Telephone Town Hall Archive
I want to connect with my constituents regularly, not just during election campaigns, so from time to time I will host an interactive telephone town hall. The telephone town hall format is one that allows me to speak to the greatest number of people at one time, while still maintaining an interactive and personal feel. In order to properly represent the riding of Kingston and the Islands it is important that I understand what issues people care about and what questions people have. If you have missed past town halls I have included both audio and written transcripts for your convience.
Telephone Town Hall June 7th
Listen here or read the transcript below.
Eric: Hello and welcome to our virtual town hall meeting. We are live tonight with your Liberal member of parliament for Kingston and the Islands, Ted Hsu. We are also joined tonight by hundreds of people across the riding listening in. To ask your member of parliament a question live tonight simply press star three on your phone’s keypad. Once again if you would like to ask a question simply press three, that’s press three to ask a question of your own at any time. My name is Eric and I’ll be moderating the town hall this evening. During this live virtual town hall we encourage you to get involved and ask questions and give your opinion by voting on some of our questions. Your MP chose this format tonight as this is an interactive town hall with you. Which means Ted wants to hear from you, he wants to hear your opinions and wants to have a dialogue about the federal budget and have an open discussion about the issues that matter most to you. You can ask questions at any time by simply pressing three on your phone’s keypad at that time someone will take your name and place you in the question queue. For those people just joining us in the past few minutes, hello and welcome to our virtual town hall meeting. We are live tonight with your member of parliament for Kingston and the Islands, Ted Hsu. We are also joined tonight by hundreds of people across the riding listening in. We just want to remind everyone tonight you can ask your MP questions at anytime by pressing three on your phone’s keypad. Also we’ll be asking you a series of polling questions this evening and you can vote live on your keypad on your phone for those questions as well. At this time I’d like to introduce your member of parliament so we can open up the town hall and start taking questions. Ted welcome, I’m really excited to be a part of the town hall this evening we already have a lot of people on the line and I’m looking forward to the discussion. Please go ahead Ted.
Ted: Thanks and good evening to everybody. I want to thank you all for taking the time to join me tonight, and I know time is valuable. But I think it’s important for me as the Member of Parliament to talk to constituents in-between elections and not just you know go knocking on your doors just before the election day. So I really want to be able to keep in touch with you and that’s why we’re having the telephone town hall tonight. I want to also mention that tonight’s meeting is coming at no charge to the taxpayer, it’s being paid for by the Kingston and the Islands Liberal Association. So I want to thank them very much for me being able to do this without any charge to the taxpayer. One of the main topics I’d like to talk about tonight is a bill called Bill C-38. It’s supposed to be a bill that implements the government’s budget policies. But it has all sorts of other things in it: it weakens environmental laws, it throws away about 99,000 skilled worker immigration applications, it repeals the Federal Fair Wage Act, it does a lot of different things. It makes permanent the ability of Canadian and American Maritime police forces to work across the border. So about seventy different laws are affected, you know some of the changes are probably good ones, but they really should all be studied separately from the budget. It’s about 400 pages long, this bill and it’s being rushed through the House of Commons with formal limits on how long we can debate the bill. So currently the bill, I’ll just give you a status update, currently the bill is being studied line by line in the Finance Committee, and that’s a committee of the House of Commons. The Finance Committee is going to send the bill back to the full House of Commons next week. Now my party, the Liberal Party, we want the government to separate out the non-budget parts. The government has a majority so there are a limited number of things that we can do, but what we are threatening to do is to have a lot of votes on amendments to the bill next week when it comes back to the House of Commons that will take a long time. All we’re asking for is for the non-budget parts of the bill to be separated out in another bill so that it can be studied separately. Now we’re not trying to delay things, in fact we’ve sped up things in the senate. So Liberal senators have agreed to start work on this bill already and they’re already hearing expert witnesses even before this bill passes the House of Commons. In return what our Liberal senators have gotten is the ability to study this bill in all the different committees of the senate that cover different pieces of this bill. Normally it just goes to the Finance Committee, but this is going to all the different committees in the Senate. We do think for the House of Commons, which is the elected House, the bill really should be separated and we should be able to talk about and debate and hear witnesses about all the different parts of the bill. So I want to welcome any questions that you have tonight on Bill C-38 and I’ll take any questions that you have about my work as your Member of Parliament apart from Bill C-38 as well. So let’s start with the questions.
Eric: Well thanks very much for that introduction Ted, we will get to a question. I do want to remind everyone that if you would like to ask a question of your MP, Ted Hsu, please press three on your phone’s keypad and someone will take your name and place you in the question queue. So we do have our first live question coming up and this one is from Gayle. Gayle welcome to the virtual town hall you are live with Ted Hsu, please go ahead Gayle with your question.
Ted: Hi Gayle.
Gayle: Thank you. Hi, I wanted to ask you why the cutback medically has to be so drastic. I have been in pain for more than three years and I go to KOPI in Kingston for pain control. With the cutbacks they may have to close they can’t maintain their client base. And what are you going to do to fight it?
Ted: Well Gayle, I think that would be part of the provincial government’s budget and what I would do is, the best thing to do is talk to the provincial member of parliament, John Gerretsen and let him know your concerns. What I will say is that the federal government has been unilaterally deciding on healthcare transfers of funds from the federal government to the provincial governments, without consulting the provinces. Now the federal government has a role to play in the overall funding of healthcare, through the healthcare transfers, but the provincial government makes the decisions about the operations of the healthcare system so I have to concede that you’ll have to go and talk to John Gerretsen, the provincial member about that particular issue.
Eric: Thank you very much Gayle for that question. We have another one coming up if you’d like to ask a live question press three on your phone’s keypad someone will take your name and place you in the question queue. Our next question is coming up from Elizabeth. Elizabeth welcome to the virtual town hall, you have a question for Ted Hsu, please go ahead.
Elizabeth: Ted my question is whether there is anyway, any process in which the House of Commons could see to it that these environmental regulations, which are being proposed will be taken out of this C-38 bill?
Ted: Well, so let me give some background. The problem is that there are a lot of environmental laws that are being changed or repealed. So the Kyoto Implementation Bill is being repealed, the Environmental Assessment Act is being repealed and replaced with a weaker act, there are changes to the Fisheries Act that are even opposed by Brian Mulroney era Conservative ministers, there’s the elimination of the national roundtable for the economy and the environment, which gave a lot of advice to the government about how to balance economic concerns and environmental concerns. Unfortunately, we have a majority government and they have the ability to win every vote. What we can do aside from going to the public and getting the public to speak out, is to use procedural rules to slow down and make it hard for MPs on both sides for a couple of days. So what we’re threatening to do is to have maybe a hundred or two hundred votes on amendments to the bill and this will keep members of parliament in their seats, because you have to stay in your seats when these votes are going on for potentially one or two whole days. That means twenty, thirty, forty hours. Now this is going to be painful for MPs on both sides and we’re doing it for a reason. All we want the government to do is simply separate out the bills having to do with for example changing environmental laws and consider them as a separate bill. That’s normally what’s done with legislation. You have one bill about crime, you have another bill about the budget and you have another bill about immigration and that’s the normal way that legislation proceeds and that’s all we’re asking for.
Eric: Thank you very much for that question from Elizabeth. Now we’re going to go to our first polling question and you can actually use your touchtone phone to indicate your response on this question. We want to know have you visited your Member of Parliament, Ted Hsu’s website to view services offered to you, constituency information or his blog. If you have visited his website please press one, if you haven’t visited the site please press two. Now we do have another live question coming up and this one is from Bob. Bob welcome to the virtual town hall, you’re live on the line with Ted Hsu. Please go ahead with your question Bob.
Ted: Hi Bob.
Bob: Hi Ted. How are you? I’m very concerned, I’m seventy-five-years-old and I’m very concerned about the cutback to the Old Age Pension. I think that when somebody has reached sixty-five and like it was qualifies for the old age Canada Pension, they should receive it. This is a bunch of bull, this wait now until you’re sixty-seven. What do you think?
Ted: First of all I will say that because you’re seventy-five you won’t be affected by this change, just to be fair to the government. This change will occur in a few years. But here’s the important thing for me. Some people will say that people are living longer and they’re healthier so it should be okay to increase the eligibility age from sixty-five to sixty-seven. But the problem is that overlooks people who really need OAS and also the guaranteed income supplement when they reach sixty-five. If you look at the lowest say, and this is kind of taking the most extreme example, if you look at the lowest 10% of income earners, so these are the people who will really need OAS and GIS, the health adjusted lifespan is less than sixty-five years old. What health adjusted lifespan means is that when you get to sixty-five then your health is so bad that your quality of life has deteriorated. People how have lower incomes tend not to live as long and tend not to be so healthy and strong when they get to their senior years. Those are the people who really need the guaranteed income supplement and the Old Age Security. So I think this change doesn’t take into account those folks who really need it. The other thing is we don’t even need to increase the age from sixty-five to sixty-seven. The Parliamentary Budget Officer actually went and did a calculation and he showed that the Old Age Security System is sustainable. It doesn’t pay out as much as some European countries that are in trouble now, we pay out a lot less. It’s totally financially sustainable; there is no need to raise the age from sixty-five to sixty-seven. People who have paid into that system deserve to receive the benefits from it when they reach sixty-five.
Eric: Thank you very much Bob for that question, we have another question coming up and this one is from Anthony. Anthony welcome to the virtual town hall - sorry it looks like we may just have actually Anthony, don’t worry we’ll try to get him back. We do now have a question from Evelyn. Evelyn welcome to the virtual town hall, you’re live on the line please go ahead with your question.
Ted: Hi Evelyn.
Evelyn: I would like to know in the budget cuts, how much are they compared to last year, what are the differences? Where the budget cuts are from and where they are they putting it into?
Ted: Okay, well this year is the year of the big budget cuts, in previous years especially around 2009, 2010, 2011 the government was spending a lot of money because there was a global recession and it was trying to protect the country from a global recession. We spent a lot of money and now we have a big debt, a big budget deficit. So now the government has decided that they’re going to cut. The cuts are spread out across the whole government. Some places a little bit more and some places a little bit less from between 5% and 10% for all sorts of different parts in the government. So I think the important thing is not the amount of the cuts, but whether the cuts are smart or not. The government seems to be cutting in areas, one of the areas that concerns me a lot is that the government is cutting parts of the bureaucracy, the civil service, that have the ability to give out information that might be embarrassing to the government, or have the ability to make it difficult for the government to do what it wants. So for example they are cutting Statistics Canada that gets a lot of information on how people live and where people live. They’re cutting a lot of environmental monitoring, they’re cutting a lot of scientists who either study the environment or study the economy, they study what’s happening in the country and they can give good advice to the government. Those sorts of people are being cut, so that’s my concern, is that they’re not making smart cuts to the government.
Eric: Thank you very much Evelyn for that question, we now have another question coming from Chris. Chris welcome to the virtual town hall, you’re live on the line, please go ahead with your question for Ted Hsu.
Chris: Hi Ted how are you?
Ted: Good thank you.
Chris: That’s good. My question for you Ted is this, do you think that Kingston is being punished for voting Liberal? I mean that from this point of view, CFB Kingston is going to have fifty-nine public service cutbacks, whereas CFB Trenton, which is a base that is twice the size of Kingston, is going to have two. Trenton is in Conservative riding and Kingston obviously is in a Liberal riding. Also they came down and essentially closed the third largest employer in the city of Kingston, which is the prison and never mentioned it to you. I mean it came as a complete shock to you, if I were the manager of a company and I was going to do that to somebody I would give them a heads up before that came. Do you think that we’re being punished for voting Liberal Ted?
Ted: Well, that’s an interesting question and I think that a lot of people have been asking themselves. First of all we have to realize that we do have a lot of public service, federal government jobs, in Kingston with CFB Kingston and Corrections Canada, and a lot of funding for research at the post secondary institutions. So there are a lot of federal jobs and if the federal government is going to make cuts across the government we’re going to feel something. But the second thing I would say is I would throw the question back at the Conservatives and say “you tell us, you tell us whether that’s what you’re doing or not”. I’m always trying to answer that question in kind of a non-partisan way, by asking the government to justify its cuts. So for example with the closure of Kingston Penitentiary, I’m saying what’s your rationale, show me the numbers, explain why you decided to close Kingston Penitentiary instead of doing something else like renovation or re-purposing it. Same thing for any of the other cuts, closure of the Citizenship office in Kingston, there are Employment Insurance casework jobs that are moving to North Bay. I met with the workers and union representatives for them to talk about the rationale for moving those jobs to another part of the country. The answer that I’m getting is that there isn’t a rationale, that the government is not willing to explain why they are moving jobs from Kingston to another place. So yeah, you have to suspect that perhaps something is going on. But I’m not going to just claim that without having some facts and arguments to back up that claim. So what I’m working on is trying to get the government to explain itself, and if not that may be embarrassing for the government, but that’s their fault for not having a good explanation for what they’re doing. My job is to make sure that the government has a good explanation for what it’s doing.
Eric: Thank you very much Chris for that question, we now have another question this one is from Peter. Peter welcome to the virtual town hall, you’re live on the line, please go ahead with your question.
Peter: Hi Ted.
Peter: How are you doing?
Ted: Good, thank you.
Peter: The question that I have is whether Bill C-38 contains sort of hidden inside it, a serious threat to the democratic system as represented by the Parliament of Canada? How do you feel about that?
Ted: I think there is a serious threat and it’s not hidden in the bill, I think it’s there for everybody to see. The threat is that the way our system of government is supposed to work is that the government does things and it is accountable to Members of Parliament who are elected. Members of Parliament have to have time and have the resources to understand what the government is doing and debate it and to hear expert witnesses and to propose changes. That’s the whole parliamentary process. So with this Bill C-38 they have not only the budget, but they’re changing all sorts of things. They’re changing for example foreign ownership rules for small telecom companies, they’re amending the Bank Act, they’re abolishing the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development, they’re changing the Parks Canada Act. They’re doing all sorts of things all in one bill, and it’s all pushed through with only a few days of debate and only witnesses coming to the finance committee. So we’re losing our ability to have the time and have the resources to properly oversee what the government is doing and how the government is spending our tax dollars. So I think the real threat to democracy is the way that this bill is constructed it’s not letting Members of Parliament do their proper job of oversight of the government. That threat to democracy is there for everybody to see. Just to add a little bit, that’s why we’re doing this taking a stand and using these procedural measures to cause a little bit of pain to MPs to make our point and try to get this concession of splitting up this bill into the budget piece and some non-budget pieces.
Eric: Peter thank you very much for your question, we are now going to go to our next polling question. Once again you can indicate your answer with your touchtone phone. We want to hear for you, “are you satisfied with the job the Conservative majority government has done in the House of Commons”. If you are satisfied with the job of the Conservative Government please press one. If you are not satisfied with the job of the Conservative Government please press two. If you are unsure or you don’t know please press three. We now have another live question, this one is from Elaine. Elaine welcome to the virtual town hall, you’re live on the line, please go ahead with your question.
Elaine: Thank you very much. I’m delighted that you’re so well-versed and that you’re speaking out so honestly and not pussyfooting around.
Ted: Well thank you, and if you ask a question and I say I don’t know, I may just have to say it. So go ahead.
Elaine: I want to know if you have any idea what they are doing with the psychiatric patients who have been in KP for whoever knows how long?
Ted: A little bit of background for everybody. Inside the walls of Kingston Penitentiary there is something called the Regional Treatment Centre, which has about 140-145 inmates who have mental illness and some of them have very serious mental illness. There is a team there of clinical staff, and also special corrections officers who specialize in working with mentally ill patients, so there is a whole team. With the closure of Kingston Penitentiary, the Regional Treatment Centre is also being closed and so they have to figure out where all of these mentally ill patients go. I think what they need to do is recreate this Regional Treatment Centre in another location if they really close down the Regional Treatment Centre. As far as I know, I had a chance last week to question the Public Safety Minister, Vic Toews, at the Public Safety Committee here in Ottawa. There is no plan that has been decided upon right now for what is going to happen to the Regional Treatment Centre. That is very unfortunate, and what is really unfortunate is that they made the decision to close it without having a plan in place for where to put these mentally ill patients. They need special facilities, they can’t just be put into cells like everybody else. There’s a really good team, a clinical team and a security team together there, it’s a very valuable team and it would be good to keep them together. That’s another thing we could potentially lose with the closing of the Regional Treatment Centre. That’s a very good question. This morning Vic Toews gave a talk in Ottawa about why the prisons should be closed, again he was asked about the Regional Treatment Centre and he wasn’t able to give an answer either. That means there is no plan yet that has been finalized.
Eric: Thank you very much Elaine for that question. If you would like to ask a member of your Member of Parliament, Ted Hsu, press three on your phones keypad, someone will take your name and place you in the question queue and you’ll have a chance to ask a question. We now have a question coming from Marilyn. Marilyn welcome to the virtual town hall, you’re live on the line, please go ahead with your question.
Marilyn: Hi Ted.
Marilyn: Mine isn’t just about the Kingston area. It’s something that was discussed on Global TV tonight. It’s cuts to the ELA, which stands for the Experimental Lakes Area. It sounds like a wonderful facility that really has done some very special things in the past. Closures are going to affect maybe what happens with our water quality and our international reputation related to the environment. I just wondered what you think.
Ted: I actually had a chance to talk about that on Tuesday, because on Tuesday there was an opposition party motion about science, asking the government not to cut certain science programs. I’m the Science and Technology Critic for the Liberal Party. The Experimental Lakes Area is an area in Northern Ontario, something like 58 lakes. The idea there is that ecosystems are very complicated, with the web of life and there are lots of interactions. If you change one thing you’re never really sure what is going to happen. So if you’re just in a laboratory with a test tube, sometimes it’s very hard to predict what’s going to happen in a real lake if you pollute it. So there are the lakes there where they can do controlled experiments. They’ve done experiments where they’ve polluted it, say with mercury, and then watched how the lake responds and where the mercury goes and what happens when you try to clean it up. They’ve also done experiments with acid rain in those lakes where they put acid in the lake and they watch what happens in this complicated ecosystem with all sorts of living things. These experiments really give us some solid, solid evidence as to what happens in the real world. That allows governments to set smart policies. Even if you think that environmental rules are too restrictive, these kinds of experiments on the lakes can tell you how much pollution can be tolerated. So it is really important to be able to do these experiments and not just be in a laboratory trying to pretend you can figure out what’s going on in a whole lake and the bottom of the lake and the shore and all the different animals and plants that interact. It’s a real shame, it’s not a lot of money, it’s only a couple millions dollars. Countries from all around the world use the information we get from doing these experiments of polluting a lake and then trying to clean it up to set really smart policies for how to deal with water pollution. So it’s a shame that this internationally recognized facility is going to lose its federal government funding.
Eric: Thank you very much Marilyn for that question. We have another question coming up now, this one is from Nick. Nick welcome to the virtual town hall, you’re live on the line, please go ahead with your question for Ted Hsu.
Ted: Hi Nick.
Nick: Hi Ted how are you?
Ted: Good, thanks.
Nick: I guess my question is only 42% of the population voted for the Conservative Government and the other 58% of us are sort of trying to wonder how we’re supposed to accept all of this? Are we supposed to start doing civil disobedience to try to make our point or do you have another suggestion for us on what we can do to get them to listen to us?
Ted: Okay so I’ll get a little bit partisan here. First of all here in Ottawa we have parliamentary procedures that we can follow and there are certain things that we can do to make a fuss, which we are threatening to do next week, we don’t really want to do it, but we’re threatening to do it. Aside form that we have a majority government so they are going to win every vote. As an MP, one of the most important things I can try to do is to communicate with the public and let the public know what’s going on. Even a majority government will respond to a public outcry. I’ll give you one example of that. One example of that, there was this bill, C-30, you could characterize it as an online spying bill. It allowed the government to get information about you when you go on to the Internet. There was quite an outcry amongst Canadians and that bill has been put on the backburner for now. Another example of that are the changes to the Old Age Security. There was quite an outcry on that and I think the changes that are being proposed now - I’m still opposed to them - but they’re a lot less than what I think they initially had in mind. So I think that it’s important to speak out, to write letters to the paper, to talk to your friends if you disagree with what the government is doing. It is a majority government; they did win a majority of the seats in the last parliament. Majority governments do listen when the public speaks out in large numbers, so we’ve got to talk to each other and let them know how we feel about a particular issue and there will be certain issues that they back down on.
Eric: Nick, thank you very much for your question. There is another question coming up right now. Once again if you would like to ask a question simply press three on your phone’s keypad and you’ll have the chance to ask your question. Our next question is coming from Brennan. So Brennan, welcome to the virtual town hall, you’re live on the line, please go ahead with your question.
Brennan: Thank you and first Ted thank you for this opportunity it’s quite an innovative way to get people engaged. It’s kind of a follow up on Old Age Security going to sixty-seven. I was wondering have you seen any analysis that’s been done to identify the negative impact on job creation that this is going to have? Our daughter has recently graduated and is unable to find a job. I’m concerned that people that would have otherwise retired at sixty-five are going to now have to hang on, because financially it doesn’t make sense to retire. Therefore where are these new jobs coming from? That’s part of what the government is supposed to be doing isn’t it?
Ted: The easy answer to your question is no I haven’t seen any studies. But my reaction to what you’re saying is there are probably a number of other things that are more important for the chance that your daughter can get a good job, more important than the age of eligibility for Old Age Security. One thing that’s coming up is there’s going to be what’s called a skills gap, it’s anticipate that there are going to be a lot of jobs that require skills and a lot of workers who don’t have the skills to fill those jobs. So one thing we need to invest in I think is skills training for the jobs that we expect to be opening up over the next ten years or so. I’ll give you an example of that, I went to visit a community college in another part of Ontario and we were talking about the medical technicians program. There’s a shortage of medical technicians, but the bottleneck is not the number of students in the medical technicians program. It’s the number of clinical placements. They do their classroom work and then they have to go out in the real world and work with mentors and get trained in a real laboratory, a real working situation and they’re aren’t enough places in hospitals for these clinical placements, so that’s the bottleneck for getting enough people to fill the jobs that need to be filled. So if you go and look at the details and you poke around, you’ll see that there are certain bottlenecks that the government needs to deal with because the economy is not dealing with it on it’s own. I think that’s one area. We also in Canada need to encourage more innovation by companies and commercialization of some of the knowledge that we have. I’ll just talk specifically about Kingston and the Islands. We have a lot of smart people and new ideas that are created at our research institutions and that would be RMC, Queens’ University and St. Lawrence College. We should be doing whatever we can to take advantage of what’s created and the smart people that come through Kingston and the Islands to foster the creation of new companies that use the intellectual property that’s developed at Queens. I think Queens did a great thing by starting up Innovation Park, which is a research park. There are number of success stories of companies in Kingston that were started by people who initially did their work at say Queens then started their own company and the small company eventually grew into a slightly bigger company. These are the sorts of things that we need to encourage as well. Those two things that I just mentioned are going to be more important than the age of eligibility for Old Age Security.
Eric: Thank you very much for that question from Brennan. We are going to go to our next polling question, using your touchtone phone you can indicate your response on this question. We want to know are you happy with the job your Liberal MP Ted Hsu has done to represent you in the House of Commons. If you are happy with the work if Liberal MP Ted Hsu please press one. If you are not happy with the work if Liberal MP Ted Hsu press two. If are unsure or you don’t know please press three. As well we do have another question coming up this one is from Cole. Cole, welcome to the virtual town hall, you’re live on the line, please go ahead with your question.
Cole: Is that my turn now?
Cole: My name is Cole, Ted.
Cole: Okay. I’ve studied all my life in engineering, medicine and everything; I’ve changed streams three times. I’ve been in Kingston ten years and I try to bring innovative ideas in my work. Everywhere I go my doors been shut. I even tried to phone your office one day to talk to you and bring you my ideas. So that it could benefit where I work and also the people from Kingston. Your secretary didn’t allow me to have a meeting with you. I would like to have a meeting with you in the future and then I would talk to you about innovation. I have a science background and things like that. Would that be possible?
Ted: Well the House of Commons has been sitting in the spring so during the summer in July and August I will be working from the constituency office. What I would suggest is to contact the office again, but before that send an email with some details so I can know what you’re talking about and whether I can be of any help or not. So I would encourage you to send an email in and let me know some of the details of what you’d like to talk about and it will make it easier for me to decide whether I can help you or not. It’s probably something technical I’m thinking.
Eric: Well thank you very much Cole for that question. I also want to let everyone know that once the town hall has finished you’ll have a chance to leave a message at the end of the town hall. If you still have a question or a comment you can just leave your message there with your name and number that way Ted or someone from his office can get back to you. So we do have another live question coming up and this one is from Rick. So Rick welcome to the virtual town hall, please go ahead with your question.
Rick: Hi Ted. It’s city councilor Rick Downes. How are you doing?
Ted: Oh wow. Hello, good, thank you.
Rick: Thank you for your public service Ted. I had a question with regard to the budget on infrastructure. As you know the City of Kingston has a very good infrastructure plan in place, but for some of the larger projects for example the bridge over the Cataraqui River, a sewage treatment improvement and a water treatment improvement. We really do need partners in the province and the federal government, so I was wondering what your take was Ted on this particular budget in terms of aiding municipalities with infrastructure help.
Ted: Yeah, well unfortunately this particular budget was mostly about trying to do some cuts across the board in the government. Unfortunately it’s not a good time to be getting funding for the projects that are coming up. I know that Kingston’s first priority is this water treatment plant out west. Just to be honest it’s not a good budget for finding money for that particular project. There are always opportunities with the ongoing funding of the government to say here is a project in Kingston, here is why it is a valuable thing to fund. We’ll just keep trying to see if we can get some funding for that.
Eric: Thank you very much Rick. We have another question coming up now and it is from Stewart. Stewart, welcome to the virtual town hall, you’re live on the line, please go ahead with your question.
Stewart: My question is what are they going to do about Kingston Penitentiary? It’s one thing to say that you are going to close it, but it’s fifteen acres of limestone buildings there. There seems to be no idea of any alternative use or what do you do to the whole policy of corrections and developing ideas to reduce crime rather than try to just lock people up because they have committed a crime.
Ted: Okay, well this is a very hot topic. The first priority as far as the announced closure of Kingston Pen and the Regional Treatment Centre is to do our best to take care of the workers and their families that are affected. Now some of them will definitely be able to stay. Let me say that I’m not finished bugging the government to justify its decision and as far as I’m concerned, there are still a lot of arguments to be made. The government is planning to build two new buildings with about two hundred beds. So there are about four or five hundred inmates that will need to be moved out of Kingston Pen and Regional Treatment Centre. About a couple hundred of them will be able to move into maximum security buildings elsewhere in the area so the corresponding staff for those buildings will be able to be drawn from the current staff at Kingston Penitentiary. But the rest of the maximum security beds, it looks like would have to be coming from somewhere else in the country. So that’s one of the issues that we’re looking at. As far as I can tell the final plans that the government has for what to do about all the inmates in Kingston Pen, there is no final plan yet. There is still a lot of discussion going on. I think that it is very important to keep thinking not only about how we can reduce crime rates, but how we can reduce recidivism and to always try to be doing a better job on rehabilitation of inmates. The Liberal Party has still promised in the future, and I would say that the New Democratic Party would agree with this, in the future when and if we to form the next government we would commit to bringing back the prison farm program. It’s hard to know exactly what the government is going to do, it’s hard to come up with an alternate plan when you don’t have the numbers available to you, when the government is keeping the numbers from you. I think that it’s important to try and keep tabs on exactly what the minister is telling Corrections Canada to do. We just want to make sure we take care of the staff and their families as best as we can.
Eric: Thank you very much Stewart for that question. Now we have had a few people join us just over the past few minutes and I just want to welcome them to our virtual town hall meeting. We are live tonight with your Liberal Member of Parliament for Kingston and the Islands, Ted Hsu. We’re also joined by thousands of people across the riding listening in. If you would like to ask a question of your MP, simply press three on your phones keypad at anytime and someone will take name and place you in the question queue. We now have another question this one is from Audrey. Audrey, welcome to the virtual town hall, you’re live on the line, please go ahead with your question.
Audrey: I was just asking about unemployment. I wasn’t happy about the way their doing unemployment, because people who have a good job then they have to take anything that comes along. Rather then draw on unemployment they have to take anything as long as it’s working and I don’t agree with that.
Ted: Okay, yeah. There’s quite an argument over the new rules for Employment Insurance and there are two issues. One is that people will be forced to take whatever comes along or else they lose their EI benefits and the problem is for a lot people they need some more time to try and find the job that takes advantage of the skills, experience and talent that they have. The other issue is about seasonal workers and the change in the EI rules really disfavours seasonal workers. Most of the seasonal workers are out east where there is fishing and tourism. The interesting way to look at this issue is from the point of the view of the employer. If you run a business and you need people with certain skills, but your business only runs a certain part of the year like if you’re in fishing or in tourism. You need to have workers who know what their doing, but you need to make sure the workers don’t leave and do something else in the offseason. Employment Insurance has been a way of helping those seasonal businesses keep good workers during the offseason so that they can come back to the job that they are good at and where they can be the most productive during that particular season when the job is on. There are all these changes that I think need to be debated a little bit more carefully, it’s part of this big budget bill. It really should be taken out and we should get some expert opinions and try to look and the details and see if we can’t propose any amendments or better ways of changing the EI system so that we don’t have these problems. It is very important to give workers a bit more time to find the jobs that really take advantage of the skills they have.
Eric: Audrey thank you for your question. We are actually going to go to our next polling question and using your touchtone phone you can indicate your response on this question and we want to hear from you. Are you satisfied with the job that the official opposition, the NDP, has done to represent you in the House of Commons? If you are satisfied with the job the NDP has done to represent you please press one. If you are not satisfied with the job the NDP has done to represent you please press two. If you are unsure or you don’t know please press three. As well we have another live question, this one is coming from Janet. Janet welcome to the virtual town hall, you have a question for Ted Hsu please go ahead.
Janet: Thank you.
Janet: I would like to know if you would support a change in our voting structure to one of proportional representation?
Ted: Yeah, I would support a change in our voting structure for sure. But I don’t have a particular preference between proportional representation and what’s called a preferential ballot where you list first choice, second choice and third choice. I think those are both good things. I really think that we should be moving away from the current first-past-the-post system where you could have four or five candidates and one of them has 30%, the other one has 25% and the next one has 20% and somebody wins the seat without getting the majority of the votes. I think it would be a good idea to change our electoral system; it has a lot of problems with it. I would definitely favour either proportional representation or a preferential ballot over the current system.
Eric: Thank you very much Janet for that question. Our next question is coming up from Jean. Jean welcome to the virtual town hall, you also have a question for Ted Hsu, please go ahead with your question Jean.
Jean: Thank you, first I’d like to thank Ted for doing this and for his intelligent and knowledgeable answers, it’s not an easy thing you’re doing.
Ted: Thank you.
Jean: My question is, do you think there is any chance that the opposition parties could cooperate more closely in dealing with this government?
Ted: It’s hard to answer the question do I think there’s any chance. I think they should. The Liberal Party will have a leadership race over the next nine months or so, it will be easier to start talking about cooperation first of all after the Liberal leadership race. I think it’s also up to the NDP to make the first move, because they’re the larger party now. They have three times the seats that the Liberals do. I guess what I would wait for is some kind of move or signal or something from the NDP leadership and if the NDP says “we’d like to cooperate”, I would certainly encourage whoever the leader of the Liberal Party is in nine months to think seriously about cooperating one way or another.
Eric: Thank you very much Jean for that question. We now have another question this one is from Bev. Bev welcome to the virtual town hall, you have a question for Ted Hsu, please go ahead with your question.
Bev: Hi Ted.
Bev: I’m calling while listening to you and you have very good points. My question is do you think with everything you’re doing and going to try to do that the government will even listen. Because the Collin’s Bay, the farm part of it, they closed it and all the demonstrating those people did the government still did not listen and that’s what I expect they would do with the closing of the penitentiary and all that.
Ted: Well, first of all we have to admit that the Conservatives won the last election so they have a majority. So they will win all the votes in the House of Commons. However, as I said earlier if the public rises up, and this is not just small numbers, but all across the country and complains about something I think even majority governments can move. I gave an example of the online snooping Bill C-30 that’s been put on the backburner because people were upset about the government having powers to find out information about people going online onto the web. I think that there’s an ultimate backstop for democracy and that is the people of the country speaking out and maybe demonstrating. I mean if you look at the history of the development of democracy in England there were times in the history of England during several centuries, while democracy was developing, that people had to take to the streets, they had to protest, there was even a civil war. You look around the world and quite often countries reach the point where there has to be people on the streets. Democracy has that as a backstop, it’s not just people voting, it’s people being willing to speak out and to organize and to work together sometimes to oppose the government. So I think we have to work for what we think is right even though it looks like it might not succeed in one case, but there are all these other things we have to work on.
Eric: We do now have another question coming up and this one is from Andrea. Andrea welcome to the virtual town hall, you have a question, please go ahead, you are live on the line.
Andrea: Hi thank you. Hi Ted.
Andrea: My question is as an employee of Kingston Penitentiary. I wanted to know whether these have been any decisions or anything that’s been passed to you in regards to percentage wise of jobs that will be remaining in Kingston. We’ve already received packages as employees, but we haven’t really been told anything otherwise. I know that you have been posed this several times this evening.
Ted: Yeah. The short answer to your question is no, I don’t have any information to offer and I’m sorry for that. The other group that would probably be more likely to get information first would be the two unions that represent the staff and the correctional officers at Kingston Pen. My impression is that the final decisions haven’t been made. So I would hold on and don’t assume the worst. I think the final decisions haven’t been made and there is still a good chance that a lot of jobs will stay in Kingston. I think that’s what I’m working towards is to make sure as few people as possible have to sell their homes and take their families across the country and go somewhere else.
Eric: Andrea, thank you very much for that question. We do have another question coming up right now this one is from Troy. Troy welcome to the town hall, you’re live on the line, please go ahead.
Troy: Hi Ted.
Troy: I’d just like to say first of all thanks, this an excellent and it’s sort of serendipitous sitting around and not expecting to get a phone call like this. So it’s great to be able to join in on something like this.
Ted: Thanks for saying that. I know not everybody likes to be called and a couple people might be annoyed, but I really do believe it’s important to talk to voters in between elections and not just show up before Election Day and say, “please vote for me”.
Troy: It’s definitely better than someone trying to sell windows. My question though was, I was just wondering whether you could give a bit of background on the bill itself and then some of the possibilities that could happen in terms of the legislative process with the bill, e.g. it could go through, it could be amended et cetera.
Ted: I won’t try and give a background about what’s in the bill because it’s so much, but I’ll just tell you a few things that might happen to the bill. The first thing that I’ll tell you is that a lot of the Conservative backbenchers, they don’t want to be sitting in the House of Commons for twenty or thirty straight hours voting. They don’t want to do that. So there is going to be pressure from them on the government to say “why don’t you just split out the environmental piece and put it in a separate bill then the Liberals and Green Party will back down and not do this”. So they might just do that, because it’s not a big concession for them to do that. So that might happen. The other thing that might happen is the government will just say “no way” everybody is going to sit down for twenty or thirty hours and go through the pain of sitting in your seat and voting and standing up and voting for twenty or thirty hours. The government could do that because it’s got a majority and they could just force all of its MPs to be there for the vote. There is a third interesting possibility and that’s Elizabeth May has a point of order saying that the bill is not in proper form, because it’s got all these different things that are not related to the budget policy of the government. I’ll list a couple of other things: the Federal Fair Wage Act is repealed, there is something called Ship Rider Agreements where Canadian and U.S. police work together in an integrated way. So integrated cross-border law enforcement operation, that’s in the bill too. There are changes to rules about parole board in the bill. Elizabeth May has this point of order that says that a bill doesn’t have proper form if it has all these different things in it. The speaker is expected to rule on that next week. So the speaker might, although it’s unlikely, the speaker might say “this bill has the wrong form so we have to throw it out”. Those are the three things that could happen over the next week.
Eric: Thank you very much to that question. Now I think we’re just about reaching the end of the event and I see there are quite a few questions we haven’t had time to get to. It’s okay the way Ted’s set this up it actually allows you to leave a direct voicemail at the end of the town hall. So if anyone still has a question or a comment you can just stay on the line once the town hall has finished and you’ll have a chance to leave that question so that Ted or someone from his team can get back to you. So Ted I think things went very well today how about you?
Ted: Yeah, I want to thank everyone for joining me and I want to apologize if we didn’t get to your question. I do want to keep in touch my constituents in between elections and I want to encourage you to leave a message with your question. You could also email any questions that you have to firstname.lastname@example.org. Just leave your question there and we’ll try our best to answer it. Thanks again to everybody and please have a good night.
Eric: So once again thank you very much to everyone for joining us on this evening’s town hall, you can stay on the line once it has finished and you’ll have a chance to leave your question. Have a great night everybody!