Citizens deserve to be heard


was asked recently why I write a weekly MP report given that some other members of Parliament don’t.

The first reason is due to the fact the federal government is so vast, there is no shortage of policies, bills and legislation to inform citizens about.

The second reason is my favourite: my weekly reports provide an opportunity for citizens to share comments, questions and concerns on specific topics that are raised.

This is valuable because often topics that are of great concern to local citizens may not be the same topics that dominate media headlines.

Having a weekly MP report creates a good opportunity to take the pulse of how citizens in Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola feel about a wide variety of subjects.

In last week’s report, I asked for input on the idea of a federal government imposed national carbon tax. The response was not only overwhelming, but almost all the feedback was strongly opposed.

There were also a significant number of citizens who took the time to share the reasons why they opposed a national carbon tax.

Although many reasons varied, the most common was that many citizens are paying more attention to the relationship between their gross income and their net take home pay after income taxes.

At the same time. their net take home pay is increasingly being subject to a growing number of consumption based taxes and fees that further reduce the household buying power.

Many expressed a point of view that they cannot afford more taxation and as a result oppose another tax on something like gasoline that as many pointed out, is already heavily taxed.

Another point made by many was that government services and government could not function without burning carbon.

Flights by politicians to Ottawa or Victoria being one example, emergency service vehicles, transportation trucks that carry essential supplies and services were more examples and that a national carbon tax would increase the cost of government.

Another point made by some citizens was that while income taxes can be variable in a way to help those with lower incomes, often consumption based taxes apply equally regardless of income and some felt there was an element of unfairness in that.

Often various governments use rebate programs and/or direct payment subsidies such as the recently changed direct child care subsidy to help offset these increased costs.

But as another citizens pointed out these programs often only help certain families and not those who are low income who have adult children with severe challenges who cannot work, no children or are single.

There was no lack of different reasons why a national carbon tax was overwhelmingly opposed to the extent that only a handful of citizens voiced any support for the idea.

This feedback was helpful. If the Liberal government continues to try to force a national carbon tax, I will share many of the reasons that were provided to me over this past week opposing a national carbon tax.

Citizens deserve to be heard and the feedback from my weekly reports is part of what I will be sharing in September once the House of Commons is back in session.

In my view this is an important part of our democratic process in Canada.

Want to have a say in my upcoming MP reports? Is there a particular subject you would like to see covered in a future MP report?

Let me know an area of federal concern and while I may not be able to accommodate every request the most common topics that are raised will be mentioned in upcoming MP reports from now until September.

I can be reached at [email protected] or call 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 danalbas.com.


Do you want a carbon tax?

Last week’s report covering Internet censorship and net neutrality generated a significant amount of feedback with an overwhelming consensus strongly in support of net neutrality.

I would like to thank the many citizens who took the time to share their support for this topic and in many cases also providing unique insight on the reasons why.

This week, the largest concern I am hearing is reaction to an announcement from the prime minister that the Liberal government may impose a national carbon tax on Canadians.
The CBC is reporting that the president of WestJet airlines has warned such a tax has the potential to cause serious harm to the aviation industry.

Ultimately, this will be a topic for discussion at the premiers conference in Whitehorse this week.
My thoughts on a national carbon tax? Without details on how much such a tax could cost Canadians or how it might be implemented and administered it is difficult to fairly assess the impact on taxpayers.

For example, in British Columbia revenues raised from the B.C. carbon tax are used to lower taxes in other areas.

People who can take advantage by implementing a lower carbon lifestyle, can save both on paying less in carbon taxes, and they may also benefit from reduced income taxes as the B.C. carbon tax is revenue neutral.

However, in Alberta the proposed carbon tax will selectively benefit some citizens and at same time the Alberta government will also retain the discretionary ability to spend carbon tax revenues on government select pet projects and initiatives.

In other words, the Alberta carbon tax will increase the Alberta government’s ability to spend more revenues and is not revenue neutral as it is in B.C.

Another concern about a federally imposed national carbon tax is a lack of consistency in policy application.
Regular readers of my MP reports will know that many interprovincial trade barriers remain, yet most Canadians I have heard from would like to see it eliminated.

Buying Canadian should truly mean buying Canadian with open provincial borders.

In Ottawa, even though the Conservative, NDP and Green party all recently voted in support of my motion to potentially help open up inter-provincial trade, the majority Liberal Government opposed this motion arguing a preference for provincial agreement on eliminating trade barriers.

Strangely, when it comes to potentially imposing a national carbon tax the prime minister takes a different view suggesting agreement between the provinces may not necessarily be in favour of an Ottawa imposed tax increase.

My final concern on a national carbon tax is one that is rarely mentioned in media circles and that is the fact that the Liberal government in 1995 introduced a 10 cents a litre federal excise tax on automotive fuel.
That’s in addition to the federal GST and various provincial levies buried in the price of gas, which continues to increase costs for Canadians.

My question today to the citizens of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola is what are your views on a national carbon tax?

Is this something you would support and, if so, would you a have preference in what manner such a tax would be implemented?

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

Net neutrality threatened

Internet censorship and net neutrality are not top of mind for most people, but that doesn't mean they don't deserve our attention. 

While most people are familiar with the concept of Internet censorship, many are less familiar with net neutrality. The concept of net neutrality is that government and Internet service providers should make every reasonable effort to treat Internet data and related content in an equal matter free from arbitrary discrimination.

I raise the subject of net neutrality because Quebec passed a law earlier this year that raises serious concerns. Bill 74 allows the Quebec government to force Canadian Internet service providers to attempt to block online gaming websites outside Quebec from Quebec residents.

I suggest the law attempts to block online gaming sites is due to technical concerns raised within the wireless industry that indicate, in some cases, it may not be technically possible to fully comply with this new legislation. 

In spite of these concerns, Quebec has indicated it intends to proceed with these measures potentially in the near future.

Aside from increasing costs on the respective wireless and Internet service industries, there is also the concern over jurisdiction. Communication related policy is under federal jurisdiction and if one province can attempt to usurp this jurisdiction in an attempt to protect a provincial monopoly, in this case Lotto-Quebec, it is highly conceivable other provinces could follow suit.

Quebec's finance minister confirmed at the legislative committee studying Bill 74 that he believed other provinces would follow the lead of Quebec.

This would not only subject Canadians to a patchwork system of different rules, but could compromise international agreements that Canada is a signatory to.

Up to this point, the federal government has ensured any censorship of the Internet has been justified for public safety reasons such as shutting down terrorist recruitment websites via the Criminal Code and not for financial reasons, as is the case of Quebec. 

I'm the only member of Parliament to raise this concern in the House of Commons and the response from the Liberal government was that it supports net neutrality. However, it is unclear what efforts, if any, will be undertaken to protect the online rights of Canadians against these practices. 

My question for citizens is, what are your thoughts on net neutrality? Do you support net neutrality or do you think it is reasonable for a provincial government to create online restrictions in an effort to protect revenue sources?

If you have comments or concerns on this or any federal matter please do not hesitate to contact me via email at [email protected] or toll free at 1-800-665-8711.


Retirement dreams

Recently, the federal government announced a tentative deal with most provinces to increase the size of CPP contributions and increase the benefit payments upon retirement.

Because this announcement was made when many other events were occurring on Parliament Hill, some details were not as well communicated to citizens as they could have been.

I would like to share some of the details of this CPP increase.

Currently, both an employer and an employee pay 4.95 per cent of a worker’s salary into CPP up to a maximum income level of $54,900. Over time, this CPP contribution, if at the maximum level, would result in total benefit payments of just over $13,000 per year.

The recent CPP changes announced are intended to achieve two goals.

The first is to increase the total maximum benefit payable upon retirement and the second to increase the income level so that a worker with a higher income will still have the ability to earn CPP benefits.

To put these changes into context, I will provide a few examples. Currently, a worker at the maximum income level of $ 54,900 can earn a total yearly benefit of $13,110.

That same worker with the same income level (once the CPP changes are fully phased in) would be eligible to receive a total benefit of $17,500 a year (in today’s dollars) — an increase of $4,390 per year or a $365 monthly increase upon retirement.

The second change is the increase so that more wealthy workers can collect CPP benefits.  As I mentioned previously, the maximum income level for CPP is $54,900.

Once the proposed changes are fully phased in by 2025, this amount would be increased up to $82,700 per year. As a result, a retiring worker with an income level of $82,700 would be eligible for maximum annual CPP benefits of up to $19,900 a year, in today’s dollars.

Keep in mind these proposed increases also carry increased costs to your CPP contributions that will be deducted from your paycheque.

While the exact cost details will vary per worker, it is expected that a worker with an annual salary of $54,900 will see a CPP increase of $108 a year in 2019, when the CPP increase changes begin to take effect. 

Once the CPP increases are fully implemented in 2025, the increased costs to a worker would be just over $500 per year. Keep in mind, all these same increased costs will also have to be absorbed by employers.

 As a result the Canadian Federation of Independent Business has expressed concerns that imposing what amounts to billions in increases on labour costs over time will have a detrimental impact on job creation and be potentially harmful to many small businesses. 

The federal government will also be introducing a partial tax credit for employee contributions, however the overall impact on small business is unknown.

While the increased CPP changes will cost employers and employees more in contributions what has also been overlooked is that these changes may provide some financial relief to the government in the future. 

Increasing CPP benefits may result in less pressure and eligibility on programs such as the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) and Old Age Security (OAS) that are not directly supported by contributions from employers and employees as is the case with CPP. 

If you have any further comments, questions or concerns on increased CPP or any matter before the Federal Government do not hesitate to contact me or call 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 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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