April 10, 2023 at 6:30 am
The Sarnia-Lambton MP said she welcomes questions from constituency residents as a way to re-engage the public in politics.
The topic of public participation in the democratic process came up during a virtual town hall meeting hosted by the Sarnia-Lambton Chamber of Commerce on April 6.
Congressman Marilyn Gladu said her office tried to respond quickly to voters’ questions and concerns, but that wasn’t always the case for other members of Congress. She said it was disheartening to see some members of the government dodging questions or giving wrong answers.
“It’s unacceptable and it erodes trust in the entire democratic process,” Gradu said.
She also raised issues of conflicts of interest, such as the appointment of Martine Richard as interim ethics commissioner because Richard is Secretary Dominic LeBlanc’s sister-in-law.
“Governments don’t seem to realize that they need to hold to high standards, they need transparency, they don’t need conflicts of interest or corruption. People are disengaging before we start seeing that,” she said. “They said, ‘I’m not going to vote because I don’t like anybody, I think they’re all bad people.’ Of course I heard that [through] social media. “
Voter turnout for the 2021 federal election fell to 62%.
Among various topics discussed during the virtual forum, Gradu also expressed frustration at the lack of measures to address domestic violence.
“It’s extremely disappointing that nothing is being done. Domestic violence has increased by 32% during the pandemic,” Gradu said.
“There’s not been any spending in the budget to help with these issues, or any changes to laws that have been proposed, so I think the government has really let go of something that is becoming a big problem.”
On the budget, Gladu also expressed disappointment at Sarnia-Lambton’s lack of transport funding for air and rail services, as well as a lack of adequate support for seniors and the agricultural sector.
The budget presented in March projected nearly $60 billion in new spending. Gradu said new spending needs to be “under control” to deal with inflation and an expected recession later this year.
“I don’t think the budget is doing Canadians justice by spending more. Right now, a person’s grocery rebate is $234, and the problem is that the parliamentary budget officer says food costs are going up by $1,200 a year,” said Gladu, who also called the rebate a “ Band-Aid solution.”
Local councilors, however, were happy with health spending on dental care but expressed concerns about the form of the scheme.
Several of the issues raised by Chamber CEO Carrie McEachran also revolved around affordable housing, labor shortages, support for small businesses and retaining young people – especially in the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.
“They need more mental health support, they need to be accepted by the community and there is still an issue of violence against LGBTQ [community] And the isolation that’s happening in rural areas where horses are riding,” Gradu said. She mentioned that it’s hard for people in the county to go to the city to enjoy the programs and services that are available because of the lack of transportation.
“I think the awareness and tolerance campaigns – the PrideFest campaign, creating crosswalks – are symbolic in a way, but I think it sends a message that they’re welcome in Sarnia-Lambton and we’re doing it for They create space, so I think we just have to keep going the way we’re going,” she said.
The hour-long session was posted to the Chamber’s YouTube page and can also be found below.
Gladu is the latest politician to be questioned by the chamber after holding a virtual meeting with MP Bob Bailey in January.