To date I have been greatly enjoying my summer listening tour.
The opportunity to meet with citizens, organizations and employers firsthand is very valuable and helpful in the work that I do as a Member of Parliament.
I also find that consistently the issues raised by citizens in Okanagan-Coquihalla are very different than many of the topics raised by the media in Ottawa.
In Ottawa I find increasingly that the views and opinions of experts are often pushed to the forefront, while the views and opinions of every day citizens fall to the wayside.
During the debate on the Fair Elections Act, one of the key areas of disagreement was over the reasonableness of requiring ID to vote in a federal election no differently from what is used in local elections where a mayor or council, rural director or school trustee are elected.
The reality is the requirement on how reasonable it is to produce ID to vote is a matter of opinion, one that all Canadians can and should feel entitled to have or share. Yet in Ottawa the opposition and some in the media suggest that these are matters for expert opinion and that everyday Canadians voices are somehow lesser or don’t count. By not being inclusive in our institutions and processes we risk ignoring, perhaps even alienating individual Canadians.
This leads to another subject I believe is worthy of consideration — the supremacy of Parliament.
A fundamental principle of democracy is that ultimately citizens, through the democratic process, can elect a government they believe is best suited to make the decisions, policy and draft laws, that in our case will help build a stronger Canada.
In 2009 a Liberal MP introduced Bill C-428 that proposed newly immigrated citizens could begin collecting OAS retirement benefits within three years of arriving in Canada (assuming they were 65 or older) rather than wait the 10-year residency requirement.
The outrage was significant. In fact I still receive frequent opposition from citizens to this bill.
What happened to Bill C-428? Ultimately an election occurred and the Liberal MP who authored Bill C-428 was not re-elected.
Courts can provide valuable guidance in complex cases as not everything can be anticipated when drafting law; however to see policies rewritten that download cost to taxpayers without representation is a concern we should be mindful of.
In 2012 our Government made changes to health care coverage for refugee claimants attempting to seek permanent entry into Canada.
At the time it was noted that the refugee health care plan was more generous than the health care plans available to and paid by taxpayers. It was also observed that some of the refugee claimants accessing our taxpayer financed medical plan were coming from free, democratic countries such as the United States. As a result, changes were made to the refugee health program.
Recently a federal court judge has ruled that the changes contradict the charter and has ruled against them. Our government is appealing this ruling. This is a decision that some citizens are supportive of and others strongly oppose.
I welcome your views on this or any subject before the House of Commons. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
Dan Albas is the MP for Okanagan Coquihalla.