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Dan-in-Ottawa

Trudeau in trade hot seat

The headlines in Ottawa this week were unrelenting:

“Trudeau’s trade deal with China turns into an embarrassment,” and “Trudeau breaks the three rules of doing business in China, leaves Beijing empty-handed” were a common theme from national media.

At issue, primarily, was a press conference in Beijing where it was widely expected that the prime minister would announce Canada and China were entering into formal trade talks.

That did not occur and it is unclear what the current status is of talks between Canada and China that are trade related.

Part of the issue rumoured to be a stumbling block is the Trudeau government’s insistence on  “progressive trade."

 What is “progressive trade?"  

Based on the government’s own definition, it is a trade deal that also has guarantees on topics such as labour, gender and environmental rights that are not normally part of a free trade agreement.

There are many criticisms of this progressive trade policy. As an example, would Canadians accept societal values from another country demanded upon us in order to accept a trade deal?

I suspect many Canadians would not, so it is no surprise that this progressive trade approach has been rejected in NAFTA, TPP and now Chinese trade related discussions.

Why does the Liberal government insist on “progressive trade” language? It has been suggested this language is aimed at Canadians back home for political reasons. Obviously, this is also confusing for our potential trading partners.

However, I believe there is another aspect to this. For example, the Trudeau Liberals have insisted on a national carbon tax here in Canada. In the event Canada enters into a free trade agreement with a country that does not have a national carbon tax, our producers and manufacturers would be at a competitive disadvantage.

Likewise, Canada has significant worker protections with social programs such as EI, CPP, parental leave, medical leave, the right to collective bargaining and more. Other countries, particularly China, do not typically offer similar protections for workers.

As many of these programs are funded, in part, by employers, once again a competitive disadvantage would be created in a free trade agreement.

Canada already has a trade deficit with China of roughly $45 billion annually and growing. Obviously, there also many other concerns related to Chinese human rights and environmental policies or lack thereof as well.

In addition past, cyber-attacks on Canadian Institutions such as Canada’s National Research Council that Communications Security Establishment Canada identified as coming from a “highly sophisticated Chinese state-sponsored actor” have yet to be mentioned by the Trudeau Liberals as they continue to negotiate with China behind closed doors.

My question this week:

  • are you in support of a “progressive trade” deal with China?


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CRA picks on single moms

CRA continues a disturbing trend 

The Canada Revenue Agency is picking on single moms.

In last week’s report, I referred to challenges single parents, particularly single moms, were facing with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) in receiving their Canada Child Benefit (CCB) support.

Since that report, I have heard of dozens of more cases that illustrate the severity of this problem.
 
This matters because in many cases, the CRA, with often dubious information, will send out an advisory informing a single parent that their marital status has been arbitrarily changed to married or common-law.

Typically, this occurs because an ex-spouse has left the marriage and has not filed a change of address; often to avoid being found as child/spousal support payments are not being made either.
 
I have heard from many single mothers of the great lengths they have gone to to attempt to prove an ex-spouse is no longer living at the same address. Even in cases where a restraining order is present, the CRA may still refuse to change the status of the single parent in question. 
 
The CRA is essentially treating single parents as guilty. The Canada Child Benefits are being withheld, denied or reduced until such time they can prove to the satisfaction of CRA that they are innocent.

Only then do the single parents receive the benefit to which they are entitled.

I would submit nowhere else in Canadian society would we accept a presumption of guilt to deny single parents benefits that help care for children.

Yet, I have witnessed evidence that demonstrates the CRA is doing precisely that, and it is wrong.
 
Keep in mind — in cases where fraud can be proven and established by CRA — the agency has the ability to garnishee wages, bank accounts and other assets.

I mention this as I believe Canada Revenue Agency has sufficient tools to deal with fraud.They do not need to penalize single parents and label them guilty without due process.
 
From a political standpoint, this is all part of a disturbing trend.

In the last few months, the CRA has attempted to go after staff discounts, began denying significant numbers of Type 1 diabetes applicants their Disability Tax Credit and now single parents, most often single mothers, are being targeted.
 
Although the CRA may not give many single parents the benefit of the doubt, I will offer the benefit of the doubt that the Trudeau Liberal government has not sanctioned these actions.

I will also publicly pass on that the minister of National Revenue's office has recently reached out to my office suggesting they are well aware of this problem.

However, the minister of National Revenue must get this agency under control, or the prime minister is going to need to find a new minister who can.
 
My question this week:

  • Do you think it is fair that Canada Revenue Agency can unilaterally change the marital status of a single parent thus potentially penalizing the Canada Child Benefits and essentially say “prove us wrong”?  


CRA a Grinch year round

When former prime minister Stephen Harper introduced the Universal Child Care Benefit program that provided direct financial benefits to parents with kids, it was mocked and criticized by the Liberal Opposition.

The Liberals suggested the money that would be provided to supporting children under this program would instead be spent by parents on “beer and popcorn."
 
Fast forward to the present, and the Liberal government have not only continued this program, with changes that adds a means test, they have also significantly increased the funding. 

In the House of Commons, some Liberals refer to this program as the most significant social policy innovation in a decade as many believe it has helped to reduce child poverty in Canada.
 
The Canada Child Tax Benefit has become particularly important for divorced single parents who will often receive an increase of overall monthly financial support, if their household income has been reduced as a result of a divorce.

As with all taxpayer-funded financial programs, there is a need for government to confirm eligibility for a program and to take measures to protect against fraud. In the case of the Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB), this typically requires an applicant to provide various forms of documentation to confirm eligibility.
 
In my view, it is a reasonable expectation to provide this documentation.

Recently, I have become aware of a number of cases where the Canada Revenue Agency may also request additional documentation from a separated or divorced spouse.

The challenge in these circumstances is what if a separated or divorced spouse refuses to co-operate with the Canada Revenue Agency or cannot be located?
 
Amazingly, in these situations, the benefits of some single parents are being frozen or denied.

In some extreme cases, the Canada Revenue Agency has even gone so far as to change the tax status of a divorced or separated person to “married."

This change in tax status may result in a single parent having their monthly assistance significantly reduced and in some cases they might be determined as ineligible for the program, as it is no longer universal.

In those cases, a demand is made for repayment of any CCTB benefit paid prior to the ineligibility decision.

For a single mother or father, who has been legitimately divorced or separated, this can be an extremely stressful and traumatic situation. It's even more traumatic if the primary cause is a former spouse, who either cannot be located or refuses to provide documentation to the Canada Revenue Agency.
 
I am pursuing this matter in Ottawa as I believe these actions that sometimes occur with the Canada Revenue Agency can adversely impact affected single parents unfairly. 

As some will know, the breakdown of a relationship is not always an amicable or pleasant experience. For the Canada Revenue Agency to penalize and deny some single parents financial support for children because of the inaction of a former spouse is unreasonable and unfair. 
 
My question this week relates to fairness.

  • Is it fair that, in some situations, a single parent could be denied Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB) benefits due to the inaction of a former spouse to provide supporting documentation?

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



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Shenanigans in Ottawa

This week in Ottawa, it was revealed that Finance Minister Bill Morneau is now being investigated by the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.

This investigation centers around his involvement in a pension bill that may have financially benefited a company that Morneau was reported to own roughly $21 million worth of shares in.

Ottawa pundits have observed that this is the first time both a sitting Prime Minister and the Finance Minister have been under ethics investigations at the same time.
 
As is often the case when a government is under an ethics scandal, efforts are made to change the channel.

Early this week, the Liberal government announced it would publicly post an online mandate tracker where Canadians can see the governments progress on key initiatives. In theory, this a good idea, however in execution the Liberals have come up short on this one and I will explain why.
 
The first challenge with the Liberal mandate tracker is that it is not based on the promises that the Liberals made in order to get elected.

Rather the mandate tracker is based on the mandate letters to the Ministers of the Liberal Government. For example, the Liberals promised to restore Canada Post door to door delivery. However in the mandate letter to the Minister who oversees Canada Post, only a review of door to door mail delivery was requested but not a restoral of service.

As the Liberals have conducted the review of door to door mail service, they can boast they have met this commitment even though it falls short of what was actually promised during the election.
 
The other challenge I have with the mandate tracker is that the Liberal government themselves decide how much they have actually accomplished.

In other words, it is not the Parliamentary Budget Officer or any other independent and objective department providing this information.

Ultimately, I would submit this mandate tracking idea could have had more usefulness to Canadians if it were handled differently.
 
Also this week we learned the long awaited details of the Liberal government's new peacekeeping measures. As some may recall during the election, Trudeau had suggested that Canada was out of peacekeeping business and promised an increase in Canadian peacekeeping forces.  

This promise led to a commitment from the Prime Minister before the 2016 UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial Conference in the U.K., to provide up to 600 troops and 150 police for a specific deployment that was promised to be announced at a future date.
 
Today, we know this 2016 commitment will be yet another promise that is not fully honoured by this Prime Minister. Instead, only 200 personnel and 50 police will be provided in primarily training and transport roles. There will be no specific deployment zone despite many promises and overseas trips to explore potential peacekeeping opportunities over the past two years.
 
I am not suggesting that Canada will not continue to serve a useful role in UN peacekeeping operations with this significantly reduced commitment. My observation is that once again we see a pattern where Trudeau is pleased to make a significant announcement with a photo opportunity, as was done in the 2016, only to move the goal posts at a later date.
 
My question this week:

  • Should the Prime Minister have fully honoured his 2016 commitment to the UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial Conference?


More Dan in Ottawa articles

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About the Author

Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan Similkameen Nicola which include the communities of Kelowna (specific boundaries), West Kelowna, Peachland, Summerland, Keremeos, Princeton and Merritt.

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. For his work on child safety and awareness, Dan was the recipient Penticton’s ‘2005 Young Entrepreneur of the Year’ award. Dan 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.

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 borders.

Dan’s parliamentary record includes being recognized by the Ottawa Citizen in 2015 as one of only five Members of Parliament in Canada with a 100% 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 constituents.

 MP Dan Albas is consistently recognized as one of Canada’s top ten 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 of 2015 MP Dan Albas was re-elected to Parliament representing the new riding of Central Okanagan Similkameen Nicola.  Dan is currently the Deputy Finance Critic, serving with Finance Critic, MP Gerard Deltell and sits on the Standing Committee on Finance.

Dan is honoured to serve the residents of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola as their Member of Parliament.

MP Dan Albas 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
2562-B Main Street
West Kelowna, B.C. V4T 2N5
Email: [email protected]
Phone toll free: 1.800.665.8711
Fax: 250.707.2153



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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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