I can now provide more information on the program that I referenced in last week `s MP report. Last Friday I joined the Minister of Employment and Social Development, the Hon. Pierre Poilievre in announcing the new National Advanced Placement Prior Learning Program (N-APPL) for military veterans project, a project that originated from a proposal submitted by a local Peachland resident and his team at BCIT. This project is summarized as a Foreign Credential Recognition (FCR) project that will apply credential recognition for military work to help Canadian Forces members enter relevant training programs at BCIT and elsewhere to help transition to civilian employment. This will help them to receive their desired credentials faster and will let them apply their CAF training to a new and rewarding field. As mentioned last week this proposal was submitted to me by a local citizen, Mr. Fred Mandl of Peachland. I would like to publicly recognize and thank Mr.Mandl for this proposal that will help veterans increase skills training that in turn can help enhance employment opportunities. After speaking with young veterans who have already benefitted from the original BCIT based trial program, we can all be proud of this made in BC initiative being rolled out across Canada. There is also evidence that this ground breaking methodology could apply to other areas such as the trades. I will continue to encourage and support new approaches like these as they develop.
In Ottawa this week I participated in the debate regarding the subject of federal research scientists and allegations of Government sanctioned muzzling. As many citizens are aware we are fortunate in Okanagan-Coquihalla to have two federal research facilities in our region. Over the past years I have been fortunate to meet a number of scientists from these facilities to learn more about the important work they do and in turn I have also shared some of this information in the House of Commons. To date I have never had any of our local scientists suggest to me they are muzzled or otherwise prevented from sharing information with relevant stakeholders. We are fortunate in our region to have many dedicated scientists who are doing excellent work in support of local agriculture and also measurement science. In fact I often hear from citizens how much they enjoy reading local columns from Ken Tapping, an astronomer from the National Research Council’s Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory located in Okanagan Falls.
Another event that has generated a fair amount of discussion in Ottawa this week was an announcement from the Finance Minister that Government will undertake consultations over the summer on the topic of a voluntary expansion to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP). The topic being explored would be to allow for citizens to voluntarily increase their CPP contributions as a means to supplement their retirement savings. Most of the feedback I have heard on this subject so far has been supportive of this idea although a few individuals have suggested an increased CPP should be mandatory and not voluntary. I welcome your thoughts on this or any topic before the House of Commons. I can be reached via email at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
This week is the final constituency week before the House of Commons adjourns in late June for what is expected to be the final sitting of the 41st Parliament. Constituency weeks are important for Members of Parliament as they provide an opportunity to meet with groups and citizens in our home ridings to hear feedback and in many cases provided assistance in dealing with federal government programs and services.
Later in the week I will be travelling to the Lower Mainland to participate in a skills training related announcement that will outline details for a new program that will soon be available in many parts of Canada. What is exciting about this announcement is that the idea for the program in question originated with a citizen who lives within our riding of Okanagan-Coquihalla and his team at a BC based post-secondary institution.
Although this is not the first time a local citizen from our region has submitted a suggestion that resulted in national attention, it is from my own experience the first time a program has come forward from a local proposal to be implemented by Government. In my view the fact that a private citizen living in a relatively small community can submit an idea that can have national implications is exciting. It is also a testament to the importance of feedback, input and suggestions put forward by citizens to elected officials that in turn can be presented directly to the level of government they are elected to represent.
While this pending announcement will likely not receive a significant amount of media attention nor the fact that it came from a proposal from a private citizen, it is important to recognize the difference that Canadians can make in contributing ideas in how to build a stronger Canada. In my brief time as an elected official I have been fortunate to be involved in changes both related to local government and more recently the federal government. Many of these changes all came from ideas and suggestions from citizens and is one of the reasons why each year I do a listening tour.
For those of you who frequently read my weekly reports you will know that each week I ask citizens to always feel free to contact me with comments, questions and concerns on matters before the House of Commons. This is often where ideas come from and I would like to thank the many citizens who do take the time to respond and invite others to give me a call or send an email. When citizens work together with their elected representatives we can continue to build a stronger Canada. Please contact me via email at email@example.com or toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
This has been an interesting week on Parliament Hill given a few well publicized verbal gaffes from two opposition party leaders. While I am frequently asked to comment when such episodes occur (usually from partisans of various stripes) in my view I believe ultimately how an elected official conducts themselves is a topic best left between an MP or MLA and the citizens they represent.
In Ottawa there is currently four weeks remaining until the House adjourns in June for what is expected to be the final sitting of this 41st Parliament. There has been sixty Government Bills introduced during this 2nd session of the 41st Parliament. Of those 60 Bills, 40 have received Royal Assent and of the remaining 20 there are currently five bills in the Senate leaving fifteen at various stages of debate in the House of Commons barring the introduction of any more Bills.
Aside from Government Bills there have also been 475 Private Members Bills introduced during this 2nd session. Of this 475, twelve have received Royal Assent; fourteen are currently before the Senate meaning that roughly 449 are still up for debate in the House of Commons. From a quick glance of the 449 Private Members Bills remaining in the House, roughly 10 have reached second reading with the majority at first reading, meaning they have been introduced but not yet debated. There have also been seven Senate Bills with one receiving Royal Assent to date and the remaining six at various stages of debate. Individually Senators have sponsored twenty seven bills with five having received Royal Assent and the rest still under debate.
What will happen to the bills that have not been passed? Before an election Parliament will be formally ended by a proclamation from the Governor General that is referred to as Dissolution. Upon dissolution all items on the Order Paper including government and Private Members’ bills die. Thus when the House of Commons adjourns in this case any Bill not passed third reading will most likely not receive Royal Assent. While it is not uncommon for the Senate to sit beyond the House of Commons once the Senate has adjourned it is likely that any Bill not receiving Royal Assent will potentially die on the Order Paper in the Senate. The next election will see the creation of the 42nd Parliament and both Government and Members of that Parliament are free to sponsor bills similar or even precisely the same that may have existed and not been passed in this 41st Parliament.
If you would like more specific information or have questions on any Bill before the 41st Parliament please do not hesitate to contact me. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or toll free at 1-880-665-8711.
Before I conclude this week’s MP report I would like to express sadness and condolences to the family of recently deceased former Osoyoos Mayor and Boundary-Similkameen MLA John Slater. Mr. Slater spent many years as a vibrant small town Mayor and gave greatly to the community of Osoyoos and the surrounding area. John Slater’s contributions were many and he will be missed for his service and his friendly demeanour to all who worked with him.
Recently I was contacted by a media organization to do an interview on the subject of Government advertising. While I was not available at the requested time, I did offer an alternative day that my schedule in Ottawa could accommodate a live interview. Although the media organization in question suggested they would get back to my office instead they reported that I declined the interview, which was not accurate. I mention this because it is an example on how frequently information can be reported inaccurately even when from an otherwise credible media organization.
The subject of advertising and communications in general is one that is a challenge to all governments and also to elected MLA’s and MPs. As many local media publications are aware there are growing restrictions on what an MP can and cannot advertise. In the case of elected Members of Parliament, all advertising by a Member is subject to restrictions and ultimately must be approved by the Member of Parliament. The costs of local advertising are part of the expenses that are deducted from the funds provided to an MP for consistency expenses within the riding and are reported in the annual Expenditures by Member report from the Board of Internal Economy. In my case last year I spent just under $5,600 on advertising– a decrease from what was spent in the year prior.
Why advertise at all? Advertising in my view is one of many different means how elected Government can communicate directly with citizens. Public awareness, changes in taxation policy, where your money is spent, policy changes and public safety are just a few examples of topics that may be subject to advertising. One recent example is proposed changes to the Universal Child Care Benefit plan. These changes will see an increase in monthly payments to children under 6 and for the first time monthly support payments for children between 6 and 17 years of age. For most families these proposed changes (subject to Parliamentary approval) will see increased monthly supports arrive automatically once the implementation date occurs. However for some families with children under 18 who have never previously received the Universal Childcare Benefit, enrolment will be required. This raises the question how best to communicate the need to enroll? Advertising is one obvious solution and certainly some Members of Parliament have elected to do so. Part of why I submit weekly columns and engage in social media is in part because it is a cost effective way to communicate with citizens although far fewer will likely read my MP report this week compared to a running a quarter page sized ad. For more information on applying for the UCCB please visit this website: www.cra-arc.gc.ca/uccb/
Aside from the topic of advertising it has also been a lively week in Ottawa with a number of Bills and motions before the House. Bill C-51 the Anti-Terrorism Act passed 3rd reading with both the Liberals and Government in support and the NDP opposed. Private Members business this week includes Bill C-637 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (firearms storage and transportation), Bill C-641 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, Bill C-356 National Strategy for Dementia Act, Bill C-627 An Act to amend the Railway Safety Act and Motion M-591 Ferry services to Prince Edward Island.
For further information on these or any Bills before the House of Commons I can be reached at email@example.com 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.