This week the topic of illegal entry into Canada was again a major point of debate in the House of Commons.
As you may recall, last year Prime Minister Trudeau famously tweeted:
“To those fleeing persecution, terror & war Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada”
More recently in Ottawa, an access to information request by a National Post journalist revealed this tweet from the Prime Minister resulted in “a spike in inquiries from would-be refugees to Canadian embassies abroad, and resulted in confusion within the federal government”
As one communication from an immigration officer revealed:
“We are receiving an increasing number of enquiries from the public about requesting refugee status in Canada, and a number clearly having links with our Prime Minister’s tweet this weekend”.
Last year, the RCMP intercepted over 20,000 illegal entries into Canada.
In Ottawa, the Liberals refer to these incidents as “irregular entries”.
In addition, we have learned that 80 Immigration officials were transferred from other files to deal with this influx of illegal entries requesting refugee status.
As a result, I am seeing a trend where those who are attempting to legally come to Canada are having applications unfairly delayed or are being arbitrarily denied with little justification as to why.
From my perspective as an MP, it is deeply troubling when illegal immigration moves to the front of the line, over those who are following all of the rules to come to Canada legally.
Yesterday, the Official Opposition tabled a motion that proposed several measures but can be best summarized as requesting the Liberals to table: “a plan to (i) stop the influx of people illegally entering Canada from the United States, (ii) take appropriate measures to handle those who have already claimed asylum”
The motion also mentions the increased costs to provincial governments, who are providing social services and that this trend of illegal immigration is expected to increase given continued inaction from the Prime Minister.
In fact, so far this year there have been over 6,300 illegal entries into Canada.
The Prime Minister blames this recent problem on the former Conservative Government suggesting not enough funding was provided to the Canadian Border Services Agency.
That's an interesting claim given that the illegal entries are intentionally not made at the border in order to avoid the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement.
The 'Safe Third Country Agreement' states that refugee claimants are required to request refugee protection in the first safe country they arrive in. So if the USA was their first point of entry, their refugee claim is in the USA.
However a loophole to this agreement is entering Canada illegally through other points of entry that are not at an official border crossing.
Ultimately the Liberals and the NDP voted down the Conservative opposition motion.
However during Tuesday's Question Period, the Prime Minister was asked if he “thinks it is wrong to illegally enter the country. If so, can he unequivocally state so, here today?”
For the record the Prime Minister refused to answer the question.
This leads to my question today:
With over 20,000 illegal entries into Canada last year and so far over 6,300 illegal entries this year, do you believe that Prime Minister Trudeau is doing enough to come up with a solution for this problem?
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.
For those who follow Canadian politics closely, all eyes were focused on Ottawa last Sunday for a summit meeting hosted by Prime Minister Trudeau with Alberta and BC NDP Premiers Rachel Notley and John Horgan.
The topic of the meeting was the growing dispute between Ottawa, British Columbia and Alberta over the construction of Trans Mountain pipeline.
The media headlines that followed this meeting were candid.
“Trudeau has failed to resolve pipeline crises” and more recently
“Kinder Morgan project a test of Trudeau’s competency, puts his 18 B.C. seats at risk, say pollsters”.
While this is occurring, Prime Minister Trudeau has remained firm in his statement that the Trans Mountain pipeline will be built.
From my time on the Government side of the House, it is my opinion that media headlines are not always fair to elected officials.
The expectation that Mr.Trudeau could resolve this pipeline stand off in a single meeting are overly optimistic and more so when you consider both provincial NDP Premiers politically benefit from their respective positions.
From a political perspective, the real challenge for the Prime Minister, who is in a situation of his own making, is whatever actions he ultimately makes will come at a steep political cost to the Liberals.
The Prime Minister is also well aware of this fact, and rather than take any decisive action, he has suggested he may ultimately work with the project proponent, Kinder Morgan, to mitigate investor risk in the Trans Mountain project.
Although no formal announcement has been made, I am already hearing strong opposition from some Canadians at the thought of throwing, and I will quote directly, “public money into the coffers of an oil giant”
Meanwhile, Alberta continues to move forward a bill in their provincial legislature that could limit the supply of Alberta gasoline to British Columbia.
A move that the Premier of Saskatchewan has also voiced support for.
In British Columbia, the NDP Government has called Alberta’s threat a “bluff” and remains committed that they will not change their position.
What happens next?
At this point, it is all speculation and rather than engage in 'what if' scenarios, I will provide a factual update when more information is available.
While the debate on potentially restricting oil flow between two provinces rages on, one subject that has my full attention is the upcoming decision by our Supreme Court on the Comeau case. This decision should be rendered later this week.
Many will know that for decades provinces have prohibited the inter-provincial direct consumer shipping of alcohol over provincial borders.
In fact, there are many items and even services that face similar restrictions that amount to inter-provincial trade protectionism.
In the last Parliament, I had a bill passed that removed the Federal Government from some of these restrictions but only a handful of provinces followed suit.
Ultimately this lead to the Comeau case that came before the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC).
The Comeau case argues in favour of section 121 of our Charter: “All Articles of the Growth, Produce, or Manufacture of any one of the Provinces shall, from and after the Union, be admitted free into each of the other Provinces”.
In the event the SCC rules in favour of this definition, it could potentially create significant new opportunities for many local industries and producers to access important new markets in Canada.
Something I believe most Canadians support.
My question this week:
Do you support the idea of open provincial borders and increased inter-provincial trade?
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
Although the House of Commons is not in session this week, the return of Prime Minister Trudeau and his cabinet for an emergency meeting in Ottawa to discuss what many are describing as a “constitutional crisis” has been a subject of national attention.
What is the crisis?
As many will know, there has been an emerging conflict between the New Democrat led Provincial Governments of Alberta and British Columbia related to the Trans-Mountain Pipeline project.
The BC NDP have threatened to use every tool possible to stop the project. In response, the Alberta NDP introduced provincial legislation this week that will enable cuts of Alberta fuel that is shipped to British Columbia.
Why is this a constitutional crisis?
When a pipeline project crosses a provincial or international boundary, it is regulated federally.
In this case, Prime Minister Trudeau has approved the pipeline, and has stated his strong support that the pipeline will be built.
From a constitutional perspective, many experts question if BC has the legal authority to block the Trans Mountain pipeline. Likewise the constitutional validity of Alberta’s intention to reduce gas shipments into B.C. is also being questioned.
Politics are also at play given that both NDP Premiers political survival relies heavily on advancing their respective positions.
To add further tension to this challenging issue, the proponent of the Trans-Mountain pipeline, citing opposition from the BC NDP Government, has set a deadline of May 31, 2018 for certainty on the project or it will be potentially abandoned.
Ultimately this falls onto the shoulders of Prime Minister Trudeau, who has declared this project to be in Canada’s national interest and has accused BC NDP Premier John Horgan of “trying to scuttle our national plan on fighting climate change,”.
For the Trudeau Liberal Government, who currently hold 18 seats in B.C., they are aware that many who oppose the Trans Mountain pipeline do not see building it as supporting the fight on climate change.
Many view it as the opposite, a point that Mr.Trudeau and his Environment Minister do not seem to reconcile.
The problem the Prime Minister now faces is that by declaring the Trans-Mountain pipeline to be in Canada’s national interest, if the project does not get built under his leadership, both the Prime Minister and Canada as a confederation will have little credibility in establishing national policy if usurped by regional interests.
For this reason many are suggesting a constitutional crisis is at hand.
What will happen next?
Unfortunately, the Prime Minister is set to leave Canada again for yet another round of travel to Lima, Peru, the UK and France.
It could be assumed that his senior adviser and cabinet ministers will continue to explore a course of action ranging from withholding federal transfer funds from BC or potentially turning a blind eye in the event Alberta carries out the threat of reducing gasoline flow to B.C.
It is also conceivable that other courses of action may be identified.
From a financial standpoint the Federal, BC and Alberta Governments will lose close to $47 Billion in royalties and taxes over the next 20 years should the project not move forward.
This amount does not include over $400 million in agreements with in excess of 50 First Nations communities who do support the Trans-Mountain pipeline or $922 Million to local government in BC.
As I have previously stated, I believe the Prime Minister made the right decision to support the Trans-Mountain pipeline and I am hopeful that Mr.Trudeau will demonstrate federal leadership to ensure this project is built.
My question this week:
Do you think the Prime Minister is doing enough to ensure that this important energy infrastructure gets built?
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.
As members of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, it is part of our job to hold the Government to account.
As many who follow my weekly MP reports will know, this is a common theme of mine but I also believe it is just as important to propose alternative solutions to problems and to formulate creative ideas which could address many issues.
Frequently, these suggestions, alternatives and ideas come from articulate and well-meaning citizens in our region.
I also believe there are times when Government deserves credit for actions and decisions, or in this case reconsideration of a previous decision.
In an MP Report roughly one month ago, I explained the controversy around what is regarded as the Atwal incident that occurred on the Prime Minister’s recent trip to India.
As a reminder of this incident, Mr. Trudeau’s National Security Advisor was put forward in a confidential news conference.
Quoting from a reporter at the news conference, this high ranking National Security Official was “peddling what must be one of the most bizarre conspiracy theories ever advanced by a Canadian government” suggesting “That the terrorist invited by the Liberals to Mumbai, may have been planted there by the Indian government or maybe by Indian security agencies or perhaps by factions in the Indian government.”
To add to the confusion the Liberals later suggested the Atwal invitation was authorized by a lone Liberal MP from British Columbia.
Due to the contradictions contained in these two explanations, the Opposition tabled a motion at the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security (known as SECU) to meet with Mr.Trudeau’s National Security Advisor and learn more about this alleged conspiracy theory.
Unfortunately, the Liberal members of this committee used their majority to block this motion.
Later a similar Opposition motion came before the House of Commons and when the Liberals used their majority to defeat that motion, an all-night filibuster was held in an effort to pressure the Liberals into allowing the National Security Adviser to appear before Parliament.
This week I can report some encouraging news.
The Liberal Government has reversed the decision and will now allow the National Security Advisor to appear before interested parliamentarians.
Why is this important?
Ultimately Members of Parliament are elected on behalf of citizens.
If Members of Parliament are blocked from holding public officials to account or if the Government can use non-partisan civil servants without accountability, our democracy is ultimately threatened.
This reversal is a positive step towards increasing both transparency and accountability in Ottawa and will optimistically be a trend that continues.
It is my hope that the Liberals will also reverse the decision to block faith organizations from the opportunity to participate in the summer jobs program without first accepting a values test that many feel is contrary to the Canadian Charter.
My question this week:
Are you concerned when Government imposes a values test in order to be eligible for a taxpayer funded program?
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.