This will be a very busy week given that the House of
Commons is again sitting. On Monday I was scheduled for a Member’s statement and was proud to recognize our local athletes who will be participating in the upcoming Olympic Games in Sochi. Competing in both the 2 man and 4 man Bobsled from Summerland is Justin Kripps. I would also like to congratulate Justin and his brakeman Bryan Barnett from Edmonton for winning their first world cup 2-man bobsled event in Germany this past weekend. Also headed for Sochi from Penticton is Matt Margetts, a talented freestyle skier competing in the exciting half pipe event. Finally Penticton’s very own Duncan Keith will return to the blue line as a member of our National hockey team for the 2nd time. These young athletes are great role models for our future leaders and I know that many local citizens join me in wishing our athletes great success in Sochi.
Also occurring in the House of Commons on Monday is an emergency debate on the situation in the Ukraine. At this point the outcome of the debate is undetermined, however many Canadians are strongly concerned at growing violence that has resulted in the death of Ukraine citizens. The right
of peaceful protest is an important one in any democratic society. As our Prime Minister recently pointed out in a speech to the Knesset “the ideals of freedom, democracy and the rule of law are not mere notions.They are the things that, over time and against all odds, have proven to be the only ground in which human rights, political stability, and economic prosperity, may flourish.”. I believe
these thoughts should not be lost on the Ukraine, as citizens in that country face some very serious challenges.
There will also be a number of votes this week largely on private member`s bills. Bill C-475, An Act to amend the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act and Bill C-513, Retirement ncome Bill of Rights are two Bills coming forward while debate also continues on Government Bills C-2, The Respect for Communities Act and Bill C-12, The Drug-Free Prisons Act. The Opposition day motion and related votes will also be coming later in the week and may possibly involve recent Canada Post announcements regarding future door to door mail delivery.The Minister of Finance has also announced that the budget will occur earlier this year than recent years. The exact date for the budget has been set for February 11th, 2014 at 1 PM Pacific Standard Time. If you have a comment or concern on matters before the House of Commons or would like further information please do not hesitate to contact my office. During the House sessions I am generally available after dinner BC time. I can be reached via email at email@example.com or toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
Recently one of our local newspapers in Okanagan-Coquihalla asked an online survey question to readers, the question was a simple one: “Do you support the CRTC’s wireless code of conduct?”. What got my attention was that nearly 70% of those who took part in the survey felt the code of conduct was either confusing or that they lacked enough information to form an accurate opinion. It is always concerning when such a large percentage of citizens indicate they lack sufficient information on a subject.
In this case information has been publicly available since the code of conduct was announced in June of last year however many may have tuned it out because while the announcement was made in June, the actual policy did not take effect until December 2nd of 2013. Another reason may be that the wireless code of conduct will be implemented differently dependent upon individual circumstances:
For any new wireless contract signed on December 2 of 2013 (or more recently) you are
already covered under the new wireless code of conduct.
What if your contract is dated previous to December 2nd of 2013?
If your pre-existing contract is renewed, extended or has had the key terms amended after December 2, 2013 the wireless code of conduct will also apply to your contract.
What if your contract was signed prior to December 2nd of 2013 and you have no need to renew, extend or otherwise change the terms of your contract?
As of June 3rd of 2015 the wireless code of conduct will apply to all wireless contracts regardless of when they were signed.
What are the benefits of the wireless code of conduct?
Here is a brief summary of the conditions the Code of Conduct places on wireless providers to your benefit as customers: the ability to cancel your contract at no cost after a maximum of two years, the ability to cancel your contract and return your phone at no cost, within 15 days (and specific usage limits), if you are unhappy with the service, to be able to have your phone unlocked after 90 days, or immediately if you paid in full for your phone. Also included is the option to have your service suspended at no cost if your phone is lost or stolen, to receive a notification when you are roaming in a different country, disclosing what the rates are for voice services, text messages, and data usage, to limit your data overage charges to $50 a month and your data roaming charges to $100 a month and to charge no extras for a service described as “unlimited”. You may also refuse a change to the key terms and conditions of your contract, including the services in your contract, the price for those services, and the duration of your contract. The above changes in some cases apply differently to pre-paid wireless services.
If you have further questions or comments on the wireless code of conduct please do not hesitate to contact me directly.
Next week I will be back in Ottawa as the House of Common is back in session, with the exception of the odd brief break the House will sit from now until late June. As always if you have a question or a concern I am always happy to hear from you. I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or toll-free 1-800-665-8711.
Back in a mid November report I asked for input on the subject of pipelines. To my surprise, the amount of feedback I received was not as a strong as I was hoping for. What was not surprising is the comments I did hear back were quite divided with some strongly opposed to all pipelines and others in support of some pipelines and not others while some strongly support all pipelines. The pipeline discussion is an important one as alternative petroleum transport solutions such as rail also carry risks that provoke important discussions on how Canada can best meet our future energy needs. One part of this discussion that has been largely absent is the question why Canada is currently in this situation.
One truth that we as Canadians must face is that per capita Canada is one of the greatest consumers of transportation fuels world-wide. This is not a surprise given that we are a large and vast country. Even many of those who come to protest pipelines in front of my office often drive long distances to do so. By the numbers Canada has close to one million kilometres of roads and we see over one million flights per year in the air. Ambulances, fire trucks and other first responder vehicles all use fuel. Many of our largest private sector employers depend upon the
movement of goods, commodities and workers to survive. In fact one semi-truck will cross the border on average every two seconds moving roughly $2 billion worth of goods on a daily basis. This all adds up to roughly 110 million litres of gasoline and an additional 50 million litres of diesel – used not every month nor every week but every day in our various forms of petroleum powered
When you combine Canadian gasoline and diesel fuel consumption in an average day that amounts to 160 million litres and at times this number increases to 200 million litres a day. Alternatives? Biofuel offers lower emissions but also lower energy density meaning more biofuel is required to cover the same distance as conventional gasoline. Natural Gas is another alternative that is currently strongly supported by the BC Provincial Government. Although there is a higher upfront cost and a lack of infrastructure it is cleaner burning and offers potential. Electricity including hybrids has been on the market in Canada for close to 15 years. In spite of a growing selection of hybrid models of the 1.6 million vehicles sold in 2012 less then 1% were hybrids as many consumers are reluctant to embrace this platform. In many respects this leaves technology and vehicles that burn less gasoline or diesel but do so in a more emissions efficient manner. For example a 2005 or newer vehicle will produce 90% less smog then a vehicle from 1993 or older. These transportation trends point to a continued need for a significant daily supply of oil and gas to meet our energy needs.
When looking at these same transportation demands the question of supply and the need to move our supply around Canada safely becomes a key concern. Currently Canada has the third
largest oil reserve worldwide- however this is only true if the oil sands are included. While some suggest the oil sands should be shut down it must be pointed out shutting down the oil sands would create a loss of 97% of Canada’s oil reserve. This would seriously impact the security of our petroleum supply and more so in Western Canada as we consume more crude oil per day then
other regions in Canada. Currently there are 18 major refineries across Canada producing slightly in excess of 300 million litres of refined petroleum products every day. These same refineries employ a total of 17,500 Canadians and contribute $2.5 billion to our GDP annually. Due to the fact that Canada’s existing pipeline infrastructure is either at capacity in some regions or nonexistent in others this results in some areas of Canada exporting petroleum while others import gasoline from outside of Canada. Ultimately Canada is a net exporter of oil.
Currently there are over 12,000 gas stations in Canada with higher volume locations pumping upwards of 10 million litres of fuel per year primarily for automotive use. This does not include oil used for propane/butane, asphalt, aviation fuel, motor oil, and other uses. Transportation as an industry currently makes up over 6% of Canada’s overall economic output. To some this week’s report may sound like a promotion of the Oil Sands. That is not the intent. I believe it is important to have an overview and an understanding on the fact that as Canadians the reality is the use of
petroleum is a significant part of our everyday lives. Given our current consumption rates and the fact that 97% of our oil reserves are in the oil sands the importance of how we develop and safely transport our future energy needs
are critically important questions that we as Canadians must face. This is an
important discussion and one I continue to welcome your input on. I can
be reached at email@example.com or
toll free at 1-800-665-8711
On Monday of this week I read with dismay that the 80 year old Kamloops Daily News will cease publication within the next two months. I was immediately reminded of July in 2012 when many were equally saddened to learn of the final publication of the Merritt News. Community newspapers not only provide jobs, they also provide an important voice for citizens and often act as a forum on issues of importance to a region. Many of the comments and questions that I receive each week are often based directly on media reports, columns and interviews. In fact this week I can cite a recent example of the influence of local newspapers here in Okanagan-Coquihalla.
In a weekend newspaper article, one of our local Mayor’s was quoted as stating that he believes “that it's the federal government's duty to bring back some of the federal tax dollars into this community for the purpose of infrastructure”. Within hours of the column running I received both calls and emails from concerned taxpayers asking if Federal tax dollar transfers had been reduced or increased and by how much. Fortunately as a subscriber to the newspaper in question, I was able to find the article in question and provide the information back to the citizens who took the time to contact my office and share their concerns. For the record, here is that information.
Federal transfers to the Provinces in the upcoming fiscal year will reach close to $65 billion. This is actually close to a $3 billion increase over the past fiscal year and is 50% more money than was transferred to Provinces back in 2006. In other words Federal tax dollars transfers have actually increased significantly. In terms of infrastructure projects since 2006 over 43,000 projects have been funded across Canada with many in the communities of Okanagan-Coquihalla. Currently close to $70 billion is budgeted over the next decade towards future infrastructure projects. In contrast the previous government invested $10 billion over the entire 13 years they were in power.
Each summer I have travelled the riding on a listening tour; one of the items that has received ongoing support from many local Mayors is the enhancement of the Gas Tax fund for infrastructure. Initially conceived as a way for municipalities to create specified infrastructure projects, the initial feedback from communities is that it was too limited in terms of scope and investment to meet the needs of a specific community. Since taking office in 2006, our Government has doubled the Gas Tax fund, and also expanded the criteria to include roads, water infrastructure (a critical need in some communities) and public walking trails and corridors. The Brown Road upgrades in West Kelowna and Summerland traffic roundabouts with related sidewalks that include bus stops and lighting are good examples of these types of infrastructure. I was happy to vote in favour of making this 2 Billion a year fund permanent and indexed to inflation so that communities will know that they can count on stable and increased funding based on community needs, rather than endlessly chasing down grants du jour dictated from senior levels of Government.
The reality is that by all accounts transfers to the provinces and infrastructure spending has been significantly increased across the board. As a former city councillor I can recall waste-water, water improvement, and community centre projects among others that all received significant federal infrastructure dollars that were partnered with Provincial and local Government funds to ensure successful project completion.
The reason why I raise the issue of increased Federal transfers to provinces and significantly expanded infrastructure spending is due to the fact that as taxpayers it is your money and you deserve transparency from all levels of government on the spending of your tax dollars. Had a local newspaper not reported on this particular story from a local perspective many readers would have not been aware that transfers were in fact increasing and the absence of this information could be used as a means to attempt to raise taxes without a full accounting to local ratepayers. We should also be mindful that most newspapers are supported financially by advertisers in local small businesses. When a small business faces fiscal challenges often it is advertising and by extension newspapers that can feel the brunt of these economic realities. In some respects a community newspaper is somewhat of a barometer on the state of a community and the recent loss in Kamloops will be hard felt throughout the region and also in outlying communities such as Merritt and Logan Lake. Let us all remember to support our local media in 2014. If you have a comment, concern or question as always I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.