As much as there has been considerable attention on how the new American administration may impact Canada from an economic perspective, overlooked thus far has been the impact to Canada on illegal refugee entry. As you may be aware in parts of Manitoba and Quebec there has been a significant increase of refugees illegally crossing into Canada creating considerable concern on the overall integrity of Canada’s immigration and refugee system. The concern is that if refugees can enter Canada illegally in an effort to obtain status it may encourage others to follow a similar course of illegal action as opposed to making a legal application through the existing process.
To be fair to the refugees, there are concerns they may be deported from the Unites States as a result of a crackdown on illegal immigration by the new administration. At the same time, Prime Minister Trudeau has stated that Canadians will welcome those who are turned away or refused entry in the USA. Although I do not believe the Prime Minister intended to encourage illegal entry into Canada his comments have certainly encouraged some to do precisely that.
To further complicate this situation Canada and the Unites States in 2002 signed the “Safe Third Country Agreement”. This agreement essentially means that any person seeking refugee status must make a claim in the first country they arrive in, either Canada or the United States. Meaning that the recent refugees crossing the border illegally from the United States into Canada cannot, in effect, apply for refugee status here in Canada. As a result some, including the NDP, have called on the Liberal Government to suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement. An action that to date the Liberals have stated they will not consider.
This is a difficult situation as many of those illegally entering Canada, if they are deported back to the United States, may well again be deported back to their home countries where very real threats and dangers may exist. At the same time if Canada does allow the “Safe Third Party” agreement to be suspended it will set a precedent that could result in potentially significant amounts of refugees illegally entering Canada and at the same time undermining the integrity of our refugee and immigration system. For that reason I believe the Liberals will need to proceed cautiously in how this situation is resolved.
Currently there is no legislative measures being contemplated in the House of Commons with respect to this matter. On the same theme I would be interested in hearing your views on the subject of refugees illegally entering Canada from the United States. Do you support the Safe Third Country agreement being lifted or should our current laws remain in effect and be enforced? I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
Earlier in the week all eyes were focused on the White House for the historic first meeting of President Trump and Prime Minister Trudeau. While no official agreements were reached at this meeting by most accounts it was a positive first encounter of the two world leaders. While many were disappointed and critical that Prime Minister Trudeau did not publicly denounce some of President Trump’s policies in my view I believe our Prime Minister set the right tone and was wise to not engage in United States political debate. Canada and the United States share the world’s most successful trading relationship and while the Prime Minister may have earned political favour here in Canada for engaging in United States political advocacy the decision to refrain and focus on a more cordial tone was from my perspective a wise choice. Hopefully in the near future this new relationship will result in agreements on softwood lumber and other trade related measures in a mutually beneficial manner.
With so much attention on this meeting overlooked was recent changes coming to Canada’s mortgage regulations and one in particular that I would like to share more information on. As a Member of the Finance Committee one of the duties we perform is to hear from expert witnesses and industry stakeholders on how newly announced or changed finance regulations can impact Canadians. As an example of this with respect to the mortgage changes we learned that for those who might re-finance an existing mortgage there are some potentially significant changes that may result in Canadians paying much higher interest rates on a re-financed mortgage.
Currently Canadians who re-finance a mortgage have the security of having that mortgage insured by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) this guarantee means the mortgage is of low risk to lenders and as a result many lenders, including several private lenders, compete to offer very competitive interest rates. This is often why homeowners will take advantage of re-financing a mortgage as the low interest funds might be used to invest in a small business, to finance home renovations or even help deal with a lifestyle change such as divorce or a pro-longed strike or lockout. Debt consolidation is another potential factor. Whatever the reason one may choose to refinance a mortgage, the CMHC Insurance is a protection available to Canadian homeowners. With the proposed mortgage changes this CMHC Insurance on a re-financed mortgage will be taken away.
The lack of CMHC Insurance of a re-financed mortgage does not mean one cannot still re-finance however without the CMHC Insurance the interest rates will be considerably higher and there will be fewer competitors as we heard from many expert witnesses at the Finance Committee.
From my perspective these changes are puzzling. CMHC is not a program subsidized by Canadians. Those who use the services of CMHC pay fees that not only fully cover the costs of CMHC they in fact turn a profit with net income in excess of $2 billion annually. If anything these changes will not only cost Canadians who re-finance more money in higher interest rates, they will likely also see a reduction in the profit created by CMHC derived from the user fees. So why is the Liberal Government making these changes? As yet we don’t know. Several bureaucrats interviewed at the Finance Committee have yet to offer up a coherent answer. As a result I tabled a motion for the Finance Minister to attend in person to explain this policy decision. Fortunately my motion was supported by enough Liberal MPs on the Finance Committee to pass and I will have a further update on this subject.
My question today is a simple one. Do you believe Canadians should continue to receive CMHC Insurance on a re-financed mortgage? I welcome your comments and concerns on this or any topic before the House of Commons and can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711
“We are committed to ensuring that the 2015 election will be the last federal election using first past the post” – Justin Trudeau, during the June 2015 election writ period.
“What Mr. Trudeau proved himself today to be is a liar of the most cynical variety of politicians saying whatever it takes to get elected” NDP MP Nathan Cullen, February 1st, 2017
Ottawa has been in an uproar this past week over news from Prime Minister Trudeau that his promise on democratic reform will join the growing list of broken Liberal promises.
What is most alarming and disappointing about the announcement to abandon democratic reform is that the reason offered by the Liberals was that there was no clear consensus on how to move forward. While not everyone supported the idea of electoral reform of those who did there was overwhelming support expressed for proportional representation and claims to the contrary are patently untrue.
Likewise there was also strong support for a democratic referendum on this very question of electoral reform. Curiously the Liberal Government spent millions on an online democratic reform survey but deliberately left out asking questions of this very nature leaving many to speculate “the fix” so to speak, was set some time ago.
It is unclear where the Liberal Government will go from this point as there has been a very significant outcry from many Canadians who did strongly support changes being made to our electoral process. I mention this because recently we did see an example where the Liberal Government did in fact hear the concerns of Canadians and responded accordingly.
As you may recall in last week’s report I briefly referenced the potential for the Liberal Government to make taxation changes that would see employer provided health and dental benefits become a taxable benefit. Such a tax change could cost Canadians families over $1,000 a year or more and as a result many were strongly opposing this potential new tax grab. Fortunately the Liberal Government listened and the Prime Minister confirmed that health and dental benefits plans will not be treated as a taxable benefit. I will applaud the Government for listening to the concerns of Canadians on the important topic of not raising taxes.
Another concern I have been raising in Ottawa is related to recent changes to mortgage regulations. Last week at the Finance Committee we heard from many expert witnesses on how newly proposed mortgage changes may adversely impact Canadians.
While many are aware of mortgage changes that raise the threshold to qualify for a mortgage, many were very surprised to learn that under the proposed changes those who want to re-finance an existing mortgage will find it more difficult to obtain financing due to less financing options and more than likely an increase to the mortgage rate.
The reason for this is under the new set of rules; Mortgage Insurers such as CMHC, Genworth, and Canada Guarantee will no longer be able to provide mortgage insurance for refinances. This affects many of Canadian lenders who need to obtain the backing of mortgage insurance for all mortgages, regardless of the nature of the mortgage.
As the public servants involved in this area could not provide a coherent reason for this punitive policy a motion I put forward to have the Finance Minister appear directly before the Finance Committee was adopted thanks in part to some Liberal MPs voting in support. I will provide a further update on this subject as it becomes available.
I welcome your comments and concerns and can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
It was my intent this week to cover the topic of employer provided health benefits potentially being taxed by the Liberal Government. This is by far the largest single issue that I have heard from constituents since the beginning of this Parliament; however that is not surprising given recent media reports that the Conference Board of Canada estimated a family earning $45,000 annually could end up paying an extra $1,167 a year in Federal taxes. This study was based on a family from Ontario, however it is understandable why many Canadians are deeply concerned about the potential for such a substantial federally imposed taxation increase. This is a subject I will cover in greater detail in a future report.
The subject that needs to be addressed this week is the senseless and brutal violence that took the lives of six Canadians at a Quebec City mosque. The intent of my report is more than to simply condemn this brutal and unacceptable violence that has no place in Canadian society. I would also like to pass on some troubling observations. If you followed the reporting of this incident closely you will know that many credible news organizations reported unverified information that included details such as multiple suspects and in some cases names were even published– all prior to official information being released by the police. The trouble I have with this is that when a name is publicized by media that suggests it could be a more common name from a Muslim populated country there is immediate speculation that the event in question may be some form of Jihadi inspired terrorism.
Had this tragedy been committed by a recently arrived refugee indeed very serious concerns would be raised about the integrity of our refugee vetting process and inevitably would also raises suspicions and weaken public trust at the thought other potential terrorists may have also slipped into Canada through the cracks. This can compromise, undermine and overlook that refugees come to Canada to escape these very things and is counterproductive to building the strong and diversified Canada that we all collectively celebrate on July 1st of every year.
We now know, thanks to verified information from the police, that the only suspect involved in this disturbing indecent is a University student born and raised in Quebec. While I will credit news organizations like CBC for quickly correcting the record, I would also like to point out considering our societal sensitivity to these tragedies it is critically important that we not rush to get out details that may be misleading or worse as we saw were completely incorrect. In other words it`s important to take the time to wait for official police information and refrain from reporting unverified information that can lead to dangerous speculation.
I would also like to take a moment to extend sincere condolences to the family and friends who have lost loved ones in this senseless tragedy. I know in all parts of Canada, there is collective grieving with many vigils to show unity against this brutal act of disturbing violence, terrorism and hate related crime. Our diversity in Canada is part of what makes us stronger as a nation. May we always live in a country where we stand united to defend those values. I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call 1-800-665-8711.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.