My review of the Federal budget
This week the Liberal Government introduced the 2018 Budget. As is customary in Canadian democracy, it is the role of the Liberal government to promote what it views as the merits of their budget. As the Official Opposition, it is our job to illustrate the concerns we have with the budget.
On that note, I have a few.
It has become clear over this mandate, that the Prime Minister excels in making promises but often falls short on the delivery of said promises. For example, we were promised Electoral Reform, a National Housing Strategy, Infrastructure Investment, new fighter jets for our military…the list goes on.
This budget is no exception.
Mr. Trudeau distinctly promised Canadians that after a series of small deficits, his Government would return to a balanced budget in 2019. This budget demonstrates that the Liberals have no intention whatsoever of returning to balance in 2019. Budget 2018 calls for yet another deficit of $18 Billion this year. Based on the current pace, Mr. Trudeau will add $450 billion to Canada’s national debt over the next 27 years.
Why is this a concern?
In short: because you and I, pay interest on that debt.
By the year 2022, which is only four short years away, it’s estimated that Canadians will be making annual interest payments of 33 Billion dollars on that outstanding debt! To put that number in context, the amount of the annual transfer, that the Government of Canada provides the Provinces to deliver health care to Canadians, is currently $36 Billion.
Another promise in this budget relates to a National Pharmacare Program, an idea that has long been championed by the NDP. What’s interesting is there is no actual money allocated to pay for a National Pharmacare Program. Rather, the Liberals announced that they will create an advisory panel to further study the idea. This idea has already been studied in Ottawa for close to a decade. When it came to legalizing marijuana, the Liberals made a commitment to do so by July 1st of 2018. In my view, if the Liberals were serious about creating a National Pharmacare Program, they would have made similar timeline commitment and attached dollars in this budget to make it happen.
Regarding marijuana legalization, a seldom discussed proposal in this budget is a commitment to spend $546M over five years to enforce Federal pot legislation. This appears to be an admission that the Liberals now realize that illegal marijuana may well be a serious threat to undercutting legal marijuana. I mention this because one of the arguments for legalization from Mr. Trudeau was that there would be less need for law enforcement.
While the budget proposes to spend $546 Million to enforce marijuana legalization, it also proposes to spend less than half of that amount to fight opioid addiction. The budget calls for $231 Million to be spent over the next five years to fight the opioid crisis. That said, it is unclear how this money will be divided up between the provinces and territories.
Things not in the budget?
For the most part infrastructure, military, daycare, housing affordability and poverty reduction were items that received no significant upgrades or mention. The Liberals promoted this as a gender based budget and in fact used the word “gender” 359 times in a budget document that is 367 pages long.
My question this week:
Will this budget do anything to help you or your family?
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711
Free trade with India?
This week Prime Minister Trudeau is visiting/vacationing in India, a fact that has drawn some criticism from a variety of different sources.
The first criticism of this trip occurred when the Prime Minister arrived in India and many suggested Canada was ‘snubbed’ on account of India PM Narendra Modi not personally welcoming the entourage.
Was this an intentional slight and if so, why?
Interestingly, many foreign media sources are reporting the reason is related to allegations that Prime Minister Trudeau and members of his cabinet are sympathetic to radicalized operatives who support the Khalistan separatist movement in India.
It is further alleged that some of these operatives have close Canadian ties.
This is a complicated situation however in my view Prime Minister Trudeau has attempted to refute these allegations and has stated Canada’s long support for a united India.
Another announcement that has drawn criticism involved the subject of investment.
Earlier this week Prime Minister Trudeau announced that a $1 Billion dollar trade deal between Canada and India was reached. This good news announcement immediately drew headlines throughout Canadian media.
Critics and those knowledgeable in this area immediately cast doubt and challenged the validity of this claim.
Eventually it would be revealed that the trade deal is actually $750 Million of investment leaving Canada for India with $250 Million coming back to Canada in return.
In other words this is a $500 Million trade deficit for Canada.
As a result, the Prime Ministers office was forced to issue a correction that the Prime Minister ‘misspoke’ on the announcement.
My question this week:
Are you in favour of Canada pursuing a free trade agreement with India?
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.
Entitled to their entitlements
In my report last week, I wrote about the trade war between BC and Alberta. This spat has resulted in many British Columbia wineries ending up as political pawns, currently shut out of the Alberta marketplace.
I find this completely unacceptable.
This situation was in no way created by the BC wine industry but rather a politically motivated campaign by two NDP Provincial Governments.
The greater challenge is the Trudeau Liberal Government has repeatedly stated the Trans Mountain pipeline project is in Canada’s national interest and will get built.
However, missing from the Prime Minister's statements is when the Trans Mountain pipeline will be built and what measures he is prepared to invoke in order to ensure that Federal jurisdiction is not impugned.
In the absence of any federal leadership on this file, BC and Alberta have been left alone to duke it out.
As the Official Opposition, we attempted to encourage the Liberals to show some leadership this week with a motion we tabled in the House of Commons.
The motion was as follows:
“That, given the Trans Mountain Expansion Project is in the national interest, will create jobs and provide provinces with access to global markets, the House call on the Prime Minister to prioritize the construction of the federally-approved Trans Mountain Expansion Project by taking immediate action, using all tools available; to establish certainty for the project, and to mitigate damage from the current interprovincial trade dispute, tabling his plan in the House no later than noon on Thursday, February 15, 2018.”
I participated in the debate over this motion and also voted in support of it.
Unfortunately the motion was defeated.
It was no surprise when the NDP opposed this motion. The NDP have consistently opposed pipeline projects in the House of Commons.
It was a surprise when, not only did the Liberals oppose this motion, they did so unanimously.
That means even Liberal Members of Parliament from British Columbia voted against a motion that would support their BC wine industry and direct the Prime Minister to do his job, show federal leadership and end this dispute that is causing serious harm to the BC wine industry.
This follows a similar pattern where last week, when Liberal MP's voted against a motion that directed any costs incurred to tax payers, as a result of a Member of Parliament receiving a gift or hospitality benefit found in a conflict of interest, be repaid by the Member in question.
We already know that if a single parent is declared not to be eligible for the Canada Child Benefit, any benefits paid can result in a bank account being seized or wages garnisheed to recover those benefit payments.
From my perspective it is not unreasonable to expect that a Member of Parliament receiving benefits they are not entitled to receive should also be repayable to taxpayers, if a cost is involved.
It is my opinion that the Liberals are demonstrating an attitude of being entitled to entitlements. However, the Liberals continue to point out there is no law that suggests benefits obtained through a conflict need to be repaid if a cost occurs to taxpayers.
My question this week:
If an elected official receives a benefit that is in a conflict of interest should any resulting costs to taxpayer be repaid?
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.
Time for leadership
As of today we have a trade war brewing between duelling NDP Provincial Governments in BC and Alberta.
Make no mistake this provincial trade dispute will have economic repercussions for our region if it is not quickly resolved.
As one example, within hours of the announcement from Premier Notley targeting BC wine, I heard from one small family run winery owner who now faces the challenge of what happens with the 6,000 cases of wine ordered in Alberta. Mortgages, payroll, taxes and utilities all must be paid for this winery to survive.
There are well over one hundred wineries that do business within the Province of Alberta and many of those wineries are located right here in the Okanagan as part of the roughly $70 million Alberta wine market.
Why is this happening?
As many will know, despite the fact that energy projects such as pipelines are entirely under federal jurisdiction, BC NDP Premier John Horgan announced efforts to attempt to block or otherwise delay the federally approved Trans Mountain pipeline project. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau continues to insist this project is in Canada’s national interest and must move forward.
For the record, I fully support the Prime Minister’s decision on this. As I have previously stated, the Trans Mountain approval is subject to 157 binding conditions that are intended to address concerns ranging from First Nations, environment, project engineering as well as safety and emergency response.
The value of this project is just under $7-billion and will create 15,000 new jobs during construction. This pipeline will also generate $4.5 billion in federal and provincial government revenues. It should also be noted that this project replaces the existing Trans Mountain pipeline system between Edmonton, AB, and Burnaby, B.C. This existing pipeline is now over 50 years old.
Where I fault the Prime Minister, aside from continually voicing strong support for the Trans Mountain pipeline project, he has provided no further explanation on what actions his Government is prepared to invoke in order to see the pipeline project is constructed without political interference from the BC NDP Government.
In the absence of this firm directive from the Prime Minister, the Alberta NDP Government is now taking actions it believes are necessary to defend both the interests of Alberta and the national interest of Canada, as voiced by the Prime Minister.
Innocent small family run BC wineries will now face very serious economic circumstances beyond their control and that is entirely unacceptable.
If the Supreme Court of Canada rules in favour in the Comeau case and ensures interprovincial trade of Canadian products is a constitutional right, this situation could be very different.
However the motion I tabled in Ottawa to expedite the Comeau case, supported by the NDP and Green parties, was voted down by the Liberals.
What should happen?
We know that when Quebec based Bombardier was threatened in a trade dispute Prime Minister Trudeau cancelled an aircraft order with Boeing and released future military procurement policy that factors in Canada’s economic interests.
In other words the Prime Minister stood up to defend Bombardier’s interests.
In my view if Prime Minister Trudeau truly believes the Trans Mountain pipeline project is in Canada’s national interests, he need to step up and ensure that project is built.
My question this week: Do you agree?
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call 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.
Central Okanagan – Similkameen – Nicola