MP’s report (II): Election reform, whistle-blowers, Quebec written off

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Fred Ryan

CAMPBELL’S BAY – Pontiac’s MP, Mathieu Ravignat, outlined his plans and concerns to the Journal. This is his last year before next October’s federal   election, and he expects a dynamic session as the Harper government pulls out its political weapons since it finds itself in decline in most public surveys.

Fred Ryan

CAMPBELL’S BAY – Pontiac’s MP, Mathieu Ravignat, outlined his plans and concerns to the Journal. This is his last year before next October’s federal   election, and he expects a dynamic session as the Harper government pulls out its political weapons since it finds itself in decline in most public surveys.
The current government has been criticized for its lack of interest in discussion and compromise with the other parties thanks to its majority status – one gained by winning only 39% of the vote. This has increased support for voting reform in Canada, so that a government would reflect its actual support by the Canadian people. The Conservatives have shown no interest in voting reform. Ravignat was firm in the need for  voting reform; he said the NDP favours a mixed     proportional system, similar to Germany’s. He says this gives each locality its own member, who lives in the riding, but also allows the total vote to be reflected in each party’s total number of seats. “No more majority steamrolling on only minority public support,” said the MP. “It worries me that we now have the greatest      concentration of power in the executive, ever.” 
The NDP favours      abolishing the Senate – which Pontiac’s MP said    has become merely a   retirement reward for Conservative and Liberal party loyalists. He said reforming the House is a greater priority, and the NDP has focused on designing a democratic reform package to bring Canada in line with most democratic nations. All but three western democracies have proportional voting systems. The Conservatives were voted in on accountability, says Ravignat, but they have been exactly the opposite, and their lack of genuine voter reform is a failure of this promise.
Pontiac’s seat
in the federal cabinet?
Ravignat is the NDP’s Treasury Board critic. Items which come under his office include transparency and accountability issues, including whistleblower protection legislation. He says the ability of civil servants to speak publicly on hidden decisions and policies is being curtailed and those who speak out remain unprotected. He is proposing reforms to extend whistleblowers’ protection from harassment and to give the Commissioner the power to seize documents identified by whistleblowers before they are destroyed.
These reforms include identifying secrecy tools devised to avoid media investigations. Ravignat decried the lack of media independence in Canada, where a few huge corporations control the daily press, radio, and television – as well as most social media. “Every corporate newspaper supported the Conservatives in the last election, except the Toronto Star,” said the MP; “that isn’t very democratic, and voters should be outraged that they are treated so poorly by the media and by officials when it comes to information and analysis of government policy and decisions.”
“Quebec written off”
The MP argues Harper is focused on his numbers within ridings, rather than the value of policies and programs, and stressed that Harper’s cabinet does not make decisions. “The PMO passes the decisions down. Quebec isn’t offering them any promise, so there’s nothing much for Quebec in the Harper agenda. He doesn’t even have a real Quebec lieutenant. Denis Lebel has zero influence. If Harper can put together a strategy to win without needing Quebec votes, simple enough, Quebecers aren’t going to see their needs met.”
A few grants here and there are not the result of a strategy – in fact, notes Ravignat, grants to the museum or the Wakefield Theatre come on the basis of grant applications,       supported by local MPs and other leaders. “One of our biggest jobs locally is to   support grants and funding for community groups – but no one can promise results, as some candidates did and are still pretending.”
Ravignat’s insights on the need for infrastructure spending, including Highway 148 and the Allumettes Island bridge, on aid for seniors living at home, a national housing strategy, plus improvement to pensions, were previously reported. The MP covered other topics – veterans, help to industries in trouble, First Nations’ issues, and         environmental questions, including preparing for      climate change and its effects. These will be reported in future articles.