Social media allows citizens to share comments, questions and concerns with elected officials in real time that can quickly demonstrate a trend.
As an example, early on this week my social media feed along with in person meetings was filled with outrage over news that if you are an employee who receives a staff discount, that discount would now be considered a taxable benefit by the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA).
Public reaction to this change in interpretation from the CRA has been overwhelming angry and strongly opposed. For small business owners, the thought of attempting to administer the records of documenting staff discounts was another serious concern as was a potential reduction in wages for staff that might use a staff discount.
Fortunately there may be some positive news on this matter.
The National Revenue Minister, Hon. Diane Lebouthillier has indicated that this change on interpretation of the tax code is not one that the Minister authorized. It has been further reported that the Minister has instructed the CRA to remove this interpretation from the CRA website.
In Ottawa circles this is often referred to as “the Minister throwing the Department under the bus” .
From my perspective it seems clear the Minister recognized the outrage of this decision and has acted quickly to attempt to mitigate this change to the tax code.
Currently this interpretation of the tax code is said to be officially under review while CRA consults with stakeholders. Unfortunately this does not necessarily mean that the CRA may not again attempt to implement a similar tax grab targeted against workers who receive a staff discount.
Given that many workers are in occupations that may not involve a staff discount I would like to hear your views on this subject.
Would you support a staff discount being considered a taxable benefit or do you prefer the status quo where discounts are left alone by the CRA?
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711
Many now believe this well-intended tweet from Prime Minister Trudeau helped to instigate a surge of illegal border crossings into Canada. I will give the Prime Minister some credit as he has since modified his message to point out that while “Canada is an opening and welcoming society,” that “We are also a country of laws.”
These more recent quotes were a result of roughly 8,000 recent illegal border crossings into Canada. Keep in mind in Ottawa, the Liberal Government refers to an illegal border crossing as an “irregular” border crossing.
Recently at the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, opposition MP's had the opportunity to question senior officials from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to learn more about how this situation was being handled.
The committee learned that in many cases there is an alarming lack of data. As an example, the Department had no information of how many people, who entered Canada in 2017 through illegal points of entry, had been found to have criminal backgrounds. Likewise there is no data on the percentage of asylum claims from those entering Canada illegally, as opposed to legally.
Some information that Department could confirm. The Government has directed, through Ministerial order, that those entering Canada illegally will receive expedited health benefit coverage along with expedited work permits. This basically means that those who are entering Canada illegally are going to the front of the line ahead of those who enter through legal methods.
Conversely, it has also been revealed that roughly 80 IRCC staff members have been diverted to deal with asylum claims from those who have entered Canada illegally thus increasing the wait time for those who have legally followed all of the rules to remain in Canada.
My question for this week: do you think it is a good policy for those who enter Canada legally and follow the rules, to be placed at the back of the line while those who enter illegally receive expedited treatment?
I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.
Although the subject of the Liberal Government's contemplated “tax fairness” measures continues to dominate much of the discussion I am hearing both here in the riding and in Ottawa, it is important to not overlook the previous Conservative Government's “fairness” debate during the last Parliament.
Many may forget however, formerly both the federal public sector pension plans as well as the MP pension plan contributions were heavily subsidized by taxpayers. In a measure of pension plan fairness to taxpayers, former Prime Minister Stephen Harper made changes so that contributions to these respective pension plans would eventually become equally split at 50/50 between employees and the employer.
Those changes were estimated to save taxpayers $2.6 Billion over a five period and are now fully in effect for 2017.
One aspect of these changes was not widely reported. The former Prime Minister also removed a special pension clause reserved exclusively for Prime Minister's. Removing this clause alone cost Mr. Harper in excess of $1 Million in future pension benefits that his predecessors still receive.
I mention this for the fact that it was revealed this week in the House of Commons that the Liberal tax changes, if implemented, will not adversely impact the personal family fortunes of either Prime Minister Trudeau or Finance Minister Morneau.
This revelation has created a significant amount of controversy, for good reason.
When millionaire families, being the real one percent of wealth, are not being impacted by “tax fairness” at the expense of small business owners, farmers, ranchers and other professionals – is that really fair?
Many small business owners and others I am hearing from strongly disagree. Ironically I am also hearing from a growing number of Liberal MP's in Ottawa who are also voicing concerns on the long term consequences this tax increase may create.
I will be in Penticton to hear your concerns about how these tax changes will impact your small business or profession this Friday September, 29th from 5pm to 7pm at the Day’s Inn and Conference Centre located at 152 Riverside Drive.
If you are unable to attend you can also email the Finance Minister at email@example.com to share your concerns. Please consider cc’ing my office.
My question this week relates to tax fairness.
Considering many of Canada’s wealthiest will still have access to tax mitigation strategies not impacted by these proposed tax changes, does that meet your definition of tax fairness?
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
I am going to begin this week by crediting a few backbench members of the Liberal caucus in Ottawa. A few of these MP's have been quietly voicing displeasure with the Liberals attempts to frame a proposed tax increase on small business owners and other professionals such as doctors, as being all about “tax fairness” when in reality it is simply a tax increase. These Liberal MP's have no doubt received the same types of emails that I have been getting from accountants, who consistently provide data that the Prime Ministers claims on taxes paid by small business owners and others are patently false.
So what is really going on here?
Earlier this week, the Department of Finance revealed that the actual deficit from the 2016-2017 fiscal periods was just under $18 billion. The good news for the Liberal Government is the forecasted deficit was $23 billion. The bad news for the Prime Minister is that he promised a deficit of $10 Billion and has still has not announced when or how we will return to a balanced budget.
Fair to say, it will not be in the year 2019 as was also promised by the Liberals.
Looking closer at the deficit of roughly $18 billion, two items stand out.
$3.7 billion in budgeted spending did not yet make it out of Ottawa. There are many reasons for this and it is not uncommon for any Federal Government to see delays in spending commitments.
The other interesting aspect of this budget deficit was that the forecasted income tax revenues actually dropped by just over $1 billion. As you may recall, the Prime Minister increased income tax rates on those who earn in excess of $200,000 and they now pay a personal income tax rate of 33%. As a result of this tax increase the Liberals had predicted income tax revenue would increase by close to $3 billion.
So, the Liberals need to increase revenue to pay for their increased spending, and seeing as it has not been realized by income tax increases, the intent now is to go after those who are personally incorporated.
The challenge is, the truly wealthy, those who can take stock options at a 50% reduced tax rate, are not being targeted at all by these Liberal proposed tax fairness changes. Instead, small business owners, the majority of which are not among the 1% of Canada’s most wealthy, are being targeted along with some upper middle income professionals such as Doctors.
Farmers, Fisherman and other unique groups also are being targeted and impacted by these Liberal tax proposals.
The Liberals continue to insist the tax fairness changes will not hurt small business owners and other professional groups in the usual “Ottawa knows best” tone.
Here is the problem.
Ottawa bureaucrats, majority of whom have never owned or run a business, when attempting to tell small business owners how an Ottawa imposed tax increase will impact them, tend to offend.
I know this because I hear from many of these offended entrepreneurs, every single day.
Worse is the Liberals have yet to explain how Ottawa bureaucrats will make arbitrary decisions on how family members of a small business may or may not be able to be paid.
Does a stay at home parent raising children and doing the books of a small business qualify to be paid?
We don’t know.
How many more Ottawa bureaucrats will need to be hired to administer these complex changes and at what cost?
Again, the Liberals will not say.
Ultimately this issue is not about tax fairness, it is all about a tax increase and I congratulate those Liberal MP's who are admitting as much.
What is your opinion – Do you view these tax changes as tax fairness or a tax increase?
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call 1-800-665-8711.
The proposed tax changes being contemplated by the Trudeau Liberal Government remain the single largest concern that I am hearing about on a daily basis.
Although I have heard some support for these potential tax increases the overwhelming response to date has been very strongly opposed. I have also heard some very specific concerns from a number of local accountants.
When the Prime Minister was in Kelowna last week, he stated that “people who make $50,000 should not pay more taxes than people who make $250,000”.
I believe most would agree with that statement.
Unfortunately, as many accountants have taken the time to share with me, this statement from the Prime Minister is not even remotely true or even close to being accurate.
In reality a small business owner, doctor or other person would indeed be paying tens of thousands more than one who earns $50,000 per year.
This is one of the reasons why there is such a large amount of outrage from many small business owners who feel that the Prime Minister either does not understand the impacts of our existing tax laws or is intentionally misstating them in an effort to draw public support for the proposed tax increases.
From my perspective, I will grant the Prime Minister the benefit of the doubt and assume he misspoke with this comment as can inadvertently occur with any elected official. For the record I will continue to oppose these tax changes in Ottawa and encourage the Liberal Government to be more transparent with their talking points.
For an update on another matter I have raised in a previous reports.
Some of you may recall I have mentioned that the federal agency responsible for regulating banks and other financial institutions has issued new enforcement regulations that issue a blanket prohibition on the use of terms like “bank”, “banker”, and “banking” by basically any entity other than the big banks. Credit unions, who have traditionally been allowed to use these common terms would no longer be allowed to do so. This would not only create consumer confusion it would also impose more costs and regulatory compliance burdens on Credit Unions that in turn would be passed onto Credit Union members.
Suffice to say these proposed restrictions also generated overwhelming public opposition throughout our region as well as many other regions across Canada. As a result the Financial Regulator has temporarily suspended this enforcement action while it begins a series of consultations.
I believe this should be taken a step further.
Currently I am working on a bill that would amend the Bank Act to make it clear that Credit Unions can continue to use terms such as “bank”, “banker”, and “banking” without fear of The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) coming after them. I had hoped the Liberal Government would introduce similar legislation but in the absence of any my only recourse would be this private members bill.
My question this week – Would you support a Private Members Bill to amend the Bank Act and allow Credit Unions the continued use of terms such as such as “bank”, “banker”, and “banking”?
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free 1-800-665-8711
Mr. Prime Minister,
I would like welcome you and the Liberal caucus to Kelowna.
I trust your caucus retreat will be constructive and I hope you have some time to visit some of our nearby amenities and attractions.
I also hope you will have the opportunity to meet with local small business owners and I will explain why.
During my time in office as a Member of Parliament, I have not encountered any single issue that has more angered small business owners than the current tax proposals you are contemplating.
I believe it is important you understand why this anger exists.
You might recall during the last election, your Liberal platform promised to, and I quote directly; “reduce the small business tax rate to 9 percent from 11 percent”.
Flash forward to today and not only have you reneged on this promise but many small business owners feel that you have labelled them as tax cheats.
Your Liberal Government is implying that the amount of tax they pay is unfair and paying more tax to Ottawa will create fairness for those who are not self-employed.
Many small business owners find this offensive from a Government who promised something very different during election time.
Throughout this discussion I have repeatedly heard your Finance Minister talk about “misinformation” as if to imply that somehow small business owners do not understand what paying more in taxes really means.
This also offends many small business owners.
On the topic of misinformation, it is also very important to explain that when a small business owner pays themselves a wage, they do so at the exact same income tax rates that any other Canadian citizen does.
That is an important distinction.
In essence, the small business owner pays taxes twice.
The first time is when the small business owner pays tax on any profit, assuming there is some. All small businesses pay lower taxes on business income than personal income taxes. However don't overlook that all net income, once paid out in wages, is taxed again at the same personal income rates as all other Canadians.
It is also important to keep in mind that a small business owner has no Employment Insurance, no Canada Pension Plan, no taxpayer financed public sector pension or related benefits, no maternity leave benefits and no formal vacation pay system.
All of these expenses must be covered by the small business profits, again assuming there are some.
I mention all of these things to hopefully better illustrate why so many small business owners are taking such strong opposition to your proposed changes.
As I believe it is important to propose and not just oppose, I would like to offer a few observations.
Canadians understand we must live within our means.
Likewise, Canadians also understand your Liberal Government is running significantly larger deficits than promised and currently has no plan to return to the promised 2019 date for balanced budgets.
Canadians further understand either spending has to be reduced or taxes increased to pay for all of your spending.
Your Liberal Government has clearly decided increasing taxes is the solution. Rather than demonize small business owners under the guise of tax fairness, why not at least admit that your Liberal proposal is a tax increase? Recognize that small business owners are being asked to pay for this heavy burden.
Mr. Prime Minister, you often talk of recognition and respect and in my view it is time for you to show some for Canada’s small business owners.
Here's my question for Canadians:
What are your thoughts on raising small business taxes?
I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 1-800-665-8711
This past week the Prime Minister announced a cabinet shuffle. Although media often portray cabinet shuffles as a type of crisis level event, there many reasons why a shuffle occurs and in this case I believe the Liberals are refocusing in several key areas. Most importantly, is the decision to divide the current Ministry of Indigenous and Northern Affairs into two new and separate departments.
One of the new departments will be Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, headed up by Minister Carolyn Bennett and the other will be the Department of Indigenous Services with former Health Minister Jane Philpott in charge.
What will these two new departments do? In essence, one will focus entirely on the relationship between Government and Aboriginal Leadership, while the other will focus on delivery of services to First Nations communities.
The Liberal Government has cited that the former Ministry had become too large, delivered far too many services with an equally large mandate to be truly effective. As a result the Liberals believe that having two Ministries with different mandates will be a more effective solution.
I believe few would suggest that the status quo was not in need of improvement. However there are also concerns with this particular decision.
One aspect of governance that I have come across that applies at all levels, is that joint accountability can often lead to no accountability. In this case there will be a strong requirement for these two Ministries to work in partnership together while avoiding overlaps and missing gaps, all at the same time.
Another concern is creating another department with yet another Minister adds even more bureaucracy to a system that is already considered by many to be administratively overburdened.
The time line for First Nation communities needing decisions or approvals from Ottawa on important projects, delays and hurdles can be significant. Adding another department and Minister to the fold is unlikely to help the process.
What would have been an alternative?
The Liberal Government since being elected, has had one Minister for the Ministry of Indigenous and Northern Affairs. Perhaps a shuffle with a new and different Minister may have been a prudent course of action before engaging in the costly split and creation of an entirely new department.
As an example of this, it is not a secret that the former Conservative Government had some struggles with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Fortunately a shuffle and the introduction of a new face with extensive experience, Minister Erin O’Toole, made a significant positive change of direction in getting the Department back on track. Ironically Prime Minister Trudeau also just shuffled a new Minister of Veteran Affairs into this portfolio for similar reasons as Seamus O’Regan takes over from Kent Hehr.
Ultimately how a Minister runs a department from my experience can make a significant difference.
My question this week: Do you support the splitting of the Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs into two different Ministries or should there have first been a change in Minister?
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free 1-800-665-8711
It is difficult to turn on the news these days without hearing yet another media story about the United States administration. Even the most trivial of presidential social media stories have become almost daily features during prime time news coverage of many Canadian news agencies. I mention this as all too often, important Canadian events are being overlooked or ignored at the expense of US political coverage.
Why is this a concern?
In Ottawa, at the moment, the Trudeau Liberal Government is pursuing a new direction they refer to as “tax fairness” for Canadians. The Liberals enjoy using buzzwords like “tax fairness”. This phrase is cover for the fact that they are really proposing to seriously increase the amount of tax certain groups of society will send to Ottawa. This is the Liberal plan to deal with their problem of massively increased deficit spending.
Why should you care?
One of the groups who will be most seriously adversely impacted by these proposed tax changes is Canadian Doctors.
First, let me pass on some background information.
Doctors often operate like a small business. They pay rent, hire and pay staff, obtain insurance, cover monthly utility expenses, purchase medical equipment and supplies along with paying a host of other expenses. As a result of operating much like a small business, Doctors, often incorporate as there are tax advantages to incorporation.
What are some of those tax advantages? For starters, business income is taxed at a lower rate than personal income. However, it should be pointed out that when a Doctor pays themselves a wage out of the net corporate after tax income, they are taxed again on that income at the same personal income tax rates as any other Canadian. Incorporation also provides other advantages in that family members can also be employed, not unlike any other small business. This can help increase overall household income at a lower potential personal income tax rate. On the surface, this is why the Liberal Government asks if it's fair to allow professionals such as Doctors to benefit from these taxation benefits.
However, there is another side to this discussion that is overlooked.
Doctors are not eligible for many of the same benefits as many working Canadians. There is no lucrative public sector pension plan for Doctors even though they work entirely within the public sector in most cases. Likewise employment insurance, maternity benefits, disability coverage and more, is not provided to Doctors. Coverage for these critically needed benefits must be provided and paid for by the Doctors themselves. In many cases, this is why Doctors will leave residual funds within the corporate framework. This allows them to access some of these benefits, maternity leave being but one example. Keep in mind when a Doctor is away for any reason, they suffer a loss of income or have to cover the costs of replacement coverage, all while monthly operating expenses remain in place.
The bottom line is if these “tax fairness” changes are pushed through by the Trudeau Liberal Government, they will seriously impact Doctors along with many other professionals all across Canada. While the potential outcome of these impacts is unknown given the already short supply of family Doctors, it is highly unlikely these tax changes will help with much needed recruitment and retention.
My question this week: Do you support the status quo of the current taxation policy with professionals such as Doctors or do you believe a tax increase would create more "tax fairness"?
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.
As a Member of Parliament I am often contacted by citizens requesting assistance with applications they have to submit to the Federal Government. Whether it's their application for Old Age Security (OAS) and the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) or a Permanent Resident Document, the processing times can be much longer than they expect.
In fact for those turning 65, it is recommended they have their applications in for OAS/GIS completed and sent well in advance of that significant birthday. One year prior is what I recommend.
It takes many months to process almost any kind of Federal Application and sometimes it can take years for completion.
The amount of your OAS benefit is calculated based upon how long you have been a resident of Canada. If you were born in Canada and have lived here for 40 years after your 18th birthday, things are pretty straight forward but your OAS/GIS application can still take many months to process.
If you were born outside of Canada or have spent time living abroad, it can complicate matters considerably. You must provide documentation which proves how long you have been resident in Canada. For people who came to Canada many years ago or with their parents as children, and have spent time outside Canada, it can be difficult and time consuming to gather the required documents you need to submit. Passports from 20 – 30 years ago or even just 10 years ago are often not kept. Other official documents to prove that you lived in Canada, like Provincial Medical Plan cards or certificates, Provincial or Municipal home ownership records that are sometimes not in the applicant’s possession any more. Who knew these documents would be required to get your OAS? Applications for replacement of Citizenship documents also take months or even more than 1 year to process.
Enough of my constituents have come to me with these challenges that I began to research what changes we could implement at the legislative level to help solve these problems. Many people think that Government is just one big department and that personal information is shared as needed between Service Canada, Canada Revenue Agency, Citizenship and Immigration and all the Provinces. The fact is that without your written permission, information which could support your application for OAS but might be held by another Department or level of Government cannot be shared. Some small progress has been made recently as Service Canada, which is responsible for processing your OAS/GIS application can now ask for information from Citizenship and Immigration with your permission, however, that can add many months to a processing time that is already far too long.
That leads to this week’s question - should we permit personal information about an applicant, with that applicant’s written permission, to be shared between Government Departments to make it easier and faster for applications to be processed? What has been your experience with a Federal Applications?
Contact me and tell me your story and if you think that information sharing between departments would have helped you.
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call 1-800-665-8711.
MP Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the Central Okanagan Similkameen Nicola riding. He is the Official Opposition Deputy Finance Critic. MP Dan welcomes any feedback and even tough questions.
Earlier this week on my facebook page I posted my thoughts on the use of social media blocking by elected officials. The post has generated a fair bit of discussion that is encouraging as many people have taken the time to express differing points of view. From my perspective when there is a large amount of interest on an issue it is one that citizens see as important.
On the surface an elected official blocking someone through social media may not seem like a significant event. However for the growing population who do use social media, blocking is a way of denying a person their voice to be heard. By extension as social media increasingly has become a tool for citizens to hold elected officials to account, the careless use of the block button by elected officials has become an easy way out instead of answering a difficult or unpopular question.
In some cases I have even learned of a practice called “pre-emptive blocking” where groups of citizens may be blocked by an elected official they have never interacted with online. This type of “guilt by association” we would never tolerate off line yet it has become an online practice by some elected officials and their senior staff.
To be clear I will continue to defend the right of elected officials to practice whatever social media policies they feel most comfortable with. Likewise for those who use social media for personal attacks, profanity and threats it is expected that such behaviours will not be tolerated. At the same I will also caution those who use the block button as a means to avoid accountability or debate. Social media ideally works both ways and citizens deserve the right to be heard.
On that note I am suggesting that elected officials, and those media and pundits who cover political circles to consider a social media forgiveness campaign. How about un-block (or un-mute) all of those citizens you have blocked over time and give people a second chance to engage. This may not work in all situations however elected officials being exposed to more diverse views and being held to account in my view helps build a stronger democracy.
I welcome your comments, questions and concerns and can be reached online at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call me
off-line toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
The ongoing threat of wildfire is one that is becoming all too common throughout many parts of British Columbia. When these fires occur they can cause massive amounts of damage that it is virtually unmeasurable for those who may lose a home, all their belongings and a lifetime of memories.
Economically, aside from the tremendous costs in fighting forest fires there is also the loss of crown timber and a lack of fibre can ultimately threaten the viability of a lumber mill. From a health standpoint the diminished air quality can cause harm to those with respiratory challenges who are often seniors. First responders and emergency service personnel can also be seriously stretched to the limit during a wildfire as is currently the situation in Kamloops and elsewhere in BC.
I mention all of these things as it is particularly disturbing to learn that some forest fires may well be intentionally set with the use of accelerants. Likewise more recently we have heard alarming reports of critically needed firefighting equipment being stolen and worse for those who may be evacuated because of a wildfire threat, their homes or business may be looted.
All of these actions are deeply troubling and very concerning for all involved.
Looting of evacuated homes of evacuees is particularly worrying as it places greater demands on law enforcement at a time when resources are already spread thin. Further, the evacuation process can be potentially undermined if residents feel their life long belongings may be subject to theft. All of these things, including the intentional and deliberate setting of a wildfire are a serious cause of concern throughout many regions of BC including here in the Okanagan where it has been reported two recent forest fires were intentionally set; one resulting in the loss of several homes in Lake Country and the other damaging a much loved public park.
My reason for raising these issues is currently there is no specific protection in the criminal code to deal with individuals who would commit crimes of this nature.
While theft and arson are subject to the Criminal Code, the action of committing these offences to create a wildfire or otherwise seek to commit criminal offences in relation to a wildfire are not specifically recognised under the criminal code. This leads me to my topic for this week’s report – should there be specific legal protection that references the intentional setting of a wildfire or committing acts of theft in relation to it?
In order to do this the Criminal Code would need to be amended; one possible approach would be to ensure that intentionally setting a wildfire or committing an act of theft in relation to a wildfire would be considered an aggravating factor in the sentencing of offenders. By extension the sentences for committing these types of crimes could also be stiffer. The use of aggravating factors in the sentencing of offenders already exists in the Criminal Code for cases involving offences around children and most recently for elder abuse.
My question this week – Do you support the idea of implementing aggravating factors in sentencing offenders who are guilty of intentionally setting wild fires or engaging in criminal actions as a result of a wildfire?
I welcome your comments, questions and concerns on this or any topic before the House of Commons.
I can be reached atDan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
Since being elected in 2015, the Federal Liberal Government has made numerous changes with respect to Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) policy that in many situations has made it more difficult to obtain a mortgage or in the case of re-financing an existing mortgage, more expensive. Generally the Liberal Government has reasoned these changes are intended to slow down the Vancouver and Toronto real estate markets and lower overall consumer debt.
Why would the Government want to slow down the real estate market in Toronto and Vancouver? The theory is if fewer buyers can qualify to purchase homes, the demand will decrease and prices will potentially drop as a result and by extension increase affordability in these markets.
The challenge with this particular approach is that CMHC policies are very much a 'one size fits all'. That means that although Vancouver and Toronto are the primary targets of these new restrictions, the rest of Canada is also subject to them and as a result many regions of Canada may be adversely impacted. This was feedback I heard extensively during hearings at the Finance Committee back in February when these changes were heavily scrutinized.
One particular point that was raised from one stakeholder is that while the Liberals crack down on debt taken on for home ownership, overlooked is the consumer debt on credit cards, third party loan outfits and elsewhere. The difference is that with debt taken on in home ownership there can be equity created and much lower interest costs in contrast to credit card debt.
It is a valid point.
More recently the Trudeau Liberal Government quietly announced that it will raid CMHC to the tune of $ 4 Billion over the next two years. This announcement received very little media attention and that is disappointing. For those who have mortgages with a down payment less than 20%, the CMHC fees required to provide insurance on that mortgage are substantial. Instead of reducing CMHC fees to make them more affordable or refund the surplus to those who have paid them, the Liberals are instead using CMHC as cash grab, contrary to the purpose of this organization.
Rather than just oppose, I would like to propose an alternative. Instead of taking $4 Billion from CMHC to go into general revenue, why not offer a GST exemption on new housing up to $750,000, similar to what the BC Government has done with the property purchase tax exemption. This policy would reduce the costs of home ownership by tens of thousands of dollars. At the same time this policy would help stimulate economic activity through increased construction, would increase housing supply and would help Canada’s value added wood producers hit hard by the current softwood lumber dispute.
My question this week – Instead of a $4 Billion cash grab from CMHC would you support those funds being used for a GST rebate on new housing?
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call 1-800-665-8711
In last week’s report I raised the fact that Ottawa is soon to restrict Credit Unions from using terms like “bank, banker, and banking”. The reaction I heard from citizens was one of overwhelming opposition and in many cases bewilderment. I should also add that the sheer number of responses I heard was also very significant. Clearly this is an issue that many in our region have strong feelings about.
What can be done about it? The legislation that allows Ottawa to restrict Credit Unions from using these words is contained in the Bank Act. I am currently in the process of drafting a Private Members Bill to amend the Bank Act that will remove these language restrictions and allow Credit Unions to continue to successfully operate as they have for many decades now.
Unfortunately the order that Private Members Bills can be debated in the House of Commons are decided by a lottery style draw that does now allow this Bill to presented in a timely manner. In the interim a local citizen is in the process of having an online petition approved by the House of Commons that citizens can sign online.
If there is strong support for this petition I am hopeful that the Liberal Government will either amend the Bank Act to remove this attack on Credit Unions or at a minimum intervene and ask that the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions review this enforcement decision. Almost without exception I have not heard any support at all for restricting Credit Unions from using terms like bank, banker or banking. As one citizen observed – will food banks be targeted by Ottawa next?
My question this week – would you support my Private Members Bill to amend the Bank Act and by extension would you be willing to sign an online petition opposing this attack on our Credit Unions?
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free 1-800-665-8711
Sometimes I find Ottawa related media coverage can be frustrating.
As an example you have likely heard this week one or more stories related to President Trump and Russia.
However have you heard that Canada’s Credit Unions are once again under attack from Ottawa?
As a result I wrote the following Op-Ed on this topic that I would like to share for my MP Report this week.
Do you bank with a Credit Union? Soon, thanks to the long arm of Ottawa, that may come to an end.
You see last week the federal agency responsible for regulating banks and other financial institutions quietly issued new regulations that will damage the thousands of credit unions and caisses populaires that operate across our country.
The regulations issue a blanket prohibition on the use of terms like “bank”, “banker”, and “banking” by basically any entity other than the big banks. Credit unions, who have traditionally been allowed to use common terms like “bank with us” or “online banking”, will no longer be allowed to do so.
And why the sudden change?
No explanation has been forthcoming. This has left credit unions and their customers confused as to why they would want to change a decades-old practice. The result of these changes will be increased costs for credit unions, which will have to pay for changes to signage and other marketing. Moreover, it will put them at a further competitive disadvantage when compared to the big banks.
Over the past several months, credit unions and Parliamentarians alike have reached out to the regulator and to the Finance Minister to strongly oppose these changes. In fact, at an All-Party Credit Union Caucus meeting on Parliament Hill, MPs and Senators from all parties agreed that these changes were unnecessary and harmful.
Unfortunately their views seem to have fallen on deaf Liberal ears.
There are over 300 credit unions nationwide that serve over 5.5 million members.
Credit unions provide a community-focused approach to finances and are regularly recognized as leaders in customer service. Instead of making business harder for these important institutions, we should be looking for ways to help ensure that credit unions can thrive and prosper in our communities.
It is not too late for the Finance Minister to step in and change these regulations. I call on him to do the right thing.
What can you do? Contact your local MP and tell them you value banking with your credit union and to stop this regulatory attack against Credit Unions and Caisses Populaires.
My question for you this week is do you agree with this decision to restrict Credit Unions from being able to use words like “bank”, “banker”, and “banking”?
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
The Fourth of July is Independence Day in the United States. It was also on July 4th this week when it was reported that the Liberal Government had agreed to apologize and pay $10.5 Million to Omar Khadr. For those of you unfamiliar with Omar Khadr, he was sentenced to 40 years in prison for participating in an al-Qaeda sponsored war crime after admitting to killing US Army combat medic Sgt. Christopher Speer.
This decision by the Liberals to potentially pay in excess of $10 Million to Omar Khadr has created the largest amount of negative feedback and in many cases outrage, of any issue I have come across during my time in elected office. The questions I most frequently am asked is why did the Liberals offer this deal to Omar Khadr and what can be done to stop it?
At this point the Liberals have yet to formally confirm or explain the reasons behind this reported $10.5 Million payment. What we do know is that the Supreme Court was of the opinion that Omar Khadr’s human rights were violated during the time he was in prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and that Canadians officials were aware of this.
It should be noted that the Supreme Court rulings on Omar Khadr’s human rights violations did not include any financial compensation. As a result Omar Khadr had commenced legal action against the Canadian Government suggesting it should be held responsible for the treatment he received at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. For reasons yet unknown rather than vigorously fight this lawsuit it is reported that the Liberals have instead offered $10.5 Million and an apology to Omar Khadr to settle this legal claim.
In a related action, the widow of the US Army Combat medic killed by Omar Khadr had filed a legal action in 2015 against Mr.Khadr and was ultimately successfully awarded $134.2-million in damages. It has also been reported the widow may file a claim in Canada in an effort to have the $134 million judgement enforced in Canada thus potentially impacting the payment of the $10.5 Million to Omar Khadr.
So back to the original question, what can be done to stop this? In this case, only the Liberal Government can stop this agreement and related $10 Million payment from going forward. If that were to occur the legal case would most certainly continue. Most of the documented involvement of Canadian officials was between the years 2003 and 2004 under the Liberal Governments of former Prime Ministers Jean Chrétien and later Paul Martin. If this case were to move forward it is conceivable the former actions of these governments would be heavily scrutinized.
For the record, I was a member of the Conservative caucus in the previous 41st Parliament where the Conservative Government staunchly opposed the payment of any funds to Omar Khadr. It should also be pointed out that some do support the payment of these funds to Omar Khadr and have applauded the Liberals for offering a settlement as opposed to more litigation. My question this week is do you support or oppose the $10.5 Million payment to Omar Khadr?
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
Late last week the House of Commons adjourned after a raucous final few weeks of vigorous debate. One of the contentious subjects that arose again was on the subject of electoral reform. As many will know, the Prime Minister famously promised that "2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system"- a campaign promise that has since been abandoned by the Liberals.
The reason why this subject has again surfaced was due to the Prime Minister commenting to reporters this week at the end of sitting press conference that the opposition was to be blamed for not providing a path forward on electoral reform. A comment that most Ottawa observers and many MPs alike agree was absurd and inaccurate.
It is important to understand that the all-party Parliamentary committee studying electoral reform traveled in excess of 30,000 kilometers over a 4 month time frame and held roughly 60 different meetings hearing a wide range of input and opinion on this subject. The findings of that study were very similar to what I heard here in our region. Of those who did support democratic reform, there was overwhelming support for proportional representation. Likewise there was also a strong consensus that a formal referendum was necessary on the subject as ultimately democracy in Canada belongs to Canadians and not elected officials.
I mention these points as there most certainly was a path forward for the Prime Minister to proceed on electoral reform, unfortunately that path was of no interest. Why? Ultimately the preference of the Liberals was a ranked ballot and not proportional representation, as a ranked ballot system politically most benefits the Liberals. Unfortunately at the time the Prime Minister made his promise for electoral reform he offered no disclaimer that it would only apply for a ranked ballot system, an omission that has angered many in Canada who support proportional representation.
Regrettably the approach of "ranked ballot or nothing" essentially means the all-party committee studying electoral reform spent $600,000 on a report that ultimately was never going to be accepted unless it fit the Liberals preference. As much as I strive to be non-partisan in these weekly reports, the behavior of our Prime Minister in this particular area was regrettable. Increasingly Canadians see broken promises and I am of the opinion that if a leader has to break or go back on an electoral commitment, that he or she should state compelling arguments as to why these campaign promises are no longer possible or not in the national interest. Rather than taking responsibility, we see instead the blame being cast at others, in this case at the opposition who proactively worked together hearing the concerns of Canadians.
As I like to end my reports on a positive note I would like to take a moment to thank the many volunteers who will be putting on Canada Day events across our great country. In any democratic society there will always be those times where we agree to disagree. As Canadians we do so respectfully but more importantly on July 1st we will set aside those differences and we will collectively celebrate our love for Canada and the diversity we share as a nation. Please have a safe and enjoyable Canada Day!
I welcome your comments and questions and be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.
In last week’s report I referenced the emerging new dynamic in Ottawa. The increasingly more independent Senate is interfering with the Liberal Government's Parliamentary agenda. While most of the response I've heard locally is supportive of the Senate reviewing and amending legislation they believe to be flawed, there are certainly some who oppose any intervention from an un-elected Senate over bills passed in a democratically elected house.
The primary issue I raised last week was the Liberal Government's proposed use of an “escalator tax” that would be levied on most wine, beer and spirits sold in Canada. Under an escalator tax essentially the tax rate is increased every year and is set by civil servants linked to inflation as opposed to having to come before the House for debate in the annual budget.
As I also speculated last week, despite considerable effort by the Liberal Government to the contrary, the Senate did indeed vote to amend the Liberal budget bill and removed the “escalator tax”. What happens next? Once the Senate amends legislation it must then be sent back to the House of Commons where the Liberals have already stated they will reject the amendment made by the Senate and insist on the inclusion of the escalator tax in the budget bill. This in turn has the potential to send the re-amended bill back to the Senate where it could potentially be amended again, thus creating a legislative standoff. At this point it is unclear what the outcome will be however many eyes in the Ottawa bubble are focused on this topic.
From a Parliamentary aspect it should not be overlooked that the idea of removing Senators from caucus to sit as independent Senators was championed and done by Prime Minister Trudeau. In that respect some observers point out that this problem is one of the Liberal's own creation. However a closer inspection reveals that the ‘Independent’ Senators appointed by the PM have actually voted in support of Liberal government bills close to 95% of the time. In reality it is former Liberal Senators now sitting as Independent Liberals and Conservative Senators who more frequently vote against Liberal legislation.
One point that all Ottawa pundits do agree on is that the greater independence of the Senate has ultimately created a more powerful Senate. This is a point that has not been lost on Ottawa lobbyists either. Recent lobbyist registry data shows that Senate lobbying has increased dramatically. In fact Senators were lobbied more in 2016 than any other year in history with close to 700 interactions recorded. In 2015, the last year the former Government was in power, this number was 217.
Although the vast majority of citizens I have heard from support the Senate’s current efforts to stop the escalator tax there, may well come a time when the Senate stages an intervention on a democratically passed Bill that the public may be more supportive of.
I welcome your comments on this or any subject before the House and can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
In my May 25th, 2016 MP Report I wrote:
“If you have been following our Canadian Senate you may know that a recent effort has been underway by the Liberal Government to appoint Senators who are considered “Independent” as they are not political members of the Government's Liberal caucus. More recently Senators have also been appointed by the Prime Minister with the benefit of being selected by a panel of appointees who in theory are selecting citizens without political considerations being part of the criteria. These recent Senate reform efforts have also resulted in a number of Senators who were formerly affiliated with party caucuses to resign and also sit as Independent members of the Senate. The end result is that there are now more independent senators and a different structure in place from a political perspective than had existed previously.”
At the time I wrote that I also observed “that all eyes will be on the Senate for more reasons than usual.” And one year later, more so today, that is precisely what is occurring in Ottawa.
Why do I mention this?
As some of you may recall recently I wrote about the subject of escalator taxation that was being introduced by the Liberals. Escalator taxation is when a tax will increase every year by default at the rate of inflation that would not be annually determined or debated by democratically elected Members of Parliament.
In this current case the tax escalator would be set on most beer, wine and spirits sold in Canada along with user fees in other areas. The concern of course is that this is a slippery slope that if left unchallenged may lead to other taxes also quietly receiving annual escalators set by unelected department officials in Ottawa.
Reaction to my report on this subject was overwhelming with many concerns expressed and strong opposition. Comments such as “taxation without representation” were common and some pointed to the loss of many well-paying jobs when the former Hiram Walker plant near Kelowna shut down the last time an escalator tax was used and applied to spirits in Canada.
I mention all of these things because a number of Senators have decided to stage an intervention and seek to potentially amend the Liberals budget bill in the Senate to stop the use of escalator taxation. As one Senator describes it “"If the government wants to increase the excise duties on alcohol, which is completely legitimate, then it should do so manually every year, in every budget. Automatic increases don't take into account the state of the economy”.
While many welcome this potential intervention by the chamber of “sober second thought” and point to this as a reason why the Senate exists others are quite strongly opposed. Those who disagree have expressed concerns that an un-elected Senate has no business amending legislation put forward and passed by a democratically elected House.
What are your thoughts on this topic? Should Senators intervene in what they view as flawed legislation or as they are unelected and unaccountable should they refrain?
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711
This week the Liberal Government announced a new defence policy for Canada. While details are still being revealed, here is some of the information that has been released.
In terms of dollars it is proposed that annual operational military spending will be increased from $18.9 Billion in the current fiscal year and will rise to $32.7 Billion in the 2026-2027 budget. Part of this increased spending means that 3,500 more military personnel can be added to the total regular force size that will be increased to 71,500 troops overall.
In addition it is also proposed to make significant upgrades to Canada’s military hardware. The current CF-18 jet will be replaced with 88 yet to be named replacement jet fighters. It is also proposed to add remotely piloted attack aircraft, often referred to as Drones although the exact number has yet to be announced. It is also proposed to either upgrade or replace many existing aircraft such as the CC-150 Polaris, CC-138 Twin Otter and CP-140 Aurora. Air to air missiles, communications and radar systems are also proposed for modernisation.
Part of the equipment upgrades will also apply to the Canadian Navy as it is proposed to add 15 new surface combat ships and two joint supply ships. Five to six Arctic patrol ships have also been proposed including more modernization for the current four Victoria class submarines. Weapons such as torpedoes will also be part of the upgrade effort.
Vehicles, weapons, cyber capabilities and even space capabilities will also be included in the modernization and expansion efforts.
This is only a partial summary of a fairly extensive proposal. From my perspective there is little dispute that our Canadian Forces are in serious need for upgraded and modernized capabilities.
We have an outstanding group of Canadians who serve in our armed forces and they deserve the tools necessary to serve the interests of Canada both at home and abroad. I do have some concerns with this proposal. As a significant amount of purchases will be required having an efficient and effective procurement process will be vitally important. To date Federal Governments of all political stripes have long struggled with implementing an effective procurement process and this area will in my view remain a challenge.
My other major concern is the obvious. How does this ambitious plan get paid for? As is the case with most announcements from this Liberal Government the spending is typically back loaded with little spending now and the majority schedule to occur after the next election and is imposed on future Governments who may or may not support these initiatives. At the same time the Liberals have not announced where this significant amount of money to pay for it will come from. Given that the Liberals are currently running deficits significantly larger then promised and refuse to present a plan when they will return to a balanced budget it is unclear if this spending will result in even more debt or if taxes are going to be significantly increased. At a minimum Canadians deserve to know these details.
I welcome your comments and questions on the new Defence Plan or any matter before the House of Commons and can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free at 1-888-665-8711.
As much as the House of Commons is often viewed as an adversarial environment there are also those times, albeit rare, when there is unanimous support for the passage of a bill. In the last Parliament, I was fortunate to have unanimous support for the passage of my bill to remove a prohibition era federal restriction preventing the personal movement of wine across provincial borders. Later the Government would expand on this bill to also include beer and spirits. Recently in the House of Commons another private member’s bill has received unanimous support and has also passed through the Senate and recently received Royal Assent.
Bill C-224 “An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act” was sponsored by MP Ron McKinnon from Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam. This is a very important bill that may save lives. For many families in communities through British Columbia and Canada the opioid crisis is a very serious and real concern. Although the crises is reported on almost daily, often when a tragedy is concerned, not told are the countless others who suffer from addiction and may be only one drug away from an overdose that could be fatal.
Unfortunately history has shown that often when an overdose does occur in some cases it may not be reported to emergency responders in a timely manner as those who are with the overdosed individual fear law enforcement involvement once 9-1-1 has been called. These delays in treatment often end up in death.
Bill C-224 changes that. Technically Bill C-224 ensures that “ an exemption from charges of simple possession of a controlled substance as well as from charges concerning a pre-trial release, probation order, conditional sentence or parole violations related to simple possession for people who call 9-1-1 for themselves or another person suffering an overdose, as well as anyone who is at the scene when emergency help arrives”. In other words calling for help when an overdose occurs will now ensure that there will not be criminal charges against the good samaritan(s) that attempt to save a life. While more Government action is needed against the opioid crises any step that can help save lives is an important one.
For those who have asked about the progress of the Liberal Government Bill to legalize marijuana it has currently had introduction and first reading with debate to begin in the near future.
I welcome your comments and questions and be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.
This week in the House of Commons the Liberal Government introduced what is being called the “Air Passenger Bill of Rights”. Technically these proposed changes are part of Bill C-49 “An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and other Acts respecting transportation and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts”.
What are some of these proposed changes? For the most part it is proposed to have more clear regulations for situations that may commonly arise when travelling by air.
Some examples are compensation minimums for denied boarding’s that arise from overbooking, delays or other cancellations. Guidelines also are proposed for lost or damaged luggage, even tarmac delays over an established length of time are now subject to this Bill. Other changes include children sitting next to a parent without an additional seat selection charge and standards for the safe transport of musical instruments.
Aside from these consumer friendly changes that I believe most air travellers will welcome there are also some proposed changes from an industry perspective. Most notable is that the current restriction on foreign ownership of a Canadian airline will be increased from the current level of twenty five percent up to forty nine percent. This change will not apply to specialty air services such as firefighting.
Another proposed change is new powers for the Transportation Minister to approve joint ventures between two or more different air carriers. This change is intended to help accommodate standard industry practices elsewhere and potentially to increase competition.
It is also proposed that airport security screening services provided by the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority or CATSA will now be supported on a cost recovery basis. The Government promotes this clause as allowing for an airport to pay for additional airport security screening services to help establish new routes. However it could also result in a form of downloading where airport operators are forced to pay for a larger share of security services that in turn increases the costs of air travel. Presently airports create significant revenues for the Federal Government from fees and charges that are already paid for by passengers. There is always a concern that some Canadians living near the border may instead use more price competitive alternatives at nearby USA airports. At this point more details and further clarification will be required.
My thoughts? One item I would like to see included would be an extended time frame for consumers who have airline credits to use those airline credits that currently expire within a fairly narrow window of time. Overall I believe the majority of these changes will be welcome while details on cost recovery for CATSA security services will need more clarification although in principle I am not opposed to cost recovery as a means of service delivery.
I welcome your comments, questions and concerns on the Transportation Modernization Act or any other subject before the House of Commons. I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
I was asked recently if it is difficult to come up with a different topic every seven days for my weekly MP report to citizens. It is difficult, however not for the reason that you might expect. The challenge is not finding new topics to discuss but rather narrowing down the many subjects available to one or two that can be briefly covered with the limited space available in my reports. Case in point this week I would like to reference the Liberal Government's efforts to muzzle the Parliamentary Budget Officer however a more pressing concern is the Liberals plans for a proposed $35 Billion Infrastructure Bank.
Why is the $35 Billion Infrastructure Bank a serious concern? Canadians pay taxes to the federal Government for a variety of different purposes and uses. One of the important uses of your tax dollars is building infrastructure. The challenge here is that $35 Billion in funding and guarantees that could be building Infrastructure in communities like Kelowna, Peachland, Penticton, Merritt or elsewhere in Canada will instead be diverted to create the Liberals new Infrastructure bank to be located in the Liberal stronghold of Toronto.
The concern here is that this Infrastructure Bank doesn’t actually build any Infrastructure. The role of the Liberals new Infrastructure Bank is to attract international investors to ultimately invest and privately build Infrastructure here in Canada. In order to attract sophisticated and often international investors the Government will be paying lucrative rates of return on large scale projects with a minimum price of $100 Million or more.
Why is this a concern? For starters the Liberal Government is borrowing money it does not have at lower rates of interest solely to subsidize higher rates of return to largely private investors. Worse, is that with a minimum project threshold of $100 Million many rural communities and even smaller to mid-size cities will not be able to afford projects of this magnitude. Despite this fact the taxpayers who live within these areas will be saddled with paying part of the borrowing debt and high rates of interest even though they do not directly benefit from the projects. Paradoxically this also comes at a time where new capital requirements put in place by a Federal Government regulator significantly limit the ability for sectors like Canadian insurance companies to invest in Canadian infrastructure. There are other concerns however this summarizes some of the more significant.
This week the NDP will table a motion in Ottawa to remove the Infrastructure Bank from the Liberals' omnibus budget bill so that it can be debated and opposed on a stand-alone basis. For those who might think the Infrastructure bank is only being opposed by Opposition parties alone it should be noted that other analysts such as the former Parliamentary Budget Officer through the University of Ottawa’s Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy has also has stated serious concerns and questioned the need for a costly new level of bureaucracy and administration to create a bank that borrows funds at relatively low interest rates solely to pay high rates of return to international investors.
It is my intent to oppose the Liberals new Infrastructure bank however I welcome your views on this topic. Do you support the Liberals $35 Billion Infrastructure Bank? I can be reached atDan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
One of the challenges that all Provincial and Federal Governments face is communicating policy in a manner that is easily understood by citizens. On the surface this may sound simple but sometimes policy can be difficult and timely to explain easily. Further, opposition parties and other interest groups may either intentionally or unintentionally mispresent policy in manner that may undermine or generate public opposition.
I mention these things as the current BC election has resulted in some issues being raised that require more information to properly scrutinize. As an example of this in the community of Merritt one of the largest lumber mills has shut down in the past year creating significant hardship for many in this community. As forestry is an area that falls into Provincial jurisdiction this has become an election issue specifically as it has been alleged by some that the reason this mill closed is related to raw log exports.
In principal most would agree that exporting raw logs to be processed in mills outside of British Columbia should not occur if BC Lumber mills are closing as a result of a lack of timber supply. This raises the question why has no Provincial Government of any political stripe actually banned raw log exports once in power.
Part of the answer to this question is understanding how the process around exporting raw logs, technically known as “unmanufactured timber” actually works. Essentially the process involves three steps. The first step is to acquire an exemption of the requirement that lumber harvested in BC is also processed in BC. Part of the exemption process involves advertising the timber supply in question to be potentially exported on a Provincial list of timber for sale. This bi-weekly advertising list means that a domestic BC mill operator has the opportunity to buy these raw logs before they could be legally exported from BC. If there is an offer to purchase an advisory committee will determine that price is fair market value for all parties involved. If the offer is deemed fair the logs in question will remain in BC to be processed by the successfully bidding mill owner. If there is no interest or suitable buyers found the logs will be considered surplus for BC’s domestic needs and be eligible for export.
Once raw logs are deemed surplus an application can be made for a BC Permit to export the logs in question before moving on to the final stage of the process that is a Federal permit for export. Why do some BC lumber mills not bid on these raw logs? There are a number of different reasons for this that may depend on specific circumstances. Many BC Mills have become highly specialized in dealing with specific types of timber to produce a unique value added product. In some cases the timber available for sale may not be of the type or quality desired by the Mill in question. In other circumstances the transport costs may not make purchasing logs in one area of BC economical if there is a sufficient distance to transport. Cost may be another factor more so if the raw logs are from a private forest owner or a First Nations community looking to obtain maximum value.
The intent of my column today is not to defend raw log exports as ideally I believe Governments of all political stripes support increased value added wood manufacturing here in B.C. Forestry remains a critically important industry to many communities in British Columbia and one challenge will be to encourage more investment into value added processing operations with access to a diverse range of markets.
Although raw logs is not an issue of federal jurisdiction I welcome your thoughts on ways Government can promote more value added wood manufacturing. I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or toll free at 1-800-665-8711
This week the USA administration announced that softwood lumber imports into the United States from Canada would be subject to new duties ranging anywhere from 3% up to 24%. The highest duties will be primarily against producers here in Western Canada. Within hours many media sources were running headlines reporting a trade war had erupted. Closer to home BC NDP leader John Horgan accused Premier Christy Clark of failing to resolve the matter even though it is entirely an issue of Federal jurisdiction that resides at the feet of the federal Liberal Government to resolve.
I mention these things because this is an issue that for some is easy to play partisan politics with as the BC NDP has illustrated. However in reality forestry is a critically important industry not just in our riding of Central Okanagan Similkameen Nicola but in many ridings in British Columbia and let us not forget other regions of Canada. As an example in my riding the largest private sector employers in West Kelowna, Merritt and Princeton are all lumber mills. In the riding immediately south, South Okanagan—West Kootenay represented by NDP MP Richard Cannings, this is also the case and is one of the reasons why MP Cannings recently introduced a private members bill promoting the use of wood in Government related construction projects.
In short this is an issue that should be above partisan politics. I mention that resolving the softwood lumber dispute is an area of federal responsibility as it is unfair and inaccurate to suggest that the BC Government, or any provincial Government for that matter, has the ability to resolve the Softwood Lumber dispute. To be clear it should also be pointed out that this is a long term dispute and not a full blown trade war as some are attempting to claim. I believe it is also important to add that the Liberal Government, and in particular our Prime Minister, has shown restraint in not getting involved in USA domestic politics despite that it would be politically convenient to do so. In fact to date I believe most political pundits would agree that our Liberal Government has made considerable effort to work proactively with the new United States administration in several areas.
I mention all of these things as I believe that partisan politics and finger pointing will not constructively assist this situation and our combined focus should be on getting an agreement. If we can work together on a united approach we will increase our odds of success. Ultimately this challenge occurs because much of the United States timber is harvested from private land owners who are more successful in driving up revenues then our crown land system used primarily here in Canada. This in no way suggests that our crown land timber is subsidized, in fact all evidence to date and success at many trade dispute resolution tribunals consistently rule in Canada’s favour.
To further complicate this matter when the Canadian dollar exchange rate is factored in at roughly between 74-76 cents USD this in fact becomes a discount that USA lumber producers must compete against. Interestingly enough the USA administrations recently added new duty rates essentially wipe out the currency advantage that works in Canada’s favour essentially meaning that Canadian produced lumber will now arrive in the United States at a similar cost as USA produced lumber. I mention this only to add some perspective from the other side of the border.
There is no question both the Federal and many Provincial Governments will employ many strategies to attempt to help mitigate and resolve this issue as quickly as possible. From my perspective I will continue to support all measures that can bring this matter to a resolution as quickly as possible. I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or toll free at 1-800-665-8711 and welcome your comments and questions on this topic.
Last week the Liberal Government introduced the much anticipated Marijuana legalization bill, technically known as Bill C-45 “The Cannabis Act”. First let me state that the Liberals clearly campaigned on legalizing marijuana and I have heard from several citizens who indicated this was one of the primary reasons they voted Liberal in the last election. I mention this point as I believe the Liberal Government does have a democratic mandate to move forward with this legislation.
From a quick overview this Bill takes a very similar approach that I used with my wine bill that removes federal barriers but still allows Provinces to enact and adopt their own rules and regulations with respect to marijuana legislation. I will credit the Liberals for using this approach as it allows Provinces to individually respond to this legislation in whatever manner they believe is most workable.
So what is proposed? Bill C-45 proposes a number of measures related to the legalization of Marijuana, some of these include: that cannabis can only be sold to citizens age 18 or older although individual Provinces can raise the legal age limit if desired. It is further proposed that adults would legally be able to possess up to 30 grams of legal cannabis in public, and to grow up to four plants per household at a maximum height of one metre from a legal seed or seedling. However it should also be pointed out that until the new law comes into force, cannabis remains illegal in Canada, except for medical purposes.
With the proposed legalization also comes new proposed changes to penalties and enforcement with significant changes to impaired driving enforcement. A few examples of this include allowing the police to demand that a suspected driver provide an oral fluid sample on demand. New regulations would also be introduced with respect to restricting the THC level per millilitre (ml) of blood not unlike current restrictions related to blood alcohol content. There is also a provision to allow for mandatory roadside screening even if an officer does not have a suspicion of drug or alcohol use. Prison sentences of up to 14 years are also proposed for illegal distribution or sale of marijuana. It is also proposed that penalties of up to 14 years in prison may result for giving or selling marijuana to minors. These are just a few of the many changes that are proposed in Bill C-45 with respect to penalties and enforcement.
As is often the case with any proposed new legislation there are still many unanswered questions, a few of these include concerns from landlords as typically tenant insurance will be void if marijuana is grown in a rental property. Border crossings is another topic as the United States may refuse to allow entry to a citizen who has used marijuana. Policing and identifying legal marijuana from illegally sourced marijuana is also a serious concern as criminal organizations could potentially undercut legally sourced marijuana with higher THC content black market cannabis. There is also a concern that many cannabis vendors currently defying the existing laws may not comply with the new regulations and restrictions either thus ensuring that enforcement remains a challenge that many municipal and provincial police forces will be burdened with the costs of policing.
My thoughts? Many details will need to be worked out by individual provinces for a more detailed understanding of how the full implementation will occur that will be an important part of this discussion. One concern I do have is that the Canadian Medical Association, has stated that even occasional marijuana use can cause serious negative psychological effects on brain development up to the age 25. As a result of this medical evidence I believe a substantial public education campaign will be needed to better educate citizens on the mental health risks that marijuana legalization presents to children and young adults. I will continue to provide further updates on this topic as they become available. I welcome your comments and questions on marijuana legalization and can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.
Subscribe to the MP Report
Sign up now to get Dan's weekly MP report emailed directly to you!
Sign up now to get a monthly MP Report mailed directly to your home.
Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.