More town hall meetings planned for this month

By John Rafferty

We have a lot of things on the go this week and next, so I’d like to touch on a few of them in this space.
First off, my heart goes out to the employees who are leaving their positions or losing their jobs at CBC Thunder Bay. My office is always open to you, so please drop by or call to see if there is any way we can help.
Please know that I am extremely angry about these cuts; they were unnecessary and heartless, and the Harper government is to blame for both the job losses and the reduction in the quantity and quality of our local CBC programming.
These cuts are the result of a drop in advertising revenue and the government’s refusal to lend the CBC $60 million from future funding allotments to cover the steep and unexpected decline in revenue.
The Harper Conservatives aren’t even prepared to offer a loan to our public broadcaster, yet they’re preparing to offer cash or tax cuts to the private ones.
Needless to say, my New Democrat colleagues and I will work to force the government to reconsider the bridge loan proposal because we believe the CBC offers an essential service to Northwestern Ontario—and we think the families of the affected workers deserve better.
Meanwhile, the forestry troubles in our riding also continue. Abitibi is having more problems making its quarterly loan payments while Buchanan has been forced to cut the last 40 paid positions and let everyone go without severance or termination pay.
Our federal government just tabled a budget that offered nothing to these and other struggling forestry manufacturing companies. It passed, but only with the support of the Liberal party which did not even have the courage to demand a single change.
I wrote to the natural resources minister three weeks ago and asked her to convene a national forestry summit. The finance and natural resource committees in the House of Commons, industry, labour, and others have been calling for a national summit for years.
Despite the calls from a variety of sources and my recent letter, the minister has not responded and a summit has not been called.
I will continue to press her to convene a summit, and for her government to make EI more accessible during the current crisis and beyond.
I also would like to use this column to announce I again will be travelling across the riding to hold a series of workshops and town hall meetings in early April.
The workshop portion of these meetings will deal with explaining and signing eligible people up for the disability tax credit. People with one of nine long-term disabilities can collect as much as $1,100 a year–and more if they seek retroactive credits.
Anyone who has problems with seeing, speaking, hearing, walking, bowel or bladder functions, feeding, dressing, or performing mental functions necessary for everyday life may be eligible for the credit.
I highly recommend attending these sessions if you have any health issues related to the above disabilities or know anyone who has.
The second and third hours of the April meetings will be town hall sessions devoted to the economy, the recession, issues affecting the middle-class, and any other issues you see fit to discuss.
I am very interested in hearing what you think about the current state of affairs, as well as what you think I should be focusing my efforts on while I am in Ottawa.
Dates and locations of the town hall meetings include Wednesday, April 8 at the Pioneer Centre in Atikokan, Thursday, April 9 at the Fort Frances Volunteer Bureau, Tuesday, April 14 at the Emo Legion, Wednesday, April 15 at Our Lady of the Way School in Stratton, and Thursday, April 16 at the Rainy River Legion.
All the meetings will run from 6-9 p.m.
Thanks again for reading, and have a great week.

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