded the contract over a rival aircraft design proposal from Boeing.
My reason for pointing out that the Chrétien Liberals made this commitment is not a case of pointing the finger of blame at someone else but rather to illustrate just how far back this issue originates. We must also not forget that this is not the first time Canada has had to replace a strategically important aircraft that have become obsolete. Senior taxpayers will recall that we paid $ 478 Million in cancellation penalties when the Liberals cancelled the $4.8 Billion EH-101 helicopter order that was to replace the aging Sea-Kings. It should also be pointed out that cancelling the replacement for the Sea-King did not negate the need to replace this aging helicopter, it only delayed it further, and as we would ultimately discover at much greater cost to taxpayers. In fact it was the same Liberal Government who was subsequently forced to turn around only a few years later and purchase fewer replacement helicopters at an increased cost now estimated at $6.2 Billion. With the replacement Sikorsky helicopters behind schedule we still rely on 40 year old Sea-King helicopters which require 35 hours of maintenance for every hour in the air. It is important that we not repeat the mistakes of the past and that is why the “reset” button has in effect been announced by our government to ensure that whatever aircraft replaces the CF-18, we avoid following the expensive and costly lessons that we should not forget occurred with the replacement of the Sea-King. While I recognize that few taxpayers rejoice at the thought of replacing soon to be out of date aircraft, this does not, as we have learned in the past, negate the need to do so.
As always, I welcome your comments and concerns and would like to wish all citizens of Okanagan-Coquihalla a Merry Christmas, and a prosperous New Year.
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.