This week will be an important one for me on Parliament Hill. Assuming the current Parliamentary schedule remains intact, on Tuesday evening my private member's bill will come before the House of Commons for the first hour of debate at 3rd reading. It is possible that should the bill continue to receive strong all party support in the House, that it may well receive a vote during first hour debate. If a vote does occur and the Bill is passed, it will then move on the Senate and history will have been made as Okanagan wineries would soon be able to sell wine directly to Canadians in other Provinces. Currently an Okanagan winery can legally sell wine directly to a customer in Japan but it is illegal to sell directly to customer who lives in Calgary. This is an out of date prohibition era law that we all agree needs to change. However if there is not a consensuses in the House to have a vote at the first hour of debate then it would fall to the second hour of debate. That in itself may not sound like a major inconvenience, however the way that our Parliamentary systems functions means that second hour debate would not occur again until likely late October. This would obviously significantly and adversely impact the timing of the Bill and is one of the reasons why I am working hard to try and ensure passage hopefully during the first hour of debate this week.
What is important about this Bill passing quickly is that many of the wineries I have met with have expansion plans. In some cases possibly only minor, and in some cases fairly major. Expanding a vineyard, constructing new outbuildings or a new tasting room all benefit our local construction trades. New stainless tanks, tractors, printing and marketing services also benefit from our expanding wine industry. Currently there are in excess of 3,300 jobs being supported either directly or indirectly by the BC wine industry and locally we have also witnessed the benefits of wine tourism. Last week I was in Toronto and met with several different groups currently planning fall wine tours in large part as they are hoping to purchase BC wine to take back into Ontario legally for the first time in history. I have also had a chance to meet with Federal Express Canada who is very encouraged about the potential for increased shipping opportunities and as a result is in full support of the Bill. Ultimately the ability to legally transport BC wine back to other parts of Canada serves as an open invitation to come back and visit our beautiful region of the province. It is also fairly exciting to hear about a new winery opening in Lillooet and grapes being grown in Merritt. Wine is fast becoming an economic driver in every region within Okanagan-Coquihalla and opening up the Canadian marketplace through my private members Bill C-311 is long overdue. Hopefully I will have some good news on this subject later in the week.
One other activity that I am currently working on is my annual accountability report that I intend to provide to the taxpayer’s of Okanagan-Coquihalla in the near future. This report will include information such as my House attendance record, sponsored travel disclosure and the individual member expenditure report as issued by the Board of Internal Economy. I believe that taxpayers deserve to know this type of information and I would like to have the reports made available to you as soon as they are released by the Board of Internal Economy. I also welcome your views and input on this or any other area of concern.
Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for Okanagan-Coquihalla and can be reached at Dan.firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the things I have noticed about Ottawa is that each week there is often a different event that will be the major news story from the parliamentary press gallery and often the opposition parties as well. More often than not these stories will quickly travel throughout Canada and back home to our beautiful region of Okanagan-Coquihalla. What I often find interesting is that sometimes these media stories will generate a fair bit of local interest as citizens request further information or pass on personal points often either in support or opposed to this issue in question. Other times news events that are actively discussed in Ottawa I have heard from local citizens here in the riding who cannot believe some of the media stories unfolding in Ottawa are even considered to be newsworthy at all.
Last week was very unique as it was actually the leader of the official opposition Thomas Mulcair who was the subject of the media spotlight over comments made by Mulcair essentially blaming the challenges in the Ontario and Quebec manufacturing sector on the western Canada based resource economy. Many media pundits were quick to castigate the NDP and Thomas Mulcair for what they called a “war on the west” and a “divisive attack against Canadian national unity” and a “recklessly unCanadian” position that Mr. Mulcair refused to apologize for. For those who suggest that newly minted political leaders enjoy a honeymoon period from the media, suffice it to say Mr. Mulcair’s has been very short lived.
However lost in the media story is another, and I submit more import dynamic that we as Canadians must be very aware of. While it may politically easy for Mr. Mulcair and the NDP to point fingers of blame at the British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan economies for the challenges in the Ontario and Quebec manufacturing sectors, doing so ignores other important facts. The reality is the collapse of the US economy, our largest trading partner, is far more relevant to these challenges then blaming western Canada. It should also be noted that the manufacturing output since March, the same month our Governments Budget 2012 economic action plan was introduced, production output has actually risen by close to 2%, the largest gain since September with more increases in the forecast.
However there is another more important consideration to be mindful of. Another media event we have recently observed is rioting students in the Province of Quebec. In spite of having the lowest post secondary tuition in North America and a proposed increased that would still see Quebec students with the lowest tuition rates, the students are rioting and taking to the streets. In response to the rioting students, Mr. Mulcair told the media that our Government must spend more of your money subsidizing post secondary education. While this is an expected response from the leader of the NDP opposition here is why we should all be concerned. Where would this money come from?
Here in Canada we have a decades old national equalization program. This program takes money from some Provinces in Canada and gives that money to other provinces in theory to offer comparable services. Here is the problem with this equalization programs from my perspective. This year the Province of Quebec will receive more equalization money than any other Province in Canada with a $7.4 Billion payment, almost half of the entire $15.4 Billion equalization program. Ontario, Manitoba and the Maritimes Provinces receive the balance. The Western Canadian provinces, the very same provinces attacked by Thomas Mulcair and the NDP, receive no equalization under this program and in fact help pay for it. From my perspective Mr. Mulcair and the NDP should be thanking the Western Canadian Provinces and not attacking them. Canada needs an equalization program that is fair to ALL of our Canadian provinces and requires a strong economy to do so. As Canada’s equalization program is coming up for renewal in 2014 I welcome your views as the taxpayers of Okanagan- Coquihalla on this or any other topic.
Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for Okanagan-Coquihalla and can be reached at email@example.com
This past week was a very raucous one on Parliament Hill with much of the discussion centered around the subject of debate, or as could be more accurately summarized, debate about debate. At times over the past few weeks I would submit that there has been more debate about the process of debating then there has been legitimate debate and discussion over proposed Bills and related legislation. I will provide some examples of this recent practice.
During the initial debate on the budget, an individual NDP MP consumed three entire days of the debate time. In doing so literally dozens of other MP’s from all across Canada were denied the opportunity to speak either for or against various aspects of the Budget. What was more alarming is that in order to continue to take up debate time the NDP MP in question began to read anonymous twitter feed into the record. While it may be an allowable political tactic to monopolize debate time in doing so MP’s from other parts of the country and different political affiliations are being denied an opportunity to also speak out on the budget. It is difficult to understand how this political tactic enhances or encourages a healthy debate.
Moving on to the actual debate on the Budget Implementation Act, the Opposition Liberal party instead of engaging in debate initially suggested that there were potentially two different versions of the same bill and used this self created confusion as grounds to further delay the debate. Ultimately the Clerk’s office confirmed there was only one copy of the Bill and the Speaker ruled that debate must continue. Unfortunately debate that is delayed in this case means that debate that could have occurred did not. More recently members of the NDP Opposition party have committed to otherwise delay or disrupt debate solely because the Government would not agree as to how the Budget Implementation Bill could best be debated. In others words there is a suggestion that if we cannot agree on how we should debate we should then interrupt the debate that does occur.
In another example members of the opposition have also accused our Government of denying debate at committee meetings by using the practice of going in camera. The Canadian Press using information provided by the non partisan Library of Parliament actually revealed that the Government to most often use this tactic was in fact the Liberals under Paul Martin with runner up honours going to the Liberal Government under Jean Chrétien. As you may have also heard recently the actual debate time at second reading allocated to the Budget Implementation Act is the longest in the past twenty years. That being said, from more recent experience the fact that time is being provided to actually debate does not necessarily mean that the debate time is being used for the purposes intended. More commonly debate time seems consumed about the debating process and how some members of the opposition would potentially prefer a different format.
If I come across as sounding frustrated with these current tactics it is fair to say that I am mindful that some of our most recent debates are not serving the interest of Canadians as well as they could be. If the Opposition believes that our Economic Action Plan is not the right direction for the Country, then let them propose rather than simply oppose. Democracy thrives not only when the people have a voice but when clear ideas can be debated. Ultimately the ongoing delay and disruption tactics should not be used instead of bringing ideas and being prepared to defend them: Canadians deserve nothing less.
This is obviously a somewhat partisan point of view admittedly from an MP who is still very new to Parliament Hill. I certainly welcome your views on this or any other subject.
Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for Okanagan-Coquihalla and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
It was roughly one year ago that I wrote my first ever report as your newly elected Member of Parliament for Okanagan-Coquihalla.
Reflecting on the past 12 months and in particular the immense learning curve (that I am currently still on) has shown me the deep passion that Canadians collectively share for our great country. At times we differ in our views and sometimes strongly, but each year on July 1 we come together in celebration to honor what we value most in our country and in ourselves as Canadians. We may sometimes take it for granted but as a nation we are one of the freest, most prosperous and peaceful countries in the world.
When in Ottawa I am often mindful of the importance of our decisions and the challenges that we continue to face in working to keep Canada strong and prosperous. Canada as a country was built on principles of sacrifice and immense hard work. Our vast social programs materialized much later on once Canada had established the wealth to afford the luxuries of a secure social safety net.
However where citizens once worked in consensus and agreement to undertake the projects that helped create prosperity and employment, today many of those same types of projects are frequently opposed. Regulations that stand as a barrier are often embraced and special interest groups that seek to curtail and derail new investment and infrastructure are on the rise.
Most Canadians believe in the importance of creating jobs here in Canada and lament out sourcing yet if we cannot continue to build and to innovate in a productive and efficient manner this is a challenge that will continue to occur.
You may have heard about Budget 2012 and the Budget Implementation Act. Budget 2012 is one of the most comprehensive budgets in Canadian history. In fact some of our critics have suggested it is too comprehensive and would like to see a simpler more basic budget document being put forward.
It is important to recognize that Canada has a relatively diverse and interrelated economy. Threats to one sector can indeed have repercussions in others. In my discussions with local employers over the past few weeks even in smaller communities like Logan Lake and Okanagan Falls there are major private sector employers who depend upon a healthy mining industry and special projects as one example. In turn transportation and regulation are also important contributing factors to the viability of these local operations. All of the considerations also create well paying jobs in other related industries.
It is for these reasons that a comprehensive budget strategy is required to ensure that where possible our vast regulatory processes can be made more efficient to ensure that we are putting citizens to work instead of joining the unemployment line.
Recently in Ottawa the opposition critics expressed outrage that debate on the Budget 2012 budget bill had been limited to just seven days. What was often not mentioned was that time closure supporting seven days of debate was only being invoked at second reading debate. In other words, the entire budget debate is not limited to seven days, it was only one stage of the debate at second reading that is subject to a seven day time clause.
It should be pointed out that after second reading is full committee stage review (including an all party sub committee where MP’s with expertise in the environment regulatory processes can fully discuss and scrutinize the bill) followed by a third reading debate before being sent to the Senate where this process would occur once again.
In total Budget 2012 will end up having the longest period of debate of any budget in the past two decades, something that I view as positive given the importance of the budget and the spending of your tax dollars. That said, it is also imperative to ultimately pass Budget 2012 in 2012 and more so as many of the budget provisions are essential to moving our Canadian economy forward in a manner that creates jobs here in Canada and supports our local economies.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.