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Dan-in-Ottawa

U.S. an unruly neighbour?

I was asked recently what I thought would be one the most pressing political issues in 2018.

Although my list of possible answers is a lengthy one, ultimately I believe that the future of NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, may well be Canada’s most pressing concerns.

Even the Prime Minister is quoted as suggesting that the unpredictability of NAFTA keeps him awake at night.

The concern is an understandable one.

NAFTA represents some big numbers. Canada-U.S. trade in goods and services in 2015 reached close to $881 billion. The United States is the No. 1 destination for Canadian merchandise exports. Close to 80 per cent of all Canadian exports end up in the U.S.

Between 1993 and 2015, Canadian merchandise exports to the U.S. increased annually at a rate of almost 4.6 per cent. I could continue citing many significant numbers, but more importantly, we have to look beyond the numbers.

Ultimately, these numbers relate to jobs. As part of my work as a member of Parliament, I often visit many small, medium and even large-scale private employers. It is increasingly common to find goods-and-service providers that have found lucrative markets in the United States.

I mention private-sector employers because we must never forget it is the private sector that pays for the public sector.

Recently, at a public forum in Sackville, N.S., Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the United States an unruly neighbour.

Also this week Canada initiated a WTO (World Trade Organization) complaint against the United States on the eve of the next round of NAFTA negotiations.

In response, the United States has called this WTO complaint a “broad and ill-advised attack.”

These actions have led to significant amounts of speculation on the future of the NAFTA agreement.

One of the additional challenges has been the Prime Minister’s insistence that trade deals should be based on “progressive trade” and include language around topics such as labour, gender and environmental rights.

This poses the question: would Canadians accept societal values from another country demanded upon us in order to accept a trade deal?

So far the U.S., China and other TransPacific Partnership (TPP) member nations have either rejected outright or raised concerns about this approach to trade.

With Canada being unable to advance further trade relations in other markets, there is now greater pressure for success in the NAFTA negotiations.

My question this week:

  • 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?


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Is PM getting good advice?

It is unusual to have Ottawa related political news occurring this time of year.

However, recently the unusual in politics has become the usual.

In late December, media were made aware of what they described as a "secret meeting" that occurred between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Joshua Boyle, who was recently freed after being held in captivity in Afghanistan for the previous five years.
 
Media were suspicious of this particular meeting because it, and the reasons for it, were not publicly disclosed by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

Journalists only discovered this meeting had occurred when members of the Boyle family circulated pictures on social media.
 
This week, Ottawa police announced that Boyle was being charged with 15 different offences from alleged actions that include assault, sexual assault, unlawful confinement, uttering threats, public mischief and administering a noxious thing.

These alleged offences are related to the period of time since Boyle returned to Canada in October 2017.
 
As a result, there are serious questions being asked why the Prime Minister requested a meeting with Boyle. By extension, questions have been raised on security protocols that should protect the Prime Minister.

The judgment of the advisers who represent Trudeau in allowing this meeting to go forward also come into focus.
 
The judgment of the advisers working in the PMO was also raised when the Prime Minister was recently found guilty of four counts of ethics violations. These violations were related to free luxury vacations the Prime Minister accepted from a registered lobbyist who receives millions in Government of Canada funding. 
 
The judgment of advisers and political staff is a subject that is seldom raised outside of Ottawa.
 
For obvious reasons, it is being questioned currently.

I have also had some questions on this topic and I can report that the most recently audited expenses for what is called the “Trudeau PMO” were $8.3 million in the 2016-2017 fiscal period.

As a comparison, this figure is higher than during any year in the previous Prime Minister’s last term in office.
 
All elected officials have staff and in the case of politically appointed staff, they typically only work in their capacity until the writ period, when the election is called. At that point, the vast majority will become unemployed.

Rehiring depends on who is re-elected and if employment is again offered.

In the case of the Prime Minister, some are suggesting a staff shakeup is required. Others see this as unfairly throwing the staff under the bus.

Most agree that answers are needed on why Prime Minister Trudeau met with Boyle and why this meeting was kept confidential.
 
My question this week:

  • Do you believe Canadians deserve an answer to why this meeting was held between Prime Minister Trudeau and Joshua Boyle?


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



PM guilty of ethics breach

I had written my MP Report for today, and then we had some breaking news.
 
We learned, in a report released by Mary Dawson, Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been found guilty of four violations of the Conflict of Interest Act.
 
The various conflict violations are related to a vacation that the Trudeau family and friends took on a private island owned by the Aga Khan in December 2016.
 
Ultimately, this relates to the fact that the Aga Khan Foundation is a registered lobbyist that receives millions of dollars in funding each year from the federal government. The Conflict of Interest Act is intended to ensure that elected officials do not personally benefit from their position of public office.
 
With the prime minister and also the finance minister recently being found in violation of the Conflict of Interest Act, I am often asked, what is the penalty?
 
The penalty for being found in violation of the Conflict of Interest Act is a fine that has a maximum of up to $500.
 
My question for this week:

  • Do you believe that the fine for a violation of the Conflict of Interest Act is sufficient at $500 or should it be higher or something else, other than money?

Now, on to my original report.
 
I would like to take a moment to thank the residents of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.
 
We share a large, diverse and beautiful region. The one constant is the friendliness of the people and the level of interaction and engagement, that from my perspective, is very high.
 
It is truly an honour to represent you and raise your issues of importance in Ottawa.
 
Recently, I was able to bring forward the challenges single parents, most often mothers, were having in dealing with the Canadian Revenue Agency in obtaining Canada Child Benefits.

I asked the minister of National Revenue about this in Question Period and have since been interviewed by CBC. This has now become a national story with wide reaching implications.
 
I credited the minister’s office recently for resolving some of these issues, which will ensure some households will have a far more meaningful holiday season.
 
When an issue can be raised by opposition and the government can respond in a positive manner, it is an example that our democracy is working and for that we shall all be thankful.
 
On that note, I would like to sincerely wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a safe and enjoyable holiday season.
 
Best wishes for a prosperous 2018 and a special thank you to our armed forces and first responders for the ongoing work that they do on our behalf.



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$5.6M will melt away

I was not planning on mentioning the controversy surrounding a temporary ice rink the Liberal government built in front of the Parliament buildings to celebrate Canada 150.
 
However, a Liberal MP referred to this rink and defended the project against allegations of government waste.

Unfortunately, the member of Parliament in question failed to mention the costs to build this temporary rink. That omission of relevant fact led to many citizens asking me what was cost. 
 
Originally, the cost to build this temporary ice rink was quoted at $5.6 million. The rink will only be open for three weeks in December. Later, it will be donated to a community near Ottawa.

The public outcry over the costs in addition to the limited schedule led to an announcement extending the opening schedule to the end of February 2018.

However, the extra costs of doing so are not clear.

I will leave it up to local citizens to decide if $5.6 million, plus additional costs not known, is money well spent for a temporary skating rink outside the House of Commons.
 
I have received a considerable response from many single parents, the majority of whom are single mothers, who have encountered serious difficulty in dealing with the Canada Revenue Agency.

These single parents are having their Canada Child Benefit arbitrarily denied, reduced or clawed back. I will credit the minister of National Revenue's office who has reached out and to date we have been able to successfully restore the benefits for one local single mother.

I am working on a number of other cases. 

It is important to give credit where it is due and on behalf of my constituents, I appreciate the assistance of the minister`s office in these matters.
 
On a somewhat related theme, the House of Commons will adjourn this week.

Earlier today, the finance minister revealed details of the Liberal government tax changes affecting Canadian small businesses, effective Jan.1.

I am concerned over the timing of this announcement, being so close to the holiday season. Last year, the Liberals quietly released a report on Christmas Eve showing they would not balance the budget until at least 2050.
 
What is more concerning is these small business tax changes will add more discretionary power to the Canada Revenue Agency in areas such as the dividends to family members, who help run those small businesses.

My greatest concern relates to the experience I have encountered with single parents and how unfairly the CRA may use their discretionary power. This could lead to the CRA unfairly penalizing Canadian small business owners without proof of any actual wrong doing.
 
I have witnessed many examples where citizens do provide the required documentation only to be arbitrarily denied again by the CRA.

While I do appreciate the minister of national revenue's efforts, it is not practical to have the minister`s office continue to intervene on a case by case basis for what should not be a problem in the first place.
 
This leads to my question for this week:

  • Do you believe the Canada Revenue Agency should have ultimate and sole authority when interpreting the status of information reported by taxpayers? By extension, should there be a greater burden of proof required from the CRA before they can arbitrarily and adversely impact a taxpayer?


More Dan in Ottawa articles

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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.



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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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