There have been a number of items occurring in Ottawa this week that are deserving of mention. Most important I believe is a report from Canada’s Auditor General Michael Ferguson describing challenges that some veterans encounter in obtaining mental health services & benefits. I believe all Canadians agree strongly that lengthy delays for veterans services and benefits are unacceptable and more so in an important area such as mental health. While it is true that Canada currently has 415 full time mental workers and a ratio of soldiers to mental health support professionals that is one of the highest in NATO these services are of limited value if they cannot be readily accessible by those who need them.
One of the challenges in providing specialized government services is ensuring that the services are provided to those intended to receive them. Recently many citizens in Ottawa were shocked and disturbed to discover an individual who is not a member of our armed forces wearing a decorated uniform on Remembrance Day. The end result of this unfortunate incitement has resulted in death threats and an official police investigation. While it is obviously important to have a process the can identify veterans in need of services from those who have not served, we must also ensure this process is timely and can be navigated easily by veterans and their family members. From all accounts this is a process that needs improvement and I am certain I speak on behalf of all citizens in Okanagan-Coquihalla in supporting further measures that simplify and expedite this process.
Also occurring in Ottawa this week is the ongoing fallout over two members of the Liberal caucus being suspended for alleged personal misconduct involving two unidentified members of the NDP caucus. Although I have been asked about this particular issue it is generally my rule not to comment on the actions of others within and outside the House of Commons. This issue has been the focus of many in Ottawa media circles and in my view that can take away from other items of importance also occurring on Parliament Hill. I do believe it is important to send a strong message that violence of any kind against women is unacceptable and the past few weeks in Ottawa should serve as a reminder of the need for respectful relations within and outside of the workplace and always erring on the side of caution.
Also occurring in Ottawa this week is debate on Government Bills C-42 Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act and Bill C-18- Agricultural Growth Act. There is also a number of Private Members Bills such as Bill C-583- An Act to amend the Criminal Code (fetal alcohol spectrum disorder) Bill C-585– An Act to Amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act (Period of Residence) and Bill C-574- An Act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (use of wood) For further information on these or any Bill before the House of Commons please do not hesitate to contact me.
Before I close this week I would like to acknowledge and thank the many municipal leaders who participated in their final council, regional district or school board meeting. Your past service to your community is appreciated and it has been a pleasure to work with many of you over the past few years. I would also like to extend a warm welcome to those newly elected and re-elected for what will be a first ever 4 year term. I am currently in the process of working with local MLAs and Mayors to organize a series of elected officials forums where citizens can meet your elected representatives in a casual format to exchange ideas and discuss items of concern firsthand. The first of these will be held this Saturday in Penticton between 10 am and noon at the Penticton Trade & Convention Center. No reservations are required and I hope to see many citizens take the time to stop in for a coffee to say hello. For more information I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.