Ideas worthy of support

It has been suggested that if you are an elected representative, the worst day in government is still preferable than the best day in opposition.

Although I am still relatively new member of the official opposition, I believe it is always important to focus on the fact that both sides of the House are important in a properly functioning democracy.

I also believe that as opposition, we can also aim higher and raise the bar in how we hold the government to account and in that process ultimately influence the shaping of policy.

If you have been following the prime minister's efforts to change how Supreme Court justices are appointed, you may be aware that part of these changes aimed to end the unbroken convention of respecting regional representation from different parts of Canada.

As Atlantic Canada was the first to be adversely impacted by these changes, it was only natural that it became a very unpopular proposal there.

Unfortunately for Atlantic Canada as there were no opposition MPs from the region, it was up to the official opposition to raise this unpopular issue in Ottawa.

In order to force the government to address these concerns the official opposition tabled a motion to respect the convention of regional representation when making appointments to our Supreme Court.

To the surprise of many in Ottawa, the government ultimately voted in support of this Conservative opposition motion and subsequently passed.

A s a result, this week it was announced that Malcolm Rowe from Newfoundland is our newest judge on the Supreme Court.

This example of maintaining regional representation on the Supreme Court illustrates that despite being in opposition, well intended proposals can become part of Government policy.

It is for this reason that I have maintained my position as a member of the opposition will always include the importance of proposing alternatives from time to time as opposed to exclusively opposing.

On a related note earlier this week I was also honoured to be named as the deputy critic for finance and by extension also a member of the finance committee.

This is an opportunity that I welcome and one of the reasons why I am hearing from many local credit unions who are frustrated with changes that increasingly force administratively costly one size fits all policies onto them.

As many in our riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola will know, credit unions provide an important community based alternative to the larger financial institutions.

Unfortunately for credit unions, they simply do not have the clout and lobbying power of the big banks who are increasingly shaping government policy as was evidenced by recent changes to mortgage rules that benefit banks over independent mortgage finance companies.

As the deputy critic for finance, these are some of the local community related issues that I will raise with my work in this area.

It is also my intention as critic from time to time to mention those actions that I believe are potentially beneficial to Canadians.

As an example, home builders and those involved in construction are concerned about significant increases in tariffs, in some cases as high as 276 per cent on dry wall that will make housing even more expensive.

I have heard this may add an extra $5,000 or more to a new home. I have raised this issue in the House of Commons appealing both publicly and privately to government members.

Although I am disappointed that the finance minister has not supported the Canadian Home Builders Association suggestion to suspend the new tariffs, I am pleased to report that the minister has announced this tariff policy will be formerly reviewed.

This is an issue I will continue to press the government on as every effort from Ottawa should make housing more affordable, not more costly.

I welcome your comments, questions and concerns on this issue or any other matter before the House of Commons.

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

Do we need the CBC?

One of the things I enjoy the most about representing the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola is the diversity of the region that ranges from rural, unincorporated areas to more densely populated urban centres.

As much as there are many different challenges because of this diversity, there are also some common themes.

One is that most citizens have a strong connection with local media that in many regions of Canada, including here, are struggling to survive.

Princeton and Merritt have both seen community papers close permanently while others have dropped their publication from twice a week to one.

Elsewhere, many newsrooms have laid off staff as media organizations struggle with changing market dynamics and declining advertising revenues.

As I have previously stated on several occasions and in Ottawa, local media are a critically important facet of life in our communities. 

Fortunately for many citizens, there continues to be local live and recorded programming broadcast by the CBC throughout our region.

Although I generally hear support for the CBC, one common complaint I do receive from time to time is that many citizens would prefer it if the CBC were entirely commercial free.

This suggestion is also circulating in Ottawa as many struggling media organizations resent the fact that they are losing much needed ad revenue to a national public broadcaster that is funded with tax dollars.

The debate is an understandable one as CBC is essentially immune to the same market forces that other media organizations are forced to adapt to.

This leads me to the question for this week’s MP report: would you support a commercial-free CBC?

Key to this conversation would be recognizing that this could mean a loss revenue to the CBC if government did not make up a revenue shortfall created by the loss of advertising revenue.

I should also add that the Liberal government is increasing funding to the CBC, which now receives in excess of one billion tax dollars per year.

A commercial-free CBC would not, in my view, substantially help our struggling local media organizations, however it is one measure that many national media organizations have voiced their support; this is in addition to the many local citizens who have expressed support to me for a commercial free CBC. 

I welcome your comments on the idea of a commercial free CBC or any other matter before the House of Commons. I can be reached at [email protected] or toll free 1-800-665-8711.

PM creates Ottawa buzz

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau created some buzz in Ottawa this week.

He announced the Liberal government will enforce a national carbon tax on provinces and territories that do not implement a provincial carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system by 2018.

The carbon tax was announced by Trudeau at the same time provincial environment ministers were meeting to discuss the same topic.

This resulted in Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland storming out of the conference and with some engaging in a war of words with the prime minister.

Premier Brad Wall of Saskatchewan pointed out that during the 2015 federal election, Trudeau stated the federal government imposing a climate change plan on provinces would be "nonsensical" and demanded that the prime minister keep his word.

It is worth noting that British Columbia already has a carbon tax with rates set well above the entry carbon-tax rate proposed by Ottawa.

While the national carbon tax announcement captured most of the media attention, there was another policy change quietly made by the government that may well have far more troubling implications on middle-class Canadians attempting to buy a home.

The government intends to make changes with respect to mortgage qualifications that even the Department of Finance projects could lower home sales across Canada by close to 10 per cent in the first year.

The changes to mortgage qualifications from my perspective are concerning for a number of different reasons. 

Housing prices in Toronto and Vancouver have reached concerning levels, but recent policy changes by the B.C. government appear to be having an impact.

The changes announced by the federal government will penalize middle class home buyers in all regions of Canada.

These measures make housing less affordable as fewer families will be able to qualify for a mortgage. It would be better to encourage housing supply through measures such as increasing the threshold for the GST rebate on new home construction that would also help affordability and generate economic growth.

In defence of these policy changes, the Liberal Government argues they are concerned about rising Canadian debt levels.

However as the opposition would point out, adding billions of dollars of debt through increased federal deficit government spending as is currently the case creates the same problem only without generating any equity as can be created through home ownership. 

Allowing provinces to take action in specific hot spot regions such as the British Columbia government has done recently may be a more effective policy than a national change that will adversely impact many regions of Canada solely for the benefit of a few.

 As always I welcome your comments, questions and concerns on any matter before the House of Commons and can be reached at [email protected] or toll-free at 1-800-665-8711.

Liberals make good decision

When I was re-elected as an MP and became a member of the Official Opposition, I made a few commitments publicly that were important to me.

One was not just to oppose, but also to propose ideas and solutions that can benefit our region and elsewhere.

Another commitment was to communicate government policy as clearly as possible in spite of the fact it might be strongly opposed by the opposition.

This commitment is important to me as one of my frustrations having sat on the government side of the House of Commons was how government policy was frequently intentionally mis-interpreted and distorted by the opposition.

Mis-stating government policy does a disservice to all involved and is why I have make every effort to avoid doing so in my weekly reports.

This all leads me to the government’s announcement to approve the Pacific Northwest Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project.

I commend the Liberal government for making what is a difficult political decision that is unpopular with many citizens who voted for the Liberals.

The decision to approve the Pacific Northwest LNG project also comes with 190 conditions, many of them environmentally related, that must be met for the project to go forward.

This is not unlike the approval for the Northern Gateway pipeline project that had 209 environmentally related conditions that must be met. For more information view my June 19, 2014 MP Report on this subject.

Aside from these conditions, the government has also noted that the Pacific Northwest LNG project will create significant economic opportunities for not just B.C., but also for Canada.

This project represents a total capital investment of $36 billion and will create 4,500 jobs during the construction process along with 630 direct and indirect permanent jobs after completion.

Aside from these benefits, the B.C. LNG project will contribute an estimated $2.5 billion in annual tax revenue to government along with an increase of $3 billion per year to Canada’s GDP growth.

These are important considerations given that increases in health-transfer funding is now linked to GDP growth.

Having heard the many positive aspects of this project as opposition, I must also share some of the concerns voiced from those who strongly oppose this development.

As much as the Liberal government likes to use the talking point that the environment and the economy go hand in hand, the reality is, they do not.

This project will generate 4.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year not including an estimated 6.5 million to 8.7 million tonnes required for natural-gas collection and transportation.

As a result, the project would become one of the largest GHG emitters in Canada. This is a concern frequently raised by opponents since many climate experts already believe Canada will not meet the targets the Liberal government has committed to in Paris.

One other aspect on this project that is often overlooked is the fact that relatively clean burning B.C. LNG can be used in countries such as China as an alternative to coal-fired power plants.

This not only significantly reduces GHG emissions on a global scale; it also greatly improves local air quality, which is an important factor for human health in these regions.

While all projects have environmental considerations on balance, I believe the Liberal government has made the right decision in approving Pacific Northwest  LNG project.

However, I also believe the Liberal government does a disservice by making commitments at the Paris climate conference that are at odds with our ability to meet them, not unlike what occurred when a former Liberal government committed to the Kyoto agreement. 

I welcome your views on this or any subject before the House of Commons and can be reached at [email protected]  or toll-free at 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/dan-in-ottawa-blog 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
10-2483 Main Street
West Kelowna, BC V4T 2Y8
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.

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