Weekly Commentary  

Stockwell Day's letter to constituents

Dear constituents of the Okanagan, Nicola and Highland Valleys,

By now I'm sure most of you have heard the news of my decision as your MP.
First, even though it has received broad coverage I do not want to presume that each of you is aware.

After all, some people do things like enjoying the stunning natural beauty of our constituency and may not have seen any news over the weekend. Others may be so understandably focused on issues of much deeper import like the human tragedy ongoing in Japan that other things have just faded away.

So, first, below is the actual official statement I released over the weekend which deals with the matter at hand.

Feel free to scan it and then read some 'unofficial' comments which follow it, directed to you, my constituents.

West Kelowna, BC
March 12, 2011

It will be exactly 25 years ago on March 17th, St. Patrick's Day that I was honoured with my first nomination to public office.

Now, after 14 years in provincial government and almost eleven years at the federal level it is time to move on. I hereby announce that I will not be seeking re-election at the end of this mandate.

Though there would be exciting and satisfying days ahead in public office, after prayerful consideration, Valorie and I feel at peace with our decision.

Along with memories which I will forever cherish, I will also forever carry a debt of unrepayable gratitude to so many people

To my wife, who more than any person on earth is responsible for each and every success I have been allowed to experience. Her unlimited inner strength, unfailing love and untold reserves of grace have seen us through the most incredible challenges and the most wonderful breakthroughs.

To our dear family members, who have been arm in arm with us every step of the way, we would have been lost without them

To so many supporters, workers and colleagues through the years who gave so unselfishly in too many ways to mention

To constituents in the cities and towns from two of Canada's most beautiful provinces, for their input, guidance and trust in electing me on 9 separate occasions to represent them

And to Prime Minister Harper for allowing me the privilege to serve under his outstanding leadership. That leadership has led our nation through the most troubling economic times in over half a century.

His belief (and insistence within his caucus) that every MP must be allowed equal ground to speak up vigorously for their constituents is the foundation of decision making upon which we develop the policies for our nation.

I wish the Prime Minister full success in the days ahead in the efforts on behalf of all Canadians in maintaining a Canada that stands strong and free.

And I pledge my ongoing, whole hearted support in that shared pursuit.

"They desired a better country."

Stockwell Day, M.P.

Since the release of that statement and the subsequent coverage, Val and I have been overwhelmed (and humbled) by the number of calls, e-mails and 'wishers of well’ wherever we go.

Don't worry, even though I am allowing it all to go to my heart I will not let it go to my head. (After all, I've been around long enough to know that there are also those who are delighted to see me go, for any number of reasons.)

There are a couple of constituent based questions that keep repeating more than others that I will respond to now.

First, am I stepping down immediately?

No, I will continue with the mandate which a majority of you as voters have honoured me with. That means, until the upcoming election, whenever it is coming up.

The position of the government on this is that we think most Canadians do not feel this is the best time for an election. We would prefer to stay focused on maintaining our economy as the strongest in the industrialized world and keeping the momentum on job creation going.

As you are aware, other political leaders are indicating they will try to force an election. Whenever it happens, I will be here for you as always as your MP until an election is called.

Second, are we planning to move away? No plans to do that. As Val says, "Why would anyone want to leave Paradise?"

Third, somebody said, "After all these years in politics you must be burnt out and stressed."

Not at all. Sure there are times, as with any job, when I have felt fatigued.
But I can honestly say that serving as you as MP is energizing and gratifying. In other words, you keep me going.

The time goes quickly, but as a friend once told me, "Life is not short, it lasts forever."

So, knowing there's another life after politics, I'll keep doing my best as MP until it's time for change.

(Oh, and in response to another question, Val has informed me she has no plans to run for the position, even though I know she would get way more votes than I do.)

This week I will be in the riding for meetings and events, then Vancouver, Toronto, and Edmonton.

Call me if you need to get together. We'll make it happen.



P.S: Just saw a guy on the local news saying Tim's coffee cups are going to overwhelm the landfills of the nation. Appreciate his concern given I just published last week a list of initiatives we're doing for the environment.

However, also just saw some numbers that said given how small a Tim's cup is when it's compressed, at the present rate of cross Canada consumption it would take 385 years to fill one hole 25 feet deep the size of one Canadian football field.

I'm good with that. Now I’m off to grab a large coffee, single cream and hopefully win a free doughnut!

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Security, abuse, hope

"I've avoided marriage because I don't want to leave a widow and orphans." Quite a statement to be made from a handsome, up and coming political star.

Three weeks ago I had the privilege of having lunch with a few colleagues as we hosted the young Cabinet Minister who had spoken those words.

His country? Pakistan. His concern? That he might someday be assassinated, maybe by someone in his own party.

His crime? Being a Christian. You see in Pakistan, as in many other countries, Islam is the only permissible religion. It is actually a matter of law. The legislated sanction can be death.

Hard to believe. Many of these nations are modern, well educated, high tech and global traders. Yet, they actually make it a capital crime to be Jewish, Buddhist, Christian, or any faith other than Islam.

How can they be so barbaric? And utterly ignorant about history.

No regime that has ever tried to squash freedom of religion has ever been successful in the long run. They always collapse, often violently and usually from within.

Our Pakistani colleague spoke to us in earnest about his hope for change in his own country. He was going to continue to advocate for religious freedom and legislative change in his country which he loved so much.

His visit to Canada was to raise the profile of this life and death problem. His hope being that international awareness of the problem would bring increased pressure on his and similar governments to drop their inhumane policies against people of faith.

We got an e-mail from him last week that he was back in Pakistan. He thanked us for our support and encouragement. He said he would continue to stand up for the protection of people of all faiths. He asked us to pray that his courage would not grow weak. After he signed off the e-mail he drove to his mother's home to ask her not to worry about him.

Following the visit he stepped out onto her driveway where he was machine gunned to death by a squad of assassins screaming "Die infidel!"

I will join others this week in a memorial service in Ottawa. His funeral took place in Pakistan.

At the memorial our only solace will be in knowing that history will eventually take its course. And when the insanity of those 'blasphemy laws' has been swept away, the name Shabhaz Bhatti will be held in high esteem and gratitude.

While we rejoice in the hard fought freedoms we enjoy here at home I was reminded that no society is ever totally free from those who are driven by hate and malice. The reminder was in the form of an announcement I made this week in Vancouver.

When I was Minister of Public Safety in 2007 we launched a 3-year pilot program called the Security Infrastructure Program. This project shares the costs of installing security cameras, monitoring equipment and other protective devices to community facilities or places of worship that have been at risk of hate motivated crimes or vandalism.

Two facilities in BC received funds for those security costs this week. One was a Jewish community centre (open to the public), the other a First Nations friendship centre.

Glad we could do it. Sad that it was necessary.

Speaking of security Saturday night was an evening celebrating the fragile journey to recovery for women who have been hurt from abuse. I can tell you we left the event feeling uplifted and encouraged. A big 'Congrats' to the South Okanagan Women In Need Society (SOWINS).

We heard one testimony after another of women whose lives had been shattered who were now determined and equipped to regain their destinies and pursue their dreams.

Not an easy road, but one on which they will not have to walk alone.

A big-time 'shout out' to all the counsellors and supporters who make this happen.

On the economic front I tabled the Main Estimates of government spending for 2011. That's all the detailed spending plans of all departments for the year ahead.

For the first time in 10 years the spending is estimated to be less (by $10Billion) than the year before. And we'll do it without cutting our people programs like health and education funding transfers to the provinces or Senior’s and EI benefits.

We'll report to you every quarter to see that we stay on track.

And hey, 'thanks' to the elementary kids and teacher in Kelowna who found Trixie, the dog who was stolen from Merritt and missing for 17 days.

You made a family very happy!

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Doctors up, temperatures down

Waiting lines for family doctors will get a little bit shorter with a recent federal investment.

I was honoured to be joined by a group of BC doctors, academics and provincial Minister Mary McNeil in Vancouver this week for the announcement.

It was a $5.9 million federal contribution to a program operated out of the UBC medical school. It will mean up to 40 more doctors being trained as family physicians with some of them going to work in rural areas of British Columbia where there is a chronic need for acute and family care.

More good news along those lines - were you aware that UBC's medical degree program will begin this September right here in the Okanagan? Congrats to the decision makers at UBC and to our local UBC board representatives for having the vision to see a medical school situated right here in the Valley. Paradise just got more heavenly.

Speaking of health care, Dr. Gerry Karr and his happy band of planners pulled off another successful Health Fair this weekend. I took the time to walk through and was impressed with the scope of health care providers and products available to us.

Though I had my leg cast removed a couple of days before the fair a number of people were offering me everything from physiotherapy to natural health products to accelerate my recovery. I am a fan of both (physio and NHP's) however respectfully declined all offers as I am already in a rehabilitation program (for my leg that is).

However, the positive vibes at the fair were almost good enough as I definitely felt much better just for having been there. Try it next year if you missed this one. It may work for you too.

Want to see a cool restoration of a beautiful heritage building? Check out the Shatford Centre. I was there this week to let them know that the funds they were hoping for to complete their ambitious overhaul of this wonderful building have been approved and the cheque is in the mail. More than just an arts venue, this centre will be a training school, helping people with artistic abilities learn to develop their craft, along with the entrepreneurial skills to survive in a tough market.

The people running the program obviously are very open to whom they will allow in. They let me jam on the drums with a bluesy sounding rag tag crew of wanna-bees, could-bees and already-bees. They took me in for a few fun moments. The programs at Shatford will be taking in a lot more people with real potential and will set them on their own pathways to success.

I was able to join Prime Minister Harper who was in BC this week with some key announcements. One had to do with a significant infrastructure project which will house the Canadian Forces new contingent of helicopters to replace the hardy but aging Sea Kings.

The PM also wanted to see for himself one of the ships which was used last year in a human trafficking operation bringing several hundred illegals into the country. He was visibly upset to see what kind of life threatening conditions and coercion many people (including children) had been subjected to.

It underlined the fact that the legislation we have introduced to deter this type of activity is clearly necessary. I have to admit I still do not comprehend why the opposition parties are opposed to this. It would protect the integrity of our immigration system and prevent these smugglers from even beginning their predatory voyages in the first place.

Along these lines I continue to get calls from constituents asking if our government is supporting a Liberal private member's Bill which would allow seniors who arrive here as immigrants to collect senior citizen pensions after only three years of living in Canada. The present limit is 10 years. I have been clear on this in the past and our position will not change.

We are opposed to this Bill.

Some local young people engaged in a noble project of surveying people to see what types of individual measures are being taken to enhance the environment. First, I commend anyone, especially our youth, who get involved in important matters of civic life.

Secondly, I hope they are giving credit to every taxpayer they talk to because it is the working people of our nation who contribute from every one of their paycheques to the billions of dollars the government is investing in a vast array of environmental programs.

For an exhaustive list of environmental initiatives, check out Environment Canada's or NRCan's websites. I can tell you that as I go door to door throughout our riding I get to see firsthand the significant steps taken by so many people in their own homes.

Sometimes it is just a matter of planning. After selling our condo and building a house a few years ago we were able to install a high efficiency furnace and water tank which requires no venting through the roof. Along with the installation of the latest in pellet burning stoves to reduce overall heating costs it all adds up to a highly efficient, low emission home.

I do however sympathize with many people I talk to who get confused with the varying claims out there regarding what is or is not more or less injurious to the environment.

One gentleman had made a sizable investment into the bottled water industry after carefully reading all the dire threats about tap water. Now he is finding business is difficult due to a shift by environmentalists and health advocates who claim it is healthier to drink from our taps.

The latest conundrum for us as lay people is the scientific study recently done by one of the UK's own environmental agencies. It makes a fact backed claim that the use of plastic bags has less of an impact on the environment than either paper or cloth bags. When so many citizens are willing to take steps to protect the environment we need to make sure all claims are solidly proven by the scientific method.

On that note, just last week I announced funding to a plant in Merritt which manufactures low emission wood pellets. Jobs for the Nicola Valley, recycling for the forest industry and less emissions into the environment.

I also caught the final game of the season of Merritt's talented Centennials. Three of our riding's junior teams are in the first round of the playoffs. As a way to warm up on these record breaking low temperature evenings I can heartily recommend taking in one or more of these games if you haven't lately.

So you may be wondering which team I cheer for without losing votes as the Member of Parliament for the area.

All I'll say is "Go Vees go! Go Warriors go! Go Cents go!”

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Canada making waves

It may not have made front pages, but Canada's Navy was front and center on the high seas this week. Our sailors and pilots played a key role in a major Caribbean drug take down.

Using the HMCS Toronto, a chopper and surveillance planes we were involved in an operation that stopped major drug shippers in their tracks, seizing a load of cocaine in the process.

These are high risk events that require courage, professionalism and skill, especially at sea. The effects of shutting down a narcotics pipe line ripple all the way back to the nerve centers of the dealers and manufacturers.

It doesn't mean it scares the whole network of drug lords enough to make them totally shut down. But for a while it does put a major dent in their capabilities to have their poisonous product dumped onto our streets here at home.

So here's a salute to our troops for once again having an impact and keeping our world a little more secure.

Also on the world front, Canada played a lead role at the G-20 meetings in Paris this week.

At the risk of over complicating things, I can tell you this was a strategic set of meetings to try to agree on what measures should be put in place to monitor a country's debt levels and sound the alarm to avoid future financial meltdowns

A number of the key players at the meeting are saying it was Jim Flaherty, our Finance Minister who came up with key proposals to keep China and the US "in play".

NDP Leader Jack Layton was for a while this week looking and sounding like he might decide to support our upcoming Budget. Then by week's end he was saying he would vote against it.

All I'll say is that we are not pushing for a federal election. We believe that most of you want us to stay focused on jobs and the economy. That's our plan.

As a matter of fact that's pretty well what I heard as I was door knocking this weekend.

I've explained in this paper before that I door knock year round. It’s a great way to stay in touch and to get a sense of how people are feeling about the issues.

With no fear or reprisals and with no cameras around, I have found people are pretty good at getting right to the point with me. That was certainly the case this weekend. A number of people brought up the issue of a federal election. And they were very clear. They don't think we need one.

I assured them, and I'm assuring you, we don't think this is the time for an election.

Our economy continues to do well, but there are still risks globally. We need to stay focused. As the time for the Federal Budget draws closer I hope the Opposition parties will see it that way too.

I'll be in Vancouver this week with the Prime Minister, then back to the riding mid-week for meetings and some announcements.

Don't forget on Tuesday evening your phone will ring around 6:30. It will be me inviting you to stay on the line for a “Telephone Town Hall Meeting”. Hope you can join in!

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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