Covered in case of cancer

One of the challenges with so many different events occurring in Ottawa is that some become overlooked.

This occurred last week as the third party opposition Bloc Québécois had their first Opposition Day in the House and tabled the following motion:

Mr. Blanchet (Beloeil—Chambly): “That the House call on the government to increase the special Employment Insurance sickness benefits from 15 weeks to 50 weeks in the upcoming budget in order to support people with serious illnesses, such as cancer.”

After debate on this motion was complete a vote was held with the Bloc, Conservative and NDP voting in favour of the motion passing with the governing Liberals opposed.

In the last parliament, this opposition motion would have been defeated; however, in this minority parliament, the motion passed.

Prior to this motion passing, the maximum time for the special employment benefit on EI was limited to 15 weeks, a limit that has been in place since 1971.

Unfortunately, how many Canadians might benefit from this change is unknown as the motion was not studied by committee prior to being submitted by the Bloc, as would have been the case with a bill.

This is one of the challenges in a minority parliament where a motion can be established politically and passed very quickly, potentially without sufficient scrutiny. 

In this case, EI is a program funded by contributions from both workers and their employers.

This represents an extension of an existing EI benefit that could be of significant financial assistance to a person facing one of life’s greatest heath challenges.

In certain cases, it very well be the only time some workers might access the EI benefits they have long paid into.

As a result, I supported this motion – although I did state some reservations for the lack of proper parliamentary scrutiny. 

My question this week:

Do you agree with the motion to extend “the special Employment Insurance sickness benefits from 15 weeks to 50 weeks in the upcoming budget in order to support people with serious illnesses, such as cancer.”

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


Pipeline: who to listen to?

In Ottawa, the issue drawing the most debate are the illegal blockades in several areas around Canada, relating to the approval of the $6-billion, 670 kilometre proposed Coastal GasLink Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) pipeline.

The opposition to this pipeline project is by five Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs and their supporters, both aboriginal and non-aboriginal, who believe this project should not proceed without the consent of the five chiefs in question.

On the other side of this proposed LNG project are the supporters.

In this case, all 20 First Nations along the route, represented by democratically elected chiefs and councils, have signed letters of support for the project.

These letters of support provide financial, employment and training benefits estimated at close to $1 billion to the aboriginal communities along the pipeline route.

The debate has been focused largely on the prime minister’s lack of any announced plan on how to deal with the blockades that could soon threaten both our economy and public safety.

Aside from economic interests, the chemicals to treat domestic water systems and those to de-ice planes so they can fly safely, propane to heat homes, food, and oil and gas, all depend on rail transport to reach Canadian destinations.

So where does the Liberal government stand?

Does it stand with the will of democratically elected chiefs and councils who represent the majority of aboriginals in this region who support this LNG project and the much-needed benefits?

Or does the Liberal government stand with the minority of those who oppose this project, in many cases the same interests and activists who frequently oppose Canadian energy projects?

For many this is a complex issue that requires differing interpretations and definitions of the role of unelected hereditary chiefs as opposed to democratically elected chiefs and band councils.

Many point out the need for full reconciliation as a solution, while others suggest the Indian Act needs to be abolished.

The prime minister has stated that “more dialogue” and “patience” is the solution.

From my perspective, I feel it must be pointed out that in no democratic system of governance is there ever 100% agreement on any issue.

I would submit that different perspectives and differing solutions that can be meaningfully debated is part of a healthy democracy.

However, in this situation I am greatly concerned.

It would seem that some believe that having all 20 different First Nations’ communities along the route signing letters of support for this LNG project by democratically elected band councils is not enough.

The activists and protestors seem to suggest that the five Hereditary Chiefs' in opposition must also fully support this project or it should be cancelled.

In other words there is an expectation for 100% agreement.

This is a threshold that I believe very few, if any, healthy democratic societies could ever hope to achieve. 

First Nations are very diverse and it is completely understandable that some will support projects they believe are in the best interests of their community.

It is also understandable that others will oppose certain projects. 

This is not unlike what we see with many B.C. municipalities who frequently take different positions on a variety of topics. 

Listening to former chiefs, such as former Haisla Nation Chief Councillor Ellis Ross, I believe democratically elected chiefs and councils who support projects that can help lift their communities out of poverty must be respected by the democratic will of the community.

My question this week: Do you agree?

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

Liberal energy inequality

This week the House of Commons is adjourned to allow for MPs to be back home in our ridings where we can meet with local citizens and other groups and organizations. 

The opportunity to hear concerns and challenges citizens have with our federal government is critically important to the work that we do as Members of Parliament.

This week I am hearing many concerns over the protests that occurred at the B.C. legislature over opposition to the construction of the Coastal GasLink LNG pipeline.

I have also heard concerns over the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project now that reports recently stated construction costs of the pipeline expansion are expected to cost $12.6 billion—a significant increase from the previous $7.4 billion announced by PM Trudeau when his Liberal government decided to purchase the pipeline.

There is also another energy related project that I suspect will soon become more well known. 

The Teck Frontier oilsands mine project potentially located north of Fort MacKay, Alta., is currently awaiting a federal approval from the Trudeau Liberal cabinet.

So what is the Teck Frontier project? 

It is a $20.6-billion project that will create roughly 7,000 jobs during construction and will generate $12 billion in tax revenues for Ottawa and $55 billion in tax and royalty revenues for Alberta over its 41-year life. 

The project has spent a decade in various stages of licensing and reviews and has been given conditional approval from the joint federal-provincial review panel which declared the project to be in the public interest.

However, that environmental review process works differently than the process that exists today.

Opponents of the projects point out that the mine will generate an estimated 4.1 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year.

There are also concerns related to wetlands, forest impact, wildlife as well indigenous groups that support or oppose the project, to name a few.

If the Trudeau Liberal government approves the project, opponents question how the Prime Minister can meet his promise that Canada will be net zero on GHG emissions by 2050.

If the project is rejected by the Liberal cabinet, supporters of the project believe serious harm will occur to the relationship between Alberta and the federal government that could threaten national unity.

While some dismiss these concerns, it should also be recognized that major GHG emitting projects have not been treated equally by this Liberal government across Canada. 

One example in Quebec is a cement factory that was given an exemption from an environmental review.

This cement factory will emit between 1.8 and 2.2 million tonnes of greenhouse gases a year and will be the largest GHG emitter in the entire province of Quebec.

Another example is from New Brunswick, where the Trudeau Liberal Government gave a 95% carbon tax exemption from dirty coal power.

The Belledune power plant, which burns a combination of coal and petroleum coke, emits up to 2.8 million tonnes of greenhouse gasses annually and was the second largest source of greenhouse gases in Atlantic Canada for 2016.

At that same time, the largest emission generator in Atlantic Canada was the Irving Oil Ltd. refinery in Saint John. It is well known that refinery frequently receives oil offshore via tanker from countries that have no carbon taxes and little, if any, environmental policies
My question this week, do you think Canadian energy projects should be treated on an equal basis?

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


Minority gov'ts don't last

It is interesting to note that this minority parliament is the 14th minority in Canadian history.

Many of Canada’s previous minority governments have lasted anywhere from one to two years, although some longer.

One reason why minority governments tend not to last relates to the efforts of the minority government to attempt to form a majority.

Why a majority? 

Having a majority is how a government can fully implement its agenda.

In recent times, majority governments typically see 75% to 80% of all legislation put forward being passed.

Often this requires parliamentary tactics such as “time allocation” or “closure” to achieve; however, these are also legitimate parliamentary procedures.

In minority government, the success rate for passed legislation is much lower. 

National Post columnist John Ivison recently observed that former Harper minority governments averaged under 50%.

To date, there have not been any government bills defeated in our parliament, but the government did lose two opposition-day motions. 

One motion was to create the Canada/China review committee, and most recently a motion to call on the auditor general to review the Liberal government’s infrastructure spending plan in an effort to find out why there are delays in projects getting built.

On the subject of government bills introduced to date, I will give the Liberal government some credit for introducing legislation likely to get passed. There have been just five government bills introduced. Two of these are operating bills, such as appropriations and oaths of office.

Bill C-4, the “Canada–United States–Mexico Agreement Implementation Act,” and most recently Bill C-5, “an Act to amend the Judges Act and the Criminal Code.” That parallels a former private member’s bill from retired Conservative MP and interim leader Rona Ambrose that calls for mandatory training for judges to help provide greater understanding for the impact of sexual assaults on victims.

The final one is Bill C-3, “an Act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act and the Canada Border Services Agency Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts,” that proposes to create independent public complaints and review commission (PCRC) that will be merged with the current RCMP independent civilian review and complaints commission (CRCC).

The intent of the PCRC is to provide independent civilian review of the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA).

While it is unclear if this proposed legislation will be successful, I believe that the intent to increase public accountability at the CBSA is a long overdue and needed measure. 

My question this week is, do you agree with Bill C-3 to create a merged independent civilian-based review commission for the RCMP and CBSA?

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.

Previous Stories