Libs refusing to comment

There are still many unanswered questions — including who, what, when, where and why — from one of my previous columns.

In November, I referred to the Fall Economic Statement that included new announcements, one of which was a controversial $595 million to subsidize some Canadian media organizations.

I observed that this media subsidy raised serious concerns from many prominent journalists on the important role of journalistic independence from government.

I also raised some of my own questions.

If a media organization is denied funding, what recourse does it have?

  • Should it change the style or tone of reporting?
  • Cover different stories?
  • Hire a lobbyist?

There remain no answers.

There is also the fact that the Liberals introduced this media subsidy program in an election year.

At that time, the Liberals indicated they would appoint a panel to decide who is, and who is not, eligible for this funding.

This week, the Liberals revealed the organizations that will serve on that panel.

They are:

  • News Media Canada
  • Association de la presse francophone
  • Quebec Community Newspaper Association
  • National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada,
  • Canadian Association of Journalists,
  • Federation professionnelle des journalistes du Québec
  • Federation nationale des communications
  • Unifor.

The choice of these appointments has raised some serious media alarm bells.

Canadian columnist Andrew Coyne stated:

“It is quite clear now, if it was not already: this is the most serious threat to the independence of the press in this country in decades.”

From my perspective I also have very serious concerns about this program.

In response to the breaking news from the Globe and Mail regarding SNC Lavalin, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau claimed:

"The allegations in the Globe story are false.”

In other words, he seemed to imply it was a “fake news” story, a tactic increasingly used south of our border.

It is therefore concerning that Mr.Trudeau is naming organizations that will ultimately be deciding which media organizations are eligible for this subsidy program.

As a result, I believe it is critically important that only independent non-partisan organizations should have a role in this.

For example, one of Mr. Trudeau’s appointments is Unifor,  a union that represents many journalists and other staff who work in variety of different media organizations.

Unifor’s national executive board has publicly stated it will be “the worst nightmare” of the leader of the Conservative Opposition in the upcoming election.

These views are well known and despite that, Mr.Trudeau has appointed this politically partisan union to participate in the process of selecting eligible media set to partake of a large Liberal government subsidy.

Regardless of personal political views, I believe adding partisan interests to this process should raise serious worry.

My question this week:

  • Do you support this media subsidy being influenced by partisan groups such as Unifor or do you think it should be a non-partisan process?

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


Albas takes aim at looters

Last summer, the Vancouver Sun reported that the RCMP suspect that arson could be behind as many as 29 different wildfires near communities such as:

  • Naramata
  • Okanagan Falls
  • Osoyoos
  • Oliver
  • Penticton
  • Summerland
  • Lake Country.

More concerning is that many of these fires were deliberately set in areas close to residential housing.

This not only threatens public safety, but frequently creates the need for an evacuation order.

While wildfires, flooding and other disasters often bring out the best in people as they work together to save lives, animals and homes, it can also bring out the worst.

There is a small segment of the population who use evacuation orders as an opportunity to engage in criminal actions such as looting, vandalizing and stealing from evacuated family's homes.

These despicable acts occurred last year to evacuated homeowners in communities such as Williams Lake and 100 Mile House.

Looting is not unique to B.C.; it has also occurred after floods in Atlantic Canada and the tornado strike that occurred in Quebec.

The threat of looting creates anxiety and even resistance to evacuate a residence, which is not only a threat to public safety, it can also considerably increase the challenges for first responders.

In my view, those individuals who use disasters as an opportunity to abuse public trust and prey on people at their most vulnerable times must be held accountable.

That is why I have proposed a private members bill, Bill C-447, to take action against looting.

My bill proposes to amend the Criminal Code so that committing a crime and taking advantage of an evacuation order for those experiencing a natural disaster or emergency is to be considered an aggravating circumstance for sentencing purposes.

Ultimately this bill, if passed, would create new legal tools for judges when it comes to sentencing those found guilty of looting.

I believe it is important that Canadians experiencing the trauma of a natural disaster have the increased confidence that our criminal justice system has their back.

As my bill was only just tabled this week, it is unclear whether the Liberals, NDP and Green Party will support of it.

My question this week:

  • Are you supportive of my latest private member’s bill?

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

AG calls out government

Acting Auditor General Sylvain Ricard is less than impressed with the performance of the Government of Canada.

This week, the AG released the 2019 spring reports, raising a number of concerns.

The first item raised related to federal government call centres.

The AG found that “millions of calls” cannot get through to a government agent.

These calls either are sent to an automated service, directed to a government website or to call back later.

For those callers who are able to get through, wait times of 30 minutes or more are common.

Ultimately, the report concluded that call centres are not focused on clients and has made a number of recommendations to rectify this problem.

Another area of concern relates to processing of asylum claims.

The report notes that between 2017 and 2018, more than 40,000 individuals were intercepted for not entering Canada at a legal border crossing.

The result is a backlog that has greatly increased wait times.

The AG has made a number of recommendations to try to streamline the process and create more efficiency.

From my reading of the report, it appears that the agency is supportive of the recommendations.

Government advertising was also targeted.

The AG concluded that the:

“oversight of advertising was not sufficiently robust to ensure that the Government of Canada was meeting its commitment that public funds were not to be spent on partisan advertising.”

The government has agreed with the report and recommendations in this area.

The RCMP and their ability to properly equip members was also audited.

The AG concluded that “not all RCMP officers had access to the equipment they needed to respond to an active shooter situation” although progress was noted in areas such as body armour and carbine rifle supplies.

The RCMP fully agreed with the findings and recommendations of the AG’s report.

The item from the AG’s report that I have saved for last relates to the taxation of e-commerce.

In this case, the AG looked at a variety of online purchases that also includes digital services such as streaming of movies and music.

The report noted that online e-commerce is growing quickly and conducted the audit to determine how effectively Canadian tax policy is keeping pace.

It was determined that in 2017, the Government of Canada did not receive an estimated $169 million in GST on foreign digital products and services sold in Canada.

The AG also points out that vendors selling these same products and services from within Canada would have been required to collect and remit those taxes.

However, it was noted that while these foreign-based service providers are not subject to Canadian taxation, they are subject to taxation within the countries that they are located in.

In this particular area, the report made no specific recommendations.

The AG concluded that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has limited authority on e-commerce and advised that CRA should be able to expand its compliance activities in this area.

The CRA has agreed.

That leads to my question this week:

  • What are your thoughts on current taxation policy when it comes to e-commerce?

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


Kenney fuelling oil war?

The recent Alberta election resulted in a change of government from the NDP to the United Conservative Party (UCP) under the leadership of now Premier Jason Kenney.

This election result has a unique B.C. connection, given one of Premier Kenney’s promises was that the UCP would immediately proclaim Bill 12.

Bill 12 is referred to as the “turn-off-the-taps” legislation intended to enable the Alberta government to restrict the flow of oil into British Columbia.

The bill is a retaliatory measure against the B.C. NDP government, which opposes the Trans-Mountain pipeline expansion project.

How would Bill 12 work?

Not by physically shutting down any pipeline.

Rather, it would require Alberta companies that export petroleum products to have special provincial licences.

The licences would allow for the government to impose restrictions on what products and quantity of product may be approved for export.

Although the Alberta government has indicated it will not immediately use this legislation, the B.C. government said it will challenge the constitutional validity of this bill and are seeking a court injunction.

A couple of questions are often raised.

What effect could this have on gas prices in B.C.?

If completed, how would the the expanded Trans-Mountain pipeline impact B.C. gas prices?

Here is the challenge.

The Trans-Mountain pipeline has to carry a range of different products. In other words, refined products, such as gasoline used by B.C. drivers passes through the same pipeline as the unrefined products, such as diluted bitumen.

Within the industry, this process is called “batching” and the Trans Mountain pipeline is the only one remaining in North America to still use this inefficient process.

If built, the expanded section of the Trans-Mountain pipeline would exclusively carry “heavy oils” such as diluted bitumen.

This allows for the existing section of the Trans-Mountain pipeline to be used exclusively for refined products that include gasoline.

It is expected that the increased supply and capacity of gasoline as a result of this project being completed will create lower gas prices, not withstanding increases from the carbon tax.

It would also have the positive benefit of reducing our energy reliance on American refined fuel.

The irony is that some of the same elected officials who support increasing the carbon tax on fossil fuels to, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has stated, “make better choices,” also support increasing the gasoline supply to protect drivers from being gouged at the pumps.

Last week, the Liberal government stated that it “can’t guarantee it will have a decision on the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion prior to the next election.”

This despite the fact Mr.Trudeau spent $4.5 billion to purchase the Trans-Mountain pipeline, calling the expansion “to be in Canada’s national interest.”

My question to you this week:

  • Do you support the expanded Trans-Mountain pipeline project?

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

More Dan in Ottawa articles

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.

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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