I was asked recently why I write a weekly MP report given some other MPs do not submit weekly reports. There are a few answers to this question. The first reason is due to the fact the federal Government is so vast in size there is no shortage of policies, bills and legislation to try and inform citizens about. The second reason is my favourite, and that is the fact that my weekly reports provide an opportunity for citizens to share comments, questions and concerns on specific topics that are raised. Why this is so valuable from my perspective is because often topics that are of great concern to local citizens may not be the same topics that dominate media headlines. In other words having a weekly MP report creates a good opportunity to take the pulse of how citizens in Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola feel about a wide variety of subjects.
In last week’s report I asked for input on the idea of a Federal Government imposed national carbon tax. The response to this report was not only overwhelming but almost all of the feedback I received was strongly opposed. There were also a significant number of citizens who took the time to share the reasons why they opposed a national carbon tax. Although many of the reasons varied the most common was that many citizens are paying more attention to the relationship between their gross income and their net take home pay after income taxes. At the same time their net take home pay is increasingly being subject to a growing number of consumption based taxes and fees that further reduce the household buying power. Many expressed a point of view that they cannot afford more taxation and as a result oppose another tax on something like gasoline that as many pointed out, is already heavily taxed.
Another point made by many was that government services and government could not function without burning carbon. Flights by politicians to Ottawa or Victoria being one example, emergency service vehicles, transportation trucks that carry essential supplies and services were more examples and that a national carbon tax would increase the cost of Government. Another point made by some citizens was that while income taxes can be variable in a way to help those with lower incomes, often consumption based taxes apply equally regardless of income and some felt there was an element of unfairness in that. Often various Governments use rebate programs and/or direct payment subsidies such as the recently changed direct child care subsidy to help offset these increased costs but as another citizens pointed out these programs often only help certain families and not those who are low income who have adult children with severe challenges who cannot work, no children or are single. In summary there was no lack of different reasons why a national carbon tax was overwhelmingly opposed to the extent that only a handful of citizens voiced any support for the idea.
From my perspective this feedback was all very helpful and in the event the Liberal Government continues to try and force a national carbon tax in Ottawa it will be a taxation increase, I will share many of the reasons that were provided to me over this past week opposing a national carbon tax. Citizens deserve to be heard and the feedback from my weekly reports is part of what I will be sharing in September once the House of Commons is back in session. In my view this is an important part of our democratic process in Canada.
Want to have a say in my upcoming MP reports? Is there a particular subject you would like to see covered in a future MP report? Let me know an area of Federal concern and while I may not be able to accommodate every request the most common topics that are raised will be mentioned in upcoming MP reports from now until September. I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll-free at 1-800-665-8711.
Last week’s report covering internet censorship and net neutrality generated a significant amount of feedback with an overwhelming consensus strongly in support of net neutrality. I would like to thank the many citizens who took the time to share their support for this topic and in many cases also providing unique insight on the reasons why.
This week the largest concern I am hearing to date is reaction to an announcement from the Prime Minister that the Liberal government may impose a national carbon tax on Canadians. Already CBC is reporting that the President of WestJet airlines has warned such a tax has the potential to cause serious harm to the aviation industry. Ultimately this will be a topic for discussion at the Premier’s conference occurring in Whitehorse this week.
My thoughts on a National Carbon tax? Without details on how much such a tax could cost Canadians or how it might be implemented and administered it is difficult to fairly assess the impact on taxpayers. For example in British Columbia revenues raised from the BC carbon tax are used to lower taxes in other areas – thus for those who can take advantage by implementing a lower carbon lifestyle they can save both on paying less in carbon taxes and may also benefit from reduced income taxes as the BC carbon tax is revenue neutral. However in Alberta the proposed carbon tax will selectively benefit some citizens and at the same time the Alberta Government will also retain the discretionary ability to spend carbon tax revenues on Government select pet projects and initiatives. In other words the Alberta carbon tax will increase the Alberta Governments ability to spend more revenues and is not revenue neutral in the same manner as is the case in British Columbia.
Another concern about a federally imposed national carbon tax is a lack of consistency in policy application. Regular readers of my MP reports will know that many interprovincial trade barriers remain that the vast majority of Canadians I have heard from would like to see eliminated. Buying Canadian should truly mean buying Canadian with open Provincial borders. In Ottawa even though the Conservative, NDP and Green party all recently voted in support of my motion to potentially help open up inter-Provincial trade, the majority Liberal Government opposed this motion arguing a preference for Provincial agreement on eliminating trade barriers. Strangely when it comes to potentially imposing a national carbon tax the Prime Minister takes a different view suggesting agreement between the Provinces may not necessarily be in favour of an Ottawa imposed tax increase.
My final concern on a national carbon tax is one that is rarely mentioned in media circles and that is the fact that the Liberal Government in 1995 introduced a 10 cents a litre federal excise tax on automotive fuel. Add on top of that the federal GST, not to mention various Provincial levies that are also buried into the price of gas that continues to increase costs onto Canadians. My question today to the citizens of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola is what are your views on a National Carbon tax? Is this something you would support and if so would you a have preference in what manner such a tax would be implemented?
As always I welcome your comments, questions and concerns on matters 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.
Accountability from elected officials is one of the reasons why I first ran as City councillor after finding as a small business owner many of my calls to City hall went unanswered by both public servants and elected leaders of the day. People deserve to be heard and in my view that includes a timely response as much as possible. I mention accountability because recently some may recall reports of a local Canadian woman who encountered some difficulty at the United States Roosville, Montana border crossing. The encounter, as reported by the citizen in question, resulted in some very serious and disturbing allegations against several male members of the United States border staff who work at this particular border crossing.
Whenever serious allegations of this nature are raised it is critically important that there be a full investigation – this is part of the process of accountability and also offers protection to both sides to help ascertain factually what occurred and why. This situation was challenging as the citizen in question to the best of my knowledge is not one of my constituents and as a Canadian elected representative of the Federal Government I have no official standing with the United States Customs and Border Protection Service. None the less that did not deter my determination to see this citizen receive full and proper attention from the relevant US authorities. I can now provide an update on this situation.
Recently I received a letter on this matter from no less than the United States Ambassador to Canada, Mr. Bruce Heyman. For those who may be less familiar with International protocol to receive a letter directly on this matter from the US Ambassador is an indication that the United States Government is taking these allegations extremely seriously.
Ambassador Heyman assures me that the US Customs and Border Protection Agency has very strict policies against these types of situations and is currently in the process of actively investigating this incident and will conduct a full and through investigation. Although I do not at this time know the outcome of this investigation or the expected completion date I do appreciate that Ambassador Heyman, on behalf of the United States Government, has taken the time to respond with an update on what actions are currently being undertaken as a result of this complaint.
I will provide further updates on this subject as they become available.
Original KelownaNow article: https://www.kelownanow.com/watercooler/news/news/Kelowna/16/05/27/Local_MP_offers_support_to_Kelowna_woman_after_border_incident/
Internet censorship and net neutrality are not subjects that tend be top of mind for most citizens in Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, however that does not mean they are not important concerns deserving of attention. While most are familiar with the concept of internet censorship, the principle of net neutrality is one that some citizens are less familiar with. The concept of net neutrality is that government and internet service providers should make every reasonable effort to treat internet data and related content in an equal matter free from arbitrary discrimination.
The reason I raise the subject of net neutrality is due to the fact that the Province of Quebec has passed a law earlier this year that raises serious concerns. Bill 74 allows the Quebec Government to force Canadian internet service providers to attempt to block online gaming websites outside of Quebec from Quebec residents. The reason why I suggest the law attempts to block online gaming sites is due to technical concerns raised within the wireless industry that indicate in some cases it may not be technically possible to fully comply with this new legislation. In spite of these concerns the Province of Quebec has indicated they intend to proceed with these measures potentially in the near future.
Aside from increasing costs on the respective wireless and internet service industries there is also the concern over jurisdiction. Currently communication related policy is under federal jurisdiction as mandated through the Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) and if one Province can attempt to usurp this jurisdiction in an attempt to protect a provincial monopoly, in this case Lotto-Quebec, it is highly conceivable other Provinces could follow suit. In fact, the Finance Minister for Quebec confirmed at the legislative committee studying Bill 74 that he believed that other provinces would follow the lead of Quebec. This would not only subject Canadians to a patchwork system of different rules but could compromise international agreements that Canada is a signatory to. Up until this point, the Federal Government has ensured any censorship of the internet has been justified for public safety reasons such as shutting down terrorist recruitment websites via the Criminal Code and not for financial reasons as is the case of Quebec.
To date I have been the only Member of Parliament to raise this particular concern in the House of Commons and the response from the Liberal Government was that the government supports net neutrality however it is unclear beyond that what efforts, if any, will be undertaken to protect the online rights of Canadians against these practices. My question for citizens today is what are your thoughts on net neutrality? Do you support net neutrality or do you think it is reasonable for a provincial government to create online restrictions in this area in an effort to continue to protect revenue sources.
If you have comments or concerns on this or any federal matter please do not hesitate to contact me via email at email@example.com or toll free at 1 (800) 665-8711.
Recently the federal Government announced a tentative deal with the majority of Canadian Provinces to increase the size of CPP contributions and as a result increase the benefit payments upon retirement. I am finding that because this announcement was made when many other events were occurring on Parliament Hill some of the details of this CPP increase were not as well communicated to citizens as they could have been. As a result I would like to share some of the details of this CPP increase.
Currently both an employer and an employee pay 4.95% of a worker’s salary into CPP up to a maximum income level of $ 54,900. Over time this current CPP contribution, if at the maximum level, would result in total benefit payments of just over $ 13,000 per year. The recent CPP changes announced are intended to achieve two goals. The first is to increase the total maximum benefit payable upon retirement and the second goal is to increase the income level so that a worker with a higher income will still have the ability to earn CPP benefits. To put these changes into context I will provide a few examples. Currently a worker at the maximum income level of $ 54,900 can earn a total yearly benefit of $ 13,110 a year. That same worker with the same income level (once the CPP changes are fully phased in) would be eligible to receive a total benefit of $ 17,500 a year (in today’s dollars) thus an increase of $4,390 per year in total or a $ 365 monthly increase upon retirement.
The second change is the increase so that more wealthy workers can collect CPP benefits. As I mentioned previously, currently the maximum income level for CPP is $54,900. Once the proposed changes are fully phased in by the year 2025 this amount would be increased up to $82,700 per year. As a result of these changes a retiring worker with an income level of $ 82,700 would be eligible for maximum annual CPP benefits of up to $19,900 a year, again expressed in today’s dollars.
Keep in mind these proposed increases also carry increased costs to your CPP contributions that will be deducted from your pay check. While the exact cost details will vary per worker it is expected that a worker with an annual salary of $54,900 will see a CPP increase of $ 108 a year in 2019 as 2019 is the first year the CPP increase changes would begin to take effect. Once the CPP increases are fully implemented in 2025 the increased costs to a worker would be just over $ 500 per year. Keep in mind all of these same increased costs will also have to be absorbed by employers. As a result the Canadian Federation of Independent Business has expressed concerns that imposing what amounts to billions in increases on labour costs over time will have a detrimental impact on job creation and be potentially harmful to many small businesses. The Federal Government will also be introducing a partial tax credit for employee contributions however the overall impact on small business is unknown.
While the increased CPP changes will cost employers and employees more in contributions what has also been overlooked is that these changes may actually provide some financial relief to the federal Government in the future. Increasing CPP benefits may result in less pressure and eligibility on programs such as the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) and Old Age Security (OAS) that are not directly supported by contributions from employers and employees as is the case with CPP. If you have any further comments, questions or concerns on increased CPP or any matter before the Federal Government do not hesitate to contact me 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.