Personal Column by Lorraine Rekmans
I want to say that I have never been a fan of the Conservative Party of Canada and I do publicly admit my bias as this is a personal column. Long ago, I did learn to understand and accept the policies and values of the Progressive Conservative Party and especially their values to practice fiscal prudence. I watched the demise of the PC Party of Canada when it was stripped down to two seats in 1993, and when it lost official party status. The party was never the same afterwards, and finally became defunct in 2003. From those ashes rose the merger of the Reform Party and Conservative Party alliance. Incidentally, the early reformers had chosen a name for their new party, and called it the Conservative Reform Alliance Party, until they realized their new official acronym would be CRAP, at which point they decided to name the party the Conservative Party of Canada.
Whenever people tell me they voted Conservative all their lives, or that they vote Conservative like their grandfathers did, I always correct them and say, “no, because that is impossible as the PC Party is defunct.” But, I have digressed.
As we grow and learn, we can learn to put bias aside. Sometimes, a bright shining light can help you do that. I want to share this because it is something that has happened to me. I have been able to take off my bias glasses and take a new look and see things in a new light. That is thanks to a stellar Member of Parliament from our neighbouring riding.
I want to say a huge thank you to Member of Parliament, Eric Duncan from Stormont Dundas and Glengarry, who in my view is an exceptional representative for his constituents, and who makes it easy for me to think that people can work across political party lines to get things done. Eric, for a Conservative, you are okay.
Last week, MP Duncan was advocating in the House of Commons for legislation to open a national crisis hotline to provide support for people dealing with mental health crisis. MP Duncan officially co-seconded legislation to implement an easy to use, three-digit 9-8-8 national suicide prevention hotline. The bill was introduced by his Conservative colleague Todd Doherty, the representative for Cariboo-Prince George, who introduced it as a Private Member’s Bill (C-294) in the House of Commons.
MP Duncan demonstrates compassion through his supportive action to respond to a national crisis. It is a crisis that needs immediate attention. Statistics tell us that every 24 hours, 11 people die by suicide in Canada. In a nationwide survey, 44% of Ontarians reported experiencing an eroding mental health with little to no resources available in the province. With suicide being the second leading cause of death among young individuals, this 9-8-8 national initiative would save lives across generations. I commend MP Duncan for being a champion. This is just one example of how this MP works for the betterment of the country.
As a representative for his constituents, he announced that his office was standing by, willing to help local small businesses dealing with the headaches caused by a backlog and confusion at the Canada Revenue Agency. He is doing his job well and representing his constituents honorably.
If I could, I would vote for Eric Duncan, because he comes across as a man of the people and for the people. His performance and work as a MP doesn’t seem to be tied to party dogma or bogged down in political rhetoric.
By contrast, our own Member of Parliament, Michael Barrett, who is also a Conservative, spends much of his time in the House of Commons demanding accountability from the Liberal Party for various scandals and scams. Granted, as an Ethics Critic, it is part of his job for the Conservative Party, but in my opinion takes him away from important riding work. Calling on the Prime Minister to lay bare all the facts of his backroom dealings, day after day, must be exhausting.
We all know that across both the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, and Leeds and Grenville, through the Eastern Ontario Regional Network, many Wardens, Mayors and Councillors have actively taken up the file to deal with getting highspeed internet to their regions with a huge lobby effort, and innumerable hours of meetings.
Finally, there was an announcement from the Government of Canada (Liberal) to support high speed internet for rural communities in Eastern Ontario with $6 million in federal funding for Bell, Cogeco Connexion and Lakeland Networks. That is why, I was completely surprised to see a recent press release from MP Michael Barrett that stated, “MP Michael Barrett delivers federal funding to expand internet services.”
The press release went on to say, “Today, Michael Barrett, Member of Parliament for Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes delivered $5.5 million in federal funding to expand Internet services for eastern Ontario communities that include Edwardsburgh-Cardinal and Merrickville-Wolford.”
I imagined that MP Barrett drove to his riding with a big bag of money that he personally secured from the federal government after stone throwing in the House of Commons all day. I was taken aback by the audacity of the headline which leads readers to believe that it was the sole Herculian effort of the MP from Leeds Grenville Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes who wrestled this money out of the clutching hands of the Liberal Government. I guess all those members of the Eastern Ontario Regional Network would see it differently.