Searching for justice

One of the things that I have discovered during my time in Ottawa is how frequently any debate on crime related legislation often overlooks the devastating impact that serious crime has on the victims and their families. 

Recently, many citizens have contacted me to express outrage that a man who committed a brutal and senseless act of unprovoked murder on a Kelowna City bus will be free to roam the streets in just four and a half years.

For the family of the victim, Caesar Rosales, this sentence is a slap in the face and an injustice to the memory of a loved one. What can citizens do? It is important for people to reach out to elected officials — in this case both MP’s and MLA’s to express outrage over this tragedy. 

Although our justice system is by design intended to be free of political interference, laws both in Victorian and Ottawa can be changed, something that our former government in Ottawa tried frequently to do in the last Parliament.

As this was a decision in a B.C. Provincial Court, the provincial Crown prosecutor can appeal this sentence, the criteria is as follows: 

  1. Appeal against sentence to the Court of Appeal
  2. No appeal against sentence will be approved unless:
  • the sentence imposed in the trial court is either illegal or unfit; and
  • (a) the proposed appeal involves a serious offence or relates to an offender who constitutes a serious threat to the community;
  • (b)  the proposed appeal raises an important question of general application concerning the principles of sentencing; or

In this case, I believe that there is adequate evidence that due to the serious and violent nature of this crime, both in terms of public safety and interest, that the Crown should appeal this decision immediately. 

It is important to publicly speak out against these disturbing acts of random violence in the hopes that an appeal will be submitted. 

While the Criminal Code is put in place by Parliament, the administration of justice is delegated to the provinces and I am hopeful that local MLAs will also denounce this act and support an appeal.

For more information on the Crown's policy to appeal, check this website.

As my summer listening tour is now underway I welcome the opportunity to meet with you. Please contact me directly at [email protected] or call toll-free at 1-800-665-8711.



Democracy in action

The House of Commons was scheduled to sit three days this week before adjourning for the summer recess.

This allows all MPs to return to their ridings and spend the summer working locally and being in touch with their constituents.

As this was the first full spring session of the 42nd Parliament, I thought I would provide statistics as they pertain to the work Parliament has done in the last six months.

The government has introduced 23 bills. Four have gone through the House and the Senate and are awaiting Royal Assent while seven more are in the Senate. There are still 12 government bills remaining in the House when debate resumes on Sept. 19.

Ninety-nine private member’s bills (PMBs) have received at least first reading. Of these, only one, Bill C-210 “An Act to amend the National Anthem Act” (for gender), has passed through the House to the Senate while just four bills have reached second reading.

In the Senate, there are just two Senate sponsored bills and another 25 Senate PMBs, which means there are almost 150 different legislative bills proposed between the Senate and the House of Commons.

I like to mention the volume of bills being brought forward because I believe it is an important when discussing any proposed reduction of the amount of sitting time in Ottawa.

Less time in Ottawa will result in fewer bills being scrutinized and debated.

It should also be pointed out that Opposition Day debate and motions, as well as parliamentary committee review and other events such as Question Period, also consume our time in Ottawa in addition to time spent debating various bills.

It is for these reasons that I remain opposed to a shortened work week or any reduction to the amount of sitting time in the House of Commons.

Later this month, the House will reconvene to hear a speech from our special guest, U.S. President Barack Obama, before members of Parliament return to their home ridings.

For many MPs, and certainly in my case with a geographically large riding, the summer months provide an excellent opportunity to travel to all parts of Central Okanagan Similkameen Nicola to meet with citizens and groups to hear concerns and ideas first hand. 

In some situations, problems may be specific and localized, but in other cases citizens often have good ideas that can be shared and even incorporated into government policy. This is part of what I consider democracy In action where citizens can directly share ideas that can be taken to Ottawa.

It is important, and appreciated, that citizens take the time to meet with their locally elected representative, and this applies to all levels of government.

Getting information and feedback from constituents is an essential part of democratic representation. On that note, I would encourage citizens to contact me directly so that I can hear your concerns and, I hope, meet you in person over these next few months. 

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

Beer debate fizzy

In my June 1 MP report, I referred to the opposition #FreeTheBeer campaign that ultimately means asking the Liberal government to elevate the Comeau case to the Supreme Court for constitutional clarification.

For a quick refresher, New Brunswick charged Gerard Comeau for importing beer and spirits from Quebec, but a New Brunswick judge found Comeau was not guilty. The judge ruled that our Constitution clearly states in Section 121 that “All articles of the growth, produce, or manufacture of any one of the provinces shall, from and after the Union, be admitted free into each of the other provinces.”

Last week, New Brunswick announced it will appeal the ruling.

Elevating this ruling to the Supreme Court for constitutional clarification has the potential to open up our internal economy for all Canadian producers of other products aside from just beer, wine or spirits.

This obviously includes farmers and other agricultural producers. This week, the motion I wrote on elevating the Comeau case to the Supreme Court was the subject of the Opposition day debate in the House of Commons.

This was a my first as an opposition MP and I am pleased to report that both the NDP and Elizabeth May of the Green party joined the Conservative opposition to support this motion.

It was only a whipped vote — MPs have to vote the party line — from the Liberal majority government that defeated the motion after good debate from all sides. I am confident had this not been a whipped government vote it may well have passed.

Also occurring this week in Ottawa, and as I have reported in previous MP reports, is that Bill C-14, the physician-assisted dying legislation, is now in the Senate where the it has received seven different amendments.

The Liberal government has indicated it will not accept any amendments, so a potential standoff between the House and the Senate seems inevitable. Senators have also indicated they may reject the bill if the government does not entertain some of the proposed amendments.

As this is a relatively rare and uncharted situation, it is difficult to speculate what will occur next, however, I will provide updates in my future reports.

On a local note, the mobile constituency service has been so popular in Merritt that I will be expanding it to Princeton and Keremeos.

In Merritt, it is the first Tuesday of each month from 9 a.m. until noon at Merritt City Hall.

In Princeton, It will be available on the second Wednesday from 9 a.m. until noon.

In Keremeos,  it will also be on the second Wednesday 1-4 p.m. at the Village Hall. 

For more information, please contact me at [email protected]  or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711.


Death bill scrutinized

In my May 25 MP report, I speculated on how recent efforts to reform the Senate to become more politically independent could result in the upper house causing significant delays to government bills.

Bill C-14, the medical assistance in dying bill, left the House of Commons and it now appears there could be  significant delays to this legislation in the Red Chamber. The issue? The Senate is amending the bill while the government believes it's fine, setting the stage for a potential stand-off.

As these stand-offs are uncommon, there is an emerging debate from those who believe that unelected senators should not be able to derail the legislation of democratically elected MPs. Others point out that the Senate is simply fulfilling its role to provide sober second thought to legislation.

From my perspective, a more independent Senate may produce enough stand-offs that the government may want to refine its approach to Senate reform.

Ultimately, there is no parliamentary procedure that exists where government can force the Senate to pass a bill. That's why prime ministers have appointed senators who are members of the government to help ensure that a democratically elected government is able to achieve the mandate voters elected them on.

In this instance, there may be an official conference between the House of Commons and the Senate to try to reach an agreement between the two chambers on Bill C-14. It has been reported that a conference of this type has not been hosted in Parliament for roughly 70 years.

My thoughts on this current impasse? Given the magnitude and importance of a Bill like C-14, it is critically important that it receives extensive scrutiny between the two chambers so it can encompass public concerns. Ultimately, bills, once passed into law will also be subject to scrutiny from our Supreme Court and many have suggested that Bill C-14 may well be headed in this direction.

I supported Bill C-14 after extensive consultations with constituents through my MP reports, several town halls and hearing lots of direct comments and concerns from the citizens of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola. Although not everyone was supportive, I committed that I would listen to constituents and most I heard from supported the bill, recognizing the decision of the Supreme Court to legalize medical assistance in dying.

Finally, a reminder that I am now operating a mobile constituency service in Merritt, at the municipal hall on the first Tuesday of each month. As I will be adding additional mobile office service throughout the riding, for information, please go to my website: www.danalbas.com/mobileoffice. I welcome your comments and concerns and can be reached at [email protected] or 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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