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Dan-in-Ottawa

Should Rogers-Shaw telecom deal go ahead?

Pondering big telecom deal

Although the House of Commons does not resume sitting until next week, all-party Parliamentary committees are currently sitting and reviewing essential subjects of national interest.

One of the Parliamentary committees sitting this week is INDU (the Committee on Industry and Technology), which is currently reviewing the proposed takeover of Shaw Communications by Rogers Communications.

This proposed deal has faced several obstacles, including being opposed by Canada’s Competition Bureau, which recently went to Federal Court to block the deal. The Federal Court ruled against the Competition Bureau, leaving the final decision to approve or reject this proposed deal to Innovation, Science and Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne, who is the MP for Saint-Maurice—Champlain in Quebec.

Aside from the Competition Bureau’s opposition to the proposed deal, an initial study by the INDU Committee resulted in four recommendations, one being the committee believes the merger should not proceed. The primary concern of many opponents to the proposed deal is it could result in even less competition in an industry that already has very little competition for the benefit of Canadian consumers.

Canadians pay some of the highest cell phone bills in the world. In fact, during the 2019 election, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised that his Liberal government would reduce cell phone bills by 25% within two years, saving the average Canadian family $1,000 a year.

On Feb. 9, 2022, in the House of Commons, he stated, “We promised Canadian families that we would reduce the cost of their cell phone bill. Today, I am happy to announce that we have met our 25% price reduction target. In fact, we have done so three months ahead of schedule.”

In my Feb. 23, 2022 column, I asked whether your wireless cell phone bills had decreased by 25%, as the prime minister claimed. The response was overwhelming, and almost every reply I received indicated they had not.

Many individuals even shared their wireless bills, which provided a well-documented cost increase. Several also noted wireless plans had changed so that they now paid separately for the plan and the phone, instead of being combined, as was the case previously. In every example I received, people were paying more overall.

Recently, Michael Geist, one of Canada’s foremost law professors who holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, wrote on the proposed Roger-Shaw deal and the upcoming political decision that Champagne must make to approve or reject this takeover.

“Minister Champagne and the government can choose to stand up for Canadian consumers and say this deal doesn’t go ahead on their watch,” said Geist. “ Or they can stand with big telecom companies and choose to make matters even worse. It’s Champagne’s choice.”

I have two questions for you this week:

How concerned are you over the size of your monthly wireless bill? If you were the minister, what would you do?

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

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.





Former finance minister paints unflattering picture of prime minister

Bill Morneau's new book

Recently Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's former star finance minister, Bill Morneau, authored a book titled “Where To From Here, A Path to Canadian Prosperity”.

As is common when promoting a new book, Morneau has done several media interviews. What is less common is Morneau levelled some heavy and serious criticism against Trudeau and his office.

Morneau makes several allegations along a theme suggesting Trudeau often ignores or rejects “carefully considered calculations” for announcements that sound good or are too focussed on the “news cycle and social media” dictating decision-making, arguing Trudeau lost sight of fiscal prudence and the goal of securing Canada's long-term prosperity.

The former finance minister summarizes Trudeau’s style of governance by stating: “During the period when the largest government expenditures as a portion of GDP were made in the shortest time since the advent of World War II, calculations and recommendations from the Ministry of Finance were basically disregarded in favour of winning a popularity contest."

As a member of the official Opposition, none of this comes as any surprise as these comments do tend to accurately reflect the governing style of Trudeau. What does come as a surprise Trudeau’s former finance minister now openly coming out and stating it so publicly.

My reason for sharing the comments of the former finance minister is not to focus on the style of governance by the government but rather something else. In his book, Morneau alleges Trudeau used vaccine mandates as a wedge issue during the 2021 election and suggests that doing so “further polarized the debate in Canada.”

My question this week relates to this statement.

As we enter 2023 and have now been collectively dealing with the impacts and effects of the COVID-19 pandemic going on three years, many people have experienced this period very differently.

So my question this week is:

Based on your own experiences in life, do you encounter more polarization today compared with what you experienced pre-pandemic?

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

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.



Prime minister's flip flop on decision to buy F-35 fighter planes

Fighter plane purchase

This week began with a significant announcement from the government that $19 billion will be spent to acquire 88 Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets, in a deal that will require a further $70 billion in related maintenance costs over the lifetime of the aircraft.

You may recall these are the same F-35s that (then Liberal leader and then Prime Minister Justin) Trudeau made comments ranging from “We will not buy the F-35 stealth fighter bomber” to the F-35 “did not work” and that “It no longer makes sense, if it ever did, to have a stealth, first-strike capacity fifth-generation fighters.”

Trudeau’s opposition to the F-35 was to the point that he stated, “For Canadian taxpayers it will be a nightmare".

As a member of the official Opposition, I will not criticize the announcement to purchase the F-35s, aside from pointing out Trudeau’s politically motivated hypocrisy in opposing this aircraft back in 2015.

Our current fleet of CF-18 (fighter aircraft) entered service in 1982 and are now more than 40 years old.

Aside from the age and added maintenance costs, the Royal Canadian Air Force also reports pilot recruitment challenges in part because of the lack of an advanced, modern-day aircraft to fly.

The F-35 is an advanced fighter jet that is also used by many of Canada’s allies, including the United States.
I supported the decision by the former Conservative government to back the F-35 and I likewise support the current Liberal government in finally recognizing the former Conservative government was correct in believing the F-35 is the best aircraft to replace our fleet of aging CF-18s.

•••

Another topic that has come out of Ottawa of late relates to the explosive growth in the use of private consultants by the government.

For some background, in 2015 Trudeau promised, as reported by the National Post, to save billions by reducing the use of external consultants. Flash forward to this week, and reports that the government has increased the use of private consultants by close to 60% since 2015.

At the same time the government is significantly outsourcing work to private consultants, it has also grown the size of the public service from 342,000 employees in 2015/16 to 391,000 employees in 2020/21.

This, in turn, has raised annual payroll costs from just under $40 billion to more than $60 billion.

Despite this significant growth in the size of the federal public service and increased use of private consultants, many Canadians will know that accessing public services ,such as obtaining a passport or immigration, has rarely taken longer.

In response to this, the Opposition will put forward a motion to the government’s operations committee, that will require the government to produce all written records related to a specific contractor, including contracts, conversations, records of work done, meetings held and more. The Opposition believes this information should be studied and made public.

Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre has stated: “We think that when you have qualified public servants to do the job, we should not be contracting out the same work to high-priced consultants who charge more. By contracting everything out, you end up paying more. We intend to bring that work in-house.”

My question this week:

Do you share concerns of Pierre Poilievre and the Opposition about the growing use of private consultants by the government?

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

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.



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Communicating with constituents

MP gathers input

One of the tasks I undertake at the beginning of every new year is a review the various ways I interact with, communicate and receive comments and concerns from the many constituents within our region.

Over the years I have noticed the communication preferences have changed.

As an example, requests for in-person meetings have declined but telephone calls and emails have increased significantly. More recently I have also noticed an increase in requests for online “Zoom“ meetings.

My goal has always been to provide whatever tools are necessary for citizens to reach me and hold me accountable. This is why I still have a 24/7, 365-day-a-year answering service to return your calls at times convenient to you.
Likewise, I have also made changes to better accommodate for online Zoom meetings.

For 2023, my summer listening tour will continue (which has generated many private member's bills and policy changes federally) and likewise, I will also continue to write my weekly reports, such as this one, and provide an opportunity for input as I have long found this to be a very valuable exercise.

I will also send out printed materials to inform constituents, such as informing them about proposed federal riding boundary changes by the electoral boundary commission. The feedback we received was sent to the commission and we will see how the commission responds in its final report.

Having said all of that, I also like to receive feedback from constituents on their preferred method of communication.

Would you like to see more community town halls or opportunities for one-on-one meetings in person. Likewise, do you prefer online video conferences, or does a phone call suffice? More printed materials, and if so, what kind? Your input is important to me,

On a related note, I would also like to sincerely thank the many constituents who make the effort to reach out and share comments and concerns.

I am often surprised in some cases, where there may be consensus on an issue and other where it appears there should be a consensus but instead there is a wide diversity of views.

Ultimately, your input and concerns are what I take back to Ottawa and, as (part of) the official Opposition, it can lead to opposing or working with the government on various bills and legislation.

My question this week:

By what means do you most value communicating directly with your elected officials?

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

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.



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About the Author

Dan Albas is the Conservative Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.

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.

Dan  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.

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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