October 31, 2014 - 6:18 AM
The Vernon mayor and our MP are duking things out in a war of words, sparring over the federal government’s role in reducing homelessness. But never mind the federal government, what is the role of our local MP?
Colin Mayes, the Member of Parliament for the Okanagan-Shuswap riding, is our elected representative at the House of Commons. His job is to represent his constituents—including those who live on the street—and act on their behalf. To do that, it’s pretty important he has a pulse of what’s happening locally.
He should know that in Vernon, the largest city in his riding, 14 homeless people died in the past year. He should know shelters are filled to the brim in winter, and that staff are forced to turn people away. He should know it’s common for the soup kitchen to feed up to 100 people a day. He should know rent in the city is rising.
Mayes claims no one, not the city council, and not local agencies, ever approached him about the issue of homelessness in the community. The Vernon mayor, who went so far as to imply Mayes should resign, admitted he never reached out. But to what extent is it the MP’s own responsibility to keep informed on local topics? Surely, Mayes reads the news and rubs shoulders with locals. How could these matters not come up, and how can they be ignored? Even if it was argued that MPs should just lie in wait of questions and concerns from community members, the executive director of the John Howard Society says she did try to contact Mayes on more than one occasion. He never got back to her, she said.
This is about more than an ill-thought-out statement delivered at a poorly chosen time. It’s revealed a disconnect between the citizens of Vernon and their elected MP. Mayes says homelessness is not a government issue, but how can a major community problem not be on the agenda of its elected representative?
Mayes announced in the spring he wouldn’t be seeking re-election in the October 2015 federal election. That’s a year away, and there’s still time to forge a better dialogue between the community and the MP. Maybe the community has to go to him. If that’s the case, here’s his address downtown Vernon:
3105 29 Street, Vernon, BC V1T 5A8
You can also call his constituency office at 250-260-5020 or toll free at 1-800-665-5040. The number for his Ottawa office is 613-995-9095. If we do our part, all that's left is for Mayes to do his.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email email@example.com or call 250-718-2724.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014