Friday, March 14, 2003
Today, Garry Breitkreuz, M.P. for Yorkton-Melville, reflected on his recent meetings with residents of the federal constituency of Yorkton-Melville the week of March 3-7, 2003. Mr. Breitkreuz travelled throughout the riding to listen to the comments of his constituents and answer questions about legislation currently before the House of Commons. During the tour, a wide variety of concerns were expressed. Many people feel the Liberal government is not listening to the residents of Saskatchewan.
Taxes are the topic of conversation throughout the area. The high price of fuel and natural gas has many people upset. They want the message to go back to Ottawa immediately that taxes on fuel should be reduced. Farmers especially are being impacted, and they note that the price of natural gas is driving up the cost of fertilizer, making it even more difficult to make ends meet. Many also feel that income taxes are too high, especially for ordinary families on a single income. Substantially raising the personal deduction for both husbands and wives could help lower-income families a great deal. Breitkreuz also feels that there should be a universal child deduction that does not discriminate between how families decide to have their childcare. These decisions should be made without financial penalty.
When the Liberals get your tax dollars, they spend them carelessly. For instance, the Liberals have wasted a billion dollars on a gun registry scheme that doesn't work. They squandered another billion dollars in the HRDC boondoggle. The Liberals also lost hundreds of millions of dollars to GST fraud artists. Breitkreuz believes that the government should treat your hard-earned tax dollars with respect.
Health care is a concern for many people. The Yorkton-Melville constituency has the highest proportion of seniors in Canada, and there is a need for more seniors' centres and care facilities. People also are concerned that the quality of health care in general is declining. The federal government can spend much more on health care without increasing taxes. Health care can be made more accessible through innovation of delivery and more affordable if Ottawa has a plan for the money and puts in its fair share. A large number of people also feel that the government should recognize alternative medical care by making it tax deductible. More and more people are seeking out helpful alternative methods of treatment that are not currently covered by health insurance.
Another major concern expressed across the Yorkton-Melville region is the future of Saskatchewan's youth. As most of us know, young people are leaving our province at an alarming rate largely because they cannot find work. High provincial and federal taxes are driving employers out of the province. There is also a shortage of young people going into medical professions, like doctors and nurses. Young people also say tuition fees are too high and that after graduation there are simply too few good jobs available.
At every stop, Mr. Breitkreuz met constituents concerned about the gun registry's billion-dollar boondoggle. Some questions asked included: "Are they really still continuing with that stupid registry?"; "Don't those Liberals known that they are wasting money? We need help for farmers, health care and roads!"; "I haven't registered any guns. I'm not a criminal. What will they do to me?" Breitkreuz pledged to continue his fight against this useless piece of legislation.
Agriculture continues to be the main economic activity in this area. However, most farmers feel that the current agricultural programs are not working for them. And they are concerned that the new programs proposed by the federal government will not be any better. The Canadian Wheat Board and cross-border trade were also raised as issues of concern in many towns. On March 4, 2003, the United States District Court (USDC) announced that it believes the U.S. grain industry is being materially injured by subsidized imports of wheat and durum from Canada because of the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly. The US has now imposed preliminary duties of 3.94 percent on hard red spring and durum wheat shipped to the US from Canada. The Liberal government is not prepared to properly defend the prairie agriculture industry at the international bargaining table. The question asked over and over again is: "Why don't those Liberals in Ottawa care more about us farmers and agriculture?"
Various environmental issues were raised. Farmers wonder what is going to happen with the Kyoto Agreement and how it will affect their farms. Agriculture will be severely affected by implementation of the Kyoto Protocol because agriculture uses large quantities of energy. We will see prices increase on diesel fuel, natural gas and fertilizer. The new large hog operations are a concern in several communities. Flooding is also a recurring problem in areas like Churchbridge, Langenburg and the Qu'Appelle Valley. One community also asked why The Migratory Birds Act of 1916 couldn't be changed so that wild birds could be served at the wildlife banquets. Serious concerns with Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA) and its unequal water distribution and allocation resources are a concern in a couple communities. The Endangered Species Act and landowners' property rights also have some wondering what is going to happen to them.
Almost everywhere Breitkreuz went, the Iraq situation raised concerns and fears of what the future holds. There were mixed feelings on what stance Canada should take but everyone would like to try to avoid war.
A large number of men and women expressed grave concerns about the government's direction in several moral and ethical areas. Legalizing same-sex marriages is a very upsetting prospect to many people. Moreover, including homosexuality in the list of hate crimes was seen as going down a slippery slope. Several men and women also questioned why the government tolerates child pornography. Garry advocates protecting children from the violent and vile. This means that the age of consent for sexual activity should be raised to sixteen; and we must take stronger steps to fight child prostitution, child pornography and pedophilia.
The Divorce Act and child custody is a concern to many in the riding. Breitkreuz supports the concept of shared parenting proposed in the December 1998 report of the Special Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access, which is still gathering dust, contrary to the interest of both parents and children.
First Nation communities have been forced to spend a large portion of their money on bureaucracy and this upsets people. They feel that the government needs to find a more effective way in dealing with money issues in several communities. Auditor General Sheila Fraser reported on December 3, 2002, that the resources the First Nations communities must devote to preparing stacks of federal reports could be used to meet pressing community needs. She pointed out that the First Nations have to submit a total of 168 reports a year to four main funding organizations and most of that information is never used. Moreover, the First Nations have to deal with over a dozen federal bureaucracies. The current government policy is not helping the native people nor the communities around them.
Several small rural communities are also finding it hard to bring in workers from other countries to employ in their businesses. Immigration officials are almost impossible to deal with yet no one else can be found to fill these community job vacancies. This is leaving small rural businesses with only a few overworked employees.
Since September 11th, 2001, the demand for passports has risen dramatically across the country and, as a result, the processing of passport application forms has slowed considerably. This has caused many constituents a great deal of grief as they prepare to travel. Breitkreuz reminds constituents to apply for their passports early and to be thorough. If there is any missing information, passport applications will be returned for completion, and processing will be delayed.
Many other issues were discussed and some, of course, did not relate to the federal government. But the most alarming comment that continues to surface is: "Does Ottawa really care about us any more? They do nothing for agriculture, the waiting lines in our hospitals never lessen, they push the gun registry and Kyoto down our throats and they waste our money in a million ways. They never listen to us anymore." Breitkreuz responded by saying, "These comments are very disturbing to me. If we don't bring back democracy to our government in Ottawa, the alienation will continue to increase and that undermines the very fabric of our society."
Garry wants to thank everyone who asked questions and offered comments and opinions on various issues. Many other topics were discussed but are too numerous to mention here. Breitkreuz concluded by saying: "For democracy to work, people must take an interest in the issues and participate in discussion. Despite the temperatures hovering between -25 and -38 degrees Celsius, a total of almost 800 people came out to the various locations, and their comments will help me do a better job of representing them in Ottawa. If anyone was unable to come to any of the meeting places, they can still write me a letter. Constituents can mail their correspondence, postage free, to Garry Breitkreuz, M.P., Room 452-D, Centre Block, House of Commons, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A6. Yorkton-Melville is a very large constituency with almost 80,000 people, but I am committed to representing them well in Ottawa."