Listening to constituents' concerns

MP's listening tour

Since I was first elected I have used the summer months generally passing on speaking opportunities and embarking on a listening tour throughout the riding to hear the concerns of (constituents)

One of the greatest things about my riding is the diversity of the people who live in our various communities—some within more densely populated urban areas and others in smaller towns and unincorporated rural areas.
In turn, each fall when the House of Commons resumes sitting, I share the concerns raised in Ottawa.

This year, unlike any other, there is a different tone to what I am hearing. Affordability, given record high inflation and the direction of our governments at all levels has been a concern in many communities. Healthcare, such as the inability to get a doctor or having to travel significant distances for a health care-related services, are also ongoing challenges.

Many (constituents) have talked about the sheer frustration of trying to drive in and out of Kelowna, either via Highway 97 or the Okanagan Connector (Highway 97C) and the ensuing traffic gridlock adds stress and anxiety that some have said left them unwilling to make the trek.

Overall, there is a sense that various governments are failing to provide basic core services and are more focused on other areas that many view as non-essential. There is also a concern of increased government secrecy and in inability to get simple, clear answers why services are delayed and when they will be restored and/or available locally.

From my perspective there is no question that, even as an elected official, it has become more challenging to obtain information from the federal government departments and agencies that I often deal with. Likewise, I have heard of similar challenges from constituents attempting to obtain information from Interior Health.

From a traffic standpoint, aside from the flood-related damage to the Coquihalla Highway that is currently under repair, the last major federal/provincial partnership projects to decrease traffic congestion within this region were the widening (of Highway 97) between Summerland and Peachland, as well as significant widening of portions of Highway 3 between Princeton and Hope. Both projects were completed prior to 2015 and there has been significant growth since.

The intent of this week’s report is not to pick on any one level of government or agency/department but rather to ask a simple question:

How satisfied are you with the current state of government service delivery in your community?

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.

Farmers express fertilizer cut concerns

Reducing fertilizer emissions

If you follow online new sources, you may have run across a few headlines this week on the theme of “(Prime Minister Justin) Trudeau pushes ahead with fertilizer cut as farmers and provinces cry foul”.

Already a few inquiries have come into my office as farming is an active concern in many of the rural areas in our region.

What do these headlines mean?

Currently the government has indicated it intends to attempt to reduce fertilizer emissions in agriculture as part of the Liberal’s plan to reduce emissions by 30% in the year 2030.

This announcement has resulted in serious backlash, not just from farmers but several provincial governments as well.

The primary concern is the potential reduction in the use of fertilizer will in turn decrease crop output, which will result in lost revenue for farmers as well as higher prices for Canadians consumers in grocery stores.

If you follow international news, similar measures recently announced in the Netherlands resulted in massive protests by farmers that shut down many parts of the Dutch economy, including some key infrastructure.

The farmers I have already heard from point out fertilizer is expensive and is only used sparingly when and where needed.

They are seriously concerned that having unelected bureaucrats in Ottawa, with little to no experience in farming, picking arbitrary limits on fertilizer use will have disastrous results for them, as well as Canadian consumers.

The government has stated its intent is not to reduce the use of fertilizer but rather to encourage “research and innovation” so, hopefully, better practices will be found through technology.

Another concern raised is for those countries that do not implement climate-related restrictions on fertilizer use. They may end up with a competitive advantage, yielding more crops at less cost over Canadian farmers. This is a valid worry given that Canada, in 2021, exported roughly $82.2 billion in agriculture and food products. That works out roughly just under 7% of our annual gross domestic product.

Any trade related losses will have serious repercussions to many Canadian farmers.

As we are also in an inflationary period and the hike in groceries has been repeatedly raised on my summer listening tour, in every part of our riding, we must also consider that if basic inputs like fertilizer are more expensive—costs of production get passed onto consumers—in this case in in higher grocery prices.

More and more people have told me they want to support local and search out Canadian produce wherever they can but new, costlier policies make that more difficult.

My question this week:

Are you concerned with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s intention to potentially impose a 30% reduction in fertilizer emissions in Canada by 2030?

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.

Why was Trudeau here?

This week, the Prime Minister made a rare, largely unannounced, surprise visit to the Okanagan.

Normally, an official visit by a Prime Minister occurs to make an announcement, participate in meetings or events such as a caucus gathering and, of course, to campaign in an election.

By in large, this visit from the Prime Minister did not seem to involve any of these functions, including no party fundraiser (disclosure of which is required by law).

This appearance resulted in queries to my office as to why was the Prime Minister even here?

Compared to previous visits to the Okanagan, where the PM (Prime Minister) had participated in a B.C. Day celebration in Penticton or a ‘"town hall" event at UBC-O, this was a far more managed affair.

As the Daily Courier reported, reporters were “invited to take pictures and videos, but forbidden in advance to ask any questions. Any shouted queries would result in police-assisted eviction from the various premises.”

From my perspective, threatening to use the police to evict journalists for asking questions raises serious concerns in a free and democratic country.

In this case, by refusing to answer questions from journalists at various events, it also means these events are intended to be used strictly as photo-ops.

Photo-ops at considerable expense to taxpayers given the use of the Government private Challenger aircraft that even flew the small distance between Kelowna and Penticton to assist with this visit.

This last part raises another subject.

Many have pointed to the extravagance and excess of flying the short distance between Kelowna and Penticton, that was not only extremely costly to taxpayers, it also generates significant emissions from a Prime Minister demanding everyone else drive less and reduce their carbon footprint.

However, I am speculating the reason the Challenger jet flew from Kelowna to Penticton is because the alternative would have required the PM and his entourage to drive back to Kelowna from the south Okanagan during peak rush hour traffic when the commuting time can be well over an hour and half — or at peak summer times — even two hours.

Obviously, the Prime Minister’s office would prefer the PM not be tied up in traffic for that length of time.

Unfortunately, as many citizens who reside and commute in the Okanagan will know, this can be a daily reality for everyone else.

Local Penticton MLA Dan Ashton has been calling for improved alternate routes to highway 97, that become even more necessary when a serious accident causes significant delays that can shut down sections of this highway for many hours at a time.

While transportation infrastructure such as Highway 97 is provincial in jurisdiction, previous partnerships with the federal government resulted in the four-lane widening between Summerland and Peachland, as well as significant widening and creating 4 lane sections between Princeton and Hope.

My question this week:

  • How serious of a challenge do you see the Highway 97 corridor through the South and Central Okanagan?

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.

It's difficult when sanctions hurt third parties

Juggling sanctions

It was early in March when I wrote about Canada’s response to the illegal attack on Ukraine by Russia.

As many will know, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced some strong Canadian sanctions against Russia. At the time, I stated I believed the prime minister and the deputy prime minister had done an effective job, given that one country, such as Canada, can only do so much to impact another country, like Russia, that we have limited trade with.

I also committed my support for continued actions against Russia and standing with Ukraine as it fights off this (Russian President Vladimir) Putin-provoked military invasion.

As it turned out, I was incorrect when I stated Canada can only do so much to impact a country we have limited trade with.

Recently it was revealed that here in Canada, some critical Russian pipeline infrastructure, (natural gas turbines) were being serviced in Montreal. Under the trade export sanctions announced by the prime minister, those turbines would not be permitted to be sent back to Russia.

If the pipeline cannot be fully operational, it cannot raise peak revenues that Putin uses to finance his war against Ukraine. That was the very reason why the sanctions were announced.

However, the pipeline in question feeds natural gas to Germany and due to Germany’s efforts to decrease its domestic emissions, it has increasingly relied upon Russian oil and gas.

As a result, Germany requested Canada release the turbines so they could be returned to Russia and the pipeline could resume full operation and, by extension, supply Russian gas to Germany.

Trudeau approved a one-time permit to return the turbines.

While this is satisfying news to Germany, it has been met with outrage by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, as well as many Canadians who strongly support Ukraine and understand full well what the pipeline revenue will results in for Russia’s war machine against the Ukrainian people.

As Zelenskyy stated: “If a terrorist state can squeeze out such an exception to sanctions, what exceptions will it want tomorrow or the day after tomorrow? This question is very dangerous.” He added: “Moreover, it is dangerous not only for Ukraine, but also for all countries of the democratic world."

While Zelenskyy has called on Trudeau to reverse his decision allowing the turbines to be returned to Russia, so far, the Canadian government has refused, citing the need to protect German livelihoods.

Currently the Nord Stream One pipeline that supplies natural gas to Germany from Russia is said to be running at 40% of its capacity without the turbines.

My question this week:

Do you support Prime Minister Trudeau’s decision to return the turbines to Germany, which will in turn return them to Russia?

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.

More Dan in Ottawa articles

About the Author

Dan Albas, Conservative member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, is the official Oppositions's finance critic.

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.

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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