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 email@example.com
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament elect for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.