On The Issues
Our Rights and Freedoms
"We are not just standing up for hunters, sports shooters, trappers, farmers, athletes, gun collectors, we are these people." While I have said and done much about the fundamental importance of firearms rights before and since the swiss army rifle incident, many have asked for more details about actions I have taken.
First let me say that what you get with me is a straight shooter (yep, bad pun, but it’s the right term). I will never tell you what you want to hear . . . unless it happens to be true.
What you also don't get with me is a one-issue pony. As important as this issue with the swiss army rifles is, it is only a symptom of the problem. Arbitrary and useless gun control has implications that go far beyond our ability to hunt and target shoot. it is a violation of property rights and property rights are fundamental to all other rights and freedoms. But firearms are an important kind of property, and limiting 'the right to bear arms' (I know, American phrases and ideas are taboo in Canada, but if the principle is correct I don't much care - I'll adopt it and love it as my own) is especially important to guard against. (As my friend from Zimbabwe who now lives in Canada can attest - a few years ago he came home to find his house surrounded by soldiers telling him his house no longer belonged to him, because whites were no longer allowed to own property. This happened after years of gradual increases on gun control and ammunition rationing, all done in the name of public safety)
But it goes both ways, just as gun control/firearms rights issues have implications that impact many other aspects of our lives, there are other laws and government affairs that can have an implication on our rights to own firearms. Any time the wrong jurisdiction makes decisions over any matter, our freedom is threatened. Something as simple as Parks Canada unilaterally declaring a certain species to need protection, or Health Canada unilaterally declaring you can't sell vitamin c in big jars, or the city not being able to have a say about whether gas drilling can take place within city limits. All of these issues, if they are ignored can have implications on gun control rights. The big problem is not just the actual decision but who makes it. Maybe the species should be protected, but we can't have park rangers making that legally binding decision.
My point is, if I am to protect our interests as firearms enthusiasts and lovers of freedom, it is not good enough that I fight for this issue, it is not good enough that I fight for gun freedom in general, I need to fight for the principles of freedom in every aspect of government.
It has been said 'talk is cheap' 'enough lip service' 'only action will suffice'.
The minute I learned about the issue I immediately consulted with the minister's office to find out what he knew and what his response was, which I then passed on to constituents. I also consulted with other Conservative MPs who were concerned about this issue - to discuss and explore options and to develop possible courses of action.
It’s not good enough to reverse the decision on the Swiss Army Rifles, it certainly isn’t good enough to just give amnesty to those affected. We need to take measures to prevent such decisions to be made in the future and to prevent decisions from being made in that way. We have suggested reforms that will do just that.
We have put together the petition that I have posted on my website – as have several other MPs.
Some may question the value of petitions, or expect that an MP would do more than post a petition, but actually pass the legislation that the petition calls for. And there is a big difference between drafting a bill and passing a bill. Besides getting the fix right, whatever policy changes we need to implement have to be sellable. And then it needs to be sold. One or two or even 57 MPs can’t just grit their teeth and change public policy out of force of will.
Any prospective MP who tells you that they will be able to fix everything is either willing to just tell you what you want to hear or he must imagine that he will have more power than the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister can only rule by consent and is bound by the laws and the Constitution. So neither he nor the public safety minister have the legal authority to simply turn over RCMP actions. Nor can either pass any legislation without the support of at least 155 other MPs.
I, too, wish this issue in particular and our burdensome and ineffective regularity system in general could be solved with swift and decisive action. But Canada is governed by a parliamentary democracy/ constitutional monarchy - a system deliberately set up so no single person can just make things happen. Indeed, what frustrates us so much about the Swiss Army Rifle scandal is that this principle of procedure and proper jurisdiction was ignored.
As you are all too aware, many politicians and a huge portion of public opinion not only feel our gun laws and restrictions are great the way they are, but many feel we need even more restrictions. So, in addition to needing to build consensus and support for the changes in parliament, since most politicians are ruled by public opinion, we need to build support for this cause among the general public. I have worked closely with MP Garry Breitkreuz, one of the leading champions to finally dismantle the long gun registry. He chairs the outdoor caucus, because he knows how important it is to make hunting and fishing viewed as acceptable and even well-loved forms of recreation if we are to win the battle for public opinion. This is the same reason I worked on the Heritage committee to support MP Norlock's Bill C-501 - An Act National Hunting, Trapping and Fishing Heritage Day Act. Many will say these actions are empty. I agree that they are not sufficient, that more needs to be done. But all of these efforts are required if we are to accomplish our goals. I'm sure you have all seen facebook and twitter conversations that make gun enthusiasts out to be wacko. I was called a nutjob last weekend for suggesting our gun laws need to be reformed.
I have also worked to promote M-452 which one of my colleagues (MP Cheryl Gallant) had tabled proposed legislation prior to the incident which would make it impossible for the RCMP or a CFO to unilaterally and arbitrarily reclassify firearms. This motion was developed in consultation with law-abiding gun owners and as a result of collaboration and consensus building among likeminded Conservative MPs with a common goal. (if you go to Gallant’s website you will see me in a list of 10 other MPs who seconded her motion.)
Is the Motion perfect? No. Would it solve all the problems? No - no single piece of legislation will. But I would rather get the motion on the floor, debate it, amend it, improve it and pass it rather than do nothing or refuse to act until a perfect bill that solves all the problems shows up.
Anyone can give you the talking points you are looking for after an incident. My work on this issue comes after years of already working with other likeminded gun rights enthusiasts in an effort to not just respond to incidents as they arise but to systematically change the culture and bit by bit, point by point revise the legislation around gun control, property rights and the respect for the rule of law and to ensure jurisdiction between branches and levels of government is respected.
It’s not all going to get fixed overnight. Convincing the government and parliament is only an important first step – we have the senate to deal with, the courts to deal with and the independent government agencies to deal with. And we don’t want to solve one abuse of jurisdiction by ignoring our own jurisdictional limitations.
Swiss Arms Rifle Reclassification
Second - while I'm not saying we are one step away from an outright dictatorship, dictatorships are always preceded by gun control - usually in the name of public safey.
Fourth - law enforcement should not make laws. Every free country separates the branches of government (legislative, executive and judicial). While this decision was wrong in itself - it is much worse that the duly elected representatives didn't make the decision. It is much more dangerous to let law enforcement write the laws than it is to let people own a firearm that has never been involved in a crime in Canada.
Fracking Within City Limits
Respect for jurisdictional authority is actually not a moot point - ask anyone who recalls the Pierre Trudeau's National Energy Program.
In fact whatever my or anyone's stand on fracking itself, the issue is complicated by the fact that the city government has no authority to stop or approve drilling within their city limits. I believe that the city should have a real say in the matter (beyond their limited power of protesting) and that if drilling does occur they should be able to negotiate a share in royalties. Perhaps local governments would have more autonomy over what happens in their own backyard if we did not think questions of jurisdictional authority were moot.
As for fracking, I am not against it in and of itself - but I support citizens' right to disagree. I encourage city residents to make an objective study of the practice and support or oppose the project as they see fit - and I suggest that their support or opposition is most effective when directed to those in authority to make the decision on the matter.
Canada's Prostitution Laws
Fortunately the federal government has appealed these decisions which are currently before the Supreme Court. Even if the Supreme Court overturns the decisions, Canada's prostitution laws are in dire need of reform. The focus has been mostly towards punishing the prostitute while the john gets off with at most a fine. Prostitution is clearly a form of sexual abuse. We are delusional if we believe that it is a victimless crime; merely a business transaction between consenting adults. We cannot hope to stem the tide of violence against women if we as a society accept the objectification of woman through prostitution as a legitimate choice, and if we continue to stigmatize and prosecute only the prostitute while the so called customer often receives no legal sanction.
Countries that have legalized and regulated prostitution have seen sexual exploitation, human trafficking and violence towards women and youth increase drastically. In contrast, countries that have criminalized the purchase of sex have seen a marked decrease in street prostitution and sex trafficking. One of the arguments for legalizing prostitution is it protects prostitutes and allows them go to the police for protection against violence and coercion from johns and pimps without fear of prosecution. The Nordic model of prostitution addresses this concern by tackling prostitution and sex trafficking by limiting the demand for commercial sex by criminalizing the purchase of sex while decriminalizing the prostitute. This model recognizes that the vast majority of prostitutes are victims. The Nordic Model of prostitution is also widely supported throughout Canada by police officers, faith groups, women’s organizations, First Nations, and victim support groups.
I want to know YOUR opinion on this issue. Click on the link to complete a short survey.
Freezing EI Rates for Job Creation
The fact is, the rate freeze will put, (I should say 'leave' - governments never give or provide new money) $600 million more in the pockets of job creators and workers than projected. So, while it is tempting to say that a $34,000/year salary for example, translates into 8800 jobs (only half of the $600 million is saved by employers) and it would be tempting for the government to claim all the credit; but that's not actually how things work.
It just puts that $600 million back into the economy - undirected, and without guarantee (there is no such thing as a guarantee in life) - but that $600 million gets put to work, and one of the things that happens is that companies hire more people.
It's true that the premium saved on EI doesn't come close to covering the costs of a new hire, but to suggest that the savings are therefore likely to have little or no impact on job creation, fails to grasp the mentality of job creators. We are under no illusion that employers are going to see how much money the freeze saves them and when it adds up to a year’s salary, hire another person. The fact is however, that's rarely if ever how employers decide whether to hire. They don't hire someone because they have enough money left over to do so, that is, they don't use their profits as a hiring fund; rather they hire if they think it will increase their profitability . . . and the answer to that question depends on many factors including the many factors that contribute to the total cost of hiring, among which is the cost of EI premiums.
Certainly, if a company had 1000 employees knowing your EI costs were going to go up $34,000 a year, it may cause them to hesitate before they hire more people. It contributes to a company's profitability which contributes to a company's ability to expand (not to mention their motivation to expand).
To be clear, I never said that this premium freeze would create jobs, but help spur (i.e support) job creation. The fact is that the subject of this announcement is not done in isolation but is one of many factors contributing to a strong economy and job creation. And since no single factor alone determines whether or not a single, particular job will be 'created' we cannot actually point to a dollar for dollar, job for job, direct connection between this and each of the number of jobs we estimate this will help create. But this doesn't mean it doesn't help.
"The Conservative Party Rebellion"
The media is committed to their story and strive to squeeze every action and every word into their narrative – and they can because their narrative is self-contradictory. On the one hand, they say that the party is a dictatorship, and criticize conservatives for not speaking freely. (They assume we aren’t speaking freely because we typically agree.) But when there is a disagreement, or a discussion they call it a crisis of leadership, a rift, a rebellion.
The media interviewed me yesterday, about the so-called rift and I can assure you that they were not trying to find out what happened but were trying to get any Conservative to confirm either that we are being muzzled or that there is crisis of unity. If Harper does nothing to oppose the abortion related motion, they say he is using backbenchers to advance his hidden agenda. If he does anything to oppose it, they say he is a dictator. The media asked me if Warawa was being muzzled – he spoke freely in the House of Commons, he speaks freely to the media – he is still a member of the party. He doesn’t agree with the prime minister. But he doesn’t have to.
During this parliament the NDP have had 3 of its MPs actually jump ship and leave their party – in large part because their differing views from the leader should not be tolerated – yet there is no story in the media about a leadership crisis, or a crisis of unity. Nor is there criticism that Mulcair rules with an iron fist and allows no dissension.
When Conservatives have a discussion about anything in public where we don’t see eye to eye they try to turn it into a rebellion or a rift.
The fact is the conservative party allows free votes on any bill or motion that doesn’t contradict central government policy. No other party does that. It is the only party that allows a full free vote on issues of conscience. The fact is, conservative members vote against the so-called ‘party line’ more than any other party. And yet we remain united – and we remain united precisely because of these freedoms. This is what most Canadians want from their representatives. They want a government that is united, that isn’t consumed with infighting and petty politics but at the same time they want their individual representatives to have the freedom to deliberate as they see fit.
I spoke in favour of any party’s privilege to decide for itself how it runs – that does not mean that I favour an iron fisted rule – but that a party has the right to choose that.
Yesterday, when I told the whip that I would be voting against the official party position, the whip thanked me for letting him know and shrugged and said – it’s your vote. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.
Dying With Dignity
of course, this can really only mean that attempted suicide is not illegal. The argument is made, then, that it is discriminatory to make assisted suicide illegal, - able bodied people have the 'right' to commit suicide, then to be fair, people who need assistance should have that same right.
Closure of Veterans Affairs Offices
What is absolutely deplorable about this situation is the willingness of some to willfully and knowingly deceive veterans in order to be able to manipulate them and use them as political cannon fodder.
Veterans are a selfless group with very little concern for their own wellbeing, willing to sacrifice all, if necessary, for the good of their fellow countrymen. They deserve our gratitude and respect - and of course real, tangible help and support when they need it. And I will not support any measure that is not in harmony with these principles.
I can tell you with confidence that the story being portrayed by the opposition and by the media is NOT accurate. The changes with Veterans Services are not cuts; the changes really will make veterans services more accessible by more veterans, in a more effective and efficient way.
This does not excuse the public disrespect that has been shown to our veterans. While the Minister must have been frustrated that he was being hotly criticized for changes that will actually improve the lives of most veterans, that frustration should have been entirely directed at the deceivers and not to the deceived.
They will tell you that we are shutting down 8 offices, what they don't tell you that it is to make room to expand services and make them more accessible to more veterans. As of February there will be over 650 locations across Canada where veterans can receive in-person service from the Government of Canada – which is 16 times higher than in 2006. Veterans who cannot access support at the established centres can receive in-person service in the comfort of their own homes. This is in addition to the 5 billion dollars of additional new funding our Government has dedicated to veteran support since taking office. The media and opposition will leave that out too.
The offices closing share three things. 1- Generally fewer than 10 visits per day and most being drop off of forms (not accurately tracked so this is an estimate provided through observation); 2- A case load of 145 or fewer Case managed veterans in the area (generally only case managed veterans require the administrative assistance the offices provide); and 3- Each VAC office has a nearby Service Canada office (in the case of 5 of them, the Service Canada office is in the same building)
Service Canada offices in the cities of closure will have a VAC Client Service Agent added to the office. This change is based on feedback from the veterans attending the October 2013 PSAC event. Given the few visits per day, one trained VAC worker will allow a seamless transition
In an effort to help veterans understand what is really happening with veterans services, and to answer their questions, hear their concerns, and seek their recommendations for improvements, I will be meeting with veterans in the riding in an environment away from cameras and microphones, away from any political posturing. My staff is still working on scheduling the meetings, but if there are veterans in our area that you know, please let me know so we can be sure they are invited.
Swiss Arms Rifle Reclassification
Government of Canada News
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Canada Announces Emergency Contribution to Fight Ebola Virus Outbreak
The Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, the Honourable John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of Health, today announced a joint funding contribution of $1,285,000 to address the current outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in West Africa.
Canada and Egypt Highlight Commitment to Strengthened Cooperation
On April 17, 2014, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Arab Republic of Egypt Nabil Fahmy and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada John Baird held a warm and productive meeting in Cairo, Egypt.