Here’s something you might not have known about Pierre Lemieux

Tldr: Pierre Lemieux is a pretty good guy

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I’ll begin this short story by pre-emptively stating that I’m not supporting or backing any candidate for the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) Leadership Race. My goal is fostering party unity, and I want to ensure that Pontiac residents have ample opportunity to decide whom they want as the next CPC leader. Under the Trudeau Government, Pontiac residents are facing indefinite deficits, and higher taxes. The Conservative Party of Canada is the only party positioned to bring our finances back into order, and our next leader will be the best bet to challenge the Trudeau Liberals in 2019’s election.

Pierre Lemieux is one of many candidates vying for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada. For a number of years he represented the riding of Glengarry-Prescott-Russell (GPR) as its Member of Parliament. I met Pierre in passing over the course of my time spent working on Parliament Hill and saw him frequently in the Government lobby before Question Periods and at functions – usually military in nature. Pierre is one of two CPC leadership candidates with military experience, along with Erin O’Toole.

I was a candidate in the last general election. Pierre’s riding is not that far from the Pontiac, and in pre-writ stages of the campaign I was invited to stop by an event there for a networking and discussion opportunity. It was a well-attended event with live music and good food, with the key-note speaker being then-Minister of Canadian Heritage Shelly Glover.

Over the course of the 2015 election campaign I ran into Pierre a few more times at events with the Prime Minister, and also at media outlets for interviews; it was common to see other candidates at media offices that were interviewing a multitude of regional candidates. Given my status as a Canadian Armed Forces Reservist and Pierre’s military experience, he was easy to relate to.

Of course, the 2015 election came and went, and brought with it a new Government. I didn’t win in Pontiac. Nobody likes losing, and losing in politics makes you feel as if you have let down the people that invested so much into you. I took some time off; we’d been campaigning for a few years by that point and I needed to recharge. I turned off my emails for a bit.

Several weeks after the election Pierre tracked down my phone number and called me up. We commiserated over the campaign and Pierre told me that as he’d been going through a postmortem, he had come across a digital photo of my family and I from the networking event in GPR.

Pierre called because wanted to know what my mailing address was. He had already had the photo printed out so he could send it to me.

The little things matter, and after an election marked by a change in Government the little things can sometimes be put aside as we all adjust. Taking the time to touch base with me personally and provide a nice, hard-copy photo is something that not only meant a lot to me, but said a lot about the character of Pierre Lemieux.

The photo, which is normally hanging on my wall, is pictured above. Many thanks Pierre, and best of luck with your campaign.

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First CISSSO concession

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Click here to see CISSSO’s response to Pontiac Voice

As many are aware, the CISSSO Board of Directors has decided that the Shawville hospital must impose parking fees on visitors and workers in order to be standard with city hospitals. This pay-to-park scheme is to be implemented in the near future, despite the hospital being located in a rural area that offers free parking everywhere and anywhere.

In addition to nickle-and-diming Pontiac residents and healthcare workers with their parking scheme, CISSSO has decided to further punish our region by shuttering the Pavillon du Parc facility located in Shawville. This decision, as reported by local media, is going to force some patients and families apart from one another by necessitating patients move outside of our region to a new facility! It would seem that there is a need right here, right now, for these services– services that CISSSO feels should be prioritized for the other areas it administers. I intend to visit this insensitive decision a great deal more in the future.

Rural areas are increasingly facing economic challenges compared to their urban cousins, and recent decisions taken by CISSSO only serve to further squeeze a population that is already being squeezed by taxation and industry changes.

However, I am optimistic with what lies ahead.

After forcing local residents to travel to their Gatineau Office on January 27th, CISSSO offered some token half-answers to a number of questions relating to paid-parking at the Shawville hospital. CISSSO also saw first-hand (possibly for the first time) actual people who were being affected by the decisions they were taking.

Following this meeting, which was attended by local residents and union reps, CISSSO is now pushing back the implementation of their paid-parking scheme by one month. This is a small, but significant measure that buys us time to further explore avenues to deal with the unfair treatment we are receiving. More significant is that this concession should serve as notice for us to redouble our efforts! We’ve achieved something we can build upon, and more people are joining our cause.

It is inspiring to see members of Pontiac Voice and the community at large work together towards correcting this injustice. Community pressure has met with some success already and we must continue this fight.

My First Date with CISSSO

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I apologize for the delay in posting; it wasn’t because I was on Cloud 9 after my evening spent with CISSSO last week. Rather, I had Army afterwards on Thursday night and was on Father duty all weekend. Reference last Thursday’s meeting with CISSSO, I want to offer my impressions. Ultimately, while I wasn’t impressed by my first date with CISSSO, it looks like I’ll be going back for more.

On Thursday 26 Jan 17th, I, along with other members of Pontiac Voice, attended a quasi-public meeting with CISSSO – the Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de l’Outaouais – with the aim of airing our grievances with CISSSO publicly. The Pontiac Voice committee members put a lot of work into making sure we were set up proper despite some of the hoops CISCSO made us jump through.

As you’re probably aware if you’re reading this, the CISSSO Board of Directors, appointed by the provincial Quebec government, has decided that the Shawville hospital must impose parking fees on visitors and workers in order to be standard with city hospitals. This, despite the hospital being located in a rural town that offers free parking, well, everywhere.

In addition to nickle-and-diming Pontiac residents and healthcare workers with this parking scheme, CISSSO has decided to further punish our region by shuttering the Pavillion du Parc facility located in Shawville. I will have much more writing on this travesty in the near future.

Getting back to last Thursday, I want to offer my congratulations to all that made the trip to Gatineau for the meeting, and in particular, I want to commend the Pontiac Voice committee members that organized questions to the board.There was a journalist from the Journal du Pontiac, as well as The Equiy, present for the show – good on them for showing up. CBC was present and probably other media outlets. Unions were very well represented and it was fantastic to see them get behind the Pontiac. There was political representation from one party several parties present, but I’m trying to keep politics out of this for now so I won’t spend too much time on them yet.

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My sense was that a lot of people affiliated with CISSSO, at least those seated around the table at the front, were nervous about our presence. No doubt the presence of the unions added to what I perceived were feelings of apprehension on CISSSO’s end. Overt politeness combined with nobody wanting to look me in the eye when I asked my questions, combined with the way the event itself was structured make me think that everybody was a little uneasy about being called out on the parking situation. As they should have been.

Prior to going into the meeting room we have to register to ask questions by making sure our names and contact info were written on a piece of paper at the entrance. It was very bizarre; a number of people were crowded into a tiny hallway waiting to get into the room, which we weren’t allowed into until the Board had presumably debated on how to best handle us.

We had zero time for discussion with board members once we were actually let into the room. Adding to the oddities of the evening, we were only given a few minutes each to ask our questions and there was zero effort made to offer us any immediate answers. Talk about not knowing your files. My initial thought was to bully the Board into at least responding to some of my questions, but given the severely limited time we had, I halted. I worried that the Board would try to justify shutting the whole thing down by saying I had used up all of the allotted time, and that I would have prevented the Union and others from being able to speak.

So, with no answers to our questions given to us on Thursday we are to be followed up with in due course. All in all, the question session with no answers we were allocated felt like a get-them-in-quick-get-them-out-quick affair. They couldn’t have held this in the Pontiac? For shame.

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I put a number of items in writing to CISSSO’s media relations person Friday morning, and I had hoped to have responses by end of day Friday in order to catch the local media cycle for this week. Ultimately I was told, politely, that CISSSO needs more time to gather up some of the info I require. Once I have some concrete responses, I will put together a doozy of an article. Stay tuned.

****Update: found a story featuring some CISSSO comments on parking maintenance costs here.

UPDATED w/interview: Shawville Hospital “Pay-to-Park” Scheme

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UPDATED-Interview with CHIP FM here.

We only visit hospitals when we’re at our most vulnerable, emotionally and physically. Apparently, the Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de l’Outaouais (CISSSO) believes that this vulnerability should extend to the wallets of Pontiac residents. The CISSSO Board of Directors, appointed by the provincial Quebec government, has decided that the Shawville hospital must impose parking fees on visitors and workers in order to be standard with city hospitals.

This blanket pay-for-parking scheme ordered by the board members of the CISSSO does not take into account that Shawville is a rural community, with free parking surrounding the hospital area and in town. This ridiculous decision to charge the Pontiac for parking will entail that patients, health care workers & visitors will now park offsite from the hospital to avoid paying these fees; essentially forcing the elderly, the injured, and nurses working 12-hour shifts to walk greater distances at their own risk to get to the hospital. Residential areas will be impacted as well.

I’ve benefited from the service provided by the health care workers at the Shawville hospital and forcing nurses and admin staff to now pay more than $2400 dollars (annually) to park onsite, when we’re surrounded by free parking, just seems petty. If forcing health-care workers to pay is petty, then forcing patients and visitors is an abject travesty. Shawville, unlike urban areas with health-care centers, does not have a public transportation option readily available to those who must visit or work at the hospital.

Make no mistake – this pay-for-parking scheme will not improve our local health care; it will only take more money from the pockets of health care workers and local residents.

Rural communities such as the Pontiac often are overlooked in favor of urban areas, or lumped in on decisions that are city-centric. All elected officials from all levels of Government, all political parties, local residents and Quebec health care worker unions need to work together to fix this.

This isn’t a partisan issue; it’s a common-sense issue. In my opinion, this is also an issue that is worth picking a fight over. Paid-parking at the Shawville hospital is a decision that should be suspended immediately pending public consultation, and rescinded prior to the March implementation date.

Further reading on this issue:

Gatineau imposes paid parking on Pontiac Community Hospital | Pontiac Journal

http://www.pontiacjournal.com/news/gatineau-imposes-paid-parking-pontiac-community-hospital

Mayors disappointed at CISSS de l’Outaouais restructuring in Shawville

http://www.chipfm.com/web2/news.php?extend.4968

Des tarifs décriés dans le Pontiac

http://www.lapresse.ca/le-droit/actualites/sante/201701/05/01-5056971-des-tarifs-decries-dans-le-pontiac.php

A Facebook group was created that has attracted more than 1500 residents – https://www.facebook.com/groups/1699300137047057/  .

Photo above obtained here.

Liberal MP won’t hold electoral reform consultations until AFTER Parliamentary deadline

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This throws doubt on the legitimacy of the consultation process

French message below : le message en français suit

Electoral reform consultations are finally set to happen in Pontiac, QC. Shockingly, the local Liberal Member of Parliament has scheduled consultations no less than ten days PAST the deadline set for MPs to report back to Parliament.  This means that every resident in the Pontiac is left without a voice in this matter. Thus, regardless of your thoughts on electoral reform or political stripe, your position simply doesn’t matter and will not be taken into account by the Liberal government.

As it stands now, the local candidate with the most votes in a federal riding is the one who wins an election. The governing Liberal Party has indicated a desire to unilaterally change this system, potentially to a format that would be more advantageous to keeping themselves in power.

While I do not think our voting system should be changed, I firmly believe that everybody should have the opportunity to vote on any potential changes if they occur.

In lieu of giving residents the right to vote, the Federal Liberals have promised a series of consultations on this issue, with MPs required to report back to the Parliamentary committee on electoral reform by October 14th. After months of local pressure due to Liberal inaction, the best our local MP could do was book consultation dates that occur after a deadline set by his own Government.

Scheduling dates to occur after a parliamentary deadline denies Pontiac residents to ever have a say on this very important issue, and confirms that these consultations are a sham process.

We all deserve better.

 

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Les consultations sur la réforme électorale commenceront bientôt dans le Pontiac. Malheureusement notre député libéral a cédulé les consultations dans notre region pas moins de dix jours après la date limite fixée pour les députés de faire rapport au Parlement. Donc, tous les résidents du Pontiac sont laissé sans voix dans cette affaire. Peu importe votre opinion sur la réforme électorale ou allégeance politique, votre position n’a tout simplement pas d’importance et ne sera pas prise en compte par le gouvernement libéral.

Selon notre système électoral actuel, le candidat local avec le plus de votes dans une circonscription fédérale est celui qui gagne une élection. Le Parti libéral au pouvoir a manifesté le désir de modifier unilatéralement ce système pour le remplacer par un système qui serait potentiellement plus avantageux pour eux.

À mon avis, le système électoral ne devrait pas être modifié. Par contre, je crois fermement que tout le monde devrait avoir la possibilité de voter sur des changements à notre système électoral.

Au lieu de donner aux résidents le droit de vote, les libéraux fédéraux ont promis une série de consultations et demandés aux députés de faire rapport au comité parlementaire sur la réforme électorale avant la date limite du 14 octobre.

En cédulant les consultations après la date de tombée pour soumettre le rapport au Parlement, notre député dérobe chaque Pontissois de son droit de parole sur cet important enjeux. Cela confirme que ces consultations ne sont qu’un exercice de relations publiques.

Les résidents du Pontiac méritent mieux

 

 

Sources:

Pontiac event dates

https://www.canada.ca/en/campaign/electoral-reform/participate-in-canadian-federal-electoral-reform-consultations/attend-a-canadian-federal-electoral-reform-event.html

https://wamos.liberal.ca/en/

 

October 14th deadline

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/monsef-electoral-reform-update-1.3765180

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2016/09/16/consultations-on-new-voting-system-move-into-high-gear-consensus-elusive-so-far_n_12041366.html

 

 

Electoral reform – this week in the Low Down

One of my very favorite local papers decided to publish the below piece on electoral reform.  Head over to their site to check it out, or read it below. Snagging a copy of the Lowdown whenever you can wouldn’t hurt either! – http://www.lowdownonline.com/sorry-but-vote-reform-not-too-complex-for-canadians/

`I am writing in response to Michael Obrecht, who recently wrote the Lowdown in reference to the Canadian population wanting a referendum on federal electoral reform.  I am pleased that Mr. Obrecht has taken the time to voice his opinion, because electoral reform is an issue that is not being voiced, discussed or consulted upon by the Liberal MP here. How we elect our representatives is a critical aspect of democracy, and once again, Pontiac is seemingly forgotten by Ottawa.

The Liberals are planning to unilaterally change how all of us vote at the federal level, possibly to a voting system that would be most beneficial to keeping themselves in power.  This is being done without proper debate or consultation, to the point where even some supporters of electoral reform are largely unaware of the implications.

For example, it might be of interest to some that MPs elected under variants of proportional representation would not even be selected by local voters.  Rather, under this scenario MPs would be selected post-election from party lists, with the number of MPs allocated according to the proportional popular vote.  These MPs would not represent local communities like the Pontiac; – rather, they would be selected from the ranks of party insiders, bagmen and friends to the party leader.  Information on issues like this should be made available to our population for discussion. In Pontiac, this is not happening.

As Mr. Obrecht mentioned in his piece, there has been an established precedent set in this country by provincial Governments on electoral referendums; three provinces have had referendums on voter reform and each time their residents were allowed to exercise their right to vote. The Liberals are skirting around this precedent to not allow us the opportunity to voice our opinion, and their sham promise of consultations is a poor substitute for an actual vote.  Due to public pressure I believe a token electoral consultation will be undertaken by the Liberal MP here. Yet as other Canadian publications have reported, it appears there will be little in the way of actual substance discussed.[1]

Mr. Obrecht seemed to be echoing Liberal Party sentiments when he suggested that a change of voting system is too “complex” for Canadians to mull over and vote upon. I disagree, and this elitism, where our local population is regulated to an inconvenient afterthought, is a sad throwback to the Liberal Party of old.

There is no way of knowing how a federal referendum on electoral reform would play out – but not giving people the opportunity to vote because you’re afraid you won’t like the result is cowardly. I encourage all Lowdown readers to think about this important issue, regardless of what your preferred method of voting is.`

 

Electoral reform, under rug swept

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In the dog-days of summer, a very important issue is brewing with regards to how we elect our leaders. The Governing Liberal Party wants to change how we elect Members of Parliament, potentially switching Canada to a voting system that would be most advantageous to the Liberals keeping themselves in power.

Recent polls show that a majority of Canadians don’t want the Liberals to tell them how to vote – but the Liberal Government continues to dither on whether it will allow us a say, downplaying the issue in hopes it might go away.

Canadians overwhelmingly support  having a referendum on any changes to our voting system. Yet there has been no commitment to allowing us to vote on electoral reform, and zero public consultations have been announced by the Pontiac Liberal MP.

Given the geography of the Pontiac, dozens of town halls would have to be held in order to even minimally consult our various regions without a referendum. Dozens of public consultations do not appear to be forthcoming.

Unfortunately for the Liberal MP here, ignoring this issue will not make it go away. The Pontiac deserves a say on this most critical aspect of democracy.

With our current voting system, the candidate that receives the most votes in a particular riding represents that riding and its residents. Our most recent election featured increased voter turnout, particularly among young people. I am for keeping our current voting system, even though some potential changes to the electoral system would benefit my own party of choice. Others here might want a different voting system, and they too deserve to have their say rather than have the Government force something upon them.

Due to the inherent partisan nature of politics, politicians should not be the unilaterally deciding on fundamental changes to how we vote. Canadians should be deciding on these changes – not politicians! If the Government wants to really hear from Canadians on electoral reform, it should allow us to vote on it.

Bad cheese: Canadian dairy industry faces another setback – UPDATED

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Link to original image

The past few weeks have been difficult for the Canadian dairy industry. In addition to speculation surrounding promised TPP compensation for farmers, the Government recently voted “no” to stopping a foreign protein substitute that’s appearing in dairy products in place of real Canadian milk.

On May 3rd the Trudeau Liberals, including the MP for Pontiac, voted down an opposition motion asking the government to support Canadian dairy by enforcing the rules on what goes into dairy products sold here.

Diafiltered milk is a cheap protein substitute.  Unlike other dairy items, it enters into Canada tariff-free from the United States because it is considered to be an “ingredient”, and not true milk. Once here, the diafiltered substitute can be processed and sold for use in cheese and other dairy products.

Canada has strict standards for dairy – cheese must contain a certain percentage of real milk. Diafiltered milk is not real milk by any means, but it is being used as if it were – and this is being allowed by the Government.

This failure to enforce the rules negatively affects the Canadian economy, particularly in rural areas, as the diafiltered milk substitute finds its way into dairy products in place of real Canadian milk from our farmers.

The motion to address this deficiency was put forth by the NDP, seeking to coax the Liberals into supporting the dairy industry by “immediately enforcing the compositional standards for cheese for all Canadian processors.” The wording of the motion was even negotiable, in order to see it pass.

It’s a rare feat to have the Conservative, NDP, Bloc and Green parties voting on the same page, but all opposition parties unanimously voted to support the Canadian dairy industry.

All Liberal MPs voted against taking action to safeguard an industry that is important to many regions, including this one.

It’s extremely disappointing that Pontiac’s Liberal MP stood up to vote for his party, instead of standing up to vote for our farmers.

 

Sources on voting results:

http://www.parl.gc.ca/Parliamentarians/en/members/William-Amos%2889527%29/Votes?page=3

https://openparliament.ca/votes/42-1/45/

Read up on diafiltered milks here:

https://www.dairyfarmers.ca/farmers-voice/dairy-products/what-is-diafiltered-milk

 

 

 

A party divided: NDP split down the middle on Mulcair, future

Today in Edmonton, more than half of the delegates present at the Federal NDP convention voted in favour of a leadership change.

Embattled leader Thomas Mulcair wound up obtaining the support of only 48% of delegates, falling far short of the 70% support thought needed to keep his job. This is the first time in history the NDP have voted in favour of an immediate change in leadership.

The results of the Mulcair vote has only added to the murkiness surrounding the future of the party. The party was almost completely split down the middle in terms of opinion on Mulcair, and many contrasts on were heard throughout the convention as to what direction the party should be taking, in light of the disappointing results of the 2015 federal election campaign. Cleavages between the provincial Alberta NDP and the federal party concerning pipelines were widely reported on, and made for some interesting exchanges on the convention floor.

Yet despite the results of today, an interim leader may not be named. Mulcair has indicated that he desires to remain on as leader of the NDP until a new candidate is selected.

It is uncertain at this point how the divided party will react to Mulcair potentially staying on as leader. Given that the search for a new leader of the NDP may go on for as long as 24 months, the split NDP community may be less than enthusiastic to see Mulcair at the helm of their party for that long.

 

 

Promises made to Pontiac farmers should be honoured

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“Moo”

As reported by CBC, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is apparently wavering on trade deal compensation promised to farmers by the previous administration.

A high-profile example of this compensation is $4.3 billion that was promised to dairy farmers as part of the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement, in exchange for an opening of 3.25% of the Canadian dairy market.

Money was also expected to flow right away as part of a Processor Modernization Program. A seven-year program was to provide Canada’s dairy, poultry and egg processors with support to increase competitiveness through capital investments and technical and management capacity.

Trudeau’s Liberals have signed the Trans Pacific Partnership deal, and appear poised to ratify it, based on recent comments from the Prime Minister.

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Justin Trudeau appears poised to ratify the TPP

However, missing from Budget 2016 was any mention of the promised compensation or process modernization funds for this deal. As far back as November 2015, immediately following the federal election, the Liberals stated that compensation for the TPP “was not a done deal”  and the Government now appears to be muddying the waters even further.

Across the country, the amount of farmers can vary significantly from riding to riding, with the largest concentration of farmers (unsurprisingly) located in rural constituencies. Any changes to the TPP compensation agreement (or any trade deal) promised to farmers is going to negatively impact rural areas moreso than their urban cousins, raising questions as to the Liberal commitment to rural Canada.

Ridings such as Pontiac, Qc that feature a notable presence of farmers, will ultimately suffer greater losses through this decision.

One can debate the pros and cons of supply management.  However, local elected representatives are supposed to represent their constituencies above all else, and it is in the best interest on Pontiac for farmers to receive the compensation they were promised as a part of any trade deal. I sincerely hope that public pressure convinces the Liberals to do the right thing for Pontiac.