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Dear Ryan: A reply to your thought-provoking letter

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Ryan Leef
Member of Parliament, Yukon
Open Letter #7

Dear Ryan,

Thank you for your well-written and thought-provoking letter. I won't be able to address all of your comments this time. But I will reply to some key points in this, my seventh letter.

It is encouraging that you believe that civility is important to political debate. Yukoners should be proud that all of our candidates refrained from attack ads and dirty tricks during both the federal and territorial elections. Alas, that wasn't the case across the country.

Speaking of attack ads; you mentioned that you don't send out Ten Percenters, which is a good thing. However, just in case no one in Ottawa thought to mention it, Michael Ignatieff's motion to ban the Ten Percenters passed in March of 2010. Shortly after, the House of Commons Board of Internal Economy ruled that, due to complaints by citizens, "Parliamentarians may no longer send out free partisan mail outs into their opponents' ridings." So no one is allowed to send out Ten Percenters, Ryan.

With regard to the per-vote subsidy, you made a very good point in suggesting that banning the subsidy would result in MPs spending more attention to their constituents. If we had a fair electoral system that truly reflected the will of the majority, the per-vote subsidy probably wouldn't be necessary. But that is what the subsidy did; it gave all voters a voice. Also, as I pointed out in Letter #2, there isn't a fair playing field in regard to the public monies being used to support political parties. The ruling party has unfair access to convenient loopholes and privileges that allow them to exploit public money to advertise and promote partisan issues.

I never did express an opinion on the long-gun registry in previous letters. My problem with MP Candice Hoeppner was her improper use of franking privileges and Government of Canada stationary in her highly partisan mail campaign to Conservatives about the long-gun registry.

I agree that the long-gun registry caused undue hardship. It was in serious need of an overhaul. It should have been cost free and simple; no more trouble than registering one's vehicle. It is surprising that you, as a former RCMP officer, believe that it is right to scrap the long-gun registry entirely. A police officer dealing with a domestic dispute might wish to know how many guns are around in order to prepare. It is particularly shocking that the existing records are being scrapped, apparently to make an ideological point.

I continue to be troubled by Bill C-10, the omnibus crime bill.

Although we agree that some criminals need to be punished as a deterrent and safely kept away from the public, I don't agree that the focus on retribution and the extent of the changes are necessary or wise. Texas has backed away from the very strategy that your government is proposing. The John Howard Society and the Canadian Bar Association have both come out against Bill C-10. And it still isn't being made clear to Canadians just how much this bill will cost.

I am pleased that you are in favour of rehabilitation; a brave and principled stand since your government demonstrated its opinion by shutting down prison farms last year. We are both in favour of preventative programs but where is the evidence that your party shares our opinions? Furthermore, Bill C-10 will allow for prison sentences for minor or first-time offences. It is a good thing that former Conservative party director, Mike Donison, Senator Gerstein and Senator Finley received a plea bargained settlement on the Elections Canada "slam dunk" fraud charges, before the bill is pushed through Parliament.

As for victims of crime, nowhere in Bill C-10 do I see money for more safe houses or protection measures for victims of domestic violence.

I disagree with you that amendments to Bills C-50, C-51, and C52 that allowed for Internet spying by authorities without real rules or oversight are a good idea. But this is a moot point since the amendments have been withdrawn. It is an old trick too, when one is trying to promote something unpalatable, to propose something outrageous that can be later retracted. Last year, former Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon stated that Canada would no longer fund non-government organizations that offered birth control as well as abortion. This position was later changed to abortion only. Could it be that amendments to C-50, C-51 and C-52 were put in place for similar tactical reasons?

The Conservative government is ramming the ominous crime bill through without proper committee work, consultation with experts and real explanations to the public. I am mystified why these changes to the criminal code are stuffed willy-nilly into one bill and believe that the public is being railroaded.

I am relieved that you share my enthusiasm for the CBC. Our country will be much poorer if Conservative MPs Rod Anders and Ed Holder have their way. (By the way, both of these gentlemen are using their taxpayer-funded riding websites to conduct their highly partisan campaign against the CBC, another example of abuse of public money and privilege.)

You might be surprised to know that I believe a healthy democracy carries a variety of political opinions, including that of conservatives. But it appears that your party has been high-jacked by some very cynical operators. MP Michael Chong isn't the only principled person in your caucus but those better voices appear to be silenced. I encourage you to work to re-establish an ethical conservative culture and maybe even one day restore the word "progressive" to your party's name.

May your time in Ottawa be constructive and may you always walk on the high road.

Respectfully yours,
Linda Leon

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