Over the past few weeks I have greatly appreciated hearing from many citizens who have taken the time to share their concerns with me. Although the concerns may vary, I have noticed a trend where improved communication on the part of the Federal Government could help to provide more clarity in many situations. One area I continue to hear a strong amount of concern over is Bill C-428. For those of you who may have missed my July 4th Member of Parliament report, Bill C-428 was a private members bill introduced by former Federal Liberal MP Ruby Dhalla. This bill called for amendments to the Old Age Security Act that would see newly arrived citizens entitled to a monthly pension payment after just three years of residency. It should be noted that Bill C-428 died on the Order Paper when the former 40th Parliament was dissolved earlier this year.
Another Bill that I have also heard concern expressed over is Bill C-51. Although Bill C-51 also died on the Order Paper, it is a Bill that the Government intends to reintroduce in due course. The concerns expressed to me regarding Bill C-51 pertain to the security and confidentially of the internet, internet service providers and your personal information. Many citizens are apprehensive that personal information may be disclosed without due process and judicial oversight. At the same time many are also concerned with the ability of law enforcement agencies to tackle internet crime that can include child pornography, pedophilia, copyright infringement, hacking, and identity fraud among other issues. The need to provide the required tools for law enforcement and also a safe and secure online environment for all Canadians without compromising privacy concerns is an important one.
Bill C-51 would allow for a temporary data preservation order to be made in connection with an investigation. However a data preservation order should not be confused with data retention. Data retention, a concern I have heard mentioned often, is not contemplated with Bill C-51. The purpose of a data preservation order is to ensure that information vital to an investigation cannot be deleted prior to law enforcement securing a search warrant or production order. It is also important to recognize that for this preserved information to be viewed by law enforcement officials that judicial authorization would first have to be obtained. To be clear, a court order, authorization or warrant would be required to obtain any information with respect to an investigation. Law enforcement agencies would not be allowed to obtain the content of a citizen’s private communications without first obtaining judicial authorization to do so.
The intent of Bill C-51 is to strike an appropriate balance between the need to protect the safety and security of Canadians, in particular vulnerable youth, and to safeguard the privacy rights of law abiding Canadians. If you have further comments or concerns on this or any other Bills before the house please do not hesitate to contact me. As your Member of Parliament I value your views on these important matters.
Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for Okanagan-Coquihalla and can be reached at email@example.com
I have over the past few weeks discussed the topic of larger debt and increased government spending as well as the serious challenges that can be created if this situation is left unchecked. There is a temptation in government to build newer, larger buildings and mega projects or
to create new and expanded programs.
Often we tend to forgo examining current infrastructure and programs to ensure that those dollars are being used wisely or if there may be greater value in an existing taxpayer investment that we can benefit from today. I am encouraged to share with you one such example this
week, of a long term government asset potentially paying dividends to our region.
Many area residents within Okanagan-Coquihalla are likely familiar with the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre located in the hills above Trout Creek just off Highway 97.
However, what may be less familiar is the important work that is conducted here, supported largely by your federal tax dollars. Last week I was honoured to represent Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz in presenting a relatively modest $ 261,000 grant in support of research being
conducted in partnership between Innovative Food Systems Corp and scientists at the facility. This research can have a significant impact on our local fruit growing economy as you will soon learn.
One of the current challenges with freshly picked fruit is that it typically has a shelf life of roughly seven days. In order to access larger and more profitable markets, shipping must be done either
by air for international delivery, or via truck for the North American markets.
Both options are extremely expensive and time sensitive. Imagine if a new innovative antimicrobial packaging system could prevent fungi, mould and bacterial growth and ensure that fresh fruit remains fresh for upwards of twenty five to thirty days. Not only does this technology
preserve ripe fruits, it also helps prevent costly waste. This increase from roughly one week to one month means that marine shipping can now be an option for international markets and rail for those elsewhere around North America.
Decreased shipping costs allow growers to more economically access and capitalize on global demand. Marine and rail transportation are also more environmentally friendly and can reduce carbon emissions by roughly 60% when compared to existing shipping options. Food safety is also increased as this technology can protect food from many common pathogens and that in turn may help reduce healthcare costs.
The Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre in Summerland represents a significant investment of our tax dollars over time. However the experience and expertise of the staff and infrastructure of this
facility are important assets for our region. In this case it is encouraging that a partnership with industry in support of our local agricultural community can, in turn, enhance our regional economy, all done locally. The Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre in Summerland will be holding an open house towards the end of September and I would encourage all citizens to attend and learn more about this unique facility.
Many of us have heard the expression "there is only one taxpayer". As much as there is only one taxpayer, here in Canada there are three layers of Government providing services that ultimately are funded through a variety of different types of taxation taken from taxpayers. As an elected official one of the first things I have learned is that the spending of tax dollars is generally far easier than raising taxes to pay for that spending. It is a problem that many governments, not just those in Canada, but worldwide are currently struggling with as government revenues in many cases are not keeping up with government spending.This obviously creates a serious problem and requires either increases in revenue through taxation or decreases in spending or some combination of both. Yet finding decreases in government spending is easier said than done and ultimately if left unchecked, it can lead to increases in debt.
I believe that debt is something that we all need to pay more attention to. Many of you may be aware of the current debt struggles in Ireland and Greece, where those countries share of gross debt has now well exceeded one hundred percent of the respective Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Having said that, how many of you are aware that the United States has now reached a point where the projected gross debt for 2011 is forecast to be a one hundred percent share equal to the GDP? This is an increasingly serious situation and more so as countries that we compete with, such China and India, have considerably lower debt levels with China at just 17% gross debt against GDP and India at 69%. South Korea as another example sits at 29%
Here in Canada our current gross debt to GDP ratio is roughly 84%. The good news is that our budget deficit between April and May from this same time last year has shown a decrease, largely due to increased revenues up close to 3 percent from both personal and corporate taxes.The importance of jobs and a strong economy cannot be overstated in helping to maintain important government services. Moody’s Investor’s Services has also confirmed Canada’s current economic direction by renewing our triple A credit rating.
I raise the issue of debt because it is important that government at all levels make efforts to control spending. Recently I had the opportunity to visit one community and met with a few interest groups who were promoting projects with a combined price tag in excess of $40 million. In both cases the local government was unable to contribute so the expectation was that higher levels of government might step in to make up the shortfall. As much as these were both great projects that the community in question would enjoy, we must also learn to live within our means. We can consolidate and often use existing buildings as opposed to constantly building bigger and building new. If one community cannot afford a one third share of a project perhaps the project should be scaled back to ensure it's future sustainability.
Ultimately as a country we must all be willing to do our part in our communities to ensure that we keep spending in control. Every dollar of increased debt means that tax dollars that should be used to fund core services such as healthcare, education and infrastructure as examples, are instead diverted to pay for the debt interest. The higher our debt, the greater the interest payments and less tax dollars available for other services. Over time this situation can create the need for drastic actions that can potentially threaten the viability of the services we depend upon. We must also recognize that important projects that help to increase government revenues ultimately help fund the very services we all depend upon. Keeping Canada strong will continue to be a priority of our Government and working in partnership with our communities we will continue to build upon the success of our great country.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.