I am so grateful to all of the citizen of Saanich-Gulf Islands who came out (in some nasty weather to boot) for my first MP availability sessions throughout the riding. I held office-hour opportunities on each of the Gulf Islands for people who wanted some time with me one-on-one to review specific issues, as well as eight evening Town Hall meetings on the Islands and three on the Saanich Peninsula. All told, about 600 people took advantage of the opportunity. Democracy is alive and well in our community!
While the issues raised varied from one area to another, the number one issue in each community was the threat posed by the Enbridge supertanker scheme. British Columbians by a margin of 70-80% object to lifting the 40–year oil tanker ban on our coastlines. Constituents have my unalterable commitment to protect our fisheries and tourism industries, and our coastlines from the threat of oil tankers. The controversy created by the Prime Minister’s recent comments and the open letter from his Natural Resources Minister were frequently mentioned at the Town Halls.
The next most frequently raised concern was our health care system and particularly the Prime Minister’s latest ‘take it or leave it’ offer to the provinces. As well the following were discussed frequently, if not in every session:
- the threat to the wild salmon fishery posed by farmed salmon and evidence of suppression of information revealed in the Cohen Commission;
- issues related to First Nations rights and the ongoing unacceptable level of neglect for basic housing, health care and education;
- the question of how to deal with the legal, medical, and ethical questions relating to assisted suicide;
- the Kyoto Protocol and Canada’s actions in Durban at COP17;
- the omnibus crime bill and the use of mandatory minimum sentences;
- the challenges to local farmers;
- the F-35 fighter jets;
- the increasingly militaristic talk regarding Iran;
- fairness to our Veterans and ending the claw-back of their pensions;
- questions about why I voted against the continued bombing of Libya back in June; and
- pension issues and how to get pension increases to ordinary Canadians (and take an MP pension cut too!).
Of course, there were a number of very specific local concerns. Mayne Island residents, for example, have been victims of a very poorly planned and even more poorly executed Canada Post change in postal addresses that has left many residents without mail for months, and drove the local Canada Post staff to quit in desperation. People on the Gulf Islands also complained about BC Ferry issues (which are provincial issues, but for which I will do what I can).
Responses to the Mail-out Newsletter
Prior to the series of meetings, prompted by widespread public concerns, I had dedicated my January newsletter to in-depth coverage of economic, energy policy, jobs and environmental issues. In the mailed-out newsletter, I had asked for feedback from citizens in Saanich-Gulf Islands (given the mail delivery problem, not very useful for Mayne Island!). Below are some results (1 was ‘not important’, and 5 was ‘very important’).
In descending order, the average score for each issue was as follows:
- Health Care 4.16,
- Environmental Protection 4.02,
- Economy and Job Creation 3.90,
- Climate Change 3.81,
- Education 3.78,
- Food Security 3.78,
- Oil Tankers 3.61,
- Fish Farms 3.46,
- Cost of Drugs 3.20,
- Crime Prevention 3.08,
- Tax Issues 2.99,
- Peacekeeping 2.84, and
- International Development 2.74.
Our next sessions will be in late June. In the meantime, to meet with me, contact 250-657-2000.