Of pipelines and politics

Canada's Constitution gives jurisdiction over interprovincial trade, including interprovincial pipelines, to the federal Parliament.

It is under this authority that the Trans Mountain Expansion Project was approved in 2016 at the federal level of government, followed by approval by the B.C. government in January 2017.

Whether B.C. Premier John Horgan will try to impose new barriers on the Trans Mountain Pipeline remains to be seen. 

Until that time, efforts are being undertaken to quell an escalating trade war between B.C. and Alberta to reverse the damage that is already being done to the BC wine industry.

This past week, I have been in contact with the Canadian Vintners’ Association, the British Columbia Wine Institute and the Mark Anthony Group to discuss the economic impact of a B.C. wine ban in Alberta. 

I also took the opportunity to raise this issue in both Pacific and National Cause to ensure my colleagues clearly understood what was at stake.

I would like to assure stakeholders that the Prime Minster is working with both provinces to diffuse the confrontation and move towards a resolution.

Our wine industry counts on the consumers of Alberta for $160 million in retail wine sales, the second largest market outside of B.C., and there is absolutely no fairness or gain in using the industry as a scapegoat.

When it comes to pipelines, most British Columbians and Canadians are legitimately concerned about the energy sector’s environmental impact on our coastal waters. 

But many constituents in Kelowna-Lake Country have expressed the necessity of a balanced approach in determining whether pipelines should go ahead, recognizing that the natural resource sector remains an important source for jobs and the revenues that support local and regional economies.

As a result of our government’s commitment to balancing the environment with the economy, we now have in place an Oceans Protection Plan to safeguard our coasts and ensure the health of our marine environment, including protecting the Southern Resident Killer Whale population.

We have placed a formal tanker moratorium along British Columbia’s north coast, and the Canadian Coast Guard now has more people, more authority, and more equipment to do its vital and necessary work.

This past week, our government brought forward new legislation that would put in place better rules for environmental and regulatory reviews in Canada.

With these better rules, Indigenous peoples, companies, investors, and all Canadians can be confident that good projects will be built in a way that protects our environment while creating jobs and growing our economy.

The decision we took on the Trans Mountain expansion pipeline was based on facts and evidence and what is in the national interest of Canadians, and we stand by this decision.

In a free and open society, the threat of protectionism is a zero sum game, especially when people’s livelihoods hang in the balance. 

Calmer heads must prevail, in all aspects of this discussion, for the good of the people of B.C. and for the good of the nation.

Columnist's rant unfair

Everyone is entitled to his/her opinion. Even if it’s a political one.

I take issue with Brett Millard's column that appeared in The Daily Courier on Jan. 24. 

The article was a hyper-partisan political opinion piece and it had no place being on the front page of the business section, giving the impression it had credibility, which it did not deserve.

In short, Mr. Millard feels Canada is merely “along for the ride.”

In fact, Canada has the fastest growing economy in the G7, with the World Economic Forum reporting that Canada is considered to have the most positive global influence on world affairs.

On the trade front, Canada recently signed the new Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) giving Canadian agricultural, advanced manufacturing, and forestry market access to the world’s fastest-growing region.   

With tariffs set to fall, economists predict Canadians will realize an estimated $600 million in tax cuts as a result of the CPTPP.

In terms of NAFTA, Mr. Millard contends that negotiations are being handled by “inexperienced people.”

But Canada has full confidence in Steven Verheul, Canada’s chief negotiator, who has many years of experience working on trade negotiations, including the first NAFTA negotiations, World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations, and the Canada-EU trade deal.

Finally, Mr. Millard takes aim at taxes, first quoting a Fraser Institute report that makes the assertion that 90 per cent of families are today paying more in taxes. 

As several economists have noted, the report not only fails to take into consideration the transfers from government that offset tax changes, including the Canada Child Benefit, but includes both employee and employer contributions to an enhanced CPP, which won’t be fully implemented until 2023.

CPP contributions are not a tax. Full stop.

Mr. Millard also points to a new carbon tax. B.C. residents have had a carbon tax since 2008, which has successfully reduced emissions in the province and has had negligible effects on economic performance.

Furthermore, polling data shows that the public, which initially opposed the tax, now generally supports it.

Like them or not, taxes support the quality of life we enjoy in Canada, including access to universal healthcare.  And while taxes might be considered too high by some, according to the OECD, Canadians remain among the lowest of the low when it comes to the total tax burden. 

This includes low payroll taxes and social security contributions.

Mr. Millard’s cynicism aside, Canada’s economic outlook is positive, Not only has the International Monetary Fund raised its estimate for economic growth in Canada, the chief economist of the Business Development Bank of Canada says the outlook is great news for entrepreneurs and is generating confidence in all sectors of the economy, contributing to an increase in exports, business investment, and a thriving labour market.

This positive outlook is also being reflected locally; according to the just released fourth quarter report of the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission, economic indicators reveal a thriving local economy.

Yes, there will be challenges. As we move forward in 2018, our government knows it will need to work harder than ever to deliver on our commitments and build a better Canada for the middle class.   

We have lowered income and business taxes; provided greater support to families, seniors, and Veterans; invested in transit, infrastructure, post-secondary education and affordable housing; supported innovation and sustainability both in industry and for the environment; and demonstrated a commitment to gender equality, diversity and fairness.

These investments fortify a stable society. 

As we head into the second half of our mandate, you can be assured our government will continue to do all it can to sustain Canadians confidence in the economy for that is what underpins job creation, growth and opportunity, and makes our communities better, safer places to live. 

Pension for life for vets

Pension for life and a commitment to do better for our veterans

In 2006, all parties in the House of Commons passed the New Veterans Charter (NVC). 

It modernized the benefits and services available to veterans, recognizing that those who had served in places like Afghanistan were going to need help transitioning to civilian life through the provision of financial, education, re-training and mental health supports that were not available under the old Pension Act.

But since the establishment of the NVC, and despite improvements, many veterans have continued to express concern that the most severely injured veterans needed a greater commitment from the federal government in the form of a lifetime pension.

On Dec. 20, Seamus O’Regan, minister of Veterans Affairs and associate minister of National Defence unveiled the government’s Pension for Life, a plan that will make significant changes to rectify the situation.  

The Pension for Life plan has three key pillars:

  • monthly, tax-free financial compensation, with the choice of monthly payments for life, to recognize pain and suffering caused by a service-related disability with a maximum monthly amount of $2,650 for those most severely disabled with barriers to re-establishment;
  • income replacement for veterans who are experiencing barriers returning to work after military service at 90 per cent of their pre-release salary. In some circumstances Veterans may be eligible for an additional one per cent career progression factor each year; 
  • services and benefits to help veterans in a wide-range of areas, including education, employment and physical and mental health.

These provisions represent an additional investment of close to $3.6 billion to support Canada’s veterans. When combined with well-being programs already announced in previous budgets, the government’s investments since 2016 add up to nearly $10 billion. 

Previous adjustments to the New Veterans Charter have added layers of complexity to an already overburdened system, a problem that was exacerbated with the closure of VAC offices across Canada under the previous government.

By reopening the VAC offices and making improvements and changes to Veterans programming in Budget 2016 and Budget 2017, veterans in Kelowna and across the country have the person to person support they need to navigate the suite of benefits and services available to them.  

Now, with our most recent announcement, unnecessary complexities and delays will be addressed and supports can be tailored to a veteran’s unique situation and service history to help Veterans and their families live a full and productive life post-service. 

In the meantime, those who are having the most difficulty resuming a normal life and those who have the most catastrophic injuries remain the government’s most pressing priority.

With the right balance and effective mix of financial compensation, benefits and well-being support services, it’s now time to turn our full attention to delivering services our veterans want and deserve.


City kids to play on 150 rink

Once in a lifetime opportunity for Kelowna-Lake Country kids

As Parliament heads into its final week before it rises for the Christmas and holiday season, naysayers, egged on by the official opposition, have attempted to launch a protest against what they see as an egregious example of government waste. 

This time, however, it’s more Scrooge than squander.

The controversy is the Canada 150 rink on Parliament Hill, which opened Dec. 7, and will remain open until the end of February.

A national Canada 150 Skating Day was also held on Dec. 10 in communities across the country.

It’s been a year of outstanding celebrations across Canada and the Canada 150 rink will be one of the last opportunities this year to bring Canadians together to enjoy the unique opportunity to skate on Parliament Hill.

That’s not all. The Canada 150 rink will also be home to another great Canadian pastime, a winter hockey tournament.

Thirty-two eligible girls and boys Peewee house league teams, representing every province, territory and region, will compete at this year’s Bell Capital Cup hockey tournament in a special Canada 150 Division, giving them a once-in-a-lifetime chance to play on Parliament Hill. 

I am extremely pleased that the Kelowna Peewee Female Rec Devils have successfully competed for the chance to represent B.C. and will participate in the Hill tournament being held from Dec. 27 to Jan. 1.

To view the winning video and learn more about our community’s team, please visit http://www.kelownaminorhockey.com/kelowna-peewee-female-rec-devils-going-ottawa/

Fiscal responsibility is essential, of course, and that is why the government has partnered with the Ottawa International Hockey Festival (OIHF) to pay for the design, build and programming of the outdoor skating rink on Parliament Hill, including the cost of the youth hockey tournament.

And those efforts won’t go to waste once all is said and done: after the end of its stay on Parliament Hill, the skating rink will be donated to a community in need and will serve as a lasting legacy of Canada 150 for the next 30 years.

For the past 150 years, Canadians have worked together to make this country great, one that is economically and socially sound. 

Today, we have the fastest growing economy in the G7, the lowest unemployment rate in almost a decade, a strong middle class, an improved Canada Pension Plan, universal healthcare, access to affordable post-secondary education, a skilled workforce, and a society built on inclusiveness and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  

We live in cynical world and it’s especially hard at this time of year to square our good fortune against the conflicts and suffering that affects the daily lives of so many others. 

But as we reflect on Canada 150 and what it means to live in a country like Canada, let’s not let cynicism get the better of us; let’s recognize that, from time to time, while we remain vigilant against the most pressing issues, a little levity, a positive outlook, especially for our children, is allowed.

As we close out the year for Canada 150, let’s put the partisan swords down and allow ourselves a moment to celebrate bringing Canadians together, and providing an experience our young Canadians, their coaches and parents will never forget. 

More MP Report articles

About the Author

Stephen Fuhr was born in Edmonton, AB and grew up in Kamloops, BC. He is a former CF-18 fighter pilot with the Canadian Air Force.

After serving with distinction for 20 years, Stephen retired from the Canadian Forces in 2009 with the rank of Major. He joined his family’s Kelowna-based company, SkyTrac Systems, which develops aviation communication and tracking equipment. As CEO and Director of Business Development, he led the company to financial success in a challenging economic climate.

In 2012, Stephen left the company to pursue his first love of flying.

With growing interest in politics and a desire to serve his country again, Stephen ran for office in the 2015 election.

Today, he proudly serves as the Member of Parliament for the Kelowna-Lake Country riding. 

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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