Pipeline good for all

I am always mindful of an old quote that suggests “Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain — and most fools do.”

It is why I often propose alternatives to government policy in place of constant opposition.

It is also important to credit the government on those measures that on balance can help to build a stronger Canada. 

Last week, the Liberal Government announced that it would be approving both the Enbridge Line 3 and the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline projects while cancelling the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.

Here in British Columbia, the approval of the Trans-Mountain pipeline is a subject of considerable debate and opposition in many areas of the Province.

The Trans Mountain approval is subject to 157 binding conditions that are intended to address concerns ranging from First Nations, environmental, project engineering as well as safety and emergency response.

The value of this project is just under $7-billion and will create 15,000 new jobs during construction.

This pipeline will also generate $4.5 billion in federal and provincial government revenues.

While I realize my agreement with this Liberal government decision will comes as a disappointment to some, it should be noted that this project essentially replaces the existing Trans Mountain pipeline system between Edmonton and Burnaby that is now over 50 years old.

The new pipeline will also be twinned to increase capacity. I agree with the Government that this pipeline is ultimately in our Canadian national interest.

The Enbridge Line 3 approval is also a pipeline replacement project, subject to 37 binding conditions addressing similar concerns to the Trans-Mountain approval.

Line 3 is valued at just under $5 billion to replace slightly over 1,000 kilometres of existing pipeline from Hardisty to Gretna, Man., and will create roughly 7,000 new jobs during construction.

Revenues to the Federal and Provincial Government will exceed $500 million.

While many oppose Canadian oil resources being exported, there is little protest against oil imports from  Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Angola and Nigeria among others.

It should also not be overlooked that these offshore countries do not have carbon tax or other environmental regulations in effect similar to Canada. 

It is for this reason that many support the Energy East pipeline project as it could greatly eliminate the need to import foreign oil and also take capacity from Western Canada oil producers, thus reducing demand to export.

In both these scenarios, tanker traffic would also be greatly reduced, which, in turn, also lessens dependence on oil by rail.

While there is no perfect solution, the recent pipeline approvals by the Prime Minister has the potential to increase employment and generate more revenues for the Federal and several Provincial Governments. 

I believe the government made the right decision in granting these approvals, more so when one considers both these projects are replacing existing pipeline infrastructure with newer and safer technologies.

I welcome your comments, questions and concerns on the recent pipeline approvals or any other topic before the House of Commons.

I can be reached at [email protected] or toll-free at 1-800-665-8711.

Bank a bad investment

Most of the noise in Ottawa this week has been from the outrage related to a statement by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the passing of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. 

The Prime Minister’s statement and comments on his death has been widely criticized internationally for not referencing the numerous human rights violations that have occurred under the Castro regime. 

While I believe the statement could have been worded in a manner more reflective of these human rights violations, it is also important to not allow this to overshadow other important concerns, such as the Liberals pending new infrastructure bank.

Nov. 3, I shared several concerns about the promised new $35-billion federal infrastructure bank. 

I questioned the need to develop yet another federal agency as well an expensive new federally run bank. 

I also pointed out one of the advantages of government borrowing is that government can do so at rates much lower than the private sector can. 

In order for the infrastructure bank to gain any private sector investors, the bank will need to pay competitive rates of return.

These interest rates will be higher than the rates the government can borrow at, so this new infrastructure bank could ultimately end up subsidizing private investors who would enjoy lucrative and guaranteed rates of return.

This is not the role of government.

This is in stark contrast to what the Liberals proposed in their election platform. Originally, they said it would be set up to help all Canadian municipalities to access lower cost borrowing rates and would be largely used to finance social housing.

Since writing that report, the Liberals have now announced further details on the infrastructure bank that should be of very serious concern to citizens in our region. 

The most troubling aspect of the mandate for the infrastructure bank is that it will only fund projects with a price tag of $100 million or more. 

While major cities such as the Liberal strongholds of Toronto and Vancouver have projects within this price range, for smaller and rural municipalities these types of projects are completely unaffordable. 

As Canadian Press recently reported, the Finance Minister has admitted that global investors will only invest in "large transformational projects" that produce enough revenue from which they can earn a high rate of return on their investment. 

The Liberal Government is borrowing money it does not have at reduced rates so that Canadian taxpayers can finance and subsidize high rates of return for private international investors.

What is more disappointing about this scheme is that taxpayers in rural, smaller and even mid-size municipalities will be taking on this debt.

They will help pay for the high interest paid to private investors and will not even be eligible or able to afford the projects in question because of the  pricey $100 million minimum price tag. 

Worse is that the roughly $32 billion the Liberals are borrowing as seed money to create the investment bank is money that could but will not be spent on building infrastructure in the very same municipalities that will not be able to participate in this expensive program. 

This infrastructure bank will be detrimental to not just our region but many regions across Canada.

As it is my practice to not just oppose but also propose, I have a different idea. 

Instead of paying lucrative returns to private, global investment firms the Liberal government could increase the rate of return on Canada Savings Bonds.

Then, Canadians could benefit and at the same time lower the $100 million project minimum so most Canadian municipalities can participate.  

I welcome your views on this or any subject before the House of Commons. I can be reached at [email protected]  or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.

Senators take rare stand

Canadians tend not to hear much in the media about our Senate unless it involves a spending scandal. 

This week, a group of Conservative senators made the rare and unusual decision to amend a government spending bill.

During the last election, the Liberal promised to reduce income taxes on the middle class that ultimately would be revenue neutral as a result of income taxes being increased on citizens who earn over $200,000 per year. 

Credit to the Liberal Government as they have been in the process of enacting some of their electoral promises however it has been done in a manner that some take disagreement with that ultimately has resulted in the Senator amendment in question.

One challenge in enacting tax cuts for the middle class is defining who exactly is the “middle class” from the perspective of the Liberal Government.

 In this case, many were surprised that the proposed tax cuts for the middle class did not apply to most in need — Canadians earning below $45,000 per year. 

More surprising was that the same middle class tax cuts also applied to citizens earning between $100,000 up to $199,000 per year. 

I have yet to hear any citizens supporting a tax cut for citizens earning close to $200,000 annually. 

As it turns out, when citizens in the $100,000 to $199,000 income level are included in the ‘middle class’ tax cut it turns out the plan is not in fact revenue neutral as was promised. 

Overall the cost of the Liberal middle class tax results in an annual deficit ranging between $1.2 Billion and possibly as high as $1.7 billion each year. 

As the annual budget is currently forecasting deficits for the duration of the Liberal Government term these tax cuts are in fact unsustainable– this is where the Conservative Senator`s amendment comes in.

Ultimately, the amendment from Senator Larry Smith proposes to eliminate the tax cut for citizens earning above $ 90,000 so those earning $100,000 up to $199,000 would no longer see an income tax cut if the amendment was adopted.  

The amendment further proposes to increase the tax cut for those earning between $45,000 up to $53,000 and would keep the existing tax cut for those earning between $53,000 up to $90,000. 

It should also be noted that this amendment is also revenue neutral meaning that it would not add an additional $1.2-$1.7 billion in new debt annually. 

It’s unclear if the Senate will support this amendment however it will provide a test for those newly appointed non-partisan senators to see if they blindly vote against this amendment in favour of the original government bill or not. 

In the event the Senate does pass this amendment it would return to the House of Commons for a vote from elected MPs. 

My question to citizens is what are your thoughts on this amendment? Does it make sense to increase the income tax cut for lower income citizens and eliminate the income tax cut for those earning between $90,000 up to $190,000 and eliminate the deficit created by this in the process? 

Or should un-elected Senators oppose the amendment and support the Liberals tax cut as is, given that it was a campaign promise that provided a mandate for these changes, despite not being revenue neutral as was promised.

I welcome your comments, questions and concerns on this subject or any other before the House of Commons.

I can be reached at [email protected] or toll free 1-800-665-8711.  

Our debt is growing

This week, I had a second opportunity to speak in opposition to the Liberal Government’s budget implementation bill.

Aside from the fact that the Liberal plan has resulted in economic downgrades and we've seen none of the 40,000 net new jobs that was promised in Budget 2016, I also raised the uncomfortable issue of debt.

The federal government spent just over $28 billion a year servicing debt from the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

That is almost as much money as is spent on the Canadian Health Transfers to provinces that was just over $30 billion in that same year.

The federal government is spending almost as much money on servicing debt as it is spending on healthcare and this Liberal budget increases debt by another $25 billion this year and is on track to add $113 billion in new debt by the 2020-21 fiscal year. 

There is also no longer any plan to return to a balanced budget. Given that debt is rising at the same time health care funding increases are being reduced, the federal government will soon spend more on debt interest then healthcare, a fact I believe many will find troubling.

It's easy to be a critic. Part of my commitment to citizens in our region as an opposition MP is to not just oppose but also propose alternative ideas that can build a stronger and more prosperous Canada.

What did I propose the Liberal budget should do instead?

First, I made it clear that I do not believe that MPs and other citizens earning up to $199,000 per year need an income tax cut as the Liberals are proposing in this budget.

Recently, as many potential home owners have discovered, the Liberals are making changes to the mortgage rules that are so severe by the departments own internal projections our Canadian housing market may lose 10 per cent of all sales this year.

This will adversely impact many families not just in our region but all across Canada. What is more frustrating is that these mortgage changes, largely intended to combat the rising house prices in the Liberal strongholds of Toronto and Vancouver, will adversely impact the rest of Canada.

This is why I frequently speak out against one-size fits all Ottawa imposed “solutions”

So what is the answer?

In my view the federal government should not be penalizing future homeowners as a means to try and lower housing prices. How about instead creating incentives to increase the supply of new housing? 

Increasing the new housing supply would have several benefits for Canadians. Primarily increased housing supply will help to meet demand and in turn lower prices. 

Further, if more Canadians can move into home ownership and out of rentals that in turn will free up capacity for always in demand rental housing. An increased supply of rental housing can also help lower rental rates and hopefully increase affordability.

Another added benefit to increasing new home supply is that it will create jobs and help support many local economies across Canada given how many sectors are involved in the construction industry.

As an added benefit much of Canada’s home building industry is supplied almost exclusively by Canadian value added wood products who would benefit from the increased activity at a time when the federal government has made no progress on the softwood lumber deal. 

These are only a few of the many benefits of such a policy that could be enhanced if Ottawa considered raising the threshold for the GST rebate on new housing. In my view promoting instead of penalizing new home owners is an important economic alternative proposal that could be explored in this Liberal budget.

As always I welcome your views on this or any topic before the House of Commons and can be reached at [email protected] or toll-free 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 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/mp-report 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

2562-B Main Street
West Kelowna, B.C. V4T 2N5
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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