Monday 25 January 2010

A couple of my letters to politicians

On November 11, 2008, included in my blog a letter I sent to the Prime Minister of Canada about my concerns in which an elderly widow was denied the pension of her deceased husband. I am going to include it and the followup letters in this current essay. My letter to the prime minister was dated November 10, 2008.

Dear Sir:

Recently I read an article in a newspaper which deeply concerned me. It was the story of a 62-year-old blind woman (Audrey McKnight) who had been married to her deceased husband for 42 years. During their marriage, they raised three children.

In 1995, tragedy struck. Audrey began having eye problems and was soon diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder that slowly destroyed her eyesight over the next few years. The pain was so excruciating that she eventually had both eyes removed.

Her disability put a huge strain on their marriage and the breaking point came when her husband (Marvin McKight) decided to go to a town reunion in Saskatchewan in the summer of 2004. It was there that he met by pure chance, an old girlfriend.

He later decided that he didn’t want to continue living with a blind woman so he left his wife and began living with his old girlfriend who incidentally is also married. She had deserted her own husband and lived with Audrey’s husband.

As fate would have it, Marvin McKight died in March 2007 of cancer. His common law wife and his actual wife both applied for CPP survivor's pension.

The pension was given to the common law wife who had only lived with the deceased 18 months before he died, despite the fact that his actual wife had lived with her husband for 42 years before he deserted her.

The common law wife got the pension because under the rules, she was the last person to have lived with him in a conjugal relationship.

Try if you will, Sir, to imagine if you can, that you are not the prime minister but instead, a disabled man who cannot work anymore but while you could work, you married a woman and supported her for the first two years of your married life before tragedy struck and you were unable to work.

Despite that, both you and your wife continued to live together in a conjugal union. After 42 years of marriage, your wife decides that she would rather live with another man so she leaves you and moves in with the other man.

Your wife is then killed in a car accident after only living with the other man for four months. Naturally you would ask for survivor’s pension. After all, she was your legal wife and you both lived together for 42 years.

How would you feel if the government told you that because your wife had been living with another man for four months before she was killed, that man would be entitled to the pension and you were not? How would you feel if on top of that, you learned that the other man was also married and had deserted his own wife?

Do you think in those scenarios, that Audrey McKnight and you would be treated fairly by the survivor’s pension plan legislation?

A worse scenario is this. A couple is aware that a woman who is is a friend of theirs is dying so they hatch a plan that the man will leave his wife temporarily and move in with the dying woman. The woman dies within a month and then the man claims the survivor’s pension and after receiving it, moves back with his wife.

These scenarios are absolutely shocking and should not happen in a country like Canada. As far as I know, nothing is being done so far to correct this anomaly in our law that permits this to happen.

In my respectful opinion, if there is to be a split in Audrey McKnight’s case, it should be based on the amount of time the conjugal unions existed with both women prior to Audrey’s husband’s death.

The eligibility rules for a survivor's pension that make it possible for the common-law partner to have precedence over the legally married spouse in the McKight case is outrageous and should be amended so that such an injustice will not occur again and the amendment should be made retroactive.

On June 27th of this year, when you received an international human rights award, in your address, you said in part;

“In my view, ladies and gentlemen, great democracies do not claim to be perfect. They do not seek to write and rewrite their histories to prove greatness at every turn. They seek to learn from their history and always to grow into a better future. That is the kind of country I want to lead….”

Most of us Canadians believe in you and that’s why we voted for your party to win the election because we want you to continue leading our country and to fulfil your promises that will make our nation even greater than it is.

However, your mandate goes further than your promises. You, as I see it, have an equally important goal and that is to see that fairness and justice is available to all of the citizens of Canada and that includes making sure that any legislation still in force, is reasonable and fair.

Please do something for this blind woman who has been denied what I really believe is hers, her survivor’s pension.

I remain,
Respectfully Yours

Dahn Batchelor

On November 21, 2008, I received a reply from one of the prime minister's assistants saying that my letter was forwarded onto the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development.

On December 22, 2008, a letter was sent to me by the Director General of the Seniors and Pensions Policy Secretariat of the Human Resources and Social Development Ministry. I will quote the pertinent part of the two-page letter.

Dear Mr. Batchelor:

The CPP (Canada Pension Plan) provides only one pension to a spouse or common-law partner who is in a relationship with the contributor at the time of (the contributor's) death. is determined that Section 15 of the Charter protects spouses, including common-law spouses from discrimination. Therefore a law that treats those in a common-law relationships less favourably than those who are legally married is arguably in violation of the Charter.unquote

I am forwarding a copy of the Ministry's letter to the leader of the opposition party in hopes that through his efforts, this anomaly in the law can be corrected so that both spouses get their fair share of the Canada pension. Again, I will keep you informed.

Needless to say, he didn’t keep me informed. I later sent a copy of the aforementioned letter to the leader of the opposition party Michael Ignatieff a short time later and I didn’t get a reply from him either. On December 4, 2009, I sent a letter to Gordon O’Connor who serves on the Government Caucus Services in the House of Commons. The letter speaks for itself about my contempt for politicians.

I received your flyer about the above-named individual (Michael Ignatieff) and instead of merely signing my name to it to confirm my own contempt for this man, I am sending you a copy of a letter I sent this uncaring individual almost a year ago that gives you an idea as to why I have nothing but contempt for him. He not only didn’t reply to it; he didn’t even have the common decency to acknowledge that he received it.

It is my firm belief that if this man was the prime minister of Canada in a time of famine, he would do nothing of substance but bring Canadians a shipment of toothpicks. His inaction makes me think that he is one of the Greek mythical primordial race of motionless Cyclops with a single eye in the middle of his forehead that never blinks.

To sacrifice everything for one’s honour as a leader of one’s country, is so unselfish an act that our most outstanding leaders have not hesitated to make such a sacrifice. But we must ask ourselves if unselfishness is a trait that we would ever see in Michael Ignatieff where he to be the prime minister of Canada. Any politician who can’t be bothered to take the time to send a citizen who writes him an acknowledge that he received a letter sent to him, is not in possession of that marvelous attribute we seek in everyone in office----unselfishness.

Alas, the error that some of our politicians in our country do is to neglect to plant themselves firmly on their platform during their race to being elected as our leaders to which they feverently claim is in the best interests of the citizens. This man spouts platitudes but listening to platitudes as meaningless as those of Ignatieff, is as pointless as looking into space and waiting for God to appear. It ain’t going to happen.

I would rather trust a cab driver to be our prime minister than put our nation in Ignatief’s hands. At least the cab driver will get you to where you want to go.

Please feel free to quote me at any time if you believe that it will help your party make sure that this man is always on the cold sidelines forever failing to grasp the warm reins of real leadership and responsibility.

I would have thought that Gordon O’Connor would look into my complaint about the widow being ignored and contact me but I wasn’t surprised at all that he didn’t follow the matter up and contact me; after all, he is a politician and politicians as we all know, are in it for themselves only and not for the people they are elected to serve.

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