A busy week in Ottawa

The past week has been a very busy one as the House of Commons began a new session of Parliament that included a Speech from the Throne and shortly after our Prime Minister travelled to Brussels as Canada has now reached an agreement in principle on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with the European Union (EU); often referred to as the CETA agreement. In addition new bills are also before the House as is private members business, while both Parliamentary Committees and the Senate are back in regular meetings. As there are many events I will briefly touch on a few of them in this week’s report.

The Speech from Throne was a very comprehensive one that covered a wide diversity of different subjects in many areas. It is important to recognize that while the Speech from the Throne ultimately outlines government priorities for the upcoming session of Parliament, until new bills or existing bills are passed or amended (or other regulatory changes are made) these announced changes are not legally binding. I mention this as one of the Throne Speech commitments is to further amend the Importation of Intoxicating Liquor Act similar to what my private members bill did to also include beer and spirits for direct to consumer shipping. While I have heard a positive response from BC craft brewers and artisan distillers it is also important to recognize that the current Federal law prohibiting cross border personal shipment of wine and beer remains in effect until the amendment is ultimately approved and receives royal assent. For this reason I will not delve into great detail on the Speech from the Throne and will wait until specific bills relating to the Throne Speech are introduced into the House so further and more detailed information can be provided.

As you may have heard, Canada has also reached a trade agreement in principle with the European Union. Some quick facts on this historic tentative deal. First, and I believe most importantly, all trade agreements must be ratified in the House of Commons– I mention that as I believe it is important to make Canadians aware that there will be a great deal more information coming forward in the months ahead on CETA. I can also pass on that 98% of all EU tariffs would be eliminated once the agreement comes into force. This in turn opens up a marketplace of 28 different states and 500 million people with economic activity that exceeds $17 trillion dollars a year. In short this agreement provides Canadian producers and manufacturers with a huge and very lucrative market. In fact the EU market is a larger one then the United States and to give some context currently Canada has trade agreements with 14 different Nations– adding the 28 members nations of the EU would essentially double the number of Country’s Canada currently has free market access to bringing the grand total to 42 countries worldwide. In summary this is a very significant trade deal for Canada.

On the other side of any trade agreement is the fact that EU member based countries would also have access to the Canadian market– this is also an area of concern to be aware of. As one example, looking back some twenty six years ago when the Canada United States free trade agreement was signed there were also some within the BC wine community who believed BC could not compete with California based wines and in some cases even threatened to tear out vineyards. Fortunately others saw opportunity and with the benefit of hindsight we now know that our BC winemakers can and do produce some of the finest wines in the world. As retired federal PC MP Fred King recently reminded me, Government also played a role in those days working with industry in partnership to help innovate and prepare a long term strategy that today has paid dividends for our region. I know from previous visits to the food research station in Summerland along with value added wood producers and other specialty manufacturers, there is a considerable amount of innovation occurring here in Okanagan Coquihalla that can greatly benefit from the opportunities of new market access courtesy of trade agreements like CETA.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on CETA and any other issue you believe is of concern. I can be reached at 1-800-665-8711 or via email at [email protected]

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About the Author

Dan Albas, Conservative member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, is the shadow minister of innovation, science, economic development and internal trade, and sits on the standing committee on finance.

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.

In British Columbia, Dan has been consistently one of the lowest spending MPs on office and administration related costs despite operating two offices to better serve local constituents.

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

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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