One of the things that I have discovered during my time in Ottawa is how frequently any debate on crime related legislation often overlooks the devastating impact that serious crime has on the victims and their families. Recently many citizens have contacted me to express outrage that a man who committed a brutal and senseless act of unprovoked murder on a Kelowna City bus will again be free to roam the streets in just four and a half years. For the family of the victim, Caesar Rosales, this sentence is a slap in the face and an injustice to the memory of a loved one. What can citizens do? It is important for people to reach out to elected officials – in this case both MP’s and MLA’s to express outrage over this tragedy. Although our justice system is by design intended to be free of political interference, laws both in Victoria and Ottawa can be changed, something that our former Government in Ottawa tried frequently to do in the last Parliament.
As this was a decision in a BC Provincial Court, the Provincial Crown Prosecutor can appeal this sentence, the criteria is as follows:
1. the sentence imposed in the trial court is either illegal or unfit; and
2. (a) the proposed appeal involves a serious offence or relates to an offender who constitutes a serious threat to the community;
2. (b) the proposed appeal raises an important question of general application concerning the principles of sentencing; or
In this case I believe that there is adequate evidence that due to the serious and violent nature of this crime, both in terms of public safety and interest, that the Crown should appeal this decision immediately. In my view it is important to publicly speak out against these disturbing acts of random violence in the hopes that an appeal will be submitted. While the Criminal Code is put in place by the Federal Parliament, the administration of Justice is delegated to the provinces and I am hopeful that local MLAs will also denounce this act and support an appeal.
For more information on the Crown's policy to appeal:
As my summer listening tour is now underway I welcome the opportunity to meet with you. Please contact me directly at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll-free at 1-800-665-8711.
The House of Commons was scheduled to sit for three days this week before adjourning for the summer recess, however, the vote to adjourn took place last Friday. This allows all MPs to return to their Ridings and spend the summer working locally and being in touch with their constituents. As this was the first full spring session of the 42nd Parliament I thought I would take the opportunity to provide some statistics as they pertain to the work Parliament has done in the last 6 months.
By the numbers, the Government has now introduced 23 Bills. Of those 23, 4 have gone through the House and the Senate and are awaiting Royal Assent while 7 more are currently in the Senate, meaning there are still 12 Government Bills remaining in the House when debate resumes on September 19th.
As for Private Members Bills there are already 99 what we call PMB’s, that have received at least 1st reading in the House. Of these 99 only one bill, Bill C-210 “An Act to amend the National Anthem Act” (for gender) has passed through the house onto the Senate while just 4 bills have reached 2nd reading.
Meanwhile in the Senate there are currently just two Senate sponsored bills and a further 25 Senate Private Member Bills. In total there are currently almost 150 different legislative bills proposed to date between the Senate and the House of Commons.
I often like to mention the volume of Bills being brought forward because I believe it is an important factor when discussing any proposed reduction of the amount of sitting time in Ottawa.
Few take note that less time in Ottawa will result in fewer bills being scrutinized and debated.
It should also be pointed out that Opposition Day Debate and Motions, as well as Parliamentary Committee review and other events such as Question Period also consume our time in Ottawa in addition to time spent debating various bills. It is for these reasons that I continue to remain opposed to a shortened work week or any reduction to the amount of sitting time in the House of Commons.
Later this month the House will reconvene back in Ottawa to hear a speech from our special guest, President Obama before Members of Parliament return to their home ridings.
For many MPs, and certainly in my case with a geographically large riding, the summer months provide an excellent opportunity to travel to all parts of Central Okanagan Similkameen Nicola to meet with citizens and groups to hear concerns and ideas first hand. In some situations problems may be very specific and localized but in other cases I have found citizens often have good ideas that can be shared and in several cases even incorporated into government policy. This is part of what I consider “Democracy In Action” where citizens can directly share ideas that can be taken to Ottawa through a variety of different means.
It is extremely important and very much appreciated that citizens take the time to sit down and meet with their locally elected representative, and this applies to all levels of government. Getting information and feedback from constituents is an essential part of democratic representation. On that note I would encourage citizens to contact me directly so that I can hear your concerns and hopefully meet you in person over these next few months. I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or toll free at 1-800-665-8711
In my June 1st MP report I referenced the opposition #FreeTheBeer campaign that ultimately means asking that the Liberal Government elevate the Comeau case to the Supreme Court for constitutional clarification. For a quick refresher the “Comeau case” was where the Province of New Brunswick charged a citizen, Gerard Comeau, for personally importing beer and some spirits across a Provincial border from Quebec. What is unique about this case was that a New Brunswick judge found Mr. Comeau was not guilty on account that our Canadian Constitution clearly states in Section 121 that “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.” Regrettably a few weeks ago the Province of New Brunswick announced they will be appealing this ruling.
Elevating this ruling to the Supreme Court for constitutional clarification has the potential to open up our internal economy for all Canadian producers of other products aside from just beer, wine or spirits. This obviously includes farmers and other agricultural producers. This week the motion I wrote on elevating the Comeau case to the Supreme Court was the subject of the Opposition day debate in the House of Commons – this was a first in my time as an opposition MP and I am pleased to report that both the NDP and Elizabeth May of the Green party joined with our Conservative opposition in support of this motion. It was only a whipped vote from the Liberal majority government that defeated the motion after some very good debate from all sides. I am reasonably confident had this not been a whipped Government vote it may well have passed.
Also occurring this week in Ottawa, and as I have reported in previous MP reports, is that Bill C-14, the physician assisted dying legislation, is now in the Red Chamber (as the Senate is often referred to) where the Bill has received some seven different amendments . As I reported last week the Liberal government has indicated that it will not be accepting of any amendments to this bill so a potential standoff between the House and the Senate seems inevitable at this point. Members of the Senate have also indicated they may reject the bill outright in the event the Government does not entertain some of the proposed Senate amendments. As this is a relatively rare and uncharted situation it is difficult to speculate on what will occur next however I will provide updates in my future reports.
On a local note I can now confirm that due to the popularity of the new mobile constituency service my office has offered in Merritt on the 1st Tuesday of each month from 9am until noon at the Merritt City Hall I will now be expanding this service to Princeton and Keremeos. Mobile constituency services will now be available on the 2nd Wednesday of each month in Princeton from 9am until noon at the Princeton Town Hall. Also on the 2nd Wednesday of each month from 1pm until 4 pm the service will be offered in Keremeos at the Village Hall. For further information please contact me at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
Dan in the in the news this week:
In my May 25th MP report I speculated on how recent efforts to reform the Senate to become more politically independent could result in the Senate causing significant delays to Government bills that could in turn have the effect of slowing down Parliament. As was speculated Bill C-14, the medical assistance in dying bill, left the House of Commons and it now appears that potentially significant delays could occur to this legislation in the Red Chamber. At issue is that the Senate is in the process of amending the bill while at the same time the Government has indicated its belief that the bill is fine as is, setting the stage for a potential stand-off.
As these stand-offs are somewhat uncommon there is an emerging debate from those who believe that unelected Senators should not be able to derail the legislation of democratically elected Members of Parliament while others point out that the Senate is simply fulfilling its role to provide “sober second thought” to legislation. From my perspective a more independent Senate may well continue to produce more of these types of stand-offs to the extent that the Government may want to further refine its current approach to Senate reform.
Ultimately there is no Parliamentary procedure that exists where Government can force the Senate to pass a bill that is not supported. It is for this reason that historically a Prime Minister will appoint Senators who are members of the Government caucus to help ensure that a democratically elected Government is able to achieve the mandate voters elected them on. In this instance there may be an official conference between the House of Commons and the Senate to try and reach an agreement between the two chambers on Bill C-14. It has been reported that a conference of this type has not been hosted in Parliament for roughly 70 years.
My thoughts on this current impasse? Given the magnitude and importance of a Bill like C-14 it is critically important this legislation receives extensive scrutiny between the two chambers in the hopes the bill can encompass more of the concerns expressed by the public to both Parliamentarians and Senators alike. Ultimately Bills, once passed into law will also be subject to scrutiny from our Supreme Court and many have suggested that Bill C-14 may well be headed in this direction. For the record I supported Bill C-14 after extensive consultations with constituents through my MP reports, several town halls and hearing lots of direct comments and concerns from the citizens of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola. Although not everyone was supportive of this Bill, I committed that I would listen to constituents and the vast majority I heard from were in support of the bill in recognizing the decision of the Supreme Court to legalize medical assistance in dying.
Finally, a reminder that I am now operating a Mobile Constituency service in Merritt, at the municipal hall on the first Tuesday of each month. As I will be adding additional mobile office service throughout our riding for information please go to my website: www.danalbas.com/mobileoffice . I welcome your comments and concerns and can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
On Monday morning of this week in my capacity as the Official Opposition critic for interprovincial trade I held a news conference with Opposition Deputy Leader Dennis Lebel to announce a new “Free the Beer” campaign. Since that time I have heard overwhelming support from citizens all across Canada strongly in support of this campaign.
Most people regardless of political persuasion support the concept of “Free the Beer” not unlike what I discovered with my “Free my Grapes” private members bill that was unanimously supported in the House of Commons when it passed third reading. So why is “Free the Beer” important and more so for our Canadian economy?
First some background on this subject. Since my private member`s bill to “Free The Grapes” that removed a prohibition era amendment on the inter-provincial movement of wine was passed into law only Manitoba, British Columbia and Nova Scotia have embraced the spirit that free trade in Canadian wine should not be a crime. After my bill was passed the former Conservative Government also amended the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act to add craft beers and artisan spirits to the list. However, recently the Province of New Brunswick charged a citizen, Gerard Comeau for personally importing beer and some spirits across a Provincial border.
It is clear that many Provinces remain stuck in the dark ages of protectionism, using regulatory red tape to create trade barriers. Fortunately for Mr. Comeau, our Canadian Constitution clearly states in Section 121 that “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.” A New Brunswick judge agreed with section 121 of our Constitution and Mr. Comeau was found not guilty. Regrettably last week the Province of New Brunswick announced they will be appealing this ruling and that is the basis for my announcement this week.
Simply put, “Free the Beer” means asking that the Liberal Government elevate the Comeau case to the Supreme Court for constitutional clarification. This not only has the potential to free the beer for Canadians but more importantly it could open up our internal economy for all Canadian producers of other products. This obviously includes farmers and other agricultural producers. People want to “Buy Canadian” and it should not be easier for a winery in BC to directly sell into Asia than Ontario as is the case today.
It is difficult to assess the impact internal trade barriers have on our economy but one study has the value at $14 Billion annually. I believe that anything we can do to help create jobs and grow our economy without adding more debt should be a priority of any Government. I welcome your comments and question on this topic. Do you support “Free the Beer” and removing Inter-Provincial trade barriers?
On a different note, my staff and I have been reviewing suggestions from some of the town halls we have held since the last election and we are pleased to announce that we will start offering a Mobile Constituency service in Merritt, at the municipal hall on June 7, 2016 from 9am-12pm and after that on the first Tuesday of each month thereafter. As we will be adding additional mobile office service throughout the riding, or more information please go to my website: www.danalbas.com/mobileoffice
If you have any questions or comments on these or other subjects, I can be reached 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.