HELSTON: Influencing Ottawa is just a click away - InfoNews

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HELSTON: Influencing Ottawa is just a click away

Charlotte Helston is the Vernon reporter for InfoNews.
January 15, 2016 - 7:19 AM

You might think local mayors and councillors have a direct line with Ottawa, because they’re both considered ‘the government.’ But they don’t have a special telephone that patches them in to parliament, and they don’t necessarily get special treatment. Sometimes, they’re left to write petitions, just like anyone else.

It’s exactly the course of action one Vernon councillor has taken. Bob Spiers launched a petition asking the federal government to give volunteer unpaid, auxiliary policemen the same tax credit that volunteer firemen and search and rescuers get. You can read more about the actual proposal here, because what I want to talk about isn’t so much about what it is, but about how Spiers is forcing the topic under the noses of our country’s policy-makers.

Vernon council didn’t get much of a response in 2014 when it first wrote to Ottawa asking it to consider the tax break, but it’s almost guaranteed one now. That’s because the new e-petition system Spiers is using automatically gets the proposal heard in the House of Commons as long as it garners 500 valid signatures (there were 464 as of Jan. 14).

The e-petition system is fairly new, having formally gone into effect in December. It requires the petitioner to get a Member of Parliament to back the petition as a ‘sponsor’ — no doubt to prevent requests for a country-wide free ice cream day from sneaking into the House of Commons.

But all joke petitions aside, this looks like it could be a pretty good way of getting things people care about in front of those in power. It could be the missing connection we need in this country.

And remember, you don’t need to be a politician to use it. Anyone can go online and file a petition. So far, there are only 15 posted on the parliament website, but I bet there will be a lot more if this pans out.

It’s just one more way we can all participate in the democratic process, now conveniently from our laptop or iPhone. Influencing our country’s top policy-makers is just a click away.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at chelston@infonews.ca or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016
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