Another tough week in Ottawa

Last week was a tough one in Ottawa as the Fair Elections Act battle heated up in committee, huge job cuts at the CBC were announced, and Canada lost one of its best parliamentarians.
Key developments in the ongoing fair elections debate came at committee hearings in both the House and the Senate, where a host of experts testified as to how this bad bill would undermine our democratic right to cast a vote in free and fair elections.
The committees examining Bill C-23 heard from several witnesses—and not one offered support for this legislation. The most notable witness to testify on C-23 was former Auditor General Sheila Fraser.
Fraser retired from her position as Auditor General in 2011 after an eventful 10 years in the position, which saw her investigate many government scandals, including the Liberal “sponsorship scandal” that was, in part, responsible for bringing the current government to power.
In her comments before both committees, Ms. Fraser was quite critical of Bill C-23 and of the conduct of Democratic Reform minister Pierre Poilievre for remarks he has made regarding Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand.
Poilievre has said publicly that he believe Mayrand opposes C-23 because “He is fighting to retain this power, making some incredible claims, and inventing some novel legal principles to do it.”
Get that? The CEO at Elections Canada is just a power-hungry civil servant and the Conservatives are out to save democracy. Right.
Parliament now is on a two-week break, but the hearings on C-23 will continue once Parliament resumes.
You can support our efforts to stop C-23 by visiting www.saveyourvote.ca to sign our petition, and share it with your friends and neighbours.
The other big policy news this past week was another round of huge cuts announced at the CBC and Radio Canada. After losing the rights to “Hockey Night in Canada” and the NHL, the cuts were another staggering blow for our struggling public broadcaster.
In all, 657 positions were cut this time around and the network announced it no longer would be bidding to broadcast professional sports such as the CFL or curling.
Since Stephen Harper’s Conservatives came to power, more than $200 million in cuts have been made to the annual budget of the public broadcaster—about half the amount that was cut during the Chrétien and Martin Liberal years but enough to effectively eliminate many local stations and severely affect programming.
The latest round of cuts follows the 800 positions eliminated by the Conservatives in 2009 and the 650 jobs they axed in 2012.
To say that we soon may not have a public broadcaster at all would not be exaggerating the plight of the 75-year-old institution, and I can assure you that New Democrats will continue to fight to stop further cuts.
Finally, I was shocked and saddened by the sudden loss of former federal Finance minister Jim Flaherty, who passed away in Ottawa last week at the age of 64.
Flaherty, who I’ve personally spent a lot of time criticizing on policy and political grounds, was highly-regarded as a person by most people who knew him outside of his official roles.
He always made time to chat with MPs of all stripes, and was as good-natured as they come at the personal level.
It seems unfair that he passed away so suddenly just three weeks into his well-earned retirement, but he will be remembered as a tireless public servant and a good Canadian.
As I mentioned earlier, the next two weeks are a parliamentary break, so I will be home in the riding to celebrate Easter, attend some local events and meetings, and take a small personal break.
If you see me around, be sure to say “hi” and have a great week.

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