April 2015 eNewsletter
April 1st, 2015 - 1:08pm
Spring is here, well in Victoria at least. This past week the temperature in Ottawa was still in the minus range and snow continues to be piled two metres deep in the Atlantic provinces. I have been warned not to show my colleagues pictures from home right now.
In Ottawa and across Canada the fight against the Conservatives' Anti-Terrorism Bill continues. Despite the bitter cold elsewhere two weeks ago thousands of Canadians across the country turned out to show their opposition to this sweeping and dangerous bill that will do nothing to keep us safe. When I spoke at the rally against Bill C-51 in Victoria I was inspired by the fact that more than a thousand of you came out to speak up against this bad bill. As the NDP Public Safety critic I will continue to lead the opposition to Bill C-51 in the House of Commons.
Though the Conservatives severely limited the number of witnesses who could appear at the Public Safety hearings on C-51, witness after witness turned up to say the bill needed to be significantly amended or scrapped. In fact 45 out of 48 said so, but the government still refused to listen. Conservatives continue to argue this bill is absolutely necessary to keep us safe despite its threat to our civil liberties. Unfortunately they do so without bothering to present any real evidence. Instead they prefer to wave the fear flag.
Today we will be considering amendments to C-51 in the Public Safety Committee. I will be putting forth the NDP amendments which call for deleting the dangerous new disruption powers proposed for CSIS and for deleting the unnecessary new criminal offense of recklessly supporting terrorism "in general." The latter is a provision which would inevitably cast a chill on free speech in this country even though there is clearly no gap in existing criminal provisions when it comes to terrorism. We will also try to amend the bill to limit new information sharing provisions so that information shared between 17 government departments is about only those who would use violence and terrorism with the aim of restoring protection of privacy rights for the rest of us.
But this is a government that prefers symbolic actions to actually doing the practical things we need to do to meet terrorist threats. Right now while the Conservatives are pushing ahead with C-51 they are also heading into their third consecutive year of cuts to the RCMP, CSIS, and the CBSA. And this is after we heard testimony from both the RCMP Commissioner and the CSIS Operations Director saying that they don't have enough resources now to investigate and prosecute terror threats.
In the end the Conservatives will offer up a few window dressing amendments to give the appearance of listening to Canadians. Then they will use their majority to push C-51 through Parliament, unfortunately with the full support of the Liberals who have said they will vote for the bill even if it is not amended. The Liberals see the new information sharing provisions in C-51 as necessary and they like the new disruption powers for CSIS. They say any problems elsewhere in the bill can be fixed later when they are government. We in the NDP have promised to repeal the bill.
Another fight that’s still not over is the fight against Canada Post's plan to eliminate home delivery. In our riding alone15,000 households will lose their door-to-door delivery this year. I continue to receive emails, letters, and phone calls almost daily in my constituency office about the lack of consultation with residents on this issue and about the failure of Canada Post to answer basic questions about their plan.
There are still many pieces of this puzzle missing, yet Canada Post is going ahead in our riding, trying to finish the transition before the next election. They have yet to explain who will cover additional costs for things like sidewalks or lighting. They haven't said if they will do pedestrian or traffic safety analysis before installing the boxes. Other questions include who will pick up the tab for litter? Who will clean up the graffiti? Who will compensate home owners when their property values plummet when one of these boxes is plopped down in front of their house? I continue to call for a halt to these conversions and for the Conservatives to order Canada Post to use its nearly $200 m. profit from last year to maintain this essential public service and to preserve good paying jobs in our community.
On a more positive note, my colleague Meagan Leslie’s motion to ban microbeads from personal care products was passed unanimously in the House this month. The scientific evidence is clear. Toxins stick to these tiny plastic beads and they are accumulating at alarming levels in our local waters. These microbeads present a threat to the entire marine food chain including salmon and orcas. Unfortunately after voting for our motion to declare microbeads toxic immediately and therefore banned under the Environment Act as several US states have already done, by the next morning the Conservatives had reneged and said the issue needs more study. You can listen to my speech about microbeads and the threats they pose to aquatic species and our food supply. You can also sign a petition. I urge you to stop buying products containing microbeads and let the companies know why. Check your toothpaste and facial scrub!
Finally the arrival of spring also means it’s tax season. If you are a senior, a person with a disability, or a person with low income there are a number of organizations in the Greater Victoria region that are able to help you with your tax return. You can click here for a list of tax clinics that will assist you with filling out forms and answer your questions.
That's this month's somewhat grim report. As it is spring, take some time out for gardening or whatever else sustains you, but don't forget that nothing we do in Parliament can be effective in building a better Canada without an engaged and informed citizenry. Thanks for reading this newsletter.
Randall Garrison, MP
Esquimalt - Juan de Fuca