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Dan-in-Ottawa

Libs didn't give all the facts

In my weekly MP reports, I often close with a question related to the subject of the report. 

I do this for a number of different reasons, most importantly because I want to know what my constituents think.

On some issues, there may be a strong consensus, however on other issues, there might be vast differences of opinion. 

In particular, I find citizens will often convey a perspective that might not be reflected in Ottawa. 

One subject that provoked an extremely significant response was related to the Trudeau Liberal government announcing that it would spend $4.5 billion to purchase the Trans-Mountain pipeline project from U.S. based Kinder Morgan.

The intent of this purchase was to spend an additional $ 7.4 billion to build the expanded Trans-Mountain pipeline.

The reaction I heard from this decision that the government spend nearly $12 billion building a pipeline was generally one of outrage, even from those who indicated they supported its construction.

I mention this because the CBC recently reported Kinder Morgan filed documents with the United States Security and Exchange Commission that show constructing the pipeline could increase costs a further $1.9 billion above what was formerly disclosed and take an additional year to construct.

Most troubling is the fact that Canadian journalists did not learn of this new information directly from the Liberal government. 

Without the filings from the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission, this information would likely still be hidden from Canadians.

Given that the CBC reports the cost to construct the Trans Mountain expansion pipeline may now top $9.3 billion, with a possible completion date of December 2021, my question this week is a simple one: 

  • Have your views on the Trans-Mountain pipeline project changed in any way and do you believe the Trudeau Liberal government can reliably manage this project?

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



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Tweet causes tantrum

Social media, in particular Twitter, has become an increasingly powerful force for political communication as we hear almost daily media reports on tweets from the president of the United States. 

Last year, here in Canada, a tweet came from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that stated:

  • “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada” 

This tweet has been frequently referenced as a catalyst for a large increase in illegal immigration across Canada's borders.

More recently, a tweet from Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland called out Saudi Arabia for imprisoning human rights activists resulting in a significant reaction from Saudi Arabia. 

Within days of the tweet, Saudi Arabia announced intentions to withdraw roughly 16,000 students from Canadian post-secondary institutions, expelled the Canadian ambassador from Saudi Arabia and withdrew its ambassador from Canada.

In addition, Saudi Arabia placed a freeze on all new trade and investment transactions with Canada, suspended all flights to and from Toronto and Saudi Arabia and is transferring all Saudi nationals receiving paid medical treatment in Canada to hospitals in other countries.

It has also been reported that the Saudi Central Bank is selling off and divesting all Canadian related equities, bond, and cash holdings. There are also reports that Canadian agricultural products will no longer be purchased along with other actions

The total cost financially is unknown to date.

It is estimated that Saudi Arabia has invested close to $6 billion in Canada and that the loss of Saudi students may account for roughly $500 million in lost revenue annually to Canadian post-secondary institutions.

It is difficult to comprehend that Canada’s relations with Saudi Arabia could become so stressed over the use of social media and Twitter, however Minister Freeland and the  Liberal government stands by the tweet calling out Saudi Arabia for serious human rights concerns.

Perhaps the most telling aspect of this situation is that to date none of our allies, including the United States, has stood by Canada.

Countries such as Egypt and Jordan have stated they are siding with Saudi Arabia in what they view as an intrusion by Canada into domestic affairs.

My thoughts?

I do not believe the Liberal government intended to provoke this reaction from Saudi Arabia, as very few could have predicted this level of response. Likewise I believe it is a long standing tradition of current and previous Canadian governments to raise human rights concerns when and where they exist. 

Where I will fault the Liberal government is using Twitter as the tool to convey these concerns.

Canada has a long standing history of having a world class diplomatic sector and using the services of skilled diplomats offers many benefits. 

There is a growing concern where the Liberal government has used tweets that have helped to create situations that adversely impact others as this current situation with Saudi Arabia demonstrates. 

My question this week;

  • Are you concerned with the growing reliance of using Twitter diplomacy as opposed to traditional diplomacy by the Liberal government?

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



Libs backpedal on carbon

The national carbon tax has been one of the signature policies of the Trudeau Liberal government.

However, Saskatchewan is refusing to implement the federally imposed carbon tax. 

The new Ontario government has also plans to reject what is often called the “Trudeau carbon tax” and has created the potential for a significant legal challenge.

This week, the Office of Environment Minister Catherine McKenna announced the Liberals will be backpedaling on the Liberal carbon tax policy.

The Liberal government announced plans that, as the CBC reported, will reduce the carbon tax so “large polluters will be taxed on10-20 per cent of emissions rather than 30 per cent” as was previously planned.

One well-known Canadian columnist observed these carbon tax changes amount to “a carbon tax that taxes you less the more carbon you emit.” 

Why are the Liberals making this change to reduce carbon tax on large-scale polluters?

In short, over concerns related to competitiveness. 

In my view these concerns are quite valid.

As for example, the United States does not have a national carbon tax nor do many of Canada's largest trading partners. 

I believe this is a major policy change as it is the first time the Trudeau Liberal government has publicly admitted that the costs of the carbon tax can place Canadian industry at a competitive disadvantage compared to countries that don't have the tax. 

The bigger problem is that these carbon tax changes announced by the Liberals only apply to large-scale polluters; unfortunately they do not apply to small business owners or hardworking Canadian families. 

For the average family and small business owner, there are no exemptions.

In some provinces, there are rebates for certain citizens, however, they are not applied in the same manner as an across-the-board exemption that would benefit all taxpayers.

I believe this creates a challenge and also leads to my question for this week.

  • As the Liberals have now admitted that the carbon tax makes heavily polluting industry less competitive, would it not also be fair to recognize the adverse impact on small business owners and Canadian families who are not large-scale polluters?

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



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Buck stops with Dan

I was just asked by a local citizen what my views were on a report from the Samara Centre for Democracy.

He was concerned about the idea that “constituency offices should be reimagined as civic hubs and outposts of Parliament, rather than service centres” and, more to the point, “to reduce the casework burden on MPs and their staff.” 

These questions stem from a report produced by the non-profit organization Samara Centre for Democracy, which conduced many exit interviews with outgoing or retiring members of Parliament.

What is case work? 

Case work often involves working directly with a citizen on a specific problem that they are having in accessing a federal Government of Canada provided service.

Some common examples in my riding can include challenges accessing Old Age Security (OAS), Canada Child Benefit, Immigration related concerns, veteran services and more.

Do I agree with the suggestion that an MP, and by extension the constituency office and staff, should do less case work?

I could not disagree more strongly with this statement and I will provide an example why.

Earlier this year, I heard directly from a number of single parents, typically single mothers, who were unfairly having their Canada Child Benefit either placed on hold, or in some cases even held back for dubious and arbitrary reasons.

Most often because a former spouse refused to update postal and other records indicating they no longer resided at their former matrimonial address. 

The burden of proof for single mothers to confirm they were separated or divorced was subject to arbitrary interpretation by Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) staff and in some cases single mothers were having their status changed back to married despite reasonable evidence to the contrary.

In essence, these single mothers were being treated as guilty and child benefits were withheld unless they could prove CRA was in error. 

As I saw a clear pattern developing in my riding, I raised the issue with the minister during Question Period in the House of Commons. 

As a result of that question, a few national media stories arose and before long, I was contacted by single mothers across Canada, all facing the same challenge. 

Credit to the minister and her staff who have reached out to my office and I can report that many of these cases that were often causing supreme hardship, have now been resolved.

There are other examples, however, I referenced this one because were it not for the fact that I personally handle case files with the assistance of staff, it is unlikely I would have been able to see a systemic problem occurring across the board so quickly.

Ultimately, I believe that elected officials are sent to Ottawa for a variety of different reasons, however one of those reasons is ultimately to solve problems encountered by the citizens we represent. 

By working case files, I gain a direct insight to challenges, which is useful in determining if an issue is unique to a specific situation or is becoming increasingly common as a result of a bureaucratic driven process. 

In summary, I believe that handling case files provides a critical connection to how government services are provided, and when there are challenges, how they can best be addressed. 

My question this week is:

  • Should members of Parliament continue to be actively involved in case files or should we work more toward becoming “civic hubs and outposts of Parliament?"

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



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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