20 Questions for ParliamentA list of 20 key policy questions that Members of Parliament should debate to set direction for Canada for 2010 and beyond.
The Prime Minister sent our MPs home to recalibrate the government agenda. The break was 20 workdays, he said. Here’s a list of 20 key policy questions, one for each missed day. These are issues that Members of Parliament, as voices of the people, should debate and set the direction for Canada for 2010 and beyond.
You may have your own list of priorities; let your MP know …
1. Poverty Elimination Strategy: In November 2009 the House of Commons called for the immediate development of a strategy to eliminate poverty in Canada. What are the next steps to implement this plan? What are some of the key components?
2. Building Peace in Afghanistan: What should we be doing in Afghanistan, before 2011 and after? (This would be the first debate on the substance of the mission rather than its end date.)
3. Affordable Housing: In the last session, the first positive housing policy in years (Bill C-304) passed Second Reading in the House of Commons and was amended at committee; it is ready for Third Reading. Will MPs give it Third Reading as a top priority so it can be implemented?
4. Budget Priorities – Expenditures: What are the people’s priorities for the next budget? Will important programs be protected in the focus on deficit reduction? Will tax concessions also be reviewed? How will issues of growing inequality, as an impact of the recession, be addressed?
5. Budget Priorities – Revenue: What steps should be taken to make Canada’s tax system fairer and provide sustainable revenue for public services that benefit everyone?
6. Global Warming: What will Canada do to mitigate the effects of global warming, particularly in the north? How does Canada intend to invest in green alternatives? How can Canada play a more constructive role in international negotiations?
7. Energy Policy for Canada: What principles and priorities should guide a new energy strategy for all of Canada, in light of the Copenhagen Conference? What would be the role of nuclear power, tar sands development and other factors within energy policy?
8. Immigration Priorities: What are the principles that inform Canadian immigration policy? Is the expansion of temporary worker programs the most just and cost-effective way to meet labour shortages? How can the refugee determination process be more timely and fair?
9. Aboriginal Children and Jordan’s Principle: In 2008 parliament adopted Jordan’s Principle, to ensure the best interests of aboriginal children in the health system took priority over federal-provincial jurisdictional disputes, but it has not been implemented. The Auditor General verified discrimination in funding for aboriginal child welfare, but it has not been corrected. What can be done to ensure fair treatment and a better future for aboriginal children in Canada?
10. Disparity in Income, Diversity, and Social Cohesion in Canada: What measures could be taken to reduce the growing gaps between identifiable groups in Canada and encourage greater social cohesion, in light of diverse cultures and income disparity in Canada?
11. Human Rights in Canada: One year ago the government committed to improve mechanisms to implement international human rights obligations in Canada, but nothing has changed. How can Canada begin to implement economic and social rights? How can rights-based tools for accountability be used to achieve equitable treatment of all Canadians and allow diversity between provinces?
12. Well-being Measures of Progress: There is a consensus that GDP does not adequately address environmental and social factors. What system of indicators should parliament adopt to better assess the state of the nation?
13. Responsibilities and Rights of Canadian Citizenship: What effective steps can be taken to encourage active citizenship and engage the public about rights and responsibilities of citizenship? How should the government booklet, used as basis of citizenship, be revised to meet these goals?
14. Pensions: What steps should be taken to ensure that workers’ pensions are protected in the private sector and workers are treated fairly when companies dissolve?
15. Aging Demographics: What steps should Canada take in light of its aging population, to promote inter-generational justice and meet the needs of all age groups?
16. Full Employment and Improved Productivity: What steps can be taken toward a full employment strategy for Canada? What policies will stimulate productivity improvements through increased worker participation in management of our workplaces?
17. Employment Insurance: In 2009 Parliament enhanced EI benefits for Canadians. In the context of economic challenges how will the EI system guarantee support during a time of historically high levels of unemployment?
18. Corrections Canada Strategy: What kind of corrections system do we want in Canada? What do we need to change to combine protection and restoration?
19. Accountability for Use of Aid Dollars: In May 2008 parliament passed a bill to ensure that aid would be used to reduce poverty and promote human rights. How will Parliament provide accountability on major issues such as reduced aid to Africa, development in Afghanistan, and emergency assistance to Haiti?
20. Electoral and Parliamentary Reform: How can our parliamentary system be improved? How might a change to proportional representation better serve Canadians? What steps can be taken to enhance the role of MPs? Could Senate reform help?
More than ever, we need a robust Parliament that debates and determines policy directions in the public interest and in public view. You may have your own list of priorities; let your MP know and join with others to raise the profile of your concerns. Citizens stepping up to the plate may persuade our parliamentarians to do what we elected them to do.
Kathy Vandergrift is a public policy analyst in Ottawa. She has a Master's Degree in Public Ethics and is active in several Christian social justice movements.
Originally published in Christian Courier, February 8, 2010.
Used with permission. Copyright © 2010 Christianity.ca.