Liberals feel entitled

British Columbia wineries have become political pawns — shut out of the Alberta marketplace — in the trade war between the two provinces.

I find this completely unacceptable.

This situation wasn't created by the B.C. wine industry, but is a politically motivated campaign by two NDP provincial governments.

The greater challenge is the Trudeau Liberal government has repeatedly stated the Trans Mountain pipeline project is in Canada’s national interest and will get built.

However, missing from the Prime Minister's statements is when the Trans Mountain pipeline will be built and the measures he is prepared to invoke to ensure that federal jurisdiction is not impugned.

In the absence of any federal leadership on this file, B.C. and Alberta have been left alone to duke it out.

As the Official Opposition, we attempted to encourage the Liberals to show some leadership this week with a motion we tabled in the House of Commons.

The motion was as follows:

“That, given the Trans Mountain Expansion Project is in the national interest, will create jobs and provide provinces with access to global markets, the House call on the Prime Minister to prioritize the construction of the federally-approved Trans Mountain Expansion Project by taking immediate action, using all tools available; to establish certainty for the project, and to mitigate damage from the current interprovincial trade dispute, tabling his plan in the House no later than noon on Thursday, Feb.15, 2018.”

I participated in the debate over this motion and also voted in support of it.

Unfortunately, the motion was defeated. 

It was no surprise when the NDP opposed this motion. In the House of Commons, the NDP have consistently opposed pipeline projects.

It was a surprise when, not only did the Liberals oppose this motion, they did so unanimously.

That means even Liberal members of Parliament from British Columbia voted against a motion that would support their B.C. wine industry and direct the Prime Minister to do his job, show federal leadership and end this dispute that is causing serious harm to the BC wine industry.

This follows a similar pattern. Last week, Liberal MPs voted against a motion that directed any costs incurred to taxpayers as a result of a member of Parliament receiving a gift or hospitality benefit found in a conflict of interest, be repaid by the member. 

We already know that if a single parent is declared not to be eligible for the Canada Child Benefit, any benefits paid can result in a bank account being seized or wages garnisheed to recover those benefit payments.

From my perspective it is not unreasonable to expect that MPs receiving benefits they are not entitled to receive should also be repayable to taxpayers, if a cost is involved.

The Liberals are demonstrating an attitude of being entitled to entitlements. However, the Liberals continue to point out there is no law that suggests benefits obtained through a conflict need to be repaid if a cost occurs to taxpayers. 

My question this week:

  • If an elected official receives a benefit that is in a conflict of interest should any resulting costs to taxpayer be repaid?

Wine a weapon in trade war

We have a trade war brewing between duelling NDP governments in B.C. and Alberta.

Make no mistake, this provincial trade dispute will have economic repercussions for our region if it is not quickly resolved. 

As one example, within hours of the announcement from Premier Rachel Notley targeting B.C. wine, I heard from one small, family-run winery owner who now faces the challenge of what happens with the 6,000 cases of wine ordered in Alberta. 

Mortgages, payroll, taxes and utilities all must be paid for this winery to survive.

There are more than 100 wineries that do business in Alberta and many of those wineries are located right here in the Okanagan as part of the roughly $70 million Alberta wine market.

Why is this happening?

As many will know, despite the fact that energy projects such as pipelines are entirely under federal jurisdiction, B.C. NDP Premier John Horgan announced efforts to attempt to block or otherwise delay the federally approved Trans Mountain pipeline project.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau continues to insist this project is in Canada’s national interest and must move forward.

I fully support the prime minister’s decision on this. As I have previously stated, the Trans Mountain approval is subject to 157 binding conditions that are intended to address concerns ranging from First Nations, environment, project engineering as well as safety and emergency response.

The value of this project is just under $7 billion and will create 15,000 new jobs during construction. 

This pipeline will also generate $4.5 billion in federal and provincial government revenues. It should also be noted that this project replaces the existing Trans Mountain pipeline system between Edmonton and Burnaby. This existing pipeline is now over 50 years old.

Where I fault the prime minister, aside from continually voicing strong support for the Trans Mountain pipeline project, he has provided no further explanation on what actions his government will take to ensure the pipeline  is constructed without political interference from the B.C. government.

In the absence of this firm directive from the prime minister, the Alberta government is now taking actions it believes are necessary to defend both the interests of Alberta and the national interest of Canada, as voiced by the prime minister. 

Innocent, small, family-run BC wineries will now face very serious economic circumstances beyond their control and that is entirely unacceptable.

If the Supreme Court of Canada rules in favour in the Comeau case and ensures interprovincial trade of Canadian products is a constitutional right, this situation could be very different. 

However, the motion I tabled in Ottawa to expedite the Comeau case, supported by the NDP and Green parties, was voted down by the Liberals.

What should happen?

We know that when Quebec-based Bombardier was threatened in a trade dispute,Trudeau cancelled an aircraft order with Boeing and released future military procurement policy that factors in Canada’s economic interests. 

In other words the prime minister stood up to defend Bombardier’s interests.

If Prime Minister Trudeau truly believes the Trans Mountain pipeline project is in Canada’s national interests, he need to step up and ensure that project is built.

My question this week:

  • Do you agree?

CRA execs get big bonus

 I was shocked this week to learn that the Trudeau Liberal government authorized senior executives at CRA to receive, on average, a $35,000 bonus.

In previous weekly MP Reports, I have covered the topic of single parents, most often single mothers, being unfairly denied Canada child benefit payments.

As a result of these reports, I have received numerous pleas for assistance. I have also heard many disturbing situations having occurred as a result of often heavy handed and unfair actions by the Canada Revenue Agency.

In fact, when one includes the efforts by CRA to tax employee discounts and the challenges that many citizens encounter when attempting to call CRA, I would submit that in the past 12 months no single federal agency has resulted in more public anger directed to my office.

I say anger as a recently released report from the Auditor General revealed that CRA blocks more than half the calls it receives from people looking for assistance.

This is an entirely unacceptable situation.

To be clear, this is not the fault of front line staff who I have often found try to be helpful.

I fault senior management and the minister responsible.

On top of the $35,000 bonus payment, it was also revealed that in the first fiscal year of the Liberal government, overall CRA executive bonus payments were not only significantly increased, they were double the rate of inflation.

That is almost twice as much as was increased to the rest of the public service.

For many public servants, who have been adversely impacted by the Phoenix payroll system, this is a troubling situation.

By the numbers, CRA executive bonus pay increases authorized by the Liberals was 3.2 per cent.

The pay increase for the majority of the public sector was 1.25 per cent.

As some may recall last year, it was reported that the Liberals had also increased the number of bureaucrats in Ottawa to the highest level in almost a decade — an increase of 14,000 more staff in the Ottawa capital region alone.

For the 2017 fiscal year, the overall number of federal staff, Canada wide, increased by another 3,700, bringing the total number to 262,696.

For some added context, in 2000, there were 211,925 federal staff across all departments.

My question this week relates to executive bonus payments within the federal government:

  • Are you concerned with CRA bonus payments being awarded by the Liberals at more than twice the rate of inflation?

Canada falls in trade rank

Business investment peaked in 2014 under the Conservative government and since has declined to where Canada now ranks 16th out of 17 OECD countries.

In an early December MP report, I covered the topic of "progressive trade" that has been frequently mentioned by the Trudeau Liberal government.

In a more recent MP Report on the status of NAFTA discussions, I raised the topic of progressive trade and asked the question:

"Do you believe the prime minister should abandon the demand to include 'progressive trade' language in trade negotiations or do you view this as something that Canada should be steadfast on?"

I am thankful that each week my MP Reports generate a considerable amount of feedback and on this particular question, the response was overwhelming.

Most of the feedback I received was that the demand to include "progressive trade" language should be abandoned.

It appears even the prime minister had taken this advice as this week we learned that Canada will now be signing on to the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) deal that has since been renamed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The revised text that Canada agreed to contains no elements whatsoever related to the progressive trade values that had been previously demanded by the Liberal government.

The Official Opposition supports this agreement and, on a personal note, I would like to publicly credit the prime minister for demonstrating some flexibility and dropping demands that other countries would not accept.

As I have previously pointed out, most Canadians would not accept values from another country being imposed on Canada to accept a trade deal, so it is an unrealistic expectation that other countries would adopt our values.

However. while I view most of this as a positive there is still another problem.

In a word competitiveness.

Here in Canada, we will have an increase to CPP premiums that employers contribute to.

In addition, we will soon have a national carbon tax that that some economists predict will become a $30 billion a year tax grab by 2022.

Top income earners in many Canadian provinces are now facing a personal tax rate over 50 per cent of what they earn.

The challenge is that all of these factors add costs to doing business here in Canada.

It should be noted that in many cases, these same costs are not being imposed by other countries Canada competes with.

A free-trade agreements means a company can set up an operation in another country to take advantage of lower costs and then freely access the Canadian marketplace and thereby undermine certain interests in Canada in terms of jobs and business investment.

In return, there may be a decrease in cost to consumers and foreign imports that may help some industries, in addition to more market access for our industries, such as wood, agriculture and specialized manufacturing in our riding.

This, in theory, is where "progressive trade" comes in.

If other countries were willing to adopt some of these labour and environmental policies that would correspondingly increase costs, the international trade playing field would be more level and Canadian interest would be better protected.

The challenge is that many other countries are well aware of this and are using a lower cost regulatory environment to be more competitive in attracting investment, not unlike what has just occurred with the United States significantly reducing business taxes.

As it stands, business investment peaked in 2014 under the former Conservative government and since the Liberal government has been in power has declined to the point where Canada now ranks 16th out of 17 OECD Countries in this category.

My question this week:

  • are you concerned about the decline in business investment?

More Dan in Ottawa articles

About the Author

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.

MP Dan’s parliamentary record includes being recognized by the Ottawa Citizen in 2015 as one of five members of Parliament with a 100 per cent 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 constituent.

MP Dan Albas 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.

In October 2015, MP Dan Albas was re-elected to Parliament representing the new riding of Central Okanagan Similkameen Nicola. Dan is currently the shadow minister for small business and sits on the Standing Committee on Finance.

MP 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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