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Dan-in-Ottawa

Jobs go up in smoke



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Fake news coming

Chances are you will have heard about "fake news" and concerns of alleged and actual uses of inaccurate information to influence an election result.

While this remains a hot button issue south of our border, we have also had a real example of this here in Canada.

During the recent Burnaby South by-election, NDP candidate and party leader Jagmeet Singh was featured in an inaccurate news story suggesting he resided in what was described as a

"$5.5-million dollar mansion resplendent with ornate staircases and murals painted on ceilings.”

Mr. Singh doesn’t live in any such residence.

The incorrect story, as is often the case, was circulated in many social media circles, often by political opponents of Mr. Singh.

It is unknown who was ultimately responsible.

What is more troubling is that inaccurate news stories can be sourced from third-party organizations or individuals from other countries who may refuse to respect or cooperate with the laws of Canada or other countries.

With our Canadian federal election approaching in October, similar concerns have been raised over the potential for electoral interference occurring during this time period.

This week, the Liberal government released the rules they will be creating in response to these concerns.

Ultimately, it will be a group of unelected senior public servants in Ottawa who will decide if an incident is considered to be electoral interference or not.

This group is made up of the Clerk of the Privy Council, the national security adviser to the Prime Minister, the Deputy Minister of Justice, the Deputy Minister of Public Safety and the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.

In the event they believe a situation is an act of intended electoral interference, they will notify the Prime Minister, the leaders of the other political parties as well as Elections Canada and an announcement providing further information will be forthcoming.

The challenge is that there is no actual definition of what type of incident or situation is defined as "interference.”

This decision will be up to the discretion of the people who typically have often been appointed by the Prime Minister.

In this case, the Prime Minister will not have the power to veto this process, if the panel concludes that an event or situation has transpired.

Some who follow Ottawa very closely will know that statements made by the former Clerk of the Privy Council during the SNC Lavalin/Justice Committee hearings were criticized by many journalists and pundits alike for being overtly partisan.

I can state that I would not have confidence in this process if the former Clerk had not retired after losing confidence of the other Party leaders.

My question this week:

  • Do you have confidence that this process will effectively prevent or otherwise discourage outside electoral interference during the election?


High gas prices hurt

The British Columbia Utilities Commission (BCUC) is a provincial agency and is currently conducting a limited review into gasoline pricing in British Columbia.

This review will some federal implications and I believe this will be of interest to many citizens in our region.

The review was ordered by the NDP provincial government earlier this year after a public outcry on high gas prices at the pump and the April 1 increase to the carbon tax.

The reason the review is limited is because the NDP,  in the terms of reference to the BCUC, made one very important limitation:

“The commission (BCUC) may not inquire into the effects of provincial enactments or policy on gasoline and diesel prices in British Columbia,”

In other words, provincial NDP energy policy and related taxation cannot be included in this review.

Early work from the BCUC (as reported by  Rob Shaw of the Vancouver Sun) indicates that the National Energy Board (NEB) stated that the “refining margin on regular gasoline in Vancouver in April averaged 52.1 cents per litre.”

To put that figure into context , that is approximately double the national average.

However, here is another interesting fact:

In the Lower Mainland, the total of the transit tax, provincial taxes including the carbon tax, federal excise tax, and GST add 52 cents per litre.

The combined governments take in taxes is roughly equal to the oil companies refining margins.

That amount would be less here in the Central Okanagan-Similkameen- Nicola as there is no local transit tax.

One other interesting consideration relates to the Trans Mountain pipeline (TMX).

Suncor has stated that pipeline capacity for refined products, that includes gasoline and diesel, has decreased by 30-36 million litres a month.

This means this gasoline must be shipped by either rail or truck, which is more costly.

Parkland Fuel, the operator of the Burnaby refinery, has also stated that because the TMX pipeline is at capacity, often carrying other products (diluted bitumen is one example), they have to pay a premium to secure supply capacity from other shippers.

This is relevant as it is some of the first quantifiable evidence that the lack of available capacity for gasoline and diesel in the TMX pipeline is playing a role in creating higher gas prices at BC pumps.

As I wrote in my May 1, the lack of capacity is due to the fact that the TMX pipeline must carry a range of different oil products ranging from gasoline to diluted bitumen.

The expanded new section of the Trans-Mountain pipeline (if built) would exclusively carry heavy oils, such as diluted bitumen, allowing the existing section to transport products such as gasoline and diesel to increase supply.

Ironically, B.C. NDP Premier John Horgan, who created the BCUC review to “get to the bottom” of high gas prices, opposes the Trans-Mountain pipeline expansion.

My question this week:

  • How much are you impacted by gasoline prices?




Government bills die

Last week, the House of Commons adjourned for what will likely be the last sitting of the 42nd Parliament prior to the October election.

As a result of the adjournment, many government and private member bill's will also ultimately fail, because they did not make it through the House or the Senate prior to this adjournment.

For sake of interest, here is a summary of some of the government bill's that will not be moving forward.

  • Bill C-27 "An Act to amend the Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985",
  • Bill C-28 "An Act to amend the Criminal Code (victim surcharge)",
  • Bill C-34 "An Act to amend the Public Service Labour Relations Act and other Acts",
  • Bill C-38 "An Act to amend An Act to amend the Criminal Code (exploitation and trafficking in persons)".
  • Bill C-42 "An Act to amend the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act, the Pension Act and the Department of Veterans Affairs Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts."
  •  Bill C-87 "An Act respecting the reduction of poverty."

There were roughly 18 different government bills that did not receive royal assent.

In total, the government introduced 102 bills, although some were routine such as appropriation acts or were related to the annual budget.

As this government had a majority, all of these bills could have received royal assent and became law.

This raises the question why didn't they?

The answers are varied.

Some bills are controversial, such as proposed changes to pension benefits.

In other cases where controversial measures were essentially abandoned or the proposed changes were instead incorporated into an omnibus budget bill where they would not be singled out and extensively debated.

Some bills passed through the House of Commons but did not pass through the Senate.

This was particularly common to private member's bills (PMB).

One example of this was NDP MP Richard Cannings (South Okanagan-West Kootenay), with his Bill C-354 "An Act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (use of wood)" that completed first reading in the Senate but will move no further.

The various PMBs that I have also sponsored will not move forward.

So why take the time to submit a PMB when there little to no chance it might pass?

The answer is,to raise awareness to an issue.

In the example of MP Cannings' bill, to increase the use of wood in Government buildings. If there is wide spread support for the issue in question then a current or future Government can always adopt the idea.

This was something I experienced with two of my PMB's tabled in this Parliament.

The first proposed to amend the Bank Act to allow credit unions to continue using terms such as bank, banker and banking, as well as my legislation to have Registered Disability Savings Plans receive the same protection from creditors that are in place for RRSPs.

Both of these legislative initiatives were quietly adopted and passed via government omnibus budget bills.

This leads to my question this week:

  • Do you support members of Parliament drafting and proposing PMB's, even if there is a small chance for success or do you view it as a waste of time?


More Dan in Ottawa articles

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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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