Government Relations Report Issue 72

Fall 2009 CSANews Issue 72  |  Posted date : Sep 22, 2009.Back to list

In the summer edition of CSANews, CSA President Don Gardiner announced that work has begun on the next edition of The Canadian Travellers' Report Card. Both the 2002 and 2006 editions examined five key areas of importance to travellers. We researched the practices and policies of the federal, provincial and territorial governments and then gave each government an opportunity to comment on our research. After receiving the feedback of government ministers and senior ministry officials across Canada, we retained an independent consultant to evaluate our findings and assign an academic grade to each category. The final report was then issued to our members, governments throughout Canada and to the national media. Although we are always looking for ways to improve and fine-tune the report, the basic framework will remain the same. Quite frankly, it is an approach that has resulted in significant feedback and dialogue with key government decisionmakers in the past.

What is our rationale for undertaking such a comprehensive national project? Governments across Canada need to change many of their policies to assist Canadian travellers. Although many of us spend a significant amount of time out of the country, we must still pay a full year of taxes to our federal, provincial and territorial governments. We must pay for many government services that we do not use for the full year and, for the most part, we accept that. Having said that, we still expect and deserve to have full, equal access to the health-care and drug coverage for which we pay our taxes. Unfortunately, many governments deny travellers the same benefits as those who remain at home. Canadians should not have to choose between exercising our right to travel and having access to the health care which we may need. We are currently corresponding with senior government officials and will soon begin collating and evaluating the information. Although much work remains to be done, we will be unveiling our updated edition of the report card to our members, governments and the national media early in the new year.

I recently had a very productive meeting with the Hon. Jim Watson, Ontario's Liberal Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Mr. Watson was first elected to the Ontario legislature in 2003 and is a very influential minister in the McGuinty government. He's also the former mayor of Ottawa, Ontario and the former chief executive officer of the Canadian Tourism Commission. Minister Watson was quite receptive to our desire to have the Ontario Election Act amended to permit absentee mail-in balloting for Ontario provincial elections. During the course of this discussion, he reminded me that snowbirds face a similar obstacle with respect to Ontario municipal elections. Ontario municipal elections do have fixed election dates; the problem is that the date of the next municipal election is currently "fixed" in the middle of November, 2010. Obviously this is a very inconvenient date for most Ontario snowbirds and makes it very challenging for us to cast our ballots for our municipal representatives. Minister Watson thinks that October would be a far more logical time and personally, I agree with him. As Ontario's Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, he's in a good position to exert some influence here. We will be discussing this further with the minister in the fall and I will update you on those talks in the next edition of CSANews.

I also had the pleasure of meeting with two of Minister Watson's liberal caucus colleagues, Yasir Naqvi and Phil McNeely. Mr. Naqvi is the MPP for Ottawa Centre, while Mr. McNeely represents the constituents of Ottawa-Orleans. We had a long discussion about many of the issues affecting our Ontario members and I look forward to working with both of these gentlemen in the future.

As you will read more about in Don Gardiner's president's message, we are about to launch a political action campaign in Saskatchewan. This is a grassroots effort, so we really need the participation of our Saskatchewan members to let their provincial government know what changes need to be made in order to improve the situation for Saskatchewan travellers. Our director for central Canada (and Saskatchewan resident) John Foster has been working very hard on this so if you're a resident of Saskatchewan, please fill in those postcards and send them in! if you have any questions, the CSA is only a phone call away.

Happy (and safe) travelling!