Wednesday, May 27th11.7°C
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Dan Albas

Listening is important

This week is the final constituency week before the House of Commons adjourns in late June for what is expected to be the final sitting of the 41st Parliament. Constituency weeks are important for Members of Parliament as they provide an opportunity to meet with groups and citizens in our home ridings to hear feedback and in many cases provided assistance in dealing with federal government programs and services.

Later in the week I will be travelling to the Lower Mainland to participate in a skills training related announcement that will outline details for a new program that will soon be available in many parts of Canada. What is exciting about this announcement is that the idea for the program in question originated with a citizen who lives within our riding of Okanagan-Coquihalla and his team at a BC based post-secondary institution.

Although this is not the first time a local citizen from our region has submitted a suggestion that resulted in national attention, it is from my own experience the first time a program has come forward from a local proposal to be implemented by Government. In my view the fact that a private citizen living in a relatively small community can submit an idea that can have national implications is exciting. It is also a testament to the importance of feedback, input and suggestions put forward by citizens to elected officials that in turn can be presented directly to the level of government they are elected to represent.

While this pending announcement will likely not receive a significant amount of media attention nor the fact that it came from a proposal from a private citizen, it is important to recognize the difference that Canadians can make in contributing ideas in how to build a stronger Canada. In my brief time as an elected official I have been fortunate to be involved in changes both related to local government and more recently the federal government. Many of these changes all came from ideas and suggestions from citizens and is one of the reasons why each year I do a listening tour.

For those of you who frequently read my weekly reports you will know that each week I ask citizens to always feel free to contact me with comments, questions and concerns on matters before the House of Commons. This is often where ideas come from and I would like to thank the many citizens who do take the time to respond and invite others to give me a call or send an email. When citizens work together with their elected representatives we can continue to build a stronger Canada. Please contact me via email at [email protected] or toll free at 1-800-665-8711.

 



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Dissolution and Order Paper

This has been an interesting week on Parliament Hill given a few well publicized verbal gaffes from two opposition party leaders. While I am frequently asked to comment when such episodes occur (usually from partisans of various stripes) in my view I believe ultimately how an elected official conducts themselves is a topic best left between an MP or MLA and the citizens they represent. 

In Ottawa there is currently four weeks remaining until the House adjourns in June for what is expected to be the final sitting of this 41st Parliament. There has been sixty Government Bills introduced during this second session of the 41st Parliament. Of those 60 Bills, 40 have received Royal Assent and of the remaining 20 there are currently five bills in the Senate leaving fifteen at various stages of debate in the House of Commons barring the introduction of any more Bills. 

Aside from Government Bills there have also been 475 Private Members Bills introduced during this second session.  Of this 475, twelve have received Royal Assent; fourteen are currently before the Senate meaning that roughly 449 are still up for debate in the House of Commons.  From a quick glance of the 449 Private Members Bills remaining in the House, roughly 10 have reached second reading with the majority at first reading, meaning they have been introduced but not yet debated. There have also been seven Senate Bills with one receiving Royal Assent to date and the remaining six at various stages of debate. Individually Senators have sponsored twenty seven bills with five having received Royal Assent and the rest still under debate.

What will happen to the bills that have not been passed? Before an election Parliament will be formally ended by a proclamation from the Governor General that is referred to as Dissolution.  Upon dissolution all items on the Order Paper including government and Private Members’ bills die. Thus when the House of Commons adjourns in this case any Bill not passed third reading will most likely not receive Royal Assent.  While it is not uncommon for the Senate to sit beyond the House of Commons once the Senate has adjourned it is likely that any Bill not receiving Royal Assent will potentially die on the Order Paper in the Senate.  The next election will see the creation of the 42nd Parliament and both Government and Members of that Parliament are free to sponsor bills similar or even precisely the same that may have existed and not been passed in this 41st Parliament. 

If you would like more specific information or have questions on any Bill before the 41st Parliament please do not hesitate to contact me.  I can be reached at [email protected] or toll free at 1-880-665-8711. 

Before I conclude this week’s MP report I would like to express sadness and condolences to the family of recently deceased former Osoyoos Mayor and Boundary-Similkameen MLA John Slater.  Mr. Slater spent many years as a vibrant small town Mayor and gave greatly to the community of Osoyoos and the surrounding area.  John Slater’s contributions were many and he will be missed for his service and his friendly demeanour to all who worked with him.



Citizen communications

Recently I was contacted by a media organization to do an interview on the subject of Government advertising. While I was not available at the requested time, I did offer an alternative day that my schedule in Ottawa could accommodate a live interview. Although the media organization in question suggested they would get back to my office, instead they reported that I declined the interview, which was not accurate. I mention this because it is an example on how frequently information can be reported inaccurately even when from an otherwise credible media organization.
 
The subject of advertising and communications in general is one that is a challenge to all governments and also to elected MLAs and MPs. As many local media publications are aware there are growing restrictions on what an MP can and cannot advertise. In the case of elected Members of Parliament, all advertising by a Member is subject to restrictions and ultimately must be approved by the Member of Parliament. The costs of local advertising are part of the expenses that are deducted from the funds provided to an MP for consistency expenses within the riding and are reported in the annual Expenditures by Member report from the Board of Internal Economy. In my case, last year I spent just under $5,600 on advertising– a decrease from what was spent in the year prior.
 
Why advertise at all? Advertising in my view is one of many different means how elected Government can communicate directly with citizens. Public awareness, changes in taxation policy, where your money is spent, policy changes and public safety are just a few examples of topics that may be subject to advertising. One recent example is proposed changes to the Universal Child Care Benefit plan. These changes will see an increase in monthly payments to children under 6 and for the first time monthly support payments for children between 6 and 17 years of age. For most families these proposed changes (subject to Parliamentary approval) will see increased monthly supports arrive automatically once the implementation date occurs. However for some families with children under 18 who have never previously received the Universal Childcare Benefit, enrolment will be required. This raises the question how best to communicate the need to enroll? Advertising is one obvious solution and certainly some Members of Parliament have elected to do so. Part of why I submit weekly columns and engage in social media is in part because it is a cost effective way to communicate with citizens although far fewer will likely read my MP report this week compared to a running a quarter page sized ad. For more information on applying for the UCCB please visit this website: www.cra-arc.gc.ca/uccb/
 
Aside from the topic of advertising it has also been a lively week in Ottawa with a number of Bills and motions before the House. Bill C-51 the Anti-Terrorism Act passed 3rd reading with both the Liberals and Government in support and the NDP opposed. Private Members business this week includes Bill C-637  An Act to amend the Criminal Code (firearms storage and transportation), Bill C-641 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, Bill C-356 National Strategy for Dementia Act, Bill C-627  An Act to amend the Railway Safety Act and Motion M-591 Ferry services to Prince Edward Island.

For further information on these or any Bills before the House of Commons, I can be reached at [email protected] or toll-free at 1-800-665-8711.

 



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King of Jordan visit

One thing that can be said about events on Parliament Hill is that no two weeks are ever the same.  All Parliamentarians were sad to learn this week of the passing of Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, Speaker of the Senate and a member of the Red Chamber for over two decades. Like other Canadians, Senator Nolin battled a rare form of cancer. Our thoughts and prayers are always with friends and families who have lost a loved one to such a cruel disease.

Also occurring on Parliament Hill this week was a visit from King Abdullah II bin al Hussein of Jordan.  For those who may be unaware, Jordan is the first Arab country to successfully complete a free-trade agreement with Canada that came into effect in October of 2012. Jordan is also one of two countries that have signed a peace agreement with Israel. Jordan has also accepted a large number of refugees fleeing Syria and opposes the terror organization ISIL.

Not occurring in Ottawa but certainly in the minds of many Canadians is the devastating earthquake tragedy in Nepal. Canada has deployed and successfully landed a Canadian Forces C-17 aircraft to deliver much needed personnel and supplies to the region to assist and search for survivors. If any citizens in Okanagan-Coquihalla know Canadians travelling in that area requiring consular assistance please contact the Consulate of Canada in Kathmandu, Nepal at +977 (1) 444-1976 or the High Commission of Canada in New Delhi, India at +91 11 4178 2000. The Government of Canada will also be matching donations made by Canadians to registered Canadian charities in response to the Nepal earthquake between April 25 - May 25, 2015.

After we hold a final vote in the House of Commons on Budget 2015, we will then move to debating Senate Bill S-4, the Digital Privacy Act, as well as Government Bill C-46, the Pipeline Safety Act and a number of private member’s bills and motions. For further information on any Bill before the House of Commons please contact me at [email protected] or call toll free 1-800-665-8711. I would also like to pass on my thanks to the many individuals each week who take the time to pass on comments and questions on my weekly reports. Your ongoing input is valued and appreciated.



Read more Dan in Ottawa articles

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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




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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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