Is Canada Trumped?

“I get into Air Force One, the television's on, and I see a news conference being given by Trudeau,” U.S. President Donald Trump said of leaving the G-7 summit held in Canada this weekend.

“And then he talked about how they won’t be bullied. And I said, ‘What’s this all about? He didn’t do that to my face, what’s this all about?’”

He added: “I actually like Justin, you know, I think he’s good, I like him, but he shouldn’t have done that. That was a mistake. That’s going to cost him a lot of money.” 

These comments from the U.S. president have been the largest issue in Ottawa and elsewhere this past week.

It is deeply alarming that the president of the United States is threatening to financially punish Canada at the trade table, in large part because he disagrees with the comments of Prime Minister Trudeau at a news conference. 

This is completely unacceptable.

If this threat is carried out, it could seriously compromise what has otherwise been an extremely successful relationship between two world-leading countries.

If there is an upside, recently we also witnessed a historic event where President Trump concluded what many view as successful talks with North Korea that may denuclearize the Korean peninsula.

I mention this as it was not so many months ago that relations between the U.S. president and the leader of North Korea were far more adversarial and most would agree considerable progress has made towards a more constructive relationship. 

What can Canada do?

As I have stated in the past, if there is one area where I believe our Prime Minister and his administration have worked very proactively, it has been to maintain positive relations with the United States administration.

I believe this work will continue and some success will result from these efforts.

The greater challenge is that the United States administration is aggressively pursuing an economic agenda that has been successful in increasing investment and lowering unemployment to record lows.

  • U.S. corporate taxes have been significantly reduced and resource development has been accelerated.
  • Here in Canada, costs of doing business have increased.
  • The carbon tax, which the U.S. does not have, continues to rise.
  • CPP, which is often referred to as an employment tax, is also steadily increasing.
  • Locally, in provinces such as British Columbia, a new health employer’s tax will have a similar impact.
  • Upper income brackets have been increased both provincially and federally and many tax credits used by families and students have been eliminated. 

All of these factors combined are making Canada less competitive compared to the United States. Aside from those measures, Canada still does not have true inter-Provincial free trade.

For example, a winery in B.C. still cannot directly sell to consumers in many Canadian provinces, but a competing winery in Washington State can directly ship to customers all across the United States.

Why do I mention all of these things?

With the current uncertainty over the NAFTA negotiations, there are plenty of other areas where the federal government can take a leadership role and actively work with provinces to lower costs instead of continuing to increase them, as has been the case to date. 

My question this week:

  • Do you agree? In the absence of success at the NAFTA table, should the federal Liberal government actively and aggressively take measures to increase Canadian competitiveness?


Canada out-gunned?

“A trade war Canada will lose,” has been a common theme in recent Canadian media headlines after the United States announced a tariff of 25 per cent  on Canadian steel and 10 per cent on Canadian aluminum last week. 

In response, Canada has announced targeted tariff increases on a broad range of United States manufactured goods that are imported into Canada.
Is this a full-blown trade war?

At the moment, it is a tariff-related dispute designed to increase pressure on NAFTA negotiations.  

Having said that, I believe it is also important to be mindful of the year 2008 when the Canadian dollar not only reached parity with the U.S. dollar, but, for a brief period, it actually rose above it

I mention that because although the 25 per cent tariff on steel is both punitive and unfair to Canada, it ultimately negates the Canadian currency advantage that is around 23 per cent between the United States and Canadian dollars.

This tariff approach follows a similar pattern from the United States where Canadian softwood lumber exports were hit with a tariff up to 24 per cent, essentially wiping out the currency advantage that historically works in Canada’s favour.

As I have previously commented, I believe it is important to point out our Prime Minister has largely shown restraint in not getting involved in U.S. domestic politics, even though it would be politically convenient to do so. 

I believe most political pundits would agree that our Liberal government has made considerable effort to work proactively with the United States administration in several areas and I believe these efforts will continue.

As the official Opposition, we will continue to hold the Prime Minister to account for the failure to conclude a successful new NAFTA deal with the United States.

Some in Ottawa do not like this fact, however, it should be pointed out that holding someone accountable to produce results for Canadians is not necessarily the same thing as assigning blame.

In this case, we have a U.S. president who was elected in part with a promise to renegotiate trade deals such as NAFTA.

Here in Canada, we have a Prime Minister who has expressed an agenda to also change trade deals and promote “progressive trade values” that other countries continue to strongly reject.

In my view, we should recognize that in the event our Canadian dollar returns to parity with the U.S. dollar, either through natural market forces or through artificial means such as punitive tariffs, we will have to be able to compete.

On that note, a national carbon tax and increased payroll taxes that the United States does not have will make Canada less competitive.

Recent comments from the International Monetary Fund highlights the lack of Canadian tax competitiveness compared to the U.S.

I believe in the absence of a new NAFTA deal Canada needs to focus on measures that increase our international competitiveness. 

To date, the federal government and many provinces, including British Columbia with an incoming new health employers tax, will achieve the opposite.

My question this week relates to NAFTA:

  • Do you believe Canada should show more flexibility to achieve a new NAFTA agreement or aggressively pursue the status quo?

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

Pipeline leaking your money

“While governments grant permits for resource development, only communities can grant permission.” 

Many people believed this statement by Justin Trudeau and his promise to honour what he called “social licence” when it came to approving pipeline projects. 

Perhaps this is why I have heard an unprecedented level of outrage on the announcement that the Trudeau Liberal government is borrowing $4.5 billion to buy the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline this week.

The Liberal government has claimed that purchasing the Kinder Morgan’s Trans-Mountain assets was necessary so that the government can complete the estimated $7.4 billion pipeline expansion project.

The Liberals have also claimed they will, in the immediate future, look for other buyers and investors and ultimately look to sell the pipeline expansion project once completed.  

Critics have suggested that the Prime Minister is buying his way out of a problem of his own making, while activists have promised this news will only increase protests and further fuel anti-pipeline sentiment. 

There is some validity to these sentiments as those who oppose the Trans-Mountain pipeline project, including the BC NDP provincial government, have indicated they will continue to oppose the project regardless of the change in ownership.

Likewise, for supporters of the project, many view this change in ownership as bringing the pipeline no closer to actually getting built.

My thoughts?

I believe it is true that the Prime Minister did largely create this problem. 

The promise to honour social licence created expectations that clearly the Prime Minister had no intention of observing.  

Further, with the Prime Minister promising for many months that the project would get built without offering any details, he ultimately created a situation where Kinder Morgan imposed a May 31 deadline for certainty.

This deadline served as an ultimatum to the Liberal government.

If Kinder Morgan withdrew from the project over a lack of certainty, it would be viewed as a massive failure in federal leadership on the part of Prime Minister Trudeau given his promise the pipeline would get built.

The Prime Minister had other options.

For instance, rather than utilizing his political capital to work with Premiers Rachel Notley of Alberta and John Horgan of B.C. to a mediated solution, we saw only a brief meeting recently where all three leaders could press for some political resolution.

The Prime Minister could have introduced or supported Independent Senator Doug Black’s Bill S-245, that would have further clarified the federal jurisdiction as he had previously publicly committed to do.

Buying the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline does not ensure the expansion project is built. 

Activists have vowed to use all means necessary to stop the construction and the change of ownership now makes these protests more politically motivated.

What Prime Minister Trudeau did achieve in buying the Trans Mountain pipeline with our money is control of the projects timeline.

As there is no longer an ultimatum from Kinder Morgan, the Liberals can decide where they begin the construction and where they do not and of course when, if at all.

With an election on the horizon, I submit this purchase was more about controlling the political agenda then about seriously building a pipeline.

Perhaps I am wrong on this speculation but time will tell. 

My question to you this week: 

  • Do you believe the Prime Minister will enforce the rule of law and begin actively constructing the Trans Mountain expansion project or are the Liberals simply buying political time at our expense? 

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


Another broken Lib vow

When many Canadians think of Parliament Hill from a political perspective, one of the most common images is Question Period. 

While Question Period is an important part of our democratic process, it is also the most adversarial and partisan activity within the House of Commons.

Question Period alone does not reflect some of the other very important parliamentary activities that occur.

One of those important parliamentary activities occurs after a bill passes second reading and moves to committee stage review. 

Committee stage review is one of the most important parts of the process where a parliamentary committee representing members from all major political parties will scrutinize every aspect of a proposed bill on a clause by clause basis.

It is also during this committee review where expert witnesses and other affected individuals can provide input that may or may not lead to amendments to the proposed legislation before it returns to the House of Commons for third reading debate.

An example of the importance of committee stage review can be evidenced by a recent meeting of the Finance Committee that was scrutinizing the Liberal government's budget Implementation Act (BIA), Bill C-74. 

Despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s election promise to not use omnibus budget legislation, the Finance Committee has been studying a 560-plus page BIA that is, very clearly, another broken promise from the Prime Minister.

One controversial measure that was discovered by the Finance Committee was buried so deeply in this BIA bill, that even Liberal members on the Finance Committee were unaware it existed. 

What was this measure?

It has been summarized as legislation that will ease penalties for corporate crime.

Division 20 of the bill proposes that prosecutors can suspend criminal charges against companies in certain cases of corporate wrongdoing.

Ultimately, as this clause proposes an amendment to the criminal code, many view it as a measure that has no business being in a budget related bill and is better suited to be examined by the Justice Committee, where more appropriate examination can occur.

So why propose these changes? 

The Liberal government has not indicated why this legislation has been hidden inside the BIA, however, other interests have suggested this approach to suspend criminal charges could encourage more companies to come forward to self-report corporate crimes.

My thoughts? 

These are important proposed changes that on the surface are alarming and as a result deserve further scrutiny.  
Because of this, I have encouraged all parliamentarians at Finance Committee to support having this clause examined separately by the Justice Committee. 

It is important to hear constructive arguments from both sides.

It can be argued that the opportunity to reach a remediation agreement may offer restitution to victims without litigation in cases where wrongdoing may have occurred but the chances of a successful conviction are slim. 

However, critics believe this approach could actually increase corporate crime and undermine public confidence in the system.

I remain of the view that while this proposal involves important criminal code amendments, it does not belong within a budget implementation bill.

My question this week:

  • Should large scale Criminal Code amendments be restricted to bills that come before the Justice Committee or do you agree with the Liberal government these can be part of a budget bill, as part of an overall plan? 

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

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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