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ISIS: Mission in flux

This week is a constituency week: The House of Commons is not sitting after having been in session for the previous two weeks. The House will resume next week for a three week session until the next constituency week. For the sake of interest between now and the House adjourning on June 23rd for the summer recess, there will be a total of six constituency weeks and thirteen sitting weeks remaining. 

What happens during a constituency week? Contrary to the opinion of some, a constituency week is not a holiday for MPs or MLAs. Constituency weeks provide opportunities to meet with local citizens, as well as other groups and organizations in a Member’s home riding. 

Constituency weeks also provide opportunities for Government Ministers, as well as Opposition critics, to travel into different regions of Canada to attend similar meetings. 

In some cases, Government may also make announcements relevant to certain areas. We learned this week that the Government may choose to announce a major policy change during a constituency week, as was the case when Prime Minister Trudeau finally announced a new policy on Canada’s mission against the terror group ISIS.

As was promised by the Liberals during the election, and also announced this week, our CF-18 fighters that have been part of the allied air coalition against ISIS will be withdrawn and returned to Canada. 

However, these will be the only aircraft withdrawn, as our Polaris refueling and Aurora surveillance aircraft will remain in the region to assist the continued bombing operations by our coalition partners. 

In addition, the current 69 members of our Armed Forces who are on the ground providing training and assistance with bombing activities will be increased almost threefold to 230 soldiers. 

Another change is that small arms and related ammunition will now be provided to Iraqi security forces, along with the deployment of Canadian helicopters, to provide medical evacuations. 

Over and above these changes, the current humanitarian aid currently provided to the region will be increased. As a result, the total cost of the new mission is estimated to increase up to $1.6 Billion, in total, over the next three years.

My thoughts? It is disappointing that the Prime Minister did not make this announcement in the House of Commons, where the original mission was announced on March 24th of 2015. 

An announcement in the House allows the Opposition to directly question the Government, providing an opportunity to respond while also ensuring that the Prime Minister’s comments are on the official record. 

Why is this important? During his response speech to the current mission announced last year, Justin Trudeau, then leader of the third opposition party, stated (and I quote directly), “We can, and we should, provide that training far from the front lines.” 

In reality, and as confirmed by Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance, under the new Liberal announced plan our training soldiers will continue working near the front lines ‘painting targets’ that, in turn, will be bombed by our allied coalition partners.

This raises another point of concern. Canada will continue to provide reconnaissance aircraft to locate targets, as well as aerial tankers so allied bombers can reach those targets, and, finally, troops on the ground to paint the targets to be bombed. This demonstrates the critical importance of aerial bombing to this mission. 

Yet, while Canada remains implicitly and actively involved in the bombing of ISIS, the withdrawal of our CF-18s in essence suggests that we support our allies doing this heavy lifting, but no longer stand shoulder to shoulder carrying an equal load, as has always been the Canadian way.

I welcome your thoughts, questions and comments on this or any subject before the House of Commons. I can be reached at [email protected] or toll free at 1.800.665.8711.

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Energy a contentious issue

Energy/labour debates dominate

In last week’s MP report I wrote, “On Wednesday, the Liberal Government announced a new pipeline review process, and on Thursday, the Official Opposition Conservatives will table a motion calling on the Liberal Government to express support for the Energy East project, along with a number of other conditions.”

I have included the reference above, as I can now update this information. 

The Liberal Government did announce a revised pipeline review process that, contrary to promises of an entirely new process, takes much of the existing process and adds some new considerations. 

Some of these considerations include more public consultations, in particular with First Nations.  Upstream GHG (greenhouse gas emissions) will now be assessed as well. The combined effect of these new measures means the review process will be further delayed. 

My thoughts on the new review policy? 

Having met with several groups and citizens who oppose new Canadian pipeline development, the message often communicated is that new pipelines will not be supported under any circumstance. Thus, lengthening the review process is, in my view, unlikely to sway those opposed to pipelines. 

Within twenty four hours of the new review process announcement, many prominent anti-pipeline organizations, including some First Nations groups, rejected the Liberal changes. 

Ultimately, delaying the decision is an unhelpful measure. I do see value in tracking GHG emissions, however all infrastructure projects have a GHG footprint, and selectively tracking GHG emissions from some projects and not others seems counter-productive, if the Liberal Government is serious about meeting reduced GHG emission targets.

This leads to the Opposition motion that reads:

Given this time of economic uncertainty, the House: (a) recognizes the importance of the energy sector to the Canadian economy, and supports its development in an environmentally sustainable way; (b) agrees that pipelines are the safest way to transport oil; (c) acknowledges the desire for the Energy East pipeline expressed by the provincial governments of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and New Brunswick; and (d) expresses its support for the Energy East pipeline currently under consideration.

Although this motion did not call for Energy East to be formerly approved, it was still rejected by the Liberal Government in a whipped vote, and was opposed by the NDP in a similar manner. 

It is clear that the debate on Canadian pipelines is far from over.

Under debate as well this week is Government Bill C-4 from the Liberals, which proposes a number of changes, mostly related to unions. Specifically, the right for a worker to have a private ballot when voting on unionization for a federally regulated work environment is being repealed under this bill.

Also being repealed is the union fiscal transparency act that would require unions to publicly disclose wages, benefits and other union expenses taken from tax deductible union dues. 

Ironically on the same day the Liberals announced Bill C-4, Elections Canada reported the Liberal Party of Canada had taken an illegal union donation during the October election. As the Official opposition, we believe in increased financial transparency, and the right to a private ballot for workers. We will oppose this bill. 

I welcome your comments, questions and concerns and can be reached at [email protected] or toll free at 1.800.665.8711.

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A national unity crisis?

The buzz coming out of Ottawa this week is talk of a national unity crisis. 

This comes after Montreal Mayor Dennis Coderre announced strong opposition to the proposed Energy East pipeline project, a project that is supported by the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and New Brunswick. 

The opposition from the mayor was particularly not well-received in Alberta, which has, for decades, diligently paid into the Canadian equalization program that annually pays out billions of dollars to Quebec and none to Alberta, or, for that matter, to British Columbia or Saskatchewan. 

Well-known CBC comedian Rick Mercer entered into the debate, focusing a rant segment entirely in support of the Energy East project while lambasting the stance taken by Mayor Coderre.

As a result, the subject of pipelines has featured prominently in Ottawa this week. On Wednesday, the Liberal Government announced a new pipeline review process, and on Thursday, the Official Opposition Conservatives will table a motion calling on the Liberal Government to express support for the Energy East project, along with a number of other conditions. 

At the time of my writing this week’s MP report, it is unknown what the new pipeline review process will be, or what the outcome of the motion on Thursday will be.

Also occurring this week is debate on the response to the Throne Speech, a debate in which I was honoured to participate. One of my reasons for speaking was to raise the importance of resource industries in rural communities. Here in Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, there are multiple lumber mills and a number of mines that are large-scale regional employers. I also raised the subject of civic infrastructure, as well as the importance of a new softwood lumber agreement to our British Columbia economy, including the need to focus on inter-Provincial trade.

Before I close this week’s report, I would like to invite citizens to hold me to account at a public forum I will be hosting in West Kelowna on Saturday, January 30th, at 6 p.m.. This forum will be held at the Westbank Lions Community Centre. There is no admission to attend, and no advance registration required. 

For those who cannot attend this forum, I will be hosting more forums in other communities. As well, I always welcome your calls and emails. I can be reached via email or by phone at 1.800.665.8711.

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Canada and terrorism

This past week, the world was horrified to learn of yet another terror attack, this time in Burkina Faso, where roughly 30 citizens, including six Canadians from Quebec, were murdered in a senseless act of violence.

Particularly disturbing is that these Canadians were all serving in the region as humanitarian workers, helping those who are less fortunate. 

This terror attack has renewed calls on the Liberal Government to state a clear and coherent position on the allied campaign against terrorism. 

As many citizens will recall, the Liberals made a promise that they, if elected, would immediately withdrawal Canada’s CF-18s from the allied aerial campaign against ISIS. With the election over last October, the Liberal Government has stated it will honour this promise, however to date our CF-18s continue to be a valuable part of the coalition air campaign against ISIS.

This week, there is a meeting in Paris of our allied Defence Ministers in Paris on the coalition against ISIS, and has been widely reported, Canada was not invited. 

Although the Liberal Government has been clear that it intends to withdraw our CF-18 aircraft, the Government has also stated it will implement other measures that have yet to be announced. 

The Official Opposition believes that Canada should continue to stand with our allies in the war against terror, as it has long been a Canadian tradition to stand with our allies to fight for those who are less fortunate or unable to stand against tyranny and oppression. 

This remains a challenging subject, and one that can be divisive. I hear frequently from citizens who strongly support the mission, but also hear from those who are upset that our CF-18’s are still actively bombing, despite promises that they would be withdrawn. I will continue to provide updates on this subject as they become available.

On an entirely different subject, late last week the Supreme Court announced that it will extend the deadline for Parliament to provide a legislative response to the assisted suicide ruling from last year. Although the Government requested a six month extension, the Supreme Court granted four months to reflect the time Parliament was dissolved as a result of the recent election. 

There are roughly twelve weeks in which the House of Commons will be sitting over the next four months, so this will be a subject that will likely feature prominently once the House of Commons resumes sitting next week.

Although much of my time will be spent in Ottawa over the next few months, I welcome your comments, questions, and concerns. One of the highlights of my time in Ottawa is hearing directly from citizens throughout Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola on issues of importance to our local communities. In turn I am often able to share this information in member’s statements, speeches, and questions within the House of Commons. 

I am truly excited for this next Parliament to get underway, and to begin raising issues of concern in Ottawa. Ultimately this is how we help build a stronger Canada. 

I can be reached at [email protected] or by phone at 1.800.665.8711.

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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 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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