May 14, 2013 / 5:00 am
This week the focus across Canada will be on British Columbia as the Provincial general election will have occurred by the time you read my weekly report. At the time of my writing, the election outcome is unknown, however one thing I can guarantee is that there will be no shortage of pundits, media and interest groups speculating on what the election results mean for British Columbians. As it happens, this is also a constituency week for the House of Commons as the House resumes session next Tuesday, May 21st.
In spite of this being a constituency week, an interesting report was released by a non-partisan organization that studies political participation in Canada. This particular report looked at the House of Commons and studied 54 days of discussion within the House in an effort to analyze which MPs speak the most. From a demographic standpoint the results were interesting. MPs under 35 years of age represent 9% of the House composition but spoke for 11% of total time during the 54 days studied, while 89% of the discussion was dominated by the remaining 91% of MPs who are over 35. From a gender perspective female MPs currently make up 25% of the House and spoke just in excess of 30% of the time period under study. From a Political perspective the parties speaking times were listed as NDP 44%, Conservative 36%, Liberal 16%, Green 2% and Bloc Quebecois 1%.
During this same period of time my own content in this study was listed at just over 6,000 words spoken in the House of Commons. This put me ahead of Justin Trudeau at 5,400 words but well behind Tom Mulcair who as opposition leader spoke some 44,000 words in this time frame. The focus of this study is solely on words spoken and does not take into account Parliamentary Committee work nor does it take into consideration those who have introduced Private Members Bills or Motions in the context of words spoken, however the results do indicate those who have a preference for talking. From my own perspective my focus is more on listening- it is why I do my annual summer listening tour and why I make a point of returning phone calls and attending meetings. In my view, people deserve to be heard and as elected representatives listening to others is how we better understand the concerns of Canadians.
Whatever the outcome of the BC general election is this week I believe it is important to recognize that through democracy, the people have spoken. Although it is inevitable that some will be disappointed by the election outcome, we must not overlook the importance of respecting our democratic process and thanking those citizens among us who had the courage to put their name forward to serve the public interest. Let us never forget the freedom we enjoy as Canadians in electing our representatives.
May 7, 2013 / 5:00 am
Each week I look forward to hearing from dozens, sometimes even hundreds, of different citizens on issues and concerns of importance to them. Although common issues may often parallel events in the media, others may be unique or related to an unreported matter that many citizens share a common interest with. One of the more recent concerns I have heard about involves the CBC. If you have been following some online websites, you may have heard of a diabolical plan where the Government will secretly “take control” over the CBC and convert the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation into a political propaganda machine. Like most rumours, speculation and innuendo, there is generally some factual validity at the core of an issue that is often then stretched or otherwise exaggerated to the extent that what is really occurring is at odds with the allegations. In this case these concerns relate to Bill C-60, the Economic Action Plan for 2013. Bill C-60 does not in any way compromise the journalistic independence of the CBC, nor does this Bill enable the Government of Canada to actively engage in the creative or political direction of the CBC. Let's start by pointing out that this provision applies to all crown corporations and does not unfairly single out the CBC. The provision requires each board of directors for these crown corporations to have their labour mandate approved by Treasury Board. These mandates currently are and will still be created independently by the crown corporations. This is the same criteria that ministries follow to ensure that there is responsible management. Crown corporations have either received, or continue to receive billions of taxpayer dollars every year and the shareholders are the Canadian public. If a crown corporation were not to be run responsibly, it would be the taxpayer that would ultimately foot the bill.
Given these challenging fiscal times it would be irresponsible of Government to not retain the ability to control costs that are shared by Canadian taxpayers as a result of public sector labor agreements. While some may favour the “blank cheque” approach with respect to Crown corporation labor agreements, it should also be pointed out that the vast majority of Federal public sector workers are already subject to Treasury Board oversight and this legislation will provide greater parity within the public sector and will also protect the interests of Canadian taxpayers. If you would like to read the actual text of the Bill please do not hesitate to give me a call or send an email. Another concern that I have heard from many citizens on is the billboard that I inherited and have continued to use along Highway 97 (heading south) at the northern boundary of our Okanagan-Coquihalla riding in West Kelowna. Many citizens have taken the time to share concerns over this billboard and the dislike for billboard signs in general.
I believe it is important to listen to the concerns of citizens and in this case there was a strong consensus opposed to this billboard sign. The challenge from my perspective is that this sign was extremely effective in relaying my contact information to citizens in West Kelowna, an important consideration as it is rare for a community that size to not have an MP office located directly within the municipality. Fortunately one of the citizens who had expressed displeasure about the billboard sign also offered a constructive suggestion; that opening an office in West Kelowna would help negate the need for the sign. After much investigation this is precisely the course of action currently underway. The billboard sign contract has not been renewed and later this month I will have a new constituency office to assist West Kelowna and area residents with the many federal concerns that arise in the area. This office will also be more strategically located for citizens in Peachland, Merritt and Logan Lake who frequently travel through West Kelowna on a more regular basis. My existing Penticton office will continue to offer service to Penticton and the southern portion of Okanagan-Coquihalla as before.
It will also be another busy week on Parliament Hill as debate continues on Bill S-209 “An Act to amend the Criminal Code” (prize fights) Bill C-60 (second reading) along with private members bills S-213 “Korean War Veterans Day Act”, C-460 “Sodium Reduction Strategy for Canada Act”, C-463 “Discover Your Canada Act”, and C-479 “An Act to Bring Fairness for the Victims of Violent Offenders”.
For more information on these or any Bill before the House of Commons I can be reached at 1-800-665-8711 or via email at email@example.com.
Apr 30, 2013 / 5:00 am
Over this past weekend a local newspaper ran an editorial that ultimately questioned the use of tax dollars for partisan purposes, more specifically for “ten-percenters” allegedly being used for partisan political “attacks”. Ultimately the editorial succeeded in generating a number of questions and comments from a cross section of citizens. I view this as a positive indicator when local citizens express interest on a particular subject and as a result would like to provide more information on this topic as part of my weekly MP report. For those of you unfamiliar with a “ten percenter” it is a mail out resource provided to Members of Parliament to communicate issues of importance from the MP to the public. As these mail outs may not exceed 10% of the total number of households in an MP’s riding, they are called “ten-percenters”. Although MP’s are not restricted by how many “ten percenters” they can send out, they are limited to households within the riding represented by the MP in question. The costs of a ten per center come out of a Member of Parliaments office budget and are disclosed annually in the Board of Internal Economy “Individual Members Expenditure Reports”. It should also be noted that Member of Parliament office budgets are subject to annual spending limits that cannot be exceeded and are also disclosed in the same “Individual Members Expenditure Report”.
As for the content of a “ten-percenter” Members of Parliament are free to communicate any issue or concern they deem of importance to local citizens. As was pointed out in the recent editorial, at times Members of Parliament from all parties have used these mail outs in a manner that many would agree is politically themed. However what was not pointed out in the editorial is that many Members of Parliament do not participate or engage in using aggressive, politically themed ten-percenters. Due to the interest in this kind of MP mail out, it is timely to discuss the approach I have taken as the MP for Okanagan-Coquihalla. Any mail out from my office I authorize personally with an approach that the mail out must provide information or helps to get feedback from constituents, often both. I believe it is important to make sure my priorities are in line with constituents and that concerns are being heard. As a rule I typically avoid personal attacks or strongly themed politically partisan messaging. One observation that I have come to appreciate from our now retired MLA and former Speaker of the House Bill Barisoff, is that most citizens prefer aggressive partisan attacks are left out of the debate and discussion. Although I will not be using these particular ten percenters that have raised the ire of some, I do support the right of Members of Parliament from all sides of the House to communicate on issues they believe are important without restrictions on the content. As Members of Parliament we are accountable to you– if our comments are offensive or disagreeable we deserve to be held to account for them if not in person at a meeting or through a phone call, then at the ballot box. If you have any further questions or concerns about ten percenters please feel free to share them with me.
Parliament Hill will be a busy one this week as the formal budget implementation bill will be introduced as well as important changes to the temporary foreign workers program will be announced. In addition debate will continue on the following Government Bills– C-15 “Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act” Bill C-54 “Not Criminally Responsible Criminal Reform Act”. This will also be a busy week for Private Members Business as Bill C-476 “Parliament Budget Officer Act” Bill C-394 “An Act to Amend the Criminal Code, Bill C-460 “Sodium Reduction Strategy for Canada Act” along with the following motions M-428 “Electronic Petitions” M-430 “Persons with Disabilities”.
If you would like further information on these bills or any matter before the House please contact me at your convenience. I can be reached via email at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca and toll free via phone at 1-800-665-8711
Apr 23, 2013 / 7:00 am
In light of recent events, this week our Government has moved up 3rd reading debate on Bill S-7: Combating Terrorism Act. Although the Liberals have indicated they will be supporting this act, the NDP made the disappointing accusation that the move to bring this act into law in an expedient manner was a political one and in making this comment, ignored the important provisions contained within this act for the benefit of our law enforcement agencies. It should be noted that the Combating Terrorism Bill S-7 is not newly drafted legislation, having been introduced into our current session of Parliament over a year ago and in the previous Parliament as Bill C-17.
Rather than questioning the timing of the debate on Bill S-7, I believe it is more important to discuss the Bill’s contents. Bill S-7 proposes a number of changes to our current Criminal Code that has largely been designed to focus on criminal acts after they have occurred. Bill S-7 recognizes that law enforcement officers need more improved legal tools that will enable them to disrupt planned acts of terrorism before they occur. One of the amendments in this Bill would allow investigative hearings and provide judges with the power to require someone who is believed to have information about a planned act of terrorism, to appear before a court to answer questions. If the person does not comply with the order, the same judge may in turn issue a warrant for their arrest. A similar new provision involves the creation of "recognizance with conditions". This means that in the event law enforcement agencies have reason to believe that terrorist activity will be carried out, application may be made to a judge for the imposition of conditions on suspects that would be necessary to prevent terrorist acts from occurring, including having said suspects appear in person before the court. Having a suspect appear in court allows a judge to consider whether it is desirable to impose reasonable conditions with the burden on government to establish why the requested conditions should be imposed. In the event an individual refused the conditions set by a judge, the court in turn could commit the individual to prison for up to 12 months.
In addition Bill S7 would also create a new offence for leaving or attempting to leave Canada in order to commit terrorism offences. This new offence would also include leaving Canada to participate in a terrorist training camp. Offences in this area could be subject to imprisonment for up to 14 years. In all of the above proposed amendments to the Criminal Code it should also be pointed out that strict conditions would need to be met for any of these tools to be utilized by law enforcement and would include the consent of the Attorney General.
Recent world events including those within United States and Canada have given us all reason to pause and reflect on those who seek to use terror against innocent victims. It is unfortunate that Bills like S-7 are necessary to protect Canadians and keep Canada strong as a nation however, it should not be overlooked that these amendments involve strong judicial oversight for each new measure that is proposed. Canada is a country that follows the rule of law including fair process and judicial overview. In balance I believe these measures will enhance the tools of law enforcement in maintaining public safety with sufficient independent judicial oversight to ensure that the values we hold as Canadians will be maintained. For these reasons, will be voting in support of this Bill.
I welcome your comments and questions on this or any Bill before the House of Commons. I can be reached at 1-800-665-8711 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Read more Dan in Ottawa articles
- Reflections on recent events Apr 16
- Temporary foreign workers program Apr 9
- Member's Statements Apr 2
- Economic Action Plan 2013 Mar 26
- What is a citizen's arrest? Mar 19
- Wireless services in Canada Mar 12
- Imitation not sincere form of flattery Mar 5
- Supreme Court and the Senate Feb 19
- Public safety & victims come first Feb 12
- The Clarity Act & farewell to the penny Feb 5
- Issues and debate Jan 29
- Taking action on Red Tape Jan 22
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