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Dan-in-Ottawa

Auditor general's report on ArriveCAN app raises questions says MP

'Worrying' ArriveCAN report

This week, Canada's auditor general, Karen Hogan, released a worrying report on the Trudeau government's ArriveCAN app, launched in April 2020.

The ArriveCAN app is a software tool that required individuals entering Canada to provide contact and health details. If someone didn't meet the health rules set by the government, the app would enforce quarantine measures like a stay-at-home order. However, the app faced a lot of criticism.

Many people, particularly seniors, couldn't use it because they either didn't have a smartphone, lacked an internet connection, or didn't want to share personal health information with a government app.
The app also had its own issues.

For instance, as the auditor general discovered, on June 28, 2022, the Arrive Can app “wrongly instructed more than 10,000 iOS users who entered Canada between June 28 and July 20, 2022 to quarantine for 14 days, even though they had submitted the required information, including their proofs of vaccination.”

Because of that, many Canadians faced hardship and financial issues. Despite following all the rules, the government didn't provide a way for these citizens to prove their innocence. That was completely and totally unacceptable.

During the audit, the auditor general figured out the total cost of the ArriveCAN program for taxpayers. The app's estimated cost is about $59.5 million, but the actual cost might be higher. That uncertainty is because “the Canada Border Services Agency's documentation, financial records, and controls were so poor that we were unable to determine the exact cost of the ArriveCAN application."

The auditor general also said, "We found no evidence to show that some Canada Border Services Agency employees complied with the agency's Code of Conduct by disclosing that they had been invited to dinners and other activities by contractors.”

Moreover, "We have also been informed that the agency (CBSA) has referred matters relating to certain employees and contractors to the RCMP. Due to the nature of the allegations, we did not pursue further audit work around ethics and the Code of Conduct to avoid duplicating or compromising those ongoing processes.”

"Overall, the Canada Border Services Agency, the Public Health Agency of Canada, and Public Services and Procurement Canada repeatedly failed to follow good management practices in the contracting, development, and implementation of the ArriveCAN application,” the report concluded.

"Due to the numerous gaps and weaknesses we discovered in the project’s design, oversight, and accountability, it did not deliver the best value for taxpayer dollars spent.”

It's also worth noting that as of October 2022, the ArriveCAN app is no longer being used to gather travellers’ contact and health details.

After the audit, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre asked the RCMP to immediately expand its existing criminal investigation into the matters surrounding the government's ArriveCAN application “due to findings by the auditor general that have exposed corruption, mismanagement, and misconduct on a massive scale.”

•••

This week, my question isn't about this report. Instead, I'm asking:

Do you believe the Trudeau government spends your tax dollars wisely? Why or why not?

You can reach me at [email protected] or call toll-free 1-800-665-8711.

Dan Albas is the Conservative MP for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.

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





Tory MP outlines his party's plan to tackle auto thefts

Stopping auto theft

Unless you've been a victim of auto theft, it's likely not something you've given much thought to.

However, for those who have experienced this, it's a deeply invasive crime that often results in serious inconvenience and significant financial loss.

Unfortunately, as many large insurance companies have noted, rising vehicle theft costs lead to higher insurance premiums. This is especially relevant to British Columbians, as we have a Crown corporation, ICBC, which holds a monopoly over auto insurance and rampant auto thefts negatively affect all drivers in our province.

Since the Trudeau government took office in 2015, vehicle theft has risen by 34% across Canada. In 2022, the cost of car theft to the Canadian insurance industry was estimated to exceed $1 billion annually.

A recent National Post column critiqued the government's implementation of Bill C-75, stating: “Bill C-75, passed in 2019, legislated a ‘principle of restraint” for police and courts to ensure that release at the earliest opportunity is favoured over detention. In essence, it made bail and community sentencing more accessible, including for car thieves. Thus, connecting (Prime Minister Justin) Trudeau to an uptick in crime isn't incorrect — repeat offenders might not have been out in the community committing more crimes if not for these policies.”

The primary role of the official Opposition is to hold the government accountable for the consequences of its legislation and actions.

However, I believe that beyond this challenge function, Canadians also expect us, whenever possible, to provide solutions as we critique government bills and decisions.

This week, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, introduced a common sense plan detailing the measures a Conservative government would take against auto theft.

Here's what the plan proposes:

• Increase the mandatory minimum penalty for a third offence of motor vehicle theft from six months to three years.

• Eliminate the option for house arrest if convicted of motor vehicle theft via indictment.

• Establish a new, specific aggravating factor when motor vehicle theft is committed to benefit organized crime.

• Revoke the catch-and-release rules in Bill C-75 to ensure repeat offenders receive jail time instead of bail.

Additionally, the plan proposes investing in state-of-the-art x-ray equipment for rapid container scanning at our four major federal ports in Vancouver, Montreal, Prince Rupert, and Halifax. We plan to purchase 24 scanners in total.

We also propose the establishment of a dedicated team of CBSA officers to operate these scanners, aiming to intercept stolen cars before they leave Canada. Under our plan, we aim to hire 75 border agents to enhance the security of our federal ports against crime.

In contrast, the government has promised to host an upcoming "summit". It reportedly plans to meet with industry executives, police and members of the Canada Border Services Agency to devise a strategy.

However, one might question why, after eight years in power, it has only now decided to host a meeting to formulate a plan.

That brings me to my three questions for this week:

Have you, or anyone you know, been affected by auto theft? Do you believe it warrants more attention from the federal government? Why or why not?

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

Dan Albas is the Conservative MP for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.

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



Spike in Mexican refugee claims since visa requirement dropped

Visa drop's cause and effect

This week’s column is a lesson in cause and effect, looking back to 2009, when former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper imposed a visa requirement on Mexican travellers visiting Canada.

What is a visa document? A visa provides a foreigner mobility to travel to and enter Canada and must be applied for prior to travel. (The 2009) visa requirement was implemented as a measure to reduce the rising number of fraudulent refugee claims from Mexico.

The Conservative government stated the cost of processing 9,400 asylum claims from Mexico in 2008 amounted to nearly $500 million for Canadian taxpayers.

In the 2015 election, Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau promised to remove the Mexican visa requirement if elected. He described Harper's approach to Mexican relations as "belligerent and borderline churlish."

Trudeau fulfilled that promise in 2016 after becoming prime minister. However, the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRBC) reports asylum claims from Mexicans began rising almost immediately after the visa requirement was lifted.

In 2016, there were 250 claims made to the IRBC, a number that spiked to 17,490 by 2023.

The removal of the visa requirement resulted in repercussions, such as a substantial rise in illegal crossings from Canada into the United States, as observed by the U.S. border patrol. That prompted the Biden administration in the U.S. to ask Canada to consider reinstating the visa requirement.

The surge in refugee applications from Mexico also created a severe backlog in the refugee processing system, leading to delays for those escaping life-threatening situations.

Given the gravity of the situation, the (current) Liberal government is considering all options, including the reinstatement of the visa requirement.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has called for the government to reinstate the visa requirement for Mexican nationals visiting Canada.

My question to you this week:

Do you support reinstating the requirement for Mexican nationals to have a visa to visit Canada? Why or why not?

I can be reached at [email protected] or call toll-free 1-800-667-8711.

Dan Albas is the Conservative MP for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.

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





Federal Court ruling on trucker protest troubling for government says MP

Trucker protest ruling

On Family Day, Feb. 21, 2022, a historic vote took place in the House of Commons.

The vote was to invoke the Emergencies Act. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau designated the vote a "confidence” vote. If it had not passed, the prime minister could potentially have called for another election.

As usual with this prime minister, he knew polling numbers indicated a majority of Canadians supported using the Emergencies Act to end the “freedom” convoy protests in downtown Ottawa.

However, a problem emerged. The legal standard to invoke the Emergencies Act didn't include polling numbers, so its potential political popularity for Trudeau at that time didn't meet the legal threshold stated in the Act.

That was a point asserted by me, other members of the Conservative Opposition, numerous legal scholars, and groups like the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. This is why the entire Conservative caucus voted against invoking the Emergencies Act.

The federal NDP pledged support for invoking the Act before Trudeau even tabled the details of the proposal in the House of Commons. At the time, some Liberal and NDP MPs claimed an act of attempted arson occurred by the protestors, and guns were found in Ottawa during the protest. Those claims were based on false and inaccurate media reports.

As the Canadian Civil Liberties Association describes 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.'"

The last part is critical: "when the situation cannot be effectively dealt with under any other law of Canada."

As many of us pointed out at the time, other existing laws were successfully used to deal with protests in other parts of Canada, including during the “freedom convoy" protests.

Ultimately, this issue ended up in the Federal Court thanks to the determined efforts of a number of individuals and groups, particularly the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Constitution Foundation. This week, Federal Court Judge Richard Mosley ruled (the government’s) use of the Emergencies Act against convoy protests was “unreasonable and violated Charter" (as reported by CBC). The judge stated that there "was no national emergency justifying the invocation of the Emergencies Act."

This is a significant legal defeat for the Trudeau Liberal government, which immediately announced its intention to appeal the Federal Court ruling.

Usually, a government will want to review a court ruling for some time before appealing. The sudden response to appeal by the government indicates to me it either anticipated a negative ruling and made its calculation to appeal or responded reflexively.

In either case, the response raises an interesting pattern I see in my interactions with constituents. As the Member of Parliament for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, many constituents have expressed their disapproval of the increasing trend of provincial governments and the federal government to deploy their vast legal resources to appeal what they perceive as flawed legislation or decisions.

These are seen as politically driven rather than based on legal principles, especially when a court finds a government's arguments lacking.

In a time when Canadians are struggling to pay their bills, it seems to them senior levels of government prefer to spend scarce taxpayer dollars on lawyers for what they consider to be lost causes. These funds could otherwise support our health care system, bolster police enforcement, rebuild our military or let Canadians keep more of their own money.

Many constituents would prefer some humility from the government and move on instead of doubling down on flawed decisions.

My question this week:

Do you agree with Prime Minister Trudeau's decision to appeal this ruling? Why or why not?

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

Dan Albas is the Conservative MP for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.

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 is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola and the co-chair of the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations.

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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