Community Comment, by Meghan Anderson
On May 22, Revelstoke had a historic moment in politics when a group of about 30 individuals met with their Member of Parliament, David Wilks, to discuss the budget implementation bill. The meeting was organised by myself and I opened it up to individuals that might be concerned about Bill C-38 (we were not affiliated with any political party). You may have heard about this meeting in the news. Alex Cooper at Revelstoke Times Review broke the story. It hit national news and was reported in the CBC, Globe and Mail, Global, The Star, along with many others. The meeting was filmed by one of the attendants and posted on you tube, just search David Wilks.
The Budget Implementation Bill (Bill C-38) contains more matters unrelated to the budget than matter related to the budget. It attempts to sneak in changes to almost 70 pieces of legislation on everything from environmental protection to job standards, without debate and without citizens taking notice. Politicians sometimes try to sneak in controversial changes to laws in the budget bill in hopes it will go unnoticed and un-debated. The problem is a budget bill is only debated and studied by a financial committee. These individuals are experts when it comes to a budget but not in the environment, natural resources, job standards, health care or democratic accountability. It’s akin to asking your financial adviser to approve your health plan from your doctor, your plans for your garden, your meals, or your house decorations.
During the meeting Mr. Wilks acknowledged our concerns and admitted parts of the bill were of concern to him and other conservative MPs as well. However, he explained he could not vote against the bill, that he would be forced by the Conservative Party to vote with the bill, regardless of how his constituents felt. This was met with a lot of frustration; an MP should be allowed to stand up against his party and represent his constituents – it is the right thing to do.
Mr. Wilks offered that what he could do was present our petition against Bill C-38 in the House of Commons and take our particular concerns to the ministers responsible. He asked us to provide him with answers to the problems we had pointed out. We told him we wanted the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE) restored, no Species at Risk Act exemptions for energy projects, longer environmental reviews (more than the budgeted two years), no changes to the Fisheries Act, restoration of funding to the CBC, and a ban on oil tankers on the coast of B.C. We had much more advice on how to improve Bill C-38 but unfortunately we were limited in time.
We left the meeting somewhat satisfied, Mr. Wilks had been nice enough to meet with us, address our concerns, and agreed to bring our suggestions to Ottawa.
The video clips of the meeting show Mr. Wilks being candid and honest with us about how government works, his concern over the bill, and his keen interest in listening to his constituents and offering some form of having their views expressed in parliament.
Within less than 24 hours of the meeting Mr. Wilks was forced to state on his website that he fully supported the bill and felt it was good for the Kootenay–Columbia region. The lines were most obviously fed to him from the Prime Minister’s Office.
Because Mr. Wilks was honest, candid, listened to his constituent, and did not fully support the Budget Implementation Bill he was reprimanded. I do not wish to be in Mr. Wilks’ shoes today. Mr. Wilks was only attempting to do the minimum any good MP should do for members of their riding.
It looks to me like the Conservative Party of Canada works such that you are either with them 100 per cent or else you will suffer – there is no room for individuals and the concerns of small communities like Revelstoke. I feel Mr. Wilks only listened to his conscience during his meeting with us. I think deep down inside he knows Bill C-38 is a bad deal for Canadians and in particular for our community. I hope he will only continue to listen to his conscience.
Meghan is currently studying wildlife ecology and was one of the organisers behind the meeting with our MP David Wilks on May 22.
Community Comment is a new feature in the Revelstoke Times Review. We invite community members to contribute opinion pieces focusing on issues that matter in our community. We welcome individual columnists or those representing an organization. Please contact Editor Aaron Orlando for more information.