More hearings on forestry

This week was another busy one in Ottawa with forestry hearings, work on the pension file, and the Conservatives working hard to stoke fear among Canadians to promote their unnecessary and intrusive Bill C-51 at committee.
This past week at the Natural Resources committee, the forestry hearings continued. And with the focus on Ontario and Quebec, there were some familiar faces who appeared as witnesses.
I was very happy to see Atikokan Mayor Dennis Brown and Joe Hanlon, who is the project manager with the Wawasum Group, appear this week.
Dennis and Joe shared their knowledge and experience about the infrastructure demands of small communities, the difficulties they face following a mill closure, and several ways to help First Nation youth gain a foothold in the forestry sector and build a meaningful career.
I’m certain the points they raised during their testimony will be reflected in the committee’s final report.
Work on the pension file also is picking up as I prepare for consultations with a number of groups and individuals in the coming weeks.
When my office sent out invitations to the various organizations, we asked them to prepare proposals for strengthening the “three pillars” of our pension retirement system, namely: public pension plans (CPP, OAS, and GIS), private pension plans (such as defined benefit plans negotiated between private-sector employers and workers), and private individual retirement savings plans (RRSPs and RRIFs).
I will be holding several consultations, after which I will table motions and/or bills to address what many call the “crisis” in retirement security in Canada.
If you have any ideas for how to strengthen any or all of the “three pillars,” do not hesitate to send them my way via e-mail at john.rafferty@parl.gc.ca
Sadly, the fear campaign launched by the Conservatives to generate support for their dangerous and over-reaching Bill C-51 also kicked into high gear this past week.
I’ve never really seen anything like it before actually. A sitting prime minister, whose job it is to protect and reassure Canadians during difficult times, has been actively trying to scare the living heck out of everyone in order to ram through a bill he knows would violate many of our fundamental rights and freedoms.
For instance, in the House of Commons Public Safety committee, Public Safety minister Stephen Blaney said that we must crack down on free speech because “the Holocaust started with words.”
Unfortunately, Mr. Blaney failed to mention that the French Revolution, which established modern democracy, also “started with words,” but I suppose that wouldn’t have helped their fear campaign out very much.
I understand many of you feel that law-abiding citizens should have nothing to fear from their government snooping in their e-mail and monitoring/filtering Internet traffic, or our spy agencies having new powers to bypass the Charter of Rights and freedoms to legally “disrupt” the lives of Canadians.
If you don’t break the law, then why fear the government, right?
The problem is that laws change—and frequently. In fact, in one Conservative omnibus bill last year, more than 50 laws were changed at once.
The fact is that what is legal today may be illegal tomorrow, and the only things that protect us from the government are our constitutionally-protected rights and freedoms.
What Bill C-51 is seeking to do is not just change the law, but also make it legal for our police and spy agencies to violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The government argues these changes make us safer, but the argument that they must violate our Charter rights in order to protect our Charter rights is absurd.
We need look no further than China and Russia, where citizens enjoy far fewer rights and freedoms yet still have fallen victim to dozens upon dozens of major terrorist attacks in the past decade.
New Democrats strongly support the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and we will continue to work to ensure balance between our need for greater security and our rights and freedoms.

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