Crude conflict creates crisis

Although the House of Commons is not in session, the return of Prime Minister JustinTrudeau and his cabinet for an emergency meeting to discuss a “constitutional crisis” has been a subject of national attention.

What is the crisis?

As many will know, there has been an emerging conflict between the New Democrat led provincial governments of Alberta and British Columbia related to the Trans-Mountain Pipeline project.

The B.C. NDP has threatened to use every tool possible to stop the project. In response, the Alberta NDP introduced provincial legislation this week that will enable cuts of Alberta fuel that is shipped to British Columbia.

Why is this a constitutional crisis?

When a pipeline project crosses a provincial or international boundary, it is regulated federally.

In this case, Prime Minister Trudeau has approved the pipeline, and has stated his strong support that the pipeline will be built.

From a constitutional perspective, many experts question if B.C. has the legal authority to block the Trans Mountain pipeline. Likewise, the constitutional validity of Alberta’s intention to reduce gas shipments into B.C. is also being questioned.

Politics are also at play given that both NDP premiers political survival relies heavily on advancing their respective positions.

To add further tension to this challenging issue, the proponent of the Trans-Mountain pipeline, citing opposition from the B.C. NDP government, has set a deadline of May 31 for certainty on the project or it will be potentially abandoned.

Ultimately, this falls onto the shoulders of Prime Minister Trudeau, who has declared this project to be in Canada’s national interest and has accused B.C. NDP Premier John Horgan of “trying to scuttle our national plan on fighting climate change."

The Trudeau Liberal government, which holds 18 seats in B.C., is aware that many who oppose the Trans Mountain pipeline do not see building it as supporting the fight on climate change.

Many view it as the opposite, a point that Mr. Trudeau and his environment minister do not seem to reconcile.

The problem the prime mnister now faces is that by declaring the Trans-Mountain pipeline to be in Canada’s national interest, if the project does not get built under his leadership, both the prime minister and Canada as a confederation will have little credibility in establishing national policy if usurped by regional interests.

For this reason many are suggesting a constitutional crisis is at hand.

What will happen next?

Unfortunately, the prime minister is set to leave Canada again for yet another round of travel to Peru, the U.K. and France.

It could be assumed that his senior advisers and cabinet ministers will continue to explore a course of action ranging from withholding federal transfer funds from B.C. or potentially turning a blind eye in the event Alberta carries out the threat of reducing gasoline flow to B.C.

It is also conceivable that other courses of action may be identified.

From a financial standpoint, the federal, B.C. and Alberta governments will lose close to $47 billion in royalties and taxes over the next 20 years should the project not move forward.

This amount does not include over $400 million in agreements with in excess of 50 First Nations communities who do support the Trans-Mountain pipeline or $922 million to local government in B.C.

As I have previously stated, I believe the prime minister made the right decision to support the Trans-Mountain pipeline and I am hopeful that Mr.Trudeau will demonstrate federal leadership to ensure this project is built.

My question this week:

  • Do you think the prime minister is doing enough to ensure that this important energy infrastructure gets built?

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


Some encouraging news

As members of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, it is part of our job to hold the government to account.

As many who follow my weekly MP reports will know, this is a common theme of mine, but I also believe it is just as important to propose alternative solutions to problems and to formulate creative ideas that could address many issues. 

Frequently, these suggestions, alternatives and ideas come from articulate and well-meaning citizens in our region.

I also believe there are times when government deserves credit for actions and decisions, or in this case reconsideration of a previous decision.

In an MP Report roughly one month ago, I explained the controversy around what is regarded as the Atwal incident that occurred on the Prime Minister’s recent trip to India.

As a reminder of this incident, Justin Trudeau’s national security adviser was put forward in a confidential news conference.

Quoting from a reporter at the news conference, this high ranking national security official was “peddling what must be one of the most bizarre conspiracy theories ever advanced by a Canadian government” suggesting:

“That the terrorist invited by the Liberals to Mumbai, may have been planted there by the Indian government or maybe by Indian security agencies or perhaps by factions in the Indian government.”

To add to the confusion the Liberals later suggested the Atwal invitation was authorized by a lone Liberal MP from British Columbia.

Due to the contradictions contained in these  two explanations, the Opposition tabled a motion at the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security (known as SECU) to meet with Mr. Trudeau’s national security adviser and learn more about this alleged conspiracy theory.

Unfortunately, the Liberal members of this committee used their majority to block this motion.

Later, a similar Opposition motion came before the House of Commons and when the Liberals used their majority to defeat that motion, an all-night filibuster was held in an effort to pressure the Liberals into allowing the national security adviser to appear before Parliament.

This week I can report some encouraging news. 

The Liberal government has reversed the decision and will now allow the national security adviser to appear before interested parliamentarians.

Why is this important?

Ultimately, members of Parliament are elected on behalf of citizens.

If members of Parliament are blocked from holding public officials to account or if the government can use non-partisan civil servants without accountability, our democracy is ultimately threatened.

This reversal is a positive step towards increasing both transparency and accountability in Ottawa and will optimistically be a trend that continues.

It is my hope that the Liberals will also reverse the decision to block faith organizations from the opportunity to participate in the summer jobs program without first accepting a values test that many feel is contrary to the Canadian Charter.

My question this week:

  • Are you concerned when government imposes a values test in order to be eligible for a taxpayer funded program?

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

Climate only a talking point

There are so many news events going on in Ottawa on a weekly basis that some events may be overlooked especially when the revelations of a Facebook data breach consume most media headlines.

One of the overlooked events this past week may have been the release of the “Perspectives on Climate Change Action in Canada” report.

This report basically audits and summarizes how well Canada is doing at meeting our goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. (GHG)

Here's some background information on this topic summarized from my Sept. 22, 2016 MP Report.

Shortly after the 2015 Federal election our Prime Justin Minister Trudeau sent the largest Canadian delegation in history to attend the Paris Climate Change Conference, at a cost in excess of $1 million dollars.

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.

Despite this criticism, 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.

 For added context:

  • 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, Mr. Harper eventually withdrew Canada from the Kyoto agreement that had set binding targets.
  • In 2009, at the Copenhagen climate conference, Mr. 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 remain the exact targets being used the Trudeau Liberal government.

This leads to the question how are we doing today? A question that was looked at by the “Perspectives on Climate Change Action in Canada” audit report.

The answer?

From my perspective, not well.

To quote the report directly:

  • “Canada is not expected to meet its 2020 target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

CBC also reported “As of 2015, the most recent year for which full statistics are available, Canada was nearly 200 million tonnes short of that goal, which is the equivalent of the emissions produced by about 44 million cars each year.

"That is twice the number of vehicles registered in Canada.”

The audit found that only five provinces and one territory even have a 2020 emission reduction target and of those, only Nova Scotia and New Brunswick were on track to meet those targets.

It should also be pointed out that these same two provinces also had the lowest targets.

The report indicates that as much as this Liberal government uses the talking point that “the environment and the economy go hand in hand”, in reality there are still trade-offs and Canada remains far from achieving our GHG emissions reduction targets.

My question this week:

  • What do you think it means to say “The Economy and the Environment go hand in hand”?

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


Libs don't have a plan

The week, the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) released an analysis of the most recent Liberal government budget. 

While sharp and measured non-partisan budget analysis is common from the PBO, one particular fact from the report has generated considerable attention on Parliament Hill.

The conclusion from the PBO was, and I quote it directly: 

  • “Budget 2018 provides an incomplete account of the changes to the government’s $186.7 billion infrastructure spending plan. PBO requested the new plan, but it does not exist. Roughly one-quarter of the funding allocated for infrastructure from 2016-17 to 2018-19 will lapse. Both legacy and new infrastructure programs are prone to large lapses.”

As I have mentioned in previous MP reports, it is not necessarily uncommon for some budgeted funds to lapse or to remain unspent for a variety of reasons. 

What is unique in this situation is the finding from the PBO that an appropriate infrastructure plan does not exist at all. 

The Liberal government has been subsequently asked about this in Question Period but has not provided any formal documented Infrastructure Plan.

This raises serious concerns on how $186 billion is proposed to be borrowed and spent without a proper plan or how those funds are best invested for maximum return over the next twelve years.

After promising an Infrastructure Plan during the 2015 election, how can there be no plan in place?

This is a question only the Liberal government can answer. 

A February 2018 analysis by the Globe and Mail newspaper indicated that Liberals may be playing old-fashioned, “pork barrel” type politics as 64 per cent of infrastructure spending to date has been in areas of Canada where the Liberals are typically elected.

It would be interesting to submit an Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the Prime Minister’s office for more analysis on the political involvement in the decision making process. However, despite the Prime Minister’s election promise that his own office and any minister’s office would be fully subject to FOI/ATIP legislation, this has not occurred. 

For the record, I am not suggesting the Liberals are playing favouritism with how and where they fund infrastructure projects. Although the data from the Globe and Mail reporting raises some serious questions, there may well be legitimate answers. 

Where I do fault the Liberal government is, without a proper and coherent Infrastructure Plan along with the ability to FOI supporting documents, Canadians are largely being left in the dark about this process and how it works.

Considering that it will be Canadians shouldering this $186 billion of debt, more information is required. 

My question this week is about transparency:

  • Do you believe this Liberal Government is living up to the transparency commitments they made during the election and does this concern you? 

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

More Dan in Ottawa articles

About the Author

Before entering public life, Dan was the owner of Kick City Martial Arts, responsible for training hundreds of men, women and youth to bring out their best.

MP Dan’s parliamentary record includes being recognized by the Ottawa Citizen in 2015 as one of five members of Parliament with a 100 per cent voting attendance record. 

Locally in British Columbia, MP Dan Albas has been consistently one of the lowest spending members of Parliament, on office and administration related costs, despite operating two offices to better serve local constituent.

MP Dan Albas is consistently recognized as one of Canada’s top 10 most active members of Parliament on Twitter (@danalbas) and also continues to write a weekly column published in many local newspapers and on this website.

In October 2015, MP Dan Albas was re-elected to Parliament representing the new riding of Central Okanagan Similkameen Nicola. Dan is currently the shadow minister for small business and sits on the Standing Committee on Finance.

MP Dan welcomes comments, questions and concerns from citizens and is often available to speak to groups and organizations on matters of federal concern.  

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

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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