The 1988 Canadian federal election was one of the most important in recent Canadian history.
At that time the Conservative Brian Mulroney Government had successfully negotiated our first free trade agreement with the United States.
It was not without controversy.
At the time, the Liberal Party led by John Turner, ran election attack ads on TV showing the Canada/USA border being erased and asked “Just how much are we giving away?” and concluded with the statement “This is more than an election -- this is your future”.
Here in the Okanagan, there were media reports of some local vintners threatening to tear out entire vineyards fearing they could not compete with the massive California wine industry.
Today we know that not only can our local vintners compete, but they can thrive and produce some of the best wines in the world.
Many people from outside of Canada now know and visit the Okanagan not unlike how Napa Valley has been known for decades.
The US President now calls trade deals with countries such as Canada, the worst the United States has ever signed.
To date all efforts to successfully renegotiate NAFTA have failed and at an awkward Canada-USA news conference of NAFTA negotiators it was revealed there have been no talks for roughly two weeks now.
This week in Ottawa a number of business people in the Canadian aluminum and steel industries spoke in very blunt terms over the very real prospect of serious job losses.
On July 1st, Canada’s retaliatory counter tariffs against a variety of USA imported and produced goods will be implemented that will make the USA produced goods more expensive for Canadians to buy.
This is not unlike how it was recently reported that the US tariff on Canadian softwood lumber has increased the price of an average new home built in the United States by roughly $9,000.
The list of USA produced items that will be subject to a 10% increase on July 1st, 2018 as a result of the Liberals tariff counter-measures is extensive.
Items include yogurt, coffee, pizza, ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, soups, dishwasher detergent, toilet paper, and some appliances.
Obviously many Canadians will face higher prices in grocery stores as a result of these tariff increases.
It has been suggested that the Liberals, where possible, have attempted to strategically implement these tariffs to maximize political impact on the home states where these items are produced.
Obviously after July 1st when these tariffs go into effect, check the country of origin on items you buy.
That may explain price changes.
Hopefully these retaliatory tariff changes do not encourage further retaliation from the United States against more Canadian produced goods as the US market remains Canada’s largest trading partner.
One thing is for certain, consumers lose when tariffs are implemented.
As we approach Canada Day, I believe we should all stand united in the hope that we can soon see a return to the NAFTA table and a successful agreement.
My question this week:
Do you support increased retaliatory tariffs that also increase costs on US produced goods sold in Canada?
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.
If you have been following politics in Ottawa in the past week, you have may have heard the term “Carbon Tax Cover Up”.
What is the “Carbon Tax Cover-Up”?
This question has resulted in considerable debate within the House of Commons including an all-night filibuster between the Liberal Government and the Official Opposition.
In my MP Report, May 2, I discussed how much the Liberal carbon tax being imposed by Prime Minister Trudeau would cost Canadians.
At least I attempted to.
Unfortunately, the Liberal Government continues to refuse to release a report that documents the estimate of these costs.
What does this report say?
Here is a direct quote: “This memo focuses on the potential impact of a carbon price on households’ consumption expenditures across the income distribution. Key findings are…”
The rest of the report after this sentence has been blacked out by the Liberals.
A further table in the report says “Original note based on preliminary projections from Environment Canada. Final projections have now been made available”
Once again the projections are not being made available because Mr. Trudeau’s Government has blacked them out as well.
Despite the fact that the Liberals continue to hide this information from Canadians, an Economics Professor at the University of Calgary and Director of Energy and Environmental Policy at its School of Public Policy has made some calculations of these costs.
It is important to recognize that the carbon tax rate on emissions under Prime Minister Trudeau’s plan calls for the carbon tax rate to be continually increased per tonne of carbon.
I mention this point because previously a province, such as BC, had the ability to freeze the carbon tax at a certain level if there was economic harm or concerns over affordability for citizens.
It is reported that advisers to the Minister of the Environment believe that a price of $100 per tonne is necessary for Canada to reduce our emissions to 30% below 2005 levels within the next two to four years.
According to the professor, here in British Columbia, that means citizens could be paying over $1,200 a year just in higher carbon taxes alone.
The provincial government will have some ability to refund or partially credit this revenue or to spend it in other areas.
Will this actually reduce emissions?
The Liberal Government believes it will and has released a report from the Department of Environment and National Resources that concludes a carbon tax could eliminate up to 90 million tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2022.
The issue with this report is when you read the fine print, there is a disclaimer.
The disclaimer reads: “The scenario presented in this document is for illustrative purposes only. It is not intended to signal any expectations on the part of the Government of Canada as to where the federal system will apply”
In other words, it is a purely hypothetical scenario created to help the Liberal Government justify the carbon tax.
The challenge is that, in our riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, there are still many rural areas where no public transit exists.
Some areas have even lost Greyhound as an option.
Healthcare has been increasingly consolidated to larger centres, meaning lengthy trips are required for even basic medical needs.
Smaller schools, in places like Hedley, no longer exist, creating longer commutes for students and families.
Ottawa of course, does not have these problems.
This is why I consistently speak out against the carbon tax and have demanded, at a minimum, that the Liberal Government come clean and disclose the costs from this report.
For citizens in rural communities like Hedley and Logan Lake, I do not believe potentially making them pay over $1,100 a year or more will be helpful when there are lack of alternatives in those areas.
In essence the carbon tax has the potential to unfairly penalize those in rural communities the most.
My question this week:
Will the carbon tax unfairly target Canadians living in rural communities?
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.
“I get into Air Force One, the televisions on, and I see a news conference being given by Trudeau,” Trump said of leaving the G-7 summit held in Canada this weekend. “And then he talked about how they won’t be bullied. And I said, ‘What’s this all about? He didn’t do that to my face, what’s this all about?’”
He added: “I actually like Justin, you know, I think he’s good, I like him, but he shouldn’t have done that. That was a mistake. That’s going to cost him a lot of money.” – USA President Donald Trump
These comments from the President of the United States have been the largest issue in Ottawa and elsewhere this past week.
It is deeply alarming that the President of the United States is threatening to financially punish Canada at the trade table, in large part because he disagrees with the comments of Prime Minister Trudeau at a news conference.
In my view this is completely unacceptable.
If this threat is carried out in any way, it could seriously compromise what has otherwise been an extremely successful relationship between two world leading countries.
If there is an upside, recently we also witnessed a historic event where President Trump concluded what many view as successful talks with North Korea that may denuclearize the Korean peninsula.
I mention this as it was not so many months ago that relations between the US President and the leader of North Korea were far more adversarial and most would agree considerable progress has made towards a more constructive relationship.
What can Canada do?
As I have stated in the past, if there is one area where I believe our Prime Minister and his administration have worked very proactively, it has been to maintain positive relations with the United States administration.
I believe this work will continue and some success will result from these efforts.
The greater challenge is that the United States administration is aggressively pursuing an economic agenda that has been successful in increasing investment and lowering unemployment to record lows.
US corporate taxes have been significantly reduced and resource development has been accelerated.
Here in Canada, costs of doing business have increased.
The carbon tax, that the USA does not have, continues to rise.
CPP, which is often referred to as an employment tax, is also steadily increasing.
Locally in provinces like British Columbia, a new health employer’s tax will have a similar impact.
Upper income brackets have been increased both provincially and federally and many tax credits used by families and students have been eliminated.
All of these factors combined are making Canada less competitive compared to the United States.
Aside from those measures, Canada still does not have true inter-Provincial free trade.
For example, a winery in BC still cannot directly sell to consumers in many Canadian provinces.
A competing winery located in Washington State can directly ship to customers all across the United States.
Why do I mention all of these things?
With the current uncertainty over the NAFTA negotiations, there are plenty of other areas where the Federal Government can take a leadership role and actively work with provinces to lower costs instead of continuing to increase them, as has been the case to date.
My question this week:
Do you agree? In the absence of success at the NAFTA table should the Federal Liberal Government actively and aggressively take measures to increase Canadian competitiveness?
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl,gc,ca or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.
“A trade war Canada will lose” has been a common theme in recent Canadian media headlines after the United States announced a tariff of 25% on Canadian steel and 10% on Canadian aluminum last week.
In response, Canada has announced targeted tariff increases on a broad range of United States manufactured goods that are imported into Canada.
Is this a full blown trade war?
At the moment it is a tariff related dispute designed to increase pressure on the NAFTA negotiations.
Having said that, I believe it is also important to be mindful of the year 2008 when the Canadian dollar not only reached parity with the US dollar, for a brief period of time it actually rose above the US dollar.
I mention that due to the fact that although the 25% tariff on steel is both punitive and in my view completely unfair to Canada, it ultimately negates the Canadian currency advantage that is currently around 23% between the United States and Canadian dollar.
This tariff approach follows a similar pattern from the United States where Canadian softwood lumber exports were hit with a tariff up to 24% essentially wiping out the currency advantage that historically works in Canada’s favour.
As I have previously commented, I believe it is also important to point out that our Prime Minister has largely shown restraint in not getting involved in USA domestic politics despite that it would be politically convenient to do so.
In fact to date, I believe most political pundits would agree that our Liberal Government has made considerable effort to work proactively with the United States administration in several areas and I believe these efforts will continue.
As the official opposition, we will continue to hold the Prime Minister to account for the failure thus far to conclude a successful new NAFTA deal with the United States.
Some in Ottawa do not like this fact however it should be pointed out that holding someone accountable to produce results for Canadians is not necessarily the same thing as assigning blame.
In this case, we have a US President who was elected in part with a promise to renegotiate trade deals such as NAFTA.
Here in Canada we have a Prime Minister who has expressed an agenda to also change trade deals and promote “progressive trade values” that to date other countries continue to strongly reject.
In my view, we should recognize that in the event our Canadian dollar returns to parity with the US dollar, either through natural market forces or through artificial means such as punitive tariffs, we will have to be able to compete.
On that note a national carbon tax and increased payroll taxes that the United States does not have will make Canada less competitive.
Recent comments from the International Monetary Fund highlights the lack of Canadian tax competitiveness compared to the USA.
I believe in the absence of a new NAFTA deal Canada needs to focus on measures that increase our international competitiveness.
To date, the Federal Government and many provinces, including British Columbia with an incoming new health employers tax, will achieve the opposite.
My question this week relates to NAFTA:
Do you believe Canada should show more flexibility to achieve a new NAFTA agreement or aggressively pursue the status quo?
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call 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.