Frank Klees

Frankly Speaking

Frankly Speaking
As published in the Auroran

January 8, 2013

The Last Resort ......

I recently suggested to my constituency office staff that we should consider changing the sign on the door to .... The Last Resort. Let me explain.

Between January 1 and December 31st of last year, our constituency office dealt with 5,001 inquiries - either by email or phone. We keep detailed notes of those contacts, the action we take and the results of our intervention. I say "our intervention" because my constituency staff, Suzanne Bolton, Neave Greig and Jacqueline Flowers do the day-to-day advocacy work with government departments and agencies. It's largely because of their dedication on behalf of constituents that we've earned the reputation of being able to 'get things done'.

It's YOUR Constituency Office.....

Since I was first elected in 1995, Fridays have always been dedicated to meetings with constituents. Even as a Cabinet Minister, I refused to have ministry staff schedule briefings or announcements on my "constituency day" because I always maintained that my first responsibility is to the people who elected me.

Of interest is the number of times people feel the need to start the meeting with an apology or a confession. The apologies are typically for taking up my time, to which I respond that this is what I'm elected to do and I just hope that I can be of help. The confessions range from regrets of not having been politically involved, to not voting for me - none of which make any difference of course, but for some it's apparently an important cleansing experience.

I always find that interesting, because it doesn't matter to me or my staff whether someone is a staunch partisan of any stripe or a political agnostic. Everyone gets treated the same when they come through the doors of our office. After all, it's their office - where their MPP and his staff have one purpose - to help people with their problems as they relate to the provincial government. 

Then comes the comment that prompted my reference to changing the sign on our door....."I have a problem and I hope you can help me. You're my last resort".

The fact is, that before we get that call or have that meeting, most people have already exhausted every other attempt to resolve their issue. Following is a glimpse into some of those 5,001 calls. While in most cases we can help, sometimes the best we can do is to provide a respectful explanation.

Case Files Uncensored ..... Except for the names and identifying details

A well-known Aurora constituent, who was so pre-occupied with Aurora Council business when he left on a trip to Europe, that he misplaced his drivers licence. Consequence? Car rental was denied. A call to our office resulted in the Ministry of Transportation issuing a temporary licence. Case resolved. (I could not possibly disclose who that person was, and will leave the research to you).

A Newmarket resident was unjustly denied re-writing her board exams by her professional college. We intervened. The constituent was granted a re-write on June 27th. She passed the exam and I had the honour of cutting the ribbon at her new business on October 20th.

An elderly Aurora resident was scheduled for hip replacement surgery at Southlake. She was distressed because she had no one to care for her at home following her release from the hospital. We contacted Patient Relations at Southlake and the CCAC to ensure that the necessary home care arrangements were made.

A legally blind constituent who suffers multiple health issues was not able to access specialized transportation services. The issue was resolved following a meeting with Viva's General Manager.

An Aurora resident who applied for his Millwright licence was told that he didn't qualify because he had not accumulated enough hours of work experience. We initiated an investigation through the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities and it was determined that former employers had failed to verify the constituent's hours. The licence was issued and within days the constituent received three full time employment offers.

A mortgage broker recommended by one of the major banks, failed to arrange promised financing for a constituent, despite collecting thousands of dollars in fees. Although the matter was reported to York Regional Police, the OPP and the RCMP, no action was taken against the broker. I referred the matter to the Attorney General and while the case is ongoing, I was advised that an arrest was made on December 21st.

Add to this list the appeal from the parents of an adult son suffering Duschenes Muscular Dystrophy, the desperate call from the father who could not get access to mental health and drug addiction services for a teenage son, the grandparents who have mortgaged their home to provide Autism Intervention support for their grandchild or the last minute call for help to expedite a birth certificate or drivers licence re-instatement, and you get some idea of what goes on in your constituency office.

As always, I welcome your comments and advice and don't hesitate to call if we can be of help. Even if it is your last resort.