Tuesday, October 13th6.2°C
Dan Albas

Final MP report

By now chances are you may have heard that last Sunday, August 2nd the writ was dropped in Ottawa thus dissolving the 41st Parliament and beginning the campaign to elect the 42nd Parliament. For more information on the dropping of the writ please see my report from last week.
As the writ period has now begun this will be my final weekly report to the citizens of Okanagan-Coquihalla as my term as a Member of Parliament has now concluded. As it has always been important from my perspective to ensure my weekly reports are non-partisan I will refrain from discussing some of those events I am most proud to have played a role in over the past four years. Instead I would like to pass on a thank you to the many citizens who have taken the time to read my weekly reports and offer comments, criticism and concerns. Hearing from citizens on a weekly basis has always been a very enjoyable aspect to public office and I would like to sincerely thank all those who took the time to share your views with me.
On a more formal note, as the writ period is now underway I will no longer be in my West Kelowna or Penticton constituency offices. Both of these offices will remain open for the majority of the writ period to assist citizens in their dealings with the federal government. The office number remains unchanged at 1-800-665-8711 and emails can be sent to staff at [email protected]
Also a reminder that riding boundaries have changed and Elections Canada can confirm what federal riding you are now located in as well as which candidates are running in your electoral area. May we never take for granted that Canada is a free and democratic country by taking the time to vote on October 19th or during an advance poll. It has been an honour to serve as your Member of Parliament the past four years and I encourage all citizens to take the time to contact candidates directly as the 2015 election approaches.
Dan Albas


When a writ is 'dropped'

Even in the heat of summer the Ottawa rumour mill is still continuing to churn out reports on events that may or may not be occurring in our nation’s capital. The latest media speculation circulating is that the writ for our upcoming federal election may be dropped as early as this Sunday. For the record I have no idea if this is accurate or not however this does present a good opportunity to explain what the writ dropping means to citizens in Okanagan-Coquihalla and elsewhere.

A writ is “dropped” when the Prime Minister presents the Governor General with an instrument of advice recommending the House of Commons be dissolved. In turn the Governor General then issues a proclamation dissolving what in this case will be the 41st Parliament. The Prime Minister will then present an order in council to the Chief Electoral Officer requesting the writ of an election that is also issued from the Governor General. At this point the Chief Electoral Officer will then send a writ of election notice to each returning officer across Canada. From this point on, the writ period has begun and by Canadian law must be a minimum campaign length of thirty six days. There is technically no maximum length for a writ period although the House of Commons, much like a Provincial legislature, is required to sit at least once every twelve months.

What is different about a writ period? There are a number of rules that apply within a writ period that do not apply outside of a writ period including full disclosure and limits on how much political parties and 3rd party advertisers can spend within the writ period. In addition any staff working on a campaign must be disclosed as must-in-kind donations at fair market value. These strict rules are in addition to existing rules regarding Members of Parliament constituency offices which prohibit their use for partisan purposes in any way, a restriction that also applies to all House of Commons taxpayer provided resources.

Locally Okanagan-Coquihalla will also cease to be an electoral district as a result of new federal boundary redistribution process that occurs every ten years. In our case there have been some significant changes to Okanagan-Coquihalla. The new riding most closely resembling the old riding is now called Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola. Communities such as Summerland, Peachland, West Kelowna, Merritt, and Logan Lake remain in this riding however Penticton will now join a new riding called South Okanagan–West Kootenay. Making up for the loss of the Penticton population in Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola results in adding communities such as Princeton, Keremeos and surrounding areas and part of the city of Kelowna. If you are looking to confirm what federal riding you are located in please visit www.elections.ca for further information.

When is the election? The fixed election date calls for a federal election on Monday, October 19th. Who to vote for? Currently there are a number of candidates already declared to be running in the 2015 election with possibly more on the way. Elections Canada will have a list of declared candidates available and I encourage all members of the public to contact candidates directly to ask questions and share concerns.

On a final note, many have asked recently about new rules that prevent expat Canadians from voting. In reality there are no new rules related to this topic as it was in 1993 that the Parliament of the day passed legislation that prevented Canadian citizens living outside of Canada for five or more years from voting. What did occur recently is a court challenge where last week the Ontario Appeals Court upheld the rule that citizens living outside of Canada for five or more years cannot vote in Canadian elections.

If you have other questions comments or concerns I can be reached at [email protected] or toll free at 1-800-665-8711.

Annual accountability report

It is hard to believe this will be my fourth annual accountability report as time has gone by quickly since being first elected in 2011. Like my previous accountability reports this is a summary of my expenditures over the past fiscal year as the Member of Parliament for Okanagan-Coquihalla. As with previous reports I will follow the format using information from the most recent fiscal period of April 1st of 2014 up to March 31st of 2015 in accordance with the Board of Internal Economy reporting periods. While some of this information is publicly available, it can be difficult to find and often exists at several different locations online or not at all. As stated in previous years, I believe it is important for citizens to have an annual summary on the activities of elected officials in public office including the related costs.

Office expenses and travel are typically the most scrutinized areas of spending for elected officials at any level of government. For Members of Parliament from British Columbia, our travel expenses are typically higher than those of MPs from other areas in Canada as a result of the fact that we fly further distances between B.C. and Ottawa. My personal travel expense during this time frame was just over $ 52,000; this is an increase of $3,000 over the $49,000 spent last year but still down from $55,000 spent in 2013. In my case this works out to roughly 420 hours in an airplane, the vast majority spent flying regular coach class.

Total spending for my two offices here in Okanagan-Coquihalla and one in Ottawa including all staff, leases, advertising and the above mentioned travel was  $371,517. Like previous years this is within the top three lowest expenses for a BC based MP. As a comparison closer to home, NDP MP Alex Atamanenko from B.C. Southern Interior has posted spending of $441,536 as a comparison.

Sponsored travel falls into a different category as Members of Parliament are invited from time to time to travel to other destinations both within and outside of Canada for a variety of different reasons. These invitations often include airfare and accommodations being paid for by the host and not taxpayers. When Members of Parliament accept these special trips they are required to disclose and report such travel to The Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. I can confirm that while I did receive invitations of this nature I did not accept any complimentary trips or travel during the last fiscal period nor have I accepted any since being elected.

The information included in this week’s report is intended to provide a brief summary of some of the more commonly scrutinized expenses. If there is other information that you are interested in, please do not hesitate to contact me with your request. I can be reached via email at [email protected] or at 1-800-665-8711.


This year we have seen a number of forest fires in Okanagan-Coquihalla. These situations can be particularly demanding in interface areas for those who are evacuated as well as those that are often the last line of protection. While some fires like we saw at Hamilton Hill near Merritt can be quickly and effectively extinguished, we must remain mindful that despite advances in technology and techniques, this work is inherently dangerous and requires amazing amounts of work, coordination and ingenuity. For many of us we can only imagine the sacrifice and perseverance that it takes to contain such fires.

I was glad to join Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Premier Christy Clark with other elected officials at Shelter Cove-Westside Road fire near West Kelowna to hear firsthand the experiences of those who are courageously fighting this fire. One gentleman who led the crew spoke of his years of dedication to firefighting and sense of service that he and his crew drew upon on daily to tackle such gruelling work. It was very gratifying to hear both leaders on behalf of British Columbia and Canada respectively, publicly praise the crew and the multitudes of other Canadians who also are working to keep their communities and areas safe. I would encourage all citizens of Okanagan-Coquihalla who have the opportunity to do so to also extend their thanks.


Federal transfers

One subject that sometimes arises that I have not covered in detail previously is transfers from the federal government to provincial governments and territories. The Federal Government has different transfer programs such as the CHT “the Canada Health Transfer”, CST “the Canada Social Transfer” and lastly the Equalization program. What are these transfers programs intended to help fund?

The Canada Health Transfer is the largest transfer program to Canadian provinces and territories. The intent is to provide long term defined funding to assist with the delivery of health care. Recently some claims (including TV commercials) have been made that the Canadian Health Transfer funding has been cut or otherwise reduced by our Government. In reality these claims are false and misleading. Funding in real dollars for the Canada Health Transfer increases every year. From 2011 up until 2016/17 the annual increase in funding is set by legislation at 6% per year.  In 2017-2018 the formula for increasing this health transfer funding is set to change in that it will increase at a rate based on a three year moving average of nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP). However at a minimum provinces and territories will be guaranteed an increase of at least 3% per year or greater, depending upon the formula.  In other words, every year Canadian Provinces & Territories will receive a larger Canada Health Transfer than the year previously – there is no year when a province or territory would receive anything but an increased health transfer. Worthy of note is that the CHT monies and its scheduled increases are independent of whether the province or territory in question increases or reduces its overall spending in health care; also as provinces have jurisdiction in their delivery of health care, it is provincial elected officials that decide their own priorities and how the CHT is to be utilized.

The Canada Social Transfer is intended to assist provinces and territories in providing post-secondary education, social assistance programs as well as early childhood development, learning and daycare.  These funds are calculated on an equal per capita basis and in 2014-15 are set in legislation announced by our Government to increase annual by 3% each year. This way Provinces & Territories have certainty that Federal transfer dollars for social transfers, like the health transfer, will increase each yearly at a predictable rate. Likewise how these dollars are spent is decided by the Province or Territory.

The Equalization program is perhaps the best known transfer program that is intended for “addressing fiscal disparities among provinces”. While it is sometimes suggested this program be eliminated as it can be viewed as financially rewarding poor provincial governance, it should be noted that the equalization program was entrenched in our Canadian Constitution by the Trudeau Liberal Government in 1982. Although equalization payments are intended to provide comparable services between Provinces these transfers are unconditional and a Provincial Government can spend these funds in any manner they desire. Equalization transfers are based on a provinces ability to raise revenue, a terms described as “fiscal capacity”. Each province will have its fiscal capacity compared to the average fiscal capacity of all Canadian provinces to determine if they are below this average or not. Provinces have two options: get the greater of the amount they would receive by fully excluding natural resource revenues, or by excluding 50 per cent of natural resource revenues. Equalization transfers increases are also based on a three year moving average of GDP growth. Again, provinces decide how best to utilize these funds.

In terms of actual dollars Canada wide over the past decade the Canada Health Transfer has increased from $20.3 billion up to $34 billion while the Canada Social Transfer has increased from $8.4 billion up to just under $13 billion. The Equalization program has gone from $10.9 billion up to $17.3 billion. It should also be noted that in 2015 Newfoundland & Labrador, British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan did not receive equalization as they are in effect “have” Provinces under the equalization formula.  A rough breakdown of $17 billion in equalization funding includes Quebec received $9.5 billion, Ontario $2.3 billion, Manitoba $1.7 billion, Nova Scotia $1.69 billion, New Brunswick $1.66 billion and PEI $53 million.

In total Canada wide transfers for all Provinces and Territories has risen from $ 41.9 billion in 2005 up to $68 billion in 2015. As these are your tax dollars it is important for citizens to have a clear understanding that despite false claims of federal transfers being reduced in reality each year federal transfer payments are increasing to Canadian Provinces and Territories to help fund critical services that Canadians depend upon. Your comments and questions are welcome [email protected] or toll free at 1-800-665-8711.

Read more Dan in Ottawa articles


About the Author

Dan Albas has been a Penticton resident since 1981. After attending Okanagan University College, he choose 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 2006-7 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 5656 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 Okanagan-Coquihalla as their Member of Parliament. He has made good on his commitment to establish a personal blog with his www.DaninOttawa.com site, where he chronicles his activities as the Member of Parliament for Okanagan-Coquihalla.

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

Okanagan- Coquihalla’s MP office
Suite 202-301 Main Street
Penticton, BC V2A 5B7
E-mail: [email protected]
Phone: 250.770.4480
Fax: 250.770.4484
Toll Free: 1.800.665.8711


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.

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