Costly moves in Ottawa

This week, the House of Commons is back after the summer recess and it did not take long for the usual Ottawa dynamic to get back into full swing.

One of the major media stories is that the Prime Minister’s Office and various ministers have billed taxpayers over $1 million to move political staff to Ottawa.

While Government does sometimes cover these types of expenses, claims as high as $126,000 for an individual political staff member to move from Toronto to Ottawa have resulted in demands for more transparency on providing details.

On a local level, I have already heard several concerns from citizens who have reported to moving much farther distances for considerably smaller amounts of money.

Although some will argue $1 million may be a small amount of money as part of the overall Government budget, it is also important for taxpayers to have confidence that every dollar is spent wisely.

It difficult to comprehend how a move from Toronto to Ottawa can cost well over $100,000.

As opposition, this will be a subject that we will demand further information.

Another interesting subject relates to Canada`s climate change targets, more specifically known as targets for reducing industrial greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).

Shortly after the 2015 Federal election our prime minister sent the largest Canadian delegation in history to attend the Paris climate change conference at a cost in excess of $1 million dollars to do so.

While at the Paris conference, the Liberal Government made several comments in support of increasing GHG reduction targets while criticizing the record of the former Conservative Government.

For this reason, many in Ottawa were surprised this week when the Liberal Government announced it would adopt the very same GHG reduction targets that were set by the previous Government under prime minister Stephen Harper. 

Yes, these would be the very same GHG reduction targets the Liberals had criticized when in opposition.

In 1993, former Liberal prime minister Jean Chretien promised to reduce our GHG emissions to 20 per cent below 1988 levels by 2005.

This promise was broken.

In 1997, Chretien signed the Kyoto accord to reduce our emissions by a smaller amount of six per cent below 1990 levels that would be achieved by 2012.

In 2006, when the Liberals were voted out of office, Canada was 30 per cent over that target and as a result, Harper eventually withdrew Canada from the Kyoto agreement that had set binding targets.

In 2009, at the Copenhagen climate conference, Harper matched the U.S. target to cut GHG emissions by 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 30 per cent by 2013 in what is a non-binding agreement.

These target levels are the same the Liberals will now use as they prepare to ratify the Paris climate conference agreement going forward, a move that has angered some in the environmental movement and in particular the Green Party and leader Elizabeth May.

Somewhat related to this announcement is news that the Liberal Government also intends to force a carbon tax onto the provinces.

It is important to also point out that no details are known and it should also be recognized that provinces such as B.C. already have a carbon tax so it remains unknown how such a federally imposed tax would impact British Columbia.

I will continue to provide information on the Liberal proposed carbon tax as the details become available.

If you have any comments, questions or concerns on this or any matter before the House of Commons, I can be reached at [email protected] or contacted toll-free at 1(800) 665-8711.


Postal pandemonium

In 2014, Canada Post announced it would end door-to-door mail delivery service for one-third of Canadians who still received the service.

This became a political topic during the 2015 federal election as the now Liberal government promised to maintain door-to-door delivery.

More recently, the government has released an independent review of Canada Post that will be used for further scrutiny by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates.

This committee will ultimately make recommendations that point to potential changes that the government is considering with respect to how Canada Post operates.

While it is unclear what changes might occur some of the review’s findings indicate the challenges being faced by Canada Post that may be of interest to many citizens in our region.

The ongoing challenge at Canada Post remains declining mail volume. In 2015, Canada Post delivered 8.8 billion pieces of mail, down almost $3 billion since 2007.

At the same time, Canada Post is adding roughly 170,00 addresses a year.

There are more addresses being created Canada wide and at the same time there is less mail.

This results in increased delivery costs with steadily declining revenues.

While revenues decline and costs increase, the employee pension plan is underfunded by just over $8 billion.

This means that more revenues must at some point be directed to fill the pension solvency gap that exists to eliminate this liability.

What are some of the possible solutions?

  • The report suggests that the single largest potential for cost savings is to eliminate door-to-door mail delivery in favour of community mailboxes. This would yield savings in excess of $400 million.
  • Further conversion of Canada Post run postal outlets to franchise operations is estimated to save $177 million while further streamlining of processing operations would provide savings of $66 million.
  • The report also looked at ways to increase revenue that included selling advertising, estimated to raise close to $20 million.
  • Another potential revenue source raised is the potential revenue from distributing marijuana if and or when it becomes legalized. 
  • Postal banking was thoroughly examined although it was not recommended as an option.

Ultimately, the report concludes that Canada Post costs are increasing at a rate faster than revenues and as a result it is not operating in a sustainable manner.

The report concludes that significant changes and a new business model will need to be developed in order to allow Canada Post to be better positioned for new and emerging trends in the marketplace. 

 I will follow this issue once it reaches the committee review, and welcome your comments, questions and concerns on Canada Post or any matter before the House of Commons.

I can be reached via email or at 1-800-665-8711.

Debt eroding economy

Canada’s economy is facing a brisk head wind.

Recently, Statistics Canada released the GDP, income and expenditure report for Canada’s second quarter, revealing some troubling indicators.

Real GDP growth decreased .4 per cent and while that may not seem like a significant drop, it is the largest quarterly decline since 2009.

Another area of concern is business investment that has continued to decline for the last several quarters. 

Construction has declined while the public sector has increased in size. 

Fortunately, there are some promising indicators with some growth in manufacturing along with an increase in mining along with oil and gas extraction.

For many of these reasons, the Bank of Canada announced the key interest rate will remain at .5 per cent with a forecast for increased GDP growth in the next fiscal quarter. 

I mention some of Canada’s fiscal indicators because it is critically important that fiscal policy is not overlooked when Parliament resumes Sept. 19.

We should not overlook that much of the government’s debt forecasts that already show a significant increase in debt are also depending on positive economic growth to help offset significant increases in spending. 

In the 2013/14 fiscal year, over $28 billion was spent just on debt servicing. 

To put that number into context: the total amount of health transfers from the federal government to the provinces and territories in the same fiscal year was $32 billion.

If the Liberal government continues to dramatically increase debt as is currently forecast and economic growth does not increase as is anticipated, a serious fiscal crunch will emerge.

It will impact federal government finances at a time when the population is significantly aging with health care costs expected to increase dramatically.

The intent of this week’s report is not to cast doom and gloom as overall, Canada is relatively strong compared to other G-7 nations.

However, the current direction away from balanced budgets and into increased spending while ignoring policies and projects that create investment, employment and increased economic growth is a concern.

In June, I tabled a motion to immediately elevate the Comeau decision to the Supreme Court for constitutional clarification that could potentially significantly increase internal trade between Canadian provinces.

Despite having the support of the Conservative, NDP and Green Party MPs, something that rarely occurs, even this modest economic motion was opposed by the government.

I have received a great deal of positive comments from constituents on reducing interprovincial trade barriers as well as other suggestions to help grow our economy over my summer listening tour.

In this regard, my summer listening tour has been successful as I believe that the best ideas come from those closest to challenges or opportunities and why it’s critical for elected officials to hear those ideas and suggestions first hand.

It is important to me to propose and not just oppose while in Opposition and I will continue to bring motions forward that can increase internal trade and help local producers to have unrestricted access to all Canadian Provinces.

I welcome your comments, questions and concerns on this or any matter related to the federal government.

I can be reached by email or by phone toll free at 1-800-665-8711.

Great men leave the stage

 was saddened to learn of the passing of Fred King of Kaleden, a Second World War veteran and retired member of Parliament.

He was a kind, caring man who gave back to his community in many different ways that extended well beyond his time in Ottawa.

Although I considered Fred a close friend, he was also a mentor who offered support and sage advice on many issues around our region.

From his time as MP, Fred had many accomplishments although he was most proud of the work securing federally owned lands that could be used for Okanagan College's Penticton campus.

Some have pointed out that if it were not for his intervention, the Penticton campus may have been placed in a far less convenient location nor without considerable extra costs.

Fred was a strong believer and supporter in our youth and the importance of upgrading skills and education. Fred continued to quietly provide support and assistance for many individuals in hopes they would have a better future. 

What I most admired about Fed was his sincere willingness to always help others, many who were complete strangers never asking anything in return only a desire to try and bring happiness and help to those who were in need. 

It is a privilege to consider him my friend and to recognize his contributions and his service for the betterment of others.

I would also like to pay tribute to another former member of Parliament, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper.

The former prime minister recently announced he is retiring from Parliament, effective immediately.

Mr. Harper was one of the most misunderstood elected officials I have met who endured significant personal and public attacks that were at odds with my interactions with him during my time in the previous Parliament.

He cared deeply about Canadian families and encouraged policies that promoted prosperity and employment.

As my colleague, MP Pierre Poilievre, recently observed, under Mr. Harper’s term as PM, the number of Canadians living in poverty declined to a record low of 4.2 per cent while middle class incomes rose by 11 per cent.

As we know, Canadian middle-class prosperity surpassed that of the United States in 2014 for the first time, all while balancing the budget in the final year of the previous Parliament.

Mr. Harper also eliminated retroactively a gold-plated pension perk that paid every former Canadian PM on retirement 66 per cent of the PM's salary.

Eliminating this perk cost Mr. Harper (and saved taxpayers) $1.5-$2 million in retirement benefits.

He also brought fairness to the formerly gold-plated MP pension plan and to the public sector pension plan by ensuring that these plans were funded equally on a 50/50 contribution rate.

These changes are estimated to save Canadian taxpayers close to $2.6 billion over the next five years.

What I most admired about our former PM was that he was not afraid to make difficult and unpopular decisions that were necessary for Canada’s long-term prosperity.

It should also be noted that his electoral rivals tried to paint him as someone who would try to dismantle our health-care system by cutting federal transfer payments to provinces as the former Liberal government had done to balance its budget woes.

Mr. Harper consistently raised federal transfers each and every year while in office and insisted that his ministers support these year-over-year increases while finding efficiencies in their departments and staying focused on growing the economy.

While I appreciate some may see my comments as partisan, I have met few people who believe reducing federal funding for important priorities like health care or that forcing MPs to pay more into their pension plan was a bad one.

Ultimately, leadership means taking principled positions and making at times difficult decisions and for that I would like to recognize Mr. Harper’s service to Canadians.

If you have a comment, question or concern about this week’s report or any federal matters, I can be reached at [email protected] or contacted 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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