On February 22 I attended my Member of Parliament's constituency meeting. My MP is Diane Ablonczy. She also serves in the Prime Minister's cabinet as the Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas & Consular Affairs). The meeting took place in a small community centre on a Wednesday evening. Even though I had 4 other evening events that week, I thought it my civic duty to attend as likely one of few non-Conservatives in the Calgary-Nosehill riding.
I collected papers on the proposed changes to CPP and other upcoming legislation which was going to be passed without much opposition since the Conservatives now have their majority, then I sat in the middle of the 5th row next to an elderly couple. The demographics of the meeting were fascinating to me: old white people and younger non-white immigrants (and me). Ms Ablonczy arrived a little late, but after a lengthy introduction and a collective singing of O Canada, she immediately began to address the crowd of between 80-150 people.
Her somewhat informal 30 minute talk was guided by a powerpoint with piles of information. She talked about the trips she made over the past year as Minister of State and about how blessed we are as Canadians. She talked about Canadian business interests in the Americas and how she works to ensure their stability. We heard about the changes to the CPP, long gun registry, and environment.
We were then instructed to write any questions we had onto pieces of paper during a break with Tim Horton's donuts and coffee. The questions were then pre-read and placed in a box and then drawn randomly by one of Ms Ablonczy's assistants and read (rather awkwardly I found). My favourite question was one relating to the changes to the Canadian Pension Plan. The question was clear and direct: "What will the age of retirement be once the new plan is implemented?" The answer was incredibly vague as she spoke of the origins of the CPP back in the 1950s when life expectancy was a lot lower and how things need to change. She did not answer the question at all, neither did she state why she would not or could not answer it.
My question was more open-ended, but I got an even worse answer. My question was on policy:
What is the government currently doing to ensure economic stability so that it does not adversely affect the most vulnerable sectors of society (the poor, the elderly, the environment, small businesses, etc.)?The answer I got was this:
What I love about our country is that we can all have different views.She said this and so decided to avoid actual engagement with the question. She decided against expressing the Conservative platform of free-market capitalism and unregulated economic growth.
I was rather disappointed with her response, so a few weeks ago I sent MP Ablonczy an email with the same question. This is the response I got from her assistant a week later:
Dear Mr. Robichaud,
Thank you for your recent e-mail to the Hon. Diane Ablonczy, regarding your feedback on her February 2012 public meeting. Please be assured that I will bring your message to the attention of Ms. Ablonczy for her information. Ms. Ablonczy does appreciate hearing the concerns and opinions that are important to you. Ms. Ablonczy welcomes feedback from her constituents on how to better serve the public. Your opinions are always taken into account when making decisions on legislation and policy.
Again, thank you for taking the time to write and express your thoughts and concerns with this situation.So this leaves me with one of the following conclusions:
- She doesn't know what the government's policies are nor the consequences of these policies.
- She doesn't care to engage her constituents because she is not concerned with re-election (she's a Conservative MP in Alberta...)