Next week the House of Commons will again be in session as the fall sitting gets underway with a heavy schedule from now until late December. While there will be many bills coming before the House, one of the more anticipated debates will on be the Reform Act of 2014, a Private Member's Bill from my Conservative colleague MP Michael Chong. This bill has a number of democratic reform proposals in it that continues to generate a strong amount of feedback from citizens and is a debate that promises to be very engaging. From a local perspective I have had a number of responses on this Bill and will continue to provide updates on the progress of it in the House of Commons.
Another important topic that may be the subject of debate is the deployment of a limited number of Canadian armed forces personnel to Iraq to work in a non combat capacity with American forces personnel advising Iraqi military forces. The purpose of this joint effort is to provide expertise on how Iraqi security forces can better protect innocent citizens against the threat of ISIL. The initial Canadian deployment is for 30 days and includes providing strategic and tactical advice to Iraqi forces but does not include a combat role. In response to the announcement the NDP raised concerns around mission creep while the Liberals offered their support for the deployment. From my own perspective there is no question that the deplorable tactics and actions of terrorist groups against innocent civilians are serious and represent very real concerns to all Canadians. Canada has a long history of opposing tyranny and protecting innocent civilians from brutality and acts of terrorism. I also recognize that serious conflict is a subject that Canadians have diverse views on and should never be taken lightly. I will continue to provide updates on this subject and welcome comments and questions in this or any subject coming before the House of Commons.
As I am soon off to Ottawa I would like to thank the many citizens, groups, organization and businesses that took the time to share concerns with me over my summer listening tour. This input was helpful for me and there are a number of items that I will be taking forward to Ottawa for follow up on as the fall session gets underway. I should also add there are still some unresolved and ongoing issues that I continue to actively work on and am hoping for resolution in the near future. I will provide more information on these topics in the coming months as well. If you have a comment, question or concern I can be reached at [email protected] or toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
Over this past summer I have been fortunate to receive some favourable comments in a local editorial on my work as a Member of Parliament and also have been the subject of some rather intense criticism for raising a subject that some citizens had strong opposing views on. Being in the middle of a media firestorm and the target of some opposing citizens is overall not an enjoyable experience; however it is a very important one. In a vibrant democracy in a country as diverse as Canada we expect disagreement and a difference of views. It is understandable that we would prefer opposition is to be neatly delivered, constructive and without personal attacks or profanity; however we also recognize that citizens at times express points of views in unique ways. This can all be unpleasant for certain but we should also not overlook that ultimately when people make an effort to pass on questions, comments or views they are attempting to engage in our democratic process- a good thing indeed.
I mention these things due to the fact that in one municipality within Okanagan-Coquihalla, a local government is reported to have threatened litigation against a senior citizen who can be quite vocal on local issues of importance. As an elected official I can relate to the fact that at times we have critics who can be quite aggressive and we would prefer that they communicate in a more civil tone. It should also be pointed out that if a citizen is behaving in such a manner, that elected officials, if necessary through government, can state reasons why a certain behaviours are not tolerated and responses to vitriolic or vexatious inquiries not provided. Drawing a line between legitimate but uncomfortable inquiry and harsh or impassioned language is a difficult task and should be taken with care. In my view when local officials sanction legal means to attempt to silence members of the public crosses that line and that is a concern that I believe we should all share.
Withstanding criticism is never enjoyable however if we are to lead in public office at times difficult and unpopular decisions will be required to be made. Accepting criticism for those decisions is part of the process. We should also recognize that our more senior levels of government at the Provincial & Federal level were structured by design to have a funded and working opposition with certain legal and traditional immunities to raise issues when in legislative chambers. In Municipal Government, particularly in small to mid-sized communities, where there is no formal funded official opposition; often the opposition may well be from members of the public, who in this case we are reminded, may have no legal immunity to raise issues of concern.
The intent of this week’s report is to recognize that while criticism can be at times difficult to accept, it remains an important part of governance and elected office. Criticism, in my view is not something we should fear nor shy away from and most importantly should not attempt to silence. There is little doubt that some will criticize my report this week. From my general observation there are far fewer subjects that receive complete agreement than the vast amount of subjects that citizens agree to disagree on. That is the sign of a healthy democracy where citizens enjoy the freedom to express opposing views without fear of repercussion. I can be reached via email at [email protected] or toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
For those of you who follow my reports frequently you may recall a previous incident I reported on that involved a dance instructor located in the Merritt area who was in Canada working under the temporary foreign worker program. Unfortunately due to what can be described as a series of administrative errors and the slow turning wheels of bureaucracy, ultimately the instructor was required to leave Canada for a period of time before the situation could be resolved. As I also mentioned in that same report the temporary foreign worker program is not an immigration program meaning that there are fewer avenues available to address challenges such as these when they occur.
I am happy to report that after a rather significant amount of effort across the board, this dance instructor has again returned to Canada and hopefully in the near future will resume providing dance lessons to children in the Nicola Valley. Throughout this process one of the challenges that I observed is the requirement for Government to ensure that all terms and conditions of a program are in compliance. Part of the compliance process requires producing many documents that verify information that has been requested. This is of course can be frustrating for all involved not to mention time consuming and at times it can be easy to overlook why such a thorough verification process is established.
Over the course of this summer another situation arose in a different community involving temporary foreign workers, although this time in a different program related to seasonal agricultural workers. As is often a limitation in these situations there is not a significant amount of information that can be shared, however what can be passed on is that two seasonal agricultural workers found themselves in an unacceptable and deplorable situation. In this case an intervention occurred and fortunately these workers are no longer in a perilous situation however I believe it is also important to recognize that it was the good nature of kind-hearted neighbours who became aware of this issue and took action on it.
Whenever these situations occur it is in my view important for elected officials to review the circumstances and related policy to try and ensure that a similar situation does not occur again in the future. I have heard of the importance to our agriculture sector from a number of small and medium sized farm operations and other businesses who rely heavily on this program to remain viable and competitive. It is also imperative that we not overlook the importance for government programs to provide transparency so that members of the public can support a process with confidence. No citizen or government would tolerate these kinds of abuse, whether it is localized or widespread. The industry itself must also recognize that it is in its own best interest to continue to encourage best practices and not just compliance. In other words, a balance must be created that is workable for farmers and for seasonal agricultural workers that will retain broad public support. This is an area I believe is deserving of more attention and I would like to welcome your comments on this or any other subject before the House of Commons.
Before I close this report I would like to sincerely recognize the efforts by local citizens, who in spite of language barriers came together to help two individuals who were truly in need. This act of kindness made a difference and will not be forgotten by the individuals involved.
I can be reached at [email protected] or toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
The subject of internal trade has been a prominent one recently in large part as our Government has recently launched the "One Canada, one national economy” initiative to together identify and choose strategies that can increase internal trade. One of the more obvious remedies to increase internal trade is to identify and remove barriers that prevent inter provincial trade from occurring... an action that sounds relatively simple yet in practice is more difficult to achieve.
Why is internal trade important? One example comes courtesy of a local winemaker who recently shared a success story on doing a large business deal in Asia where wine grown and produced here in Okanagan-Coquihalla will be sold there. It is worth pointing out that in spite of it now being legal to ship wine across Provincial borders this same BC wine still cannot be sold directly to consumers in Ontario for the simple reason the Ontario Government continues to oppose it. Fortunately the Manitoba Provincial Government in contrast has been more progressive and allows direct to consumer wine shipments.
Trade barriers are not just restricted to commodities; these barriers can also apply to labour. For example a nurse who is highly educated and with many years of on the job experience in one Province may not meet standards in another. In some areas of Canada where there is a particular skills shortage these certification challenges can create labour mobility problems. Trade barriers can also affect entire sectors. As an example in some regions of Canada, restrictive Provincial policy has made it more difficult for agricultural products such as apples, certain dairy products including cheese and canola to move freely between Provinces.
What is more surprising is that in 1995, all Canadian Provinces have signed on to a document known as the AIT (Agreement on Internal Trade) that also has provision on dispute resolution mechanisms. The AIT disputes seldom receive much media attention however it has not been uncommon over the years for various Provinces to challenge other Provinces restrictive policies that prevent movement of goods and labour. Overall there has been just 55 disputes over the past nineteen years- on average less than three disputes a year of all Canadian Provinces and territories, the only exception being Nunavut that instead has observer status.
Why does this matter? Over my listening tour this summer I have had a chance to visit with a number of local small business owners. Many of our most successful local employers are increasingly depending on trade as a key part of their business. In fact it is quite impressive the market reach that many Okanagan-Coquihalla small business owners have achieved: some Cherry growers are now selling into destinations as far away as Hong Kong. Many of these new markets have been opened up as part of trade deals negotiated with other countries. Twenty years ago when the AIT agreement was first signed off on Canada had just two free trade agreements signed. Today Canada has negotiations concluded or agreements in progress with forty-three different countries representing over 1 billion potential new customers worldwide.
This all takes me back to the original example of the local winemaker who recent did a deal in Asia that he could not legally do in Ontario. If we continue to turn our back on internal trade barriers, we will increasingly see more of our local production going offshore. While it is critically important to have a diversified trading network to create stability in our local economies we must also recognize that there are both market, labour and environmental efficiencies in supporting increased internal trade. We can also provide more value to educational training opportunities if those skills can be employed Canada wide and not selectively in certain provinces. Ultimately as Canadians one of our unique qualities is a deep level of understanding that in spite of our vastness and diversity we are always stronger when we are as a country united as opposed to one divided. Supporting increased internal trade is one way we can continue to build a stronger Canada.
I welcome your comments on this or any subject related to the House of Commons and can be reached via email at [email protected] or by phone at 1-800-665-8711.
Read more Dan in Ottawa articles
- First Nations Financial Transparency Act Aug 14
- Showcasing success Jul 31
- Connecting with Canadians Jul 24
- What is the supremacy of Parliament? Jul 17
- The sounds of summer Jul 10
- Thoughts on Canada Day 2014 Jul 3
- Temporary foreign worker program Jun 25
- Courage and sacrifice Jun 11
- Midnight sittings, drug recalls & gas tax May 29
- Keeping politics out of the office May 22
- Presenting petitions May 15
- Honouring our brave Canadians May 8
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