Standing up for democracy

Last week saw me host a pair of town-hall meetings on veterans’ affairs in Thunder Bay and Fort Frances at the same time the NDP began our push for public consultations on the so-called “Fair Elections Act.”
I was happy to have been joined by Peter Stoffer for our town-hall meetings. He is the MP for Sackville-Eastern Shore in Nova Scotia and the NDP critic for veterans affairs.
I can think of no one better to have had at our meetings as Peter has served as our veterans’ critic for 15 years and held 10 different Veterans Affairs ministers to account over that time.
He is a tireless advocate for Canada’s veterans, and has worked on every sort of issue faced by active and retired personnel that you can imagine.
The most common concern we heard from those who attended the meetings was related to the various cuts that have occurred to the Veterans Affairs department, including the cutting of direct program funding, the reduction of staff, and the closing of the nine regional offices, including the one in Thunder Bay.
People just don’t believe the Conservatives when they say these cuts will not result in reduced service for Canada’s veterans. It defies basic logic and I would say that the people we spoke with know that they are being misled at best—and taken for fools at worst.
These meeting were one of many for Peter as he is touring the country and talking to Canada’s veterans from coast to coast to coast. When these meeting wrap, he will brief our caucus on what Canadians—and, most importantly, Canadian veterans—are saying about these cuts and what policies, action, and leadership they are looking for from the next government in Ottawa.
Meanwhile, New Democrats also began our push to have public consultations on the Conservative government’s controversial new Fair Elections Act.
It’s bad enough that this bill makes it more difficult for hundreds of thousands of Canadians to vote, and would change the rules governing elections to help their own party (i.e., making sure Elections Canada can’t investigate future robocall complaints).
The Harper Conservatives, however, also have shortened the time allotted for debate and limited the number of witnesses who can testify about the impacts of the bill.
But hey, you know, it’s only our elections we’re talking about, right?
New Democrats think a bill that fundamentally changes the way elections are held in this country needs a full public debate and to hear from Canadians from all walks of life.
As such, Craig Scott, the NDP’s critic for democratic and parliamentary reform, has tabled a motion, which will be debated and hopefully passed sometime this week.
So it was a week where I held public meetings locally while my NDP colleagues worked to have public hearings on a proposed new elections bill that restricts the democratic rights of hundreds of thousands of Canadians.
I guess if this past week had a theme, it would have to be standing up for democracy, which I think was time and effort well-spent.