One of the buzz words emanating out of Ottawa this week is some talk of a national unity crisis. This discussion comes after Montreal Mayor Dennis Coderre announced strong opposition to the proposed Energy East pipeline project that is supported by the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and New Brunswick. The opposition from the Mayor of Montreal was particularly not well received within the Province of Alberta, who has for decades diligently paid into the Canadian equalization program that annually pays out billions of dollars to Quebec and none to Alberta, or for that matter currently British Columbia or Saskatchewan. Even well-known CBC comedian Rick Mercer entered into the debate focusing a rant segment entirely in support of the Energy East project while lambasting the stance from Montreal Mayor Coderre.
As a result the subject of pipelines has featured prominently in Ottawa this week including on Wednesday when the Liberal Government will announce a new pipeline review process and then Thursday the Official Opposition Conservatives will table a motion calling on the Liberal Government to express support for the Energy East project along with a number of other conditions. At the time of my writing this week’s MP report it is unknown what the new pipeline review process will be or what the outcome of the motion on Thursday is.
Also occurring this week is debate on the response to the Throne Speech, a debate that I was honoured to participate in. One of my reasons for speaking in response to the throne speech was to raise the importance of resource industries in rural communities. Here in Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola there are multiple lumber mills and a number of mines that are large scale employers on a regional basis. I also raised the subject of civic infrastructure as well as the importance of a new softwood lumber agreement to our British Columbia economy including the need to focus on inter Provincial trade.
Before I close this week’s report I would like to invite citizens to hold me to account at a public forum I will be hosting in West Kelowna on Saturday, January 30th at 6pm. Location is at the Westbank Lions Community Centre. There is no admission to attend or advance registration required. For those who cannot attend this forum I will be hosting more in other communities and as always I welcome your calls and emails. I can be reached via email at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or by phone at 1-800-65-8711.
This past week the world was horrified to learn of yet another terror attack, this time in Burkina Faso where roughly 30 citizens, including six Canadians from Quebec, were brutally murdered in a senseless act of violence.
What is particularly disturbing is that these Canadians were all serving in the region as humanitarian workers helping those who are less fortunate. This terror attack has again renewed calls on the Liberal Government to state a clear and coherent position on the allied campaign against terrorism. As many citizens will recall the Liberals made a promise to immediately withdrawal Canada's CF-18's from the allied aerial campaign against ISIS if they were elected. With the election over last October the Liberal Government has stated it will honour this promise however to date our CF-18's continue to be a valuable part of the coalition air campaign against ISIS.
This week there is a meeting of our allied Defence Ministers in Paris specifically on this subject where it has also been widely reported that Canada has not been invited. Although the Liberal Government has been clear it intends to withdrawal our CF-18 aircraft, the Government has also stated it will instead implement other measures that have yet to be announced. The Official Opposition believes that Canada should continue to stand with our allies in the war against terror as it has long been a Canadian tradition to stand with our allies to fight for those who are less fortunate or unable to stand against tyranny and oppression. This remains a challenging subject and one that can be divisive as I hear frequently from citizens who strongly support the mission but I also hear from those who are upset that our CF-18's are still actively bombing in spite of promises they would be withdrawn. I will continue to provide updates on this subject as they become available.
On an entirely different subject, late last week the Supreme Court announced that it will extend the deadline for Parliament to provide a legislative response to the assisted suicide ruling from last year. Although the Government requested a six month extension, the Supreme Court granted four months to reflect the time Parliament was dissolved as a result of the recent election. There is roughly twelve weeks the House of Commons will be sitting over the next four months so this will be a subject that will likely feature prominently once the House of Commons resumes sitting next week.
Although much of my time will be spent in Ottawa over the next few months I welcome your comments, questions and concerns. One of the highlights of my time in Ottawa is hearing directly from citizens throughout Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola on issues of importance to our local communities. In turn I am often able to share this information in member's statements, speeches and question within the House of Commons. I am truly excited for this next Parliament to get underway and to begin raising issues of concern in Ottawa. Ultimately this is how we help build a stronger Canada. I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or by phone at 1-800-665-8711.
For a variety of different reasons the subject of international trade has been prominent in federal politics over this past week. One issue frequently raised of late is a deal between General Dynamics Land Systems, located in Ontario, to sell light armored vehicles (LAV’s) to Saudi Arabia. This deal was supported by the former Conservative Government and is valued at $ 15 Billion and will sustain 3,000 jobs over the next decade. The controversy over this deal has been re-ignited given the Government of Saudi Arabia recently and publicly executed a large number of individuals provoking international condemnation (including from Canada) in the process. Some have suggested this deal should be cancelled on account of the poor human rights record of the Saudi Arabia Government. To further complicate this subject, while the Liberals were also very critical of this sale when in opposition now as Government they have indicated the deal will not be cancelled. In a related political twist the official opposition critic has now called for the Liberal Government to justify the reasons for the sale.
On a similar theme the subject of human rights records has so far not dominated the discussion that the Liberal Government may seek to complete a free trade agreement with the Government of China. Currently Canada has a trade imbalance with China as we export roughly $ 17 billion in largely resource products and in turn import just under $60 Billion of mostly manufactured goods. That said a recent report from the Canada China business council estimates a free trade deal with China could see Canada increase our exports by close to $8 billion over the next 15 years and also create upwards of 25,000 new jobs (as was reported by the National Post). It is expected the subject of a possible trade deal with China is one we will hear more about in the months ahead.
Finally this week Canada’s Minister of International Trade, the Hon. Chrystia Freeland, has been making the rounds including a visit to Vancouver, to consult on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Trade agreement that has not been formally ratified in Parliament. To date the Liberal Government has not indicated if they will support the TPP agreement although President Obama publicly stated after meeting with Prime Minister Trudeau that Canada will be signing onto the TPP agreement. On a more local note I contemplated crashing the Trade Minister’s Vancouver meetings to raise the importance of a new Canada USA Softwood lumber agreement (a subject I have also raised in Ottawa), however with the House returning in a few weeks I will again raise the issue in the months ahead.
Trade is not a subject I have heard much feedback on in our new riding of Central Okanagan Similkameen Nicola and as such I welcome your comments, questions and concerns. I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
In roughly two weeks’ time, the House of Commons will resume sitting and Canada’s 42nd Parliament will get down to work. At this point the legislative agenda remains largely unknown as the Liberal Government is expected to table a series of Government Bills that ultimately will determine what matters will first come before the House for debate. In addition to Government B ills, the Private Member’s Lottery has also now been held that determines in what order eligible MPs will see debate of their respective Private Member’s Bill or Motion in the House of Commons. The majority of Parliamentary Standing Committees are still yet to be announced that review Bills after they have reached 2nd reading in the House of Commons. In summary the next few weeks will remain active in Ottawa in preparation for Monday, January 25– the first sitting day of 2016.
Some of the issues that are expected to feature prominently in Ottawa over this new Parliament include the Liberal Government budget, responding to the Supreme Court ruling on physician assisted suicide, change to Canada’s current electoral system, a new process for appointing Canadian Senators, changes to Canada’s current aerial campaign with our allies against the terror group ISIS and continued updates on efforts to resettle Syrian refugees. Amid these challenges it has been a priority of mine to also raise the need for our Liberal Government to immediately engage with the United States Government on prioritizing a new Softwood Lumber Agreement. Given the importance of the BC lumber industry to many regions of our Province including Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola this will be a matter of vital importance.
Aside from these issues it is also important to work with local communities in identifying infrastructure priorities to ensure we can continue to see many important projects moving forward. From my perspective I am excited at the opportunity to represent the citizens of Central Okanagan- Similkameen-Nicola on these important issues but also invite citizens to share your comments, concerns and questions with me. Over the past four years I found that input from citizens was of vital importance in helping to shape the direction of Government.
As one example, after my MP report on assisted suicide the amount of response I received was both heartfelt and overwhelming. While a large amount of important concerns were expressed, the majority of those I heard from were generally supportive of physician assisted suicide. This in turn was shared in Ottawa and as this topic arises again it will be important that the concerns I heard can be satisfied. Specifically that no person is in a situation to consider physician suicide reluctantly out of concerns of quilt on the burden they might place on care givers. It is also clear that we must actively and aggressively continue to expand and offer more palliative care options. As it is expected that the Liberal Government will at some point table legislation in response to the Supreme Court ruling, I will continue to provide updates and solicit feedback from constituents.
While I have only provided a few examples of some of the many subjects expected to come before the 42nd Parliament, I am enthusiastic about the importance of this work as we continually seek to build a stronger Canada. As has always been my commitment to citizens, I will continue to provide weekly reports on what is occurring in Ottawa and welcome your comments, concerns and questions. Citizens deserve to be heard. On that note I would like to sincerely wish you all a Happy and prosperous 2016. I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or toll-free 1-800-665-8711.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.