I have in several of my previous weekly MP Reports covered the topic of single parents; most often single mothers, being unfairly denied Canada child benefit payments.
As a result of these reports I have received numerous pleas for assistance. I have also heard many disturbing situations having occurred as a result of often heavy handed and unfair actions by the Canada Revenue Agency.
In fact, when one includes the efforts by CRA to tax employee discounts and the challenges that many citizens encounter when attempting to call CRA, I would submit that in the past twelve months no single federal agency has resulted in more public anger directed to my office than the CRA.
I say anger as a recently released report from the Auditor General revealed that CRA actually blocks more than half the calls it receives at call centres, where people are looking for assistance.
This is an entirely unacceptable situation.
To be clear, this is not the fault of front line staff who I have often found try to be helpful.
Ultimately I fault senior management and the Minister responsible.
I mention these things because I was shocked this week to learn that the Trudeau Liberal Government authorized senior executives at CRA to receive on average a $35,000 bonus payment.
On top of that, it was also revealed that in the first fiscal year of the Liberal Government, overall executive bonus payments were not only significantly increased, they were double the rate of inflation!
That is almost twice as much as was increased to the rest of the public service!
For many public servants, who have been adversely impacted by the Phoenix payroll system, this is a troubling situation.
By the numbers, CRA executive bonus pay increases authorized by the Liberals was 3.2%.
The pay increase for the majority of the public sector was 1.25% in comparison.
As some may recall last year, it was reported that the Liberals had also increased the number of bureaucrats in Ottawa to the highest level in almost a decade. An increase of 14,000 more staff in the Ottawa capital region alone.
For the 2017 fiscal year, the overall number of federal staff, Canada wide, increased by another 3700 bringing the total number to 262,696. For some added context, in the year 2000 there was a total of 211,925 federal staff across all departments.
My question this week relates to executive bonus payments within the Federal Government:
Are you concerned with CRA bonus payments being awarded by the Liberals at more than twice the rate of inflation?
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
In an early December MP report I covered the topic of "progressive trade" that has been frequently mentioned by the Trudeau Liberal Government.
In a more recent MP Report on the status of NAFTA discussions, I raised the topic of progressive trade and asked the question "Do you believe the prime minister should abandon the demand to include "progressive trade" language in trade negotiations or do you view this as something that Canada should be steadfast on"?
I am thankful that each week my MP Reports generate a considerable amount of feedback and on this particular question the response was overwhelming.
The vast majority of the feedback I received was that the demand to include "progressive trade" language should be abandoned.
It appears even the Prime Minister had taken this advice as this week we learned that Canada will now be signing on to the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) deal that has since been renamed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.
The revised text that Canada agreed to contains no elements whatsoever related to the progressive trade values that had been previously demanded by the Liberal Government.
The Official Opposition supports this agreement and on a personal note I would like to publicly credit the Prime Minister for demonstrating some flexibility and dropping demands that other countries would not accept.
As I have previously pointed out most Canadians would not accept values from another country being imposed on Canada to accept a trade deal so it is an unrealistic expectation that other countries would adopt our values.
However. while I view most of this as a positive there is still another problem.
In a word competitiveness.
Here in Canada, we will have an increase to CPP Premiums that employers contribute to. In addition we will soon have a national carbon tax that will be coming into effect that some economists predict will become a $30 Billion a year tax grab by the year 2022. Top income earners in many Canadian provinces are now facing a personal tax rate over 50% of what they earn.
The challenge is that all of these factors add costs to doing business here in Canada.
It should be noted that in many cases these same costs are NOT being imposed by other countries that Canada competes with.
Further a free trade agreements means that a company can set up an operation in another country to take advantage of these lower costs and then freely access the Canadian marketplace and thereby undermine certain interests in Canada in terms of jobs and business investment. In return there may be a decrease in cost to consumers and foreign imports that may help some industries, in addition to more market access for our industries- like wood, agriculture and specialized manufacturing in our riding.
This, in theory, is where "Progressive Trade" comes in.
If other countries were willing to adopt some of these labour and environmental policies that would correspondingly increase costs the international trade playing field would be more level and Canadian interest would be better protected.
The challenge is that many other countries are well aware of this and are using a lower cost regulatory environment to be more competitive in attracting investment, not unlike what has just occurred with the United States significantly reducing business taxes.
As it stands Business investment peaked in 2014 under the former Conservative Government and since the Liberal Government has been in power has declined to the point where Canada now ranks 16th out of 17 OECD Countries in this category.
My question this week: are you concerned about the decline in business investment?
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
There has been some confusion and misunderstanding regarding changes to the Canada Summer Jobs program for students that are deserving of some clarification.
This confusion has arisen because the Trudeau Liberal Government inserted a mandatory values test into the application process.
Applicants must attest that their organization's core mandate supports values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
This seems like an innocent change however the Liberal Government also included a number of other rights to the list, including reproductive rights.
It is the demand to attest to reproductive rights that has created confusion and in some cases strong disagreement.
Why the confusion and disagreement?
Essentially because the Charter of Rights and Freedoms contains no language specifically related to reproductive rights.
The Supreme Court struck down laws around this area and in the absence of any new laws, created a legal vacuum.
That said, the Charter does protect freedom of conscience and religion.
Many faith groups, who hold pro-life views, feel that their charter rights are being discriminated against in these changes to the Canada Summer Jobs program for students.
To be fair to the changes to the Canada Summer Job's guidelines, there is a disclaimer that states “an organization that is affiliated with a religion does not itself constitute ineligibility for this program.”
I view this as a positive indicator, given that faith groups perform many valuable community services, such as running soup kitchens, youth programs, sponsoring private refugees and other community charity related activities that help our most vulnerable.
The challenge is that many organizations of faith who may not necessarily be excluded from the summer jobs program have expressed a reluctance of applying due to their belief that the new restrictions discriminate against those who have pro-life views.
Although I am clearly not a member of the Liberal Government, I believe these changes were more intended to prevent organizations that actively campaign for laws against the termination of a pregnancy from being eligible to receive summer student job funding.
Herein is another challenge because the right to oppose abortion is also protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The bottom line is the Trudeau Liberals have politicized the Canada Summer Jobs program for students jobs by deciding certain charter rights have priority over others.
These kinds of decisions often end up before our Supreme Court.
As I write this week’s report, I believe a legal action against these changes may already be underway.
My question this week:
Do you agree with the changes to the Canada Summer Jobs program for students, that reinterprets the Charter in this way?
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.
I was asked recently what I thought would be one the most pressing political issues in 2018.
Although my list of possible answers to that question is a lengthy one ultimately I believe that the future of NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, may well be Canada's most pressing concerns. Even the Prime Minister is quoted as suggesting that the 'unpredictability' of NAFTA keeps him awake at night.
The concern is an understandable one.
NAFTA represents some big numbers. In 2015, Canada-U.S. trade in goods and services reached close to $881 billion. The United States is the number one destination for Canadian merchandise exports. Close to 80% of all Canadian exports end up in the US.
Between 1993 and 2015 Canadian merchandise exports to USA increased annually at a rate of almost 4.6 percent. I could continue citing many significant numbers but more importantly we have to look beyond the numbers.
Ultimately these numbers relate to jobs. As part of my work as a Member of Parliament, I often visit with many small, medium and even large scale private employers. It is increasingly common to find goods and service providers that have found lucrative markets somewhere in the United States.
I mention private sector employers because we must never forget it is the private sector that pays for the public sector.
Recently at a public forum in Sackville, Nova Scotia, Prime Minister Trudeau called the United States an "unruly neighbor".
Also this week Canada initiated a WTO (World Trade Organization) complaint against the United States on the eve of the next round of NAFTA negotiations. In response the United States has called this WTO complaint a "broad and ill-advised attack".
These actions have led to significant amounts of speculation on the future of the NAFTA agreement.
One of the additional challenges has been the Prime Minister's insistence that trade deals should be based on "progressive trade" and include language around topics such as labour, gender and environmental rights.
This begs the question - would Canadians accept societal values from another country demanded upon us in order to accept a trade deal?
So far the USA, China and other TransPacific Partnership (TPP) member nations have either rejected outright or raised concerns about this approach to trade.
With Canada being unable to advance further trade relations in other markets, there is now greater pressure for success in the NAFTA negotiations.
My question this week- do you believe the Prime Minister should abandon the demand to include "progressive trade" language in trade negotiations or do you view this as something that Canada should be steadfast on?
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free 1-800-665-8711
It is unusual to have Ottawa related political news occurring this time of year.
However, recently the unusual in politics has become the usual.
In late December, media were made aware of what they described as a "secret meeting" that occurred between Prime Minister Trudeau and Joshua Boyle. Joshua Boyle was recently freed after being held in captivity in Afghanistan for the previous five years.
Why media were suspicious of this particular meeting was due to the fact that the meeting, and the reasons for it, were not publicly disclosed by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
Journalists only discovered this meeting had occurred when members of the Boyle family circulated pictures on social media.
This week Ottawa police announced that Joshua Boyle was being charged with 15 different offences from alleged actions that include assault, sexual assault, unlawful confinement, uttering threats, public mischief and administering a noxious thing. These alleged offences are related to the period of time since Mr. Boyle returned to Canada in October 2017.
As a result of this situation there are serious questions being asked on why the Prime Minister requested a meeting with Mr. Boyle. By extension questions have been raised on security protocols that should protect the Prime Minister. The judgement of the advisers who represent Mr.Trudeau in allowing this meeting to go forward also come into focus.
The judgement of the advisers working in the PMO was also raised when the Prime Minister was recently found guilty of four counts of ethics violations. These violations were related to free luxury vacations the Prime Minister accepted from a registered lobbyist who receives millions in Government of Canada funding.
The judgement of advisers and political staff is a subject that is seldom raised outside of Ottawa.
For obvious reasons, it is being questioned currently.
I have also had some questions on this topic and I can report that the most recently audited expenses for what is called the “Trudeau PMO” were $8.3 Million in the 2016-2017 fiscal period.
As a comparison this figure is higher than during any year in the previous Prime Minister’s last term in office.
All elected officials have staff and in the case of politically appointed staff, they typically only work in their capacity until the writ period, when the election is called. At that point, the vast majority will become unemployed.
Rehiring depends on who is re-elected and if employment is again offered.
In the case of the Prime Minister, some are suggesting a staff shakeup is required. Others see this as unfairly throwing the staff under the bus.
Most agree that answers are needed on why Prime Minister Trudeau met with Joshua Boyle and why this meeting was kept confidential.
My question this week – Do you believe Canadians deserve an answer to why this meeting was held between Prime Minister Trudeau and Joshua Boyle?
I can be reached by email Dan.Albas@parl.g.ca or at 1-800-665-8711.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.