Even as far away as Ottawa the success of the Westbank and
Osoyoos First Nations in terms of investment and development are well known. From time to time I am also asked about why Penticton Indian Band has not to date been as successful in attracting similar levels of investment and development. There are of course many reasons for this, however there are also some factors that are unique to Penticton that are often not taken into consideration in this discussion. One of the challenges for many First Nations bands is that not all land is band land– many lands are “locatee lands”– these lands are very similar to privately held land where locatees can make land use decisions independently of locally elected band Chiefs and their respective councils.
Although a First Nations band cannot directly control locatee lands, a band Chief & council do have similar authority to enact expropriation and can collect revenues from improvements on locatee lands through taxation. Ultimately when reserves were first created borders were established between band lands and locate lands. Unfortunately for some bands, specifically the Penticton Indian Band, many of the bands most economically valuable lands are geographically isolated by a combination of different factors. In some cases band lands are isolated by locatee lands, as is often the case for Penticton, however it should also be noted that both the airport and the channelization of the Okanagan River system (that was done to prevent flooding
and prevent costly property damage) also strategically cut off economically viable lands from critically needed access and services.
Without access and services it is difficult to attract investment and development that in turn generates revenue and creates employment. It is for these reasons that the Penticton Indian Band has been working with all levels of government to build a new bridge between the two
communities that will allow the band to attract development and investment similar to other successful First Nations in the Okanagan. It is also important to recognize these projects do not occur overnight. The massive regulatory burden dealing with multiple levels of Government takes significant time and resources to overcome. Currently work on the proposed Green Ave. bridge has been underway in excess of ten years and there are still hurdles that must be
overcome. The subject of funding for the bridge construction has also been raised. Recently the Federal Government contributed $500,000 towards this economic project through Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. The majority of the remaining funding will come from a variety of different sources however I can confirm that the Federal Government will not be the primary source of funds for this project.
Projects like a new Green Avenue bridge crossing and the Skaha Hills vineyard, golf course and residential development will be key in creating new revenues and economic development for both the Penticton Indian Band and the region. The Skaha Hills development in particular will also help to increase Penticton airport visits; representing another important consideration as the South Okanagan remains committed to attracting a second airline and connecting access through Calgary and points further East.
The House of Common is back in session this week and if there is a comment, question or concern you have on any matter before the House please do not hesitate to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.
This is the second week of a two week break before the House of Commons resumes sitting on Monday, March 24th. Over the past many days I have travelled throughout Okanagan-Coquihalla and met with many citizens, groups and local government leaders. Last week there was a strong level of enthusiasm for the recently announced Canada-South Korea free trade agreement. Given that British Columbia, with its strategic gateway location, strong business and cultural ties with the Asia- Pacific region, is considered to be first of the Canadian Provinces to benefit from this agreement. At a very recent round table in Kelowna there was positive reaction from exporters who in the past have faced tariffs anywhere from ten to as high as forty percent. The elimination of these tariffs and certainty for access to this market will create some real opportunities for Okanagan producers and fruit growers.
Also this week I have also come to better appreciate and understand the critical value of trade to Okanagan-Coquihalla for a different set of reasons, with the current trucking dispute at Port Metro Vancouver. In addition to affected businesses throughout Okanagan-Coquihalla, I have heard from concerned Mayors, councillors, regional directors and MLA’s on the very real possibility of large scale employers considering temporary closure as a result of not being able to import/ export much needed goods either to or from the Port. The movement of goods in many cases is critical to the cash flow of small business operators who also must make payroll, pay taxes and other expenses related to running a business. The sheer volume and scope of different business operations that rely on trade are large scale and affects many sectors of our local economy that in turn can create ripple effects into other areas.
One other issue that I continue to hear feedback from citizens on a Private Member's Bill, known as Bill C-442, "An Act Respecting a National Lyme Disease Strategy". For many citizens in Okanagan-Coquihalla Lyme disease is a very real concern and as a result I can confirm that I will be supporting this Bill to move forward to committee review stage for further study. In the event the Bill passes, I will also follow the review carefully and provide further updates as they become available.
While this will be another busy week of meetings, I would like to sincerely thank the many citizens who do take the time to offer questions, comments and also criticism. I believe it is important for citizens to always hold your elected officials from all levels of government to account. If there is a decision or policy you do not agree with, please take the time to contact your elected representatives and ask for the reasons why a decision was made. Part of how we achieve better government decisions is from hearing from all sides and I certainly welcome your views in this regard. I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
This week our Government announced that negotiations between Canada and South Korea on a free trade agreement have successfully concluded. As is often the case when trade deals are announced there are reactions from a variety of different groups, businesses, individuals, political interests and organizations that either oppose or support the agreement in question. Often these comments are based on speculation no differently than some in the BC Wine industry once feared that BC could not compete when the United States free trade agreement were concluded. Today we now know that BC wines can compete with the best in the world and there are many other local industries that depend upon open access to the United States marketplace.
One of the questions I am hearing from some citizens is why South Korea? In response to this question looking at the Canada-South Korea free trade agreement from a British Columbia perspective is useful to understand the economic importance of this announcement. Many are unaware that South Korea is now B.C.’s fourth largest trading partner– as an example between 2010-2012 the value of B.C. exports to South Korea was in the range of $2 billion in value. This success in trade occurred in spite of the fact that South Korea has tariffs on imported BC goods often between 8% and up to 15%. By comparison most goods from South Korea imported into Canada have tariffs in the 4-6% range, on average South Korea's tariffs on Canadians goods are three times higher over Canada's tariffs on South Korean imports. This trade imbalance will no longer exist as over 98% of tariffs will be eliminated with this free trade agreement. This in turn provides open access for Canadian business to access a market of 50 million people in a 1.1 trillion dollar South Korean economy.
Local reaction in Okanagan-Coquihalla so far has been positive. Premium BC wines & icewine that are popular in Asia currently face a 15% import tariff in South Korea and thus will be eliminated under the free trade agreement. Likewise BC Cherry & Blueberry producers often faced tariffs as high 30% even 45%; the removal of these restrictive cost increases will help these industries expand on the $ 210 million exported to South Korea in 2012. I have already heard from one Okanagan-Coquihalla based value added wood producer who is encouraged that his company's timber products will soon no longer be subject to an import tariff of 10% or higher. This is encouraging as BC value added wood exports to South Korea exceeded $300 million between 2010-2012. It is also worth pointing out that in many cases import tariffs can be subject to change depending upon tariff classification. I have heard from farmers who have experienced challenge and even hardship when facing significant increases in tariffs as a result of a change in import classification. These changes for a small producer can be financially devastating more so with a product that has a short shelf-life. Free-trade agreements with countries like South Korea provide certainty for BC producers and exporters and that helps to grow and increase business in new markets.
One other exciting aspect of the free trade agreement with South Korea is that it not only applies to goods; it also applies to services. BC, much like other parts of Canada, has become a leader in many industries such as mining, environmental services, oil and gas, clean energy and transportation are a few that many will be familiar with. Under this agreement these services can now be provided into South Korea by Canadian companies. In addition Canadian independent professionals (examples such as architects, engineers, management consultants and veterinarians) may enter South Korean with a pre-arranged contract. In order to explore new opportunities South Korea is creating new temporary-entry provisions for business visitors, investors, intra company service professionals and others to support new and existing business activities. Although this agreement is Canada’s first free trade agreement within the Asia-Pacific region, early forecasts estimate the potential to increase Canadian exports by 32% for a $1.7 billion increase in Canadian economic activity. The importance of opening up new markets for our local employers is a critical part to maintaining well paying jobs that support families and our communities. If you have comments or questions on this free trade agreement or any issue before the House of Commons please contact me at email@example.com or toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
It is another very busy week in Ottawa with a large amount of different but important events that will be challenging to summarize all in this week`s report. First I would like to thank the many citizens and groups who took the time to comment on last week`s report regarding invasive species- in particular freshwater mussels. It is encouraging that many citizens are supportive of the need to be proactive against invasive species and I will provide further updates in this area as they become available. Two other subjects that I have heard a large amount of feedback from citizens on in Okanagan-Coquihalla this week include opposition to the recent reclassification of certain long guns and support for Elizabeth May’s Private Members Bill C-442 “National Lyme Disease Strategy Act”.
The decision to re-classify certain firearms is currently under review by Minister Blaney however the Minister has announced an amnesty program to ensure that existing individuals “in possession of these firearms can continue to possess their property without threat of criminal charges”. With respect to Bill C-442 currently this Bill has been introduced at first reading in the House of Commons and is now placed on the Order of Preference at number 18. I will also provide further information on the progress of this Private Member`s Bill as it comes forward for second reading debate in the House of Commons.
Recently in the House, Government Bill C-26 was also introduced, The “Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act”. This Bill proposes a number of changes to those convicted of serious child offences. Some of these changes include a requirement that those convicted of child sexual offences against multiple children to serve sentences consecutively– one after another rather than at the same time concurrently; along with an increase for maximum and minimum prison sentences for certain child sexual offences. Penalties will also be increased for violations of supervision orders and any crime committed while on house arrest or parole will be considered an aggravating factor at sentencing. In addition, registered sex offenders will also be required to disclose more information when travelling abroad and more availability for spousal testimony in child pornography cases will be made available. Thus far the comments I have heard from citizens on Bill C-26 have been supportive.
Also occurring this week is a motion, the full text is as follows:
“That the House recognize the importance of transparency and accountability in the expenditure of taxpayers’ money and also recognize that the majority of parties have already begun disclosing the travel and hospitality expenses of their Members; and therefore call on the Board of Internal Economy to instruct the non-partisan professional administrative staff of the House of Commons to begin posting all travel expenses incurred under the travel point system as well as hospitality expenses of Members to the Parliament of Canada website in a manner similar to the guidelines used by the government for proactive disclosure of ministerial expenses.”
As I am one of the MP’s who has already been voluntarily posting these expenses, I naturally will be supporting the motion to ensure this information is provided to taxpayers as a regular part of internal economy administration reporting. If you have comments or questions on any matter before the House of Commons do not hesitate to contact me at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca 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.