Petitions are Fundamental to the Democratic Participation of Constituents
A petition is an instrument of the democratic process, available to all Canadians, which enables them to exercise their fundamental right of freedom of expression.
When I am sent a petition by my constituents, whether I agree with the subject matter or not, I have one obligation as their Member of Parliament: to table the petition in the House of Commons. In other words, it is not my place to determine which constituents should be heard in Parliament and which should not. That is why I found it disconcerting that a recent Canadian Press story, published in this paper on November 20th, suggested that Members of Parliament were using petitions to further their own agenda rather than expressing the views of their constituents. I regret that this is the impression readers have been given since, in my view, it is not how the majority of MPs view the petition process.
For the record, I do not solicit petitions of any kind. The petitions I receive and table in the House of Commons come directly from the constituents of Kelowna-Lake Country and reflect a number of different issues, some more controversial than others, and often on issues that have been voted on previously in other parliaments.
In my experience as a Member of Parliament, the repeated introduction of contentious issues in Parliament is less the sign of an agenda and more reflective of Canadians’ struggle to resolve challenging moral and ethical dilemmas. In truth, when facing such dilemmas, it can be as difficult to find a decisive answer within ourselves, let alone amongst each other.
In a tolerant and peaceful society we ought to keep in mind the fundamental freedoms, which so many have fought to protect: the freedom of conscience and religion; the freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication; the freedom of peaceful assembly; and the freedom of association.
As uncomfortable as it can be, respecting these fundamental freedoms means we will always be exposed to differing points of view. We can tire of re-opening controversial debates in Parliament, but surely we should never tire of allowing Canadians to exercise their democratic right to be heard.
Enhanced EI Benefits, Food Safety Receiving Support in the House of Commons
Constituents will be pleased to know that all sides of the House of Commons are working together to support C-44 and S-11.
C- 44, the Helping Families in Need Act will allow parents to take leave when a child is critically ill or dies or disappears as the result of a crime and to provide benefits to those who are providing care or support to their critically ill child. This enhances the current benefits already available through EI including regular benefits, maternal and parental benefits, sickness benefits, compassionate care benefits, special benefits for the self-employed, and fish benefits.
S-11, the Safe Food for Canadians Act, will provide the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) with stronger modernized tools to better protect Canadians by finding products faster in recall situations so they can be removed from the shelves quicker. Tabled in the Senate last June, the Safe Food for Canadians Act improves food oversight by instituting a more consistent inspection regime across all food commodities; implements tougher penalties for activities that put the health and safety of Canadians at risk; gives inspectors an enhanced ability to compel food producers to provide information in a timely manner and standardized format; gives the CFIA the authority to require traceability systems for food producers and processors by way of regulation; provides better control over imports and exports; and strengthens food traceability throughout the value chain.
Should you have questions regarding the above information or about any federally-related issue, please do not hesitate to contact my office at [email protected] or by calling 250 470-5075. For more information on Bills C-44 and S-11, or to learn more about submitting a petition to Parliament, please go to www.parl.gc.ca.
Ron Cannan is the Member of Parliament for Kelowna-Lake Country
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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.
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