Costas Menegakis writes: Update from Ottawa
Public Consultations on Labelling
Canada’s Health Minister Rona Ambrose is seeking input into the way nutritional information is presented on labels. Changes have been proposed that will affect the format of the Nutrition Facts table, the list of ingredients, the list of nutrients that must appear in the table, and the Daily Values. The overall goal of the proposed changes is to provide Canadians with the nutrition information they need to make informed decisions about the foods they buy and prepare for themselves and their families. Canada is a world leader in the field of nutrition labelling and was one of the first countries to require mandatory nutrition labelling on pre-packaged foods. You are invited to provide your feedback online at www.hc-sc.gc.ca until September 11, 2014.
Strengthening Canadian Citizenship
The recently passed Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act will help protect the value of Canadian citizenship, while continuing to improve the efficiency of our immigration system.
The Act extends the residency requirements for citizenship applicants to four of the six previous years and requires more applicants to meet specific requirements to help ensure they can fully participate in Canadian society. The integrity of our system will be strengthened with stronger penalties for citizenship fraud and the power to retract citizenship for dual nationals convicted of the specific offences of terrorism, high treason or spying. Applications will be fast tracked for permanent residents who serve in the Canadian Armed Forces and citizenship will be extended to children born to Canadian parents serving abroad as servants of the Crown.
These changes are a reflection of the belief that Canadian citizenship is not just a passport of convenience. Rather, Canadian citizenship comes with rights and responsibilities, and a commitment to Canada and Canadian values. We remain committed to helping to ensure our immigration system serves Canadian interests.
Equalization and Ontario
Federal transfer payments to Ontario are at historic highs. Since we formed government in 2006 funding to Ontario has increased to a record $19.2-billion; up 76%, which is 35% above the national average increase.
There are three main transfer payments: the Canada Health Transfer, Canada Social Transfer and Equalization. The Equalization program was created to transfer money to “have not” provinces whose economies are performing below the national average. Equalization, which is built into Canada’s Constitution, is designed to help less prosperous provinces provide similar levels of public services at comparable levels of taxation to others. Since it operates on a mathematical formula, government does not decide how it should be divided up among the provinces. Ontario had never collected Equalization money until 2009 and in 2013-14, Ontario received over $3.1 billion in equalization payments. Federal transfers accounted for about 17 percent of Ontario’s revenues in that year.
The situation in the Middle East is on the minds of many these days. It is important to be aware that this conflict is not between two nations – it is between a democratic country and a listed terrorist organization whose sole purpose is to annihilate the state of Israel. There must be no moral equivalence between an international terrorist organization and a liberal democratic state.
Canada has been steadfast in its position that Israel, as does any democratic country including Canada, has a right to defend itself from terror attacks. Hamas began this tragedy, and they can end it, by agreeing to the Egypt-backed ceasefire. Hamas’ rejection of Egypt’s ceasefire proposal, which was accepted by Israel and welcomed by the Palestinian Authority, has resulted in the tragic deaths of innocent civilians – deaths that could have been avoided. It is clear that Hamas has no regard for human life as evidenced by their reckless actions to use innocent civilians as human shields. As stated by Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, Canada mourns the death of each and every innocent civilian.
Canada strongly supports Egypt’s constructive role in their efforts to broker a ceasefire deal between what is a democratic nation and a terrorist organization, having been successful in the past with similar negotiations. Our Conservative Government will continue to do the right thing by recognizing that these terrorist acts are unacceptable and that solidarity with Israel is the best way of stopping the conflict. The Palestinian Authority should disarm Hamas and this terrorist organization should accept Egypt’s ceasefire terms. Innocent people living in Gaza deserve far better and deserve to live in peace without fear for their lives.
Commemorating the Centennial of World War I
This year marks the beginning of the centennial of the First World War. Canadians made incredible contributions during this important chapter in world history and the occasion provides a unique opportunity to celebrate Canada’s proud military history and to honour all those who served. In all, more than 650,000 Canadians served overseas, and hundreds of thousands of others worked on the home front to support the war effort.
Our government remains committed to recognizing the tremendous sacrifices and achievements of Canada’s Veterans, who fought to protect Canadian values of freedom, democracy and rule of law. I extend my heartfelt thanks to our Legions for their tireless efforts in organizing public commemorations each year, so that we may never forget.
Costas Menegakis is the Member of Parliament for Richmond Hill and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. He can be reached by phone at 905-770-4440 or through his website at www.costasmenegakis.ca.