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Dan-in-Ottawa

Is it time to drop vaccine passport for air travellers?

Drop vax card for air travel?

Back in January 2021, when the idea of a “vaccine passport” that would (allow) vaccinated (Canadians) to travel and have access to various public amenities and services first emerged, the idea was strongly opposed by Prime Minister Trudeau.

As he stated (at the time), the idea of a vaccine passport was, and I quote directly, “fraught with challenges” and would have "divisive impacts on community and country."

As we know, the prime minister reversed his stance against vaccine passports and used them as a wedge issue during last year’s pandemic election.

Indeed, as Trudeau himself confirmed in January 2021, the implementation of the vaccine mandate has indeed created divisive impacts.

Fortunately, in all Canadian provinces, residents who are vaccinated and not vaccinated can now enjoy equal access to public and private amenities and services with one glaring exception—air travel, which is a federally regulated sector. It still requires proof of vaccination in order to fly.

For those who are vaccinated, which is the majority, this is not an inconvenience, although it has added to more congestion and some delays at many Canadian airports.

However, for those who are not vaccinated it has, and continues to, cause serious hardship in many situations.

For many who are unvaccinated it means being unable to see loved ones or to care for a sick or elderly parent in another part of Canada. It means holidays alone.

These are not just cases of people who want to travel for a vacation. I have heard of husbands and wives being separated overseas and adult children separated from their parents who are in hospice. It is often heartbreaking.
As the official Opposition, we have raised this concern in Ottawa.

While the government continues to insist it is “following the science,” it has shown no such documentation to support the continued enforcement of this exclusionary policy.

For the record, I am fully vaccinated and have supported vaccination throughout the pandemic.

My question this week:

Do you believe it is time for the federal government to lift the vaccination requirement for train and air travel or is this something you would like to see remain in place?

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

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.



193930


Repeal of mandatory minimum sentences questioned

More judicial discretion

One of the first terms I became familiar with when first elected as a Member of Parliament, was the “Ottawa bubble”.

What exactly is the “Ottawa bubble”? It can have a variety of different meanings.

From my own view, it describes how the culture and perspectives on Parliament Hill are often very different from what exists in many Canadian communities.

An example of this are the current record high gasoline prices.

For many Canadians who are forced to commute for a variety of different reasons, the added costs are, in some cases, adding hundreds of extra dollars to their monthly fuel bill.

From families already struggling with higher grocery bills and other inflationary cost increases, along with the rise in interest rates, I have heard reports that some households are out more than an extra $500 per month—money they cannot afford.

When we (the Conservative Opposition) noted the federal government was cashing in with GST on gas and diesel as fuel prices rise, we proposed to temporarily suspend the GST on fuel sales. But our motion was defeated as the Liberal/NDP partnership literally laughed at us while voting against this motion.

There was little recognition from the prime minister about the effects that rising gas prices are having on families and commuters.

Another example of the “Ottawa Bubble” in action pertains to crime.

I hear immense frustration from many communities upset by chronic offenders who continue to commit crimes only to be released back into the communities where they re-offend.

That was one of the reasons why we have mandatory minimum penalties for crimes at the federal level to ensure, for certain types of crimes, there was a mandatory penalty that had to be applied.

However, recently the Trudeau Liberal government introduced Bill C-5 that proposes to repeal 14 different mandatory minimum penalties under the Criminal Code.

What are some of these offences proposed to be repealed? Examples include using a firearm or imitation firearm in the commission of offence, possession of a firearm or weapon knowing its possession is unauthorized and possession of a prohibited or restricted firearm with ammunition.

It is also proposed to repeal mandatory minimum sentences on discharging firearms with intent, discharging firearms recklesslessly, robbery with a firearm and extortion with a firearm (if not part of a criminal organization).

To be clear, Bill C-5 does not suggest there should not be penalties for these offences but rather that penalties for these offences should be entirely at the discretion of a judge, to allow for more “flexibility.”.

The Liberals point to the fact that between 2007-2008 and 2016-2017, Indigenous and black offenders were more likely to be admitted to federal custody for an offence punishable by an minimum mandatory penalty.

In 2020, despite representing just 5% of the Canadian adult population, Indigenous adults accounted for 30% of federally incarcerated inmates. The proportion of Indigenous offenders admitted with an offence punishable by a mandatory minimum penalty has almost doubled between 2007-2008 and 2016-2017, to 26% from 14%.

The Liberals have stated the intent of this bill is to “target” the data that shows the higher level of these incarceration rates.

My question this week:

Do you support repealing mandatory minimum sentences in favour of more judicial discretion in sentencing?

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

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.



Do we need a national pharmacare program?

Polls and pharmacare

If you are in public office, polls are increasingly part of the territory.

Governments themselves increasingly pay for polling data. In 2020 it was revealed the Liberal government tripled its spending on polls.

One of the reasons why governments spend your money on polling is to determine what decisions and policies will be more politically popular with certain voting demographics.

As an example, right before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the “pandemic” election last year, polling by Ipsos revealed roughly 80% of Canadians supported the idea of mandatory vaccine mandates. More than 70% supported the idea of vaccine passports.

As we know, Trudeau campaigned heavily on these things during the election, despite previously rejecting the idea of vaccine passports, claiming they would create "divisive impacts on community and country."

Another poll, this one from Angus Reid and reported by the Financial Post, also caught my attention. It showed 86% of Canadians support a national pharmacare program. This of course was one of the announced objectives in the recent deal made between the Liberals and the NDP in Ottawa.

A recent Leger poll, however, asked the question differently. If a national pharmacare program came with a hike in the GST to pay for it, support drops down to just 40%, (according to the Leger poll).

The purpose of my column this week is not actually about polling, despite the increasing use being a topic of interest. It is actually about the promise of a national pharmacare program, as promised by the Liberal/NDP agreement.

Although pharmacare is a provincially funded and delivered program, I seldom hear complaints from (constituents) about the lack of availability of drugs or coverage from those in need. That is likely because B.C. already has its income-based, fully functional Fair Pharmacare program that works well and B.C. (taxpayers) are already paying for it.

That was a point raised by Premier John Horgan, who on behalf of all provincial premiers, has publicly pointed out federal transfers for health care are the priority to deal with surgical backlogs over new federal program spending, such as pharmacare.

This is consistent with what I hear from constituents with increasing alarm. The long surgery waitlists and lack of family doctors are pushing our provincial health care system to its limits.

My question this week:

Where do you see a greater need—more doctors or a national pharmacare program?

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

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.



193930


MP welcomes inquiry into government's use of the Emergencies Act

Emergencies Act inquiry

As both interest rates and inflation continue to rise and negatively impact many households here in our region, I doubt there is much attention on the current discussion in Ottawa over the Trudeau Liberals invoking of the Emergencies Act earlier this year.

However, that does not mean that many Canadians should not be seriously concerned over what is transpiring in Ottawa on this subject.

In my Feb. 16, column, I explained the Emergencies Act is the replacement for the former War Measures Act. The War Measures Act was only used once outside of wartime, by Pierre Elliott Trudeau at the request of the Quebec Government in 1970. The replacement Emergencies Act had never been used until Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked it, claiming it was the only way to end the truck protests occurring in Ottawa in February.

As the Canadian Civil Liberties Association described it: “The Emergencies Act can only be invoked when a situation ‘seriously threatens the ability of the Government of Canada to preserve the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of Canada’ and when the situation ‘cannot be effectively dealt with under any other law of Canada.’”

This column is not to revisit the decision to invoke the act but rather to share my concerns with the process that led up to this decision. To be clear, invoking the Emergencies Act is the most serious action a Canadian government can take against its own citizens.

In this case, some citizens alleged to be involved in the protests had their personal bank accounts frozen based on unverified leaked documents that were reported through some media sources. This was done without formal verification of the facts and no due process whatsoever for those alleged to be involved.

During the Emergencies Act debate in the House of Commons, close to a dozen Liberal MPs, as well as many NDP MPs, claimed an act of “attempted arson” on behalf of the protestors was part of their justification to vote for invoking the act. Ottawa police have stated the allegation against protestors was untrue.

Likewise, some media reported claims of weapons being found at the Ottawa trucker protests. That claim was also cited by many Liberal and NDP MPs as justification for invoking the Emergencies Act. It was proven to be false.

In other words, (some) of the claims argued by the government, and supported by the NDP, to justify invoking the Emergencies Act, were false.

Fortunately, the law that allows for the invocation of the Emergencies Act also requires an independent review of the use of the act must occur after the fact. At the same time, several groups, including the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, are suing the government, claiming the threshold to invoke the Emergencies Act was not met.

It’s a sentiment I share and is the reason why I voted against invoking the act.

Unfortunately the government revealed in the Supreme Court that it will claim cabinet confidence in order to withhold many of the reasons that led to it deciding to invoke the Emergencies Act.

My question this week:

Are you concerned that this Liberal Government decided to invoke the Emergencies Act and is now withholding the reasons why from Canadians?

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

(Editor's note: The federal finance department ordered the frozen bank accounts be unfrozen in late February after the government's nine-day emergency public order under the Emergencies Act was lifted.)

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.



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About the Author

Dan Albas, Conservative member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, is the critic for Environment and Climate Change.

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.

Dan  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.

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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