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Dan Albas

The mission against ISIL

The topic of my October 8th MP report from last year was outlining the Government of Canada's intention (subject to a vote in Parliament) to implement a six month deployment in Iraq to join many of our allies engaged in an aerial combat mission against the terrorist organization ISIL. As the initial six month time frame is soon to expire, earlier this week in the House of Commons our Prime Minister provided a report on the evolution of the situation along with a proposal that Canada renew its commitment to the international coalition and its mission against ISIL.

The Prime Minister stated that the good news is the alarming territorial spread of ISIL has been more or less halted and in some ways even pushed back. In large part this has been achieved in coordination with allied aerial bombing efforts that Canada is part of and from other response actions from the roughly 60 other members of the United Nations who have taken a stand against ISIL terrorism.

Aside from the military action against ISIL, Canada has also had success in helping to deliver humanitarian aid that includes help feeding 1.7 million people in Iraq, providing shelter and relief supplies to 1.25 million people and providing education to at least half a million children. Canada has also helped to support more than 200,000 Syrian refugees in Iraq with food, water, shelter and protection as it is well known ISIL will capture and murder aid workers, reporters and other humanitarian workers if not securely protected.

For these reasons it is proposed that Canada renew the mission against ISIL for a further 12 months similar to the initial terms with a few notable changes. Like the original mission, this would also require a vote in Parliament. The current commitment of six CF-18 fighter jets, one Polaris air-to-air refuelling aircraft and two Aurora surveillance aircraft including required pilots and ground personnel to support these aircraft including ground forces already in the region is proposed to remain the same. The most notable change is the proposal to join President Obama and US Forces in also bombing ISIL terrorists in regions of Syria, something that was not proposed in the original six month mission. The reason Canada proposes to join the United States in this effort is due to the fact that ISIL has frequently retreated forces and equipment into Syria as a safe haven from allied aerial attack. The Prime Minister has also stated clearly that any action against ISIL within Syria will be done without the “the express consent of the Syrian government”. Some have asked on the legalities of aerial bombing within Syria without the consent of the Syrian Government. The United States Government, our lead ally in this mission, has presented legal grounds to the United Nations and in turn the Judge Advocate General legal analysis indicates these operations in Syria are legal and justifiable.

Much as was the situation previously both opposition parties have indicated they will continue to oppose military efforts against ISIL terrorism. I will continue to provide updates on this important matter as they become available. Also occurring this week in Ottawa has been ongoing committee review of Bill C-51 the Anti-Terrorism Act. Here the situation is different where the NDP continue to oppose the anti-terrorism bill while the Liberals have continued to vote with our Government in support of Bill C-51 as it moves through Parliament. As a reminder for further information on Bill C-51 please see my February 6th MP report.

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

 

Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for Okanagan-Coquihalla and writes this weekly report for his constituents. His website is www.danalbas.com and has an archive of previous reports.





More than one perspective on taxation

One of the more commonly used terms in Canadian federal political discussions is the “Ottawa bubble” that can have a variety of different meanings, but typically is used to describe the culture on Parliament Hill that is often very different from what exists in many Canadian communities.

From my own perspective there are two aspects of the Ottawa bubble that I find most discomforting. One is the frequent trend to suggest that the views of everyday Canadians are irrelevant and only the views from interest groups and other highly partisan organizations are deserving of consideration in debate. As an example, frequently I find issues that are reported as being widely opposed in Ottawa are in fact strongly supported by citizens in Okanagan-Coquihalla. The other ongoing concern I have relative to discussion on Parliament Hill pertains to how your tax dollars are viewed in Ottawa, compared to in Okanagan Coquihalla.

To be clear, as taxpayers it is your money taken or otherwise paid to Ottawa from your wages, combined with various taxes and other user fees you pay that keep Ottawa running. The same applies to Victoria at the provincial level and also with your local municipality or regional district with property taxes. One thing all taxes have in common is that you pay them and the higher the amount of tax the more you will pay, the less money you will have remaining to provide for your own household expenses, savings or enjoyment. Conversely when taxes are cut, you will pay less and some of the money saved from taxes can be spent or saved in whatever manner best meets your personal needs.

I raise this point because in Ottawa, whenever our Government announces tax cuts you will seldom see the paying of less tax is reported as a savings for taxpayers. It is frequently, as was the case recently, reported as being a cost. From the perspective of many in Ottawa who depend upon your tax dollars for operating revenues, less taxes (that create savings to taxpayers) is a cost to them. It could mean fewer staff, less increases in wages or benefits, even the elimination of a program or possibly not the expansion or creation of another. For this reason the idea of citizens paying less in taxes tends to be looked down upon in Ottawa by those who earn a living from the payment of your taxes. Last year The Parliamentary Budget Officer released a report on Federal tax changes that received little attention however the report contained some interesting information.

Federal income tax cuts announced by our government have resulted in accumulated savings to Canadians of $17 billion over the past decade. Likewise the cut to the GST rate has resulted in accumulated savings of $13 billion over a similar time frame. The same report also found that these tax cuts most benefited “low-middle income earners (households earning between $12,200 and $23,300), effectively resulting in a 4% increase in after-tax income”. Even the lowest income earners in Canada who do not pay some taxes were found to have realized an after-tax gain of 2.2%. Surprisingly the top 10% of income earners realized a net after-tax gain of just 1.4%. These findings are in stark contrast to the narrative that tax cuts only help the wealthy and penalize the poor. In reality this report concludes that tax cuts over the past decade have resulted in higher after tax net income for all Canadians. This is also consistently why the overwhelming majority of citizens I hear from in Okanagan-Coquihalla support tax cuts and do not favour higher taxes.

I mention these things because last week another report from the Parliamentary Budget Officer concluded that the recently announced family tax cut by our Government will, and I quote directly “will have a net fiscal impact of $2.2 billion in 2015”. The Ottawa Bubble was quick to report this as a $2.2 billion cost to Ottawa, however for Canadian families that is $2.2 billion in tax savings that stays in your household budget and will not be spent in the Ottawa bureaucracy. While some oppose tax cuts and believe citizens should pay more in taxes- whether it be pension income splitting for seniors or income splitting for families, it is my view that all Governments must continue to strive for efficiencies and keep taxation levels affordable for all of its citizens.

If you would like to share your thoughts with me on this or any other issue, I can be reached at [email protected] or toll free at 1-800-665-8711.

 

Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for Okanagan-Coquihalla and writes this weekly report for his constituents. His website is www.danalbas.com and has an archive of previous reports.



Forgotten victims

As I have stated previously, there is no formal requirement for Members of Parliament to submit reports to citizens nor are there guidelines as to what format or frequency reports to local residents should have. From my perspective, the primary reason why I submit weekly reports is to pass on as much information as possible so that in turn I can hear feedback in the form of comments, concerns and questions from the people of Okanagan-Coquihalla. Although seldom a week will go by without hearing from citizens I have noted that some reports generate far more responses then others. I am always extremely grateful for the efforts of citizens to pass on comments and questions. At times these comments sometimes share deeply personal information that may help to better illustrate a citizens perspective on a certain area of concern. Citizens should know that all personal information provided to both an MLA and an MP are protected with the strictest of confidentiality and are not subject to freedom of information laws. Personal information is never shared without the consent of the individual in question; I raise this so that citizens can have confidence to freely contact their elected officials and share information in a secure manner.

In last week’s report I outlined proposed changes to life sentences to ensure that for extremely serious and disturbing crimes (such as a crime involving heinous acts such as premeditated abduction, rape and murder), where a life sentence would mean a life sentence without a formal parole process. While the majority of the feedback I received was supportive of these proposed changes, some of the opposing criticism was also noteworthy. One such criticism was the suggestion that parole is largely an infallible process.

As I was reminded this past week, long time residents of Summerland will know this is not the case. Citizens in Summerland will recall that in 1997 a criminal was released on parole only to promptly skip his curfew at a half-way house in Calgary. Located in Summerland was the ex-spouse of this recently paroled criminal. Like many victims of domestic violence this ex-spouse feared greatly for her safety and had specifically requested to be notified if her ex-spouse was released from prison on parole. No phone call ever arrived from the National Parole Board upon release nor when the curfew was breached at the half way house.

Sadly what did happen was a paroled criminal arrived at a Summerland motel where he located his ex-wife who was with her mother and the couple’s two children. In front of his own two children in cold blood he murdered their mother and grandmother in a truly disturbing act of violence. These murders occurred while parole had been breached and also in spite of a no contact restraining order. Further investigation found no evidence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the murder, no evidence of mental health disorders and without remorse, regret or responsibility shown by the murderer. It should also be pointed out this murderer (under the rules at the time of the sentencing) is potentially eligible for parole in two years.

While these instances may be relatively rare, this is one of several tragedies I have encountered in Okanagan-Coquihalla. While the circumstances may differ what remains constant is that all too often the victims are forgotten. Out of respect for the now adult children I have refrained from using names in this particular case however we should not overlook that victims have rights and they should never be forgotten nor placed behind the rights of criminals.

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



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Individuals and political parties

As I have commented in the past, many of the major issues on Parliament Hill are often very different from the concerns heard back at home. MPs who are suspended from their caucus, satellite office expenses and costs of inappropriate partisan mailings, and most recently an MP floor crossing are issues that receive a considerable amount of media attention in Ottawa but are less frequently raised by citizens in Okanagan-Coquihalla.

All of these issues are quite rare but floor crossings are unique as they tend to involve an MLA or an MP leaving one party they were presumably elected as a member of to join another party they were not first elected as a member of. As some may know the NDP have a long standing position that any floor crossing should automatically trigger a by-election, a position that we were reminded of last week continues to be subject to this debate.

In this conversation it is important to recognize that citizens can be elected without a party affiliation, often we refer to these citizens, once elected, as Independents. Likewise there may also be an MP or MLA who was elected as a member of a political party that decides to leave that party or join another. These can be very difficult decisions for all involved however they are legitimately recognized positions in public office. In fact the House of Commons Procedure and Practice manual confirms that “members are not obliged to retain that party label during the whole of their mandate.” and further states “A Member who changes party allegiance is under no obligation to resign his or her seat and stand for re‑election”.

My thoughts on this? I disagree with the NDP position that a member crossing the floor should trigger a by-election. Ultimately a party cannot exist if it does not elect Members to a Parliament or Legislature in electoral ridings. For individually elected members to retain the right to leave a party, sit as an independent, or join another party are all means that a member can use to help ensure a party is held accountable. I mention this as also coming back before the House this week for debate is Conservative MP Michael Chong’s private member`s bill “The Reform Act of 2014”, that seeks to rebalance Parliament by increasing the powers available to party caucuses, individual MPs and electoral riding associations. This has been a widely debated bill but one that most citizens I have heard from are supportive on and one that I have also supported within the House of Commons.

Over the past months as the federal election approaches we have witnessed how some willing candidates have been summarily dismissed and blocked from running for a particular party. In some cases cause is given but in many cases no cause is provided and in extreme circumstances litigation has occurred. From my standpoint I have observed how some who are supportive of the democratic reform act have turned a blind eye to arbitrary candidate blocking. Ultimately this serves as a reminder to why the Democratic Reform Bill is one that should be taken seriously not just by elected officials, but also by those who are actively involved in various political parties and organizations that democracy should be an open process. Nomination battles, as they are sometimes called, can be challenging but they are an important part of our democratic process. For further comments and concerns I can be reached at [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, Dan 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.

Dan 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, Dan 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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