An immigration powderkeg

As much as there has been considerable attention on how the new American administration may impact Canada from an economic perspective, overlooked thus far has been the impact to Canada on illegal refugee entry.

As you may be aware, in parts of Manitoba and Quebec there has been a significant increase of refugees illegally crossing into Canada creating considerable concern on the overall integrity of Canada’s immigration and refugee system.

The concern is that if refugees can enter Canada illegally in an effort to obtain status, it may encourage others to follow a similar course of illegal action as opposed to making a legal application through the existing process.

To be fair to the refugees, there are concerns they may be deported from the Unites States as a result of a crackdown on illegal immigration by the new administration.

At the same time, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said Canadians will welcome those who are turned away or refused entry in the U.S.

Although I do not believe the prime minister intended to encourage illegal entry into Canada, his comments have certainly encouraged some to do precisely that.

To further complicate the situation, Canada and the U.S. signed the Safe Third Country Agreement in 2002. 

This agreement essentially means that any person seeking refugee status must make a claim in the first country they arrive in, either Canada or the United States. 

It means the recent refugees crossing the border illegally into Canada cannot, in effect, apply for refugee status in Canada.

As a result, some—including the NDP—have called on the Liberal government to suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement, an action that, to date, the Liberals have said they will not consider.

This is a difficult situation. Many of those illegally entering Canada—if they are deported back to the United States—may well again be deported back to their home countries where very real threats and dangers may exist.

At the same time, if Canada does allow the Safe Third Party agreement to be suspended, it will set a precedent that could result in potentially significant amounts of refugees illegally entering Canada and, at the same time, undermining the integrity of our refugee and immigration system. 

For that reason, I believe the Liberals will need to proceed cautiously in how this situation is resolved.

 Currently, there are no legislative measures being contemplated in the House of Commons with respect to this matter.

On the same theme, I would be interested in hearing your views on the subject of refugees illegally entering Canada from the United States.

Do you support the Safe Third Country agreement being lifted, or should our current laws remain in effect and be enforced? 

I can be reached at [email protected]  or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711.

Housing first, not politics

Earlier this week, all eyes were on the White House for the historic first meeting of President Trump and Prime Minister Trudeau.

While no official agreements were reached, by most accounts it was a positive first encounter between the two world leaders.

While many were disappointed and critical that Trudeau did not publicly denounce some of Trump’s policies, I believe our prime minister set the right tone and was wise to not engage in a political debate.

Canada and the United States share the world’s most successful trading relationship, and while the prime minister may have earned political favour in Canada for engaging in U.S. political advocacy, the decision to refrain and focus on a more cordial tone was, from my perspective, a wise choice.

Hopefully, in the future, this new relationship will result in agreements on softwood lumber and other trade related measures in a mutually beneficial manner.

With so much attention on their meeting, overlooked were recent changes coming to Canada’s mortgage regulations and—one in particular I would like to share more information on.

As a Member of the Finance Committee, one of the duties we perform is to hear from expert witnesses and industry stakeholders on how new or transformed finance regulations can impact Canadians.

As an example of this—with respect to the mortgage changes—the committee learned that for Canadians who might re-finance an existing mortgage, there are some potentially significant changes that may result in Canadians paying much higher interest rates.

Currently, Canadians who refinance a mortgage have the security of having that mortgage insured by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

This guarantee means the mortgage is of low risk to lenders and, as a result, many lenders (including several private lenders) compete to offer competitive interest rates. 

This is often why homeowners will take advantage of re-financing a mortgage; the low interest funds might be used to invest in a small business, to finance home renovations or even help deal with a lifestyle change (such as divorce or a prolonged strike or lockout).

Debt consolidation is another potential factor. Whatever the reason you choose to refinance a mortgage, CMHC insurance is a protection available to Canadian homeowners. With the proposed mortgage changes, CMHC insurance on a re-financed mortgage will be taken away.

The lack of insurance of a re-financed mortgage does not mean you can’t still re-finance; however, without CMHC insurance, the interest rates will be considerably higher and there will be fewer competitors—as we heard from many expert witnesses at the Finance Committee.

From my perspective, these changes are puzzling. CMHC is not a program subsidized by Canadians.

Those who use CMHC services pay fees that not only cover the costs of CMHC, they turn a profit with net income in excess of $2 billion annually.

If anything, these changes will not only cost Canadians who re-finance more money in higher interest rates, they will likely also see a reduction in the profit created by CMHC derived from the user fees. 

So why is the Liberal government making these changes?

As yet, we don’t know. Several bureaucrats interviewed at the Finance Committee have yet to offer up a coherent answer.

As a result, I tabled a motion for Finance Minister Bill Morneau to attend in person to explain his decision.

Enough Liberal MPs on the Finance Committee supported the motion to pass it, and I will have a further update on this subject.

My question today is a simple one. Do you believe Canadians should continue to receive CMHC insurance on a refinanced mortgage? 

I welcome your comments and concerns on this—or any topic before the House of Commons. You can reach me by email at [email protected] or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711.

PM breaks promise

“We are committed to ensuring that the 2015 election will be the last federal election using first past the post,” Justin Trudeau said during the June 2015 election campaign.

“What Mr. Trudeau proved himself today to be is a liar of the most cynical variety of politicians saying whatever it takes to get elected,” NDP MP Nathan Cullen said on Feb. 1.

Ottawa has been in an uproar this past week over news from Prime Minister Trudeau that his promise on democratic reform will join the growing list of broken Liberal promises.

What is most alarming and disappointing about the announcement to abandon democratic reform is that the reason offered by the Liberals was that there was no clear consensus on how to move forward. 

While not everyone supported the idea of electoral reform of those who did there was overwhelming support expressed for proportional representation and claims to the contrary are patently untrue. 

Likewise there was also strong support for a democratic referendum on this question of electoral reform.

Curiously, the Liberal government spent millions on an online democratic reform survey, but deliberately left out asking questions of this very nature leaving many to speculate “the fix” so to speak, was set some time ago.

It is unclear where the Liberal government will go from this point as there has been a very significant outcry from many Canadians who did strongly support changes being made to our electoral process. 

I mention this because recently we did see an example where the Liberal government did, in fact, hear the concerns of Canadians and responded accordingly.

As you may recall in last week’s report, I briefly referenced the potential for the Liberal government to make taxation changes that would see employer provided health and dental benefits become a taxable benefit.

Such a tax change could cost Canadians families over $1,000 a year or more and as a result many were strongly opposing this potential new tax grab. Fortunately, the Liberal government listened and the Prime Minister confirmed that health and dental benefits plans will not be treated as a taxable benefit.

I will applaud the government for listening to the concerns of Canadians on the important topic of not raising taxes.

Another concern I have been raising in Ottawa is related to recent changes to mortgage regulations. Last week at the Finance Committee, we heard from many expert witnesses on how newly proposed mortgage changes may adversely impact Canadians.

While many are aware of mortgage changes that raise the threshold to qualify for a mortgage, many were very surprised to learn that under the proposed changes those who want to re-finance an existing mortgage will find it more difficult to obtain financing due to less financing options and more than likely an increase to the mortgage rate.

The reason for this is under the new set of rules; Mortgage Insurers such as CMHC, Genworth, and Canada Guarantee will no longer be able to provide mortgage insurance for refinances.

This affects many of Canadian lenders who need to obtain the backing of mortgage insurance for all mortgages, regardless of the nature of the mortgage.

As the public servants involved could not provide a coherent reason for this punitive policy, a motion I put forward to have the Finance Minister appear before the Finance Committee was adopted thanks in part to some Liberal MPs voting in support.

I will provide a further update on this subject as it becomes available.

I welcome your comments and concerns and can be reached at [email protected] or toll free at 1-800-665-8711.

Tragedy in Quebec

It was my intent this week to cover the topic of employer-provided health benefits potentially being taxed by the Liberal government.

This is by far the largest single issue that I have heard about from constituents since the beginning of this Parliament. That is not surprising given recent media reports that the Conference Board of Canada estimated a family earning $45,000 annually could end up paying an extra $1,167 a year in federal taxes.

This study was based on a family from Ontario, however it is understandable why many Canadians are deeply concerned about the potential for such a substantial federally imposed taxation increase.

This is a subject I will cover in greater detail in a future report.

The subject that needs to be addressed this week is the senseless and brutal violence that took the lives of six Canadians at a Quebec City mosque. The intent of my report is more than to simply condemn this brutal and unacceptable violence that has no place in Canadian society.

I would also like to pass on some troubling observations. If you followed the reporting of this incident closely, you will know that many credible news organizations reported unverified information that included details such as multiple suspects and, in some cases, names were even published prior to official information being released by the police.

When a name is publicized by media that suggests it could be a more common name from a Muslim populated country, there is immediate speculation that the event may be some form of jihadi inspired terrorism.

Had this tragedy been committed by a recently arrived refugee indeed very serious concerns would be raised about the integrity of our refugee vetting process and inevitably would also raises suspicions and weaken public trust at the thought other potential terrorists may have also slipped into Canada through the cracks.

This can compromise, undermine and overlook that refugees come to Canada to escape these very things and is counterproductive to building the strong and diversified Canada that we all collectively celebrate on July 1. 

We now know, thanks to verified information from the police, that the only suspect involved in this disturbing indecent is a university student born and raised in Quebec.

While I will credit news organizations like the CBC for quickly correcting the record, I would also like to point out considering our societal sensitivity to these tragedies it is critically important that we not rush to get out details that may be misleading or worse as we saw were completely incorrect.

In other words, it`s important to take the time to wait for official police information and refrain from reporting unverified information that can lead to dangerous speculation.

I would also like to take a moment to extend sincere condolences to the family and friends who have lost loved ones in this senseless tragedy. I know in all parts of Canada, there is collective grieving with many vigils to show unity against this brutal act of disturbing violence, terrorism and hate related crime.

Our diversity in Canada is part of what makes us stronger as a nation.

May we always live in a country where we stand united to defend those values. I can be reached at [email protected] or call 1-800-665-8711.

More Dan in Ottawa articles

About the Author

Dan Albas has been a Penticton resident since 1981. After attending Okanagan University College, he chose to move into small business where his company Kick City Martial Arts has flourished, training hundreds of men, women and children to bring out their best. For his work on child safety and awareness, Dan was the recipient Penticton’s 2005 Young Entrepreneur of the Year award.

Dan and his wife, Tara, reside in West Kelowna, where they raise their four daughters.

He has served as campaign chair for the United Way of the South Okanagan-Similkameen in 2006-07 and 2010-11, both times surpassing their fundraising goals.

As a community leader, he was elected to Penticton City Council in the 2008 municipal elections, where, as a first time candidate, he won with 5,656 votes, topping the polls. Through his work as a city councillor, Dan has proven himself to be a strong constituency worker delivering results and standing up for what he believes in. Dan took a leading role on public safety by proposing aggressive panhandling and dog control bylaws; he proposed a review that greatly helped his community to balance the books and to focus on core services by eliminating wasteful or unnecessary spending. His Penticton Politics website blog has offered new ways for constituents to communicate on important issues.

On June 28 of 2012 Dan became one of the first MP’s in recent history to have a Private Members Bill (Bill 311) C-311 become law with the unanimous all party support of both the House of Commons and the Canadian Senate.  Bill C-311 “An Act to amend the importation of intoxicating liquors Act” amended a prohibition era law to prevented the free trade of wine over provincial boarders.

Dan is honoured to serve the residents of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola as their Member of Parliament. He has made good on his commitment to establish a personal blog with his http://www.danalbas.com/mp-report site, where he chronicles his activities as the Member of Parliament for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.

Dan welcomes your input, so please contact him by e-mail, phone or mail. He can be reached at:

Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola's MP office

2562-B Main Street
West Kelowna, B.C. V4T 2N5
Email: [email protected]
Phone toll free: 1.800.665.8711
Fax: 250.707.2153

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories