Over this past weekend a local newspaper ran an editorial that ultimately questioned the use of tax dollars for partisan purposes, more specifically for “ten-percenters” allegedly being used for partisan political“attacks”. Ultimately the editorial succeeded in generating a number of questions and comments from a cross section of citizens. I view this as a positive indicator when local citizens express interest on a particular
subject and as a result would like to provide more information on this topic as part of my weekly MP report. For those of you unfamiliar with a “ten percenter” it is a mail out resource provided to Members of Parliament to communicate issues of importance from the MP to the public. As these mail outs may not exceed 10% of the total number of households in an MP’s riding, they are called “ten-percenters”. Although MP’s are not restricted by how many “ten percenters” they can send out, they are limited to households within the riding represented by the MP in question. The costs of a ten per center come out of a Member of Parliaments office budget and are disclosed annually in the Board of Internal Economy “Individual Members Expenditure Reports”.
It should also be noted that Member of Parliament office budgets are subject to annual spending limits that cannot be exceeded and are also disclosed in the same “Individual Members Expenditure Report”
As for the content of a “ten-percenter” Members of Parliament are free to communicate any issue or concern they deem of importance to local citizens. As was pointed out in the recent editorial, at times Members of Parliament from all parties have used these mail outs in a manner that many would agree is politically themed. However what was not pointed out in the editorial is that many Members of Parliament do not participate or engage in using aggressive, politically themed ten-percenters. Due to the interest in this kind of MP mail out, it is timely to discuss the approach I have taken as the MP for Okanagan-Coquihalla. Any mail out from my office I authorize personally with an approach that the mail out must provide information or helps to get feedback from constituents, often both. I believe it is important to make sure my priorities are in line with constituents and that concerns are being heard. As a rule I typically avoid personal attacks or strongly themed politically partisan messaging. One observation that I have come to appreciate from our now retired MLA and former Speaker of the House Bill Barisoff, is that most citizens prefer aggressive partisan attacks are left out of the debate and discussion. Although I will not be using these particular ten percenters that have raised the ire of some, I do support the right of Members of Parliament from all sides of the House to communicate on issues they believe are important without restrictions on the content. As Members of Parliament we are accountable to you– if our comments are offensive or disagreeable we deserve to be held to account for them
if not in person at a meeting or through a phone call, then at the ballot box.
If you have any further questions or concerns about ten percenters please feel
free to share them with me.
Parliament Hill will be a busy one this week as the formal budget implementation bill will be introduced as well as important changes to the temporary foreign workers program will be announced. In addition debate will continue on the following Government Bills– C-15 “Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act” Bill C-54 “Not Criminally Responsible Criminal Reform Act”. This will also be a busy week for Private Members Business as Bill C-476 “Parliament Budget Officer Act” Bill C-394 “An Act to Amend the Criminal Code, Bill C-460 “Sodium Reduction Strategy for Canada Act” along with the following motions M-428 “Electronic Petitions” M-430“Persons with Disabilities”. If you would like further information on these bills or any matter before the House please contact me at your convenience. I can be reached via email at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca and toll free via phone at 1-800-665-8711
In light of recent events, this week our Government has moved up 3rd reading debate on Bill S-7: Combating Terrorism Act. Although the Liberals have indicated they will be supporting this act, the NDP made the disappointing accusation that the move to bring this act into law in an expedient manner was a political one and in making this comment, ignored the important provisions contained within this act for the benefit of our law enforcement agencies. It should be noted that the Combating Terrorism Bill S-7 is not newly drafted legislation, having been introduced into our current session of Parliament over a year ago and in the previous Parliament as Bill C-17.
Rather than questioning the timing of the debate on Bill S-7, I believe it is more important to discuss the Bill’s contents. Bill S-7 proposes a number of changes to our current Criminal Code that has largely been designed to focus on criminal acts after they have occurred. Bill S-7 recognizes that law enforcement officers need more improved legal tools that will enable them to disrupt planned acts of terrorism before they occur. One of the amendments in this Bill would allow investigative hearings and provide judges with the power to require someone who is believed to have information about a planned act of terrorism, to appear before a court to answer questions. If the person does not comply with the order, the same judge may in turn issue a warrant for their arrest. A similar new provision involves the creation of "recognizance with conditions". This means that in the event law enforcement agencies have reason to believe that terrorist activity will be carried out, application may be made to a judge for the imposition of conditions on suspects that would be necessary to prevent terrorist acts from occurring, including having said suspects appear in person before the court. Having a suspect appear in court allows a judge to consider whether it is desirable to impose reasonable conditions with the burden on government to establish why the requested conditions should be imposed. In the event an individual refused the conditions set by a judge, the court in turn could commit the individual to prison for up to 12 months.
In addition Bill S7 would also create a new offence for leaving or attempting to leave Canada in order to commit terrorism offences. This new offence would also include leaving Canada to participate in a terrorist training camp. Offences in this area could be subject to imprisonment for up to 14 years. In all of the above proposed amendments to the Criminal Code it should also be pointed out that strict conditions would need to be met for any of these tools to be utilized by law enforcement and would include the consent of the Attorney General.
Recent world events including those within United States and Canada have given us all reason to pause and reflect on those who seek to use terror against innocent victims. It is unfortunate that Bills like S-7 are necessary to protect Canadians and keep Canada strong as a nation however, it should not be overlooked that these amendments involve strong judicial oversight for each new measure that is proposed. Canada is a country that follows the rule of law including fair process and judicial overview. In balance I believe these measures will enhance the tools of law enforcement in maintaining public safety with sufficient independent judicial oversight to ensure that the values we hold as Canadians will be maintained. For these reasons, I will be voting in support of this Bill. I welcome your comments and questions on this or any Bill before the House of Commons. I can be reached at 1-800-665-8711 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for Okanagan-Coquihalla. His blog isDaninOttawa.com and previous MP reports are on line at http://www.danalbas.com/
The House of Commons resumed session this week and what began on a feisty note with the anointment of a new leader for the Liberal Party of Canada has very quickly become a reflective one, given Monday's events in the United States.
In times of immense tragedy, words often fall short to convey our deepest condolences; thoughts and prayers for those who have been victimized by traumatic events are often difficult to put into perspective. Specifically, the recent events at the Boston Marathon are among those occurrences that are truly beyond such words. Senseless violence and attacks on innocent victims are reprehensible actions that Canada, as a country, has always stood opposed to. May we all take a moment to reflect on these unfortunate events and stand with our neighbors in condemning those who are responsible for these senseless acts.
Back in Ottawa, the wheels of Canadian Parliament will continue to move forward with a number of issues on the Parliamentary calendar for the week ahead. While the business of supply debate continues on the budget there will also be a number of private member's bills coming before the House. Bill C-475 An Act to amend the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (order-making power) will begin second reading (first time debated). Despite the announced budget measures to double the current Last Post Fund in late March, Motion 422 on the Last Post Fund will also come forward for debate (first time debated). Resuming debate at second reading will be Bill C-266 Pope John Paul II Day Act, while Bill C-394 An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the National Defence Act (criminal organization recruitment) will reach Report stage. Later in the week Motion 412 “Hydroelectric project” will come before the House for a vote and on Friday Motion 230 “Anaphylaxis” will be debated for the first time.
This week’s opposition day motion will involve debate on the temporary foreign worker program– a concern that I share in hearing from many constituents and also referenced in my MP report from last week. Over the past seven days I have been hearing increasingly from citizens, employers and organizations regarding the TFW program and many important points have been made on this issue. I welcome your comments on this or any subject and if you have not had a chance yet to share them directly with me please do not hesitate to do so. I can be reached toll free at 1-800-665-8711 or via email at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca . Your views are extremely important to me as I often reference the concerns I hear when in the House of Commons.
As the British Columbia election period is about to get underway I would like to formerly thank all departing MLA’s for their years of service to our region. Locally both MLA John Slater and Speaker of the House Bill Barisoff will not be running for re-election and I would like to take a moment to thank these individuals for their efforts in public office. As a former city councillor, I valued having a strong working relationship with both MLA’s and wish them well in future endeavours. I would also like to pass on my appreciation for all of the candidates who will be spending a great deal of time campaigning over the next month and hope citizens take the time to meet with all of the candidates and express your concerns in the process. It should never be overlooked that democracy is not a spectator event and is enhanced when people get involved.
Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for Okanagan-Coquihalla. His blog isDaninOttawa.com and previous MP reports are on line at http://www.danalbas.com/
Hearing the concerns of citizens is, in my view, one of the most important responsibilities of public office. Why I make a point of personally returning phone calls and attending a great many meetings is that, as taxpayers, you deserve to be heard by those you elect to represent you. There may not always be agreement on every issue but there can often be a consensus even on those points, upon which we can agree to disagree. However, there are also those issues where we can be unified in our views on matters that we collectively see as important. One of those issues that I continue to hear about from increasing numbers of constituents, is Canada’s temporary foreign worker program. Although concerns on this program have increased significantly over the past week, this has been an issue I have been hearing about for some time. As a result of these concerns that many constituents have taken the time to pass on to me, I was able to raise this issue in the House of Commons in late March when I stated:
“There are times when as Canadians we must rise above partisan interests and recognize areas that are of Canadian concern. I am not alone when I say that many of my constituents are concerned when they see temporary foreign workers taking jobs that many of us agree Canadians should be working at. Let us also recognize that the program originates back to the early 1970s. It was always intended to be temporary and yet, nearly 40 years later, the program is now older than many members of the House.”
The above is only a portion of my comments found in the Hansard record from March 26th, 2013. At the time I made these comments within the House of Commons I heard widespread agreement from all sides of the House recognizing the importance of this issue to Canadians. It also should not be overlooked that this is also a concern for many employers that I have taken the time to meet with locally. Although there have been some recent examples of employers potentially accessing this program for purposes that are contrary to the intent, and as a result this program is currently under formal review, the vast majority of employers I have heard from would prefer to hire employees who are Canadians or permanent residents. The challenge expressed by many employers is that either they are unable to find qualified workers with the required skills, or frequently in the case of the agricultural and hospitality sectors it is hard to find workers who will accept the positions offered.
In response the 2013 Economic Action Plan introduced by our Government has announced a new Canada wide job training program to help promote an increase of targeted skills training. The new program proposes a partnership between the federal and provincial governments that could potentially provide 2/3rd’s funding with the remaining 1/3rd share from employers for a combined total of up to $15,000 per worker for important new skills training. Although the partnership agreements need to be in place with the various Provinces and Territories the initial reaction I have heard from many employers and some post secondary training institutions has been positive. The importance of our country in being able to respond quickly and more efficiently to critical skills shortages is important. Recently I heard from one local employer about the need for skilled saw technicians and the lack of this type of training in our region in spite of these jobs being extremely well paying. This is but one of many examples that I hear on an ongoing basis and I am certain that most can agree that increasing the availability and diversity of our educational opportunities that can lead to well paying employment for citizens is an important priority that is in our National interest. As this is the final week before the House of Commons resumes sitting this Monday, April 15th I welcome the opportunity to hear from you. I can be reached at 1-800-665-8711 or via email at email@example.com
Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for Okanagan-Coquihalla. His blog is DaninOttawa.com and previous MP reports are on line at http://www.danalbas.com/
Last week was a somewhat unusual one in Ottawa as much of the focus was
on SO-31's, otherwise known as "Member's Statements" and the ability of
Members of Parliament to engage in these 60 second statements delivered in
the House of Commons directly before question period. Ultimately some in
the media had this story turning into a full blown crisis of free speech and/or a large scale mutiny by some of the Government backbenches. If you are unfamiliar with a "Member's Statement", the summary definition is stated as "Members who are
not Ministers are permitted to address the House for up to one minute on virtually any matter of local, provincial, national or international concern". Although the definition is quite open, there are in fact a number of restrictions that apply. During a member's statement there are to be no personal attacks on individual members or an attack on
Senators and the actions of the Senate cannot be criticized. Likewise, questioning court
rulings or the character of judges is also deemed inappropriate as is defamatory
comments on non-members. In addition the use of verbatim comments from
private citizens is to be avoided and comments should not be of
a commercial nature.
As for the speaking order for these statements in the House of Commons, it is defined by the Chair who "consults speaking lists provided by the Whips of the various parties and attempts to recognize government Members and Members in opposition on an equal basis". This is not my definition but rather the definition from the House of Commons Compendium of Procedure. I raise this point as contrary to what you may have heard in the media, Parliamentary practice is clear in recognizing that Whips of a
respective party have long been involved in the process of determining the speaking order during Members Statements. Much of this current debate is in questioning to what extent a whip should (and by extension a party) be involved in what individual Members of Parliament can or cannot say within the House of Commons. This is largely the more important subject and one that I would like to address in my report today.
First, I believe it is imperative to recognize that once you exclude Ministers, there are still hundreds of MP's who can and do speak on matters of importance to their constituents each day the House of Commons is sitting, without incident or controversy. In fact last week in recognizing World Autism Day, my colleague MP Mike Lake delivered one of the most touching Member's Statements I have yet heard in the House of Commons. However as is often the case, such a truly meaningful statement, eloquently delivered by MP Mike Lake, ended up being overlooked by the media- some might say upstaged in terms of coverage, by a statement from another MP that never even occurred.
Obviously I cannot speak for other Members of Parliament however from my own experience I have been able to deliver many Member's Statements in the House of Commons without incident. Examples of some of my statements include last year's record breaking season of the Penticton Vees, the good work that Canadian Shriners do on behalf of sick children across Canada and more recently recognizing the importance of responsible resource development to our rural communities such as Logan Lake and Merritt. I have received positive comments on these statements from colleagues on both sides of the House and from many local citizens. Often I find there is great interest in these types of statements as they help to reflect the diversity of our great country. My most recent statement spotlighted the work of International Space Station Commander Hadfield via radio at Uplands Elementary School as well as Olympian Kristi Richards at the Summerland Middle School. Both of these individuals are excellent role models for our youth and continue to encourage young Canadians to work hard and follow their dreams.
These are a few examples of Member's Statements I have given in the House
of Commons on behalf of the citizens of Okanagan-Coquihalla. If anyone is so
interested I also post these members statements on my www.danalbas.com website, under the heading 'video'.
I make a point of authoring my own Member's statements largely based
on events and achievements occurring within our riding of Okanagan-Coquihalla. My Member's Statements are not directed by any outside influences and it has never been suggested to me what I should or should not say as a Member of Parliament. From my own experiences in representing the citizens of Okanagan-Coquihalla I have found Members Statements to be a brief but very important way that we as MP's can share events that occur in our ridings with other Canadians, and I have never encountered any difficulty whatsoever in doing so.
As the House is temporarily recessed to allow Members to work in their respective ridings, I will be meeting with constituents throughout our communities this week and look forward to hearing and discussing your comments and concerns. If you have any feedback on Federal issues or legislation before Parliament please do not hesitate to contact me by phone at 1-800-665-8711 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for Okanagan-Coquihalla. His blog is DaninOttawa.com and previous MP reports are on line at www.danalbas.com
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.