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Dan-in-Ottawa

Budget deficit balloons

The Liberal 2015 campaign promise was to deliver three years of "modest" $10 billion deficits with a return to a balanced budget in 2019.

This week, the Liberals presented the 2019 budget that clearly reveals Mr. Trudeau not only broke his "very cast in stone" promise to return to a balanced budget, but also that he made no effort to do so.

The 2019-20 deficit forecast is set at close to $19.8 billion.

This is on top of the $60 billion in deficits added in the first three Liberal budgets.

The current budget indicates there is no path to balance until at least the year 2040, by that point racking up an additional $271 billion in new debt.

So where is all of the money going?

Program spending is a significant part with an increase of $22.8 billion in spending over the next five years.

A brief summary of some of that from the 2019 budget:

  • A new job retraining program for eligible workers aged between 25-64 that will provide up to $250 per year to a career maximum of $5,000.
  • An increase to the maximum a first time home owner can borrow from their RRSP from $25,000 that will now be increased to a limit of $35,000.
  • A new shared equity home ownership plan where CHMC will provide a shared matching contribution between 5-10 per cent toward the down payment on a new or existing home. Citizens with a household income under $120,000 may qualify. This will be limited to a purchase price that cannot exceed more than four times the annual household income.
  • Those who can afford to purchase a new electrical vehicle may now be eligible for up to a $5,000 federal credit on the purchase.
  • There is also a commitment to spend $35 million over four years to create a new federal Canadian drug agency, assumedly in Ottawa, that can work toward bulk buying drugs on a national scale.
  • Aboriginal communities will also receive $1.4 billion over seven years to forgive outstanding legal fees resulting from treaty and land negotiations. Indigenous groups that have already paid these fees can be eligible to have them repaid under this program.
  • Interest rates on Canada Student Loans will be lowered to prime and will be interest-free for six months after graduation.
  • $553 million has been budgeted over the next three years to attempt to fix the failed Phoenix pay system.
  • There will also be changes to the GIS income earning threshold so that a working senior may claim more income without affecting the GIS support levels.

This is only a brief summary of some of the measures contained in the 2019 federal budget.

Many critics have largely labelled it a "political goodies budget" specially targeting certain voting demographics that the Liberals hope will translate to votes in the October election.

I will reserve my own thoughts in an upcoming MP report.

My question this week:

  • Do you like what you see in the 2019 budget so far?

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



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On a wing and a prayer

Although this is a constituency week with the House of Commons recessed, much attention remains on Parliament Hill for a few important reasons.

Public safety was a primary concern, as Transport Minister Marc Garneau made the decision to ground the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft in Canada.

This decision is following the recent tragic crash of a similar 737 Max 8 aircraft flown by Ethiopian Airlines that resulted in the devastating loss of all passengers and crew on board, including 18 Canadians, with several from B.C.

There is no schedule on when this order will be lifted.

Air Canada, WestJet and Sun Wing Vacations are all working to resolve the many impacts on Canadian travelers who will be affected by this order.

While on the topic of airlines, recently I met with Air Canada over the potential loss of flights at the Penticton airport.

Although Penticton is no longer in my riding, many citizens in communities that I do represent will be adversely affected by this proposed new schedule as Penticton is their closest regional airport.

Air Canada is aware of the concerns and has made a commitment to look at how potential scheduling changes could be incorporated to help mitigate this situation.

Currently, the last flight in to Penticton results in the aircraft and crew staying in overnight before becoming the first flight out in the morning.

Any potential solution must bear this in mind as the new schedule no longer has the aircraft and crew overnighting in Penticton, which complicates the ability to schedule early morning flights.

We will look forward to what Air Canada comes up with in response to the concerns that were raised.

The other issue in Ottawa this week was the surprise move by the Liberals on the Justice Committee to use their majority to adjourn the meeting before any debate or discussions could occur over recalling former Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould.

This discussion arises from recent statements provided to the Justice Committee by the Prime Minister's former Principal Secretary, Gerald Butts, and the Clerk of the Privy Council, Michael Wernick.

These statements, that the Liberals also blocked from being given under oath, had some inconsistencies with the previous testimony from Wilson-Raybould.

Both opposition parties agree that in order to clarify these inconsistencies, Wilson-Raybould should be given the opportunity to respond.

To date, the Liberals have used their majority to block this from happening.

This action by the Liberals is leading some, including the opposition, to raise concerns over a possible cover-up.

My question this week:

  • Do you believe that Jody Wilson-Raybould should have the opportunity to appear before the Justice Committee for a second time to respond to these recent statements?


Libs high on cannabis bill

There a lot of attention focused on Parliament Hill even though Parliament is in recess until March 18.

The focus is on the Justice Committee, which is hearing more details on the growing fallout of allegations of political interference coming from the highest levels of the Trudeau Liberal government.

MP Jane Philpott, the former Liberal president of the Treasury Board, just resigned from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's cabinet, citing a loss of confidence in how the government has handled the SNC-Lavalin situation.

My intent is not to further discuss the ongoing SNC-Lavalin details, but rather another recent government policy announcement that was announced but largely overlooked as a result of the SNC-Lavalin situation occurring in Ottawa.

Last week, the federal government announced marijuana pardon legislation for those individuals who have a previous conviction for the simple possession of cannabis.

The Liberal government describes Bill C-93 as "An Act to provide no-cost, expedited record suspensions for simple possession of cannabis."

The Liberals would like to see the law passed by the summer of 2019.

The stated goal of the bill is to break down barriers for people with a criminal record related to cannabis possession now that legalization has occurred.

Currently, there is a $631 fee for a pardon along with a waiting period that are both proposed to be waived under this bill.

Estimates from Ottawa indicate this bill could apply to as many as 400,000 Canadians although it is unknown how many will apply.

Total costs for this bill with the processing of pardons could be in excess of $300 million.

It should also be noted that a pardon is not the same thing as an expungement that formally removes all records related to the office in question.

This is an important distinction because there can be situations when a pardon is not recognized at the border of another country resulting in a refusal of entry.

My concern with this bill is one of cost and fairness.

While I support the principle of issuing a pardon, I do not believe it is fair that Canadians without criminal records are paying for a program that requires no financial contribution from those who will access it.

My question this week:

  • Do you support Bill C-93 being fully funded by taxpayers?

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



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MP's testimony shocking

As I sit down to write my weekly report, I must admit to being at a loss for words.

Earlier on Parliament Hill, former Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould shared her details related to the emerging situation with SNC Lavalin.

To be candid, this testimony was shocking and has left Ottawa reeling.

Ms. Wilson-Raybould stated on the record that she was the target of a "consistent and sustained" effort by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his most senior staff to politically interfere in the criminal case against SNC-Lavalin.

The testimony included references allegedly quoted from Mr. Trudeau's principal secretary, stating that there would be (political) interference, that there was no solution without some interference.

In addition, Katie Telford, Mr. Trudeau's chief of staff, allegedly said they were "sick of legalities.”

Other comments included statements such as "we need to get re-elected." and that if the former Justice Minister changed her mind that the they would line-up people to write op-eds claiming everything was legal.

The testimony from Ms. Wilson-Raybould ultimately referenced the Prime Minister, Clerk of the Privy Council, former principal secretary to the Prime Minister, Finance Minister and the chief of staff to the Finance Minister.

In total, 11 people were raised in a series over 10 calls and 10 meetings.

Ultimately, Ms. Wilson-Raybould was told "He's (Mr.Trudeau) going to find a way to do it one way or another.”

The testimony later revealed that the former Justice Minister's deputy minister was allegedly informed by the Clerk that there would soon be a "new (Justice) Minister and that the first thing the deputy should do with the new minister is have a discussion about SNC (Lavalin) and the DPA (deferred prosecution agreement).

I will share some of the final words in her prepared statement from Ms. Wilson-Raybould:

"I hope and expect that the facts speak for themselves. I imagine Canadians now fully understand that in my view, these events constituted pressure to intervene in a matter, and that this pressure or this political interference to intervene was not appropriate."

My question this week relates to this statement:

  • Do you believe that Mr. Trudeau and his inner circle attempted to pressure the former Justice Minister to politically interfere in the criminal case against SNC- Lavalin?

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



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About the Author

Dan Albas, Conservative member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, is the shadow minister of innovation, science, economic development and internal trade, and sits on the standing committee on finance.

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.

In British Columbia, Dan has been consistently one of the lowest spending MPs on office and administration related costs despite operating two offices to better serve local constituents.

Dan is consistently recognized as one of Canada’s top 10 most active members of Parliament on Twitter (@danalbas) and continues to write a weekly column published in many local newspapers and on this website.

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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