As a week can go in Ottawa, this has been a very interesting one on Parliament Hill but as
is often the case, some issues are widely reported over in favour of others. Based on questions, concerns and feedback I have heard from many citizens in Okanagan-Coquihalla here are some updates on a few events this week.
Back in my July 9th MP report I mentioned a proposal submitted to the CRTC that could potentially create a tax on Netflix subscribers; this was in response to many citizens who had taken the time to voice opposition to such a taxation proposal. This week representatives from Netflix participated in a public hearing with the CRTC. As you may have heard, this hearing resulted in Netflix being ordered to produce specific proprietary information to the CRTC that ultimately in some cases was not provided. Having read the transcripts of this hearing it is clear that Netflix was willing to provide the requested information provided an assurance of confidentiality could be secured from the CRTC. Ultimately an inability to reach an agreement with respect to confidentiality has resulted in this matter still pending. It should also be noted that our Government is on record opposing a Netflix tax, a view similar to what I have heard locally. I will provide a further update on this subject as it becomes available.
On the ISIL terrorist threats to Canadians, we have seen in recent media reports, there has been a number of cases where citizens with a Canadian passport have left Canada to join the terrorist group ISIL. In order to protect Canadians our Government has listed ISIL as an official terrorist group, making it a criminal offence to assist their operations and begun revoking passports of those individuals who leave Canada to join ISIS or other Jihadi terror groups. The leader of the Liberal party has publicly stated his opposition to revoking passports of individuals who join ISIL or other terror organizations, meaning these individuals are free to return to Canada or travel to other destinations under a Canadian passport. As a result this is a subject I would invite further comment on. Is the revoking of passports of individuals who leave Canada to join terror
organizations reasonable or should these individuals be free to return to Canada as suggested by the leader of the Liberal party?
In last week’s report I discussed in greater detail some aspects of the Reform Act and invited further comments. Many citizens took the time to respond and while some have voiced serious concern and strong opposition to the bill, the majority of citizens I have heard from are supportive for a variety of different reasons. I would also like to credit and recognize individuals who presented unique points that encourage support in areas that I voiced concern over in my
report. Based largely on the feedback I have heard from a majority of citizens and pending amendments to the Reform Act I can confirm I will be voting in support of the Bill as it comes up for a vote this week in the House of Commons. The feedback from so many citizens in Okanagan-Coquihalla on this bill was very much appreciated.
On the subject of feedback a reminder that I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
This has been a very busy week in Ottawa as the 2nd session of 41st Parliament is again underway. Some of the Bills before the House this week include Senate Bill S-3 “An Act to amend the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act” and Government Bill C-3 “Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies Act”. Also up for debate this week is Private Members Bill C-586“Reform Act of 2014” from my Conservative colleague MP Michael Chong. The Reform Act continues to be one of the bills that I have received a considerable amount of feedback on recently and as a result have been following the bill closely.
One aspect of the Reform Act that is of interest is how it proposes to change the current political structure of our electoral process. To highlight this I will provide a more current example: during the most recent nomination process to select the leader of the Liberal party it is reported that over 104,000 people participated in their democratic process that resulted in 80% voting for
one individual who was then declared Leader of the Liberal Party. What is interesting about the Reform Act is that it proposes a legal mechanism where a majority of MPs from a party caucus can vote to replace the democratically elected leader and replace that democratically elected leader with an appointed one. To use the example from the Liberal Party again this means that with 37
Liberal MPs in the House of Commons it would require only 19 Liberal MPs to replace the current leader. The Reform Act also proposes that a majority vote of caucus can determine the interim replacement leader. In other words, the same majority of party MPs who would agree to vote out a democratically elected leader selected by the grassroots of their party would be free to vote in their own preferred replacement as an interim leader.
Some view this as enhancing democracy and are strongly supportive; others have voiced concern at the thought of a leader elected by tens of thousands of citizens could be over turned by a few dozen MPs. From my own perspective, one concern that I have is the potential for back room deals in Ottawa being made that could potentially create internal division and alienate citizens who participated in a transparent leadership selection process only to see that taken away for reasons
that may never be publicly stated. The stated goal of the Reform Act is to increase the ability of individual MPs to overturn the leadership of a party as well as decisions involving party discipline efforts that can include suspensions from caucus and reinstatements. I would be remiss if I did not
also point out that there are examples of leaders at both the Provincial and Federal level who have been successfully removed by caucus under existing process without legislation as proposed in the Reform Act.
This is only a brief summary involving some of the measures proposed in the Reform Act, there are others that unfortunately cannot be covered in detail in a single column. While my comments might come across as opposing the Reform Act that is not the intent in this report. Based on the feedback I have received from citizens to date, the majority have stated support for the Reform Act; in conversation I have also discovered that many are unaware of some of the technical aspects the bill proposes. It should also be noted that further amendments have been proposed to the Reform Act at in the event the bill reaches Committee Stage review. I can confirm that I will be supporting the Reform Act at second reading debate, so that these proposals can be reviewed and vetted by committee and welcome further comments and questions on this or any Bill before the House. I can be reached at email@example.com or via phone at 1-800-665-8711.
Next week the House of Commons will again be in session as the fall sitting gets underway with a heavy schedule from now until late December. While there will be many bills coming before the House, one of the more anticipated debates will on be the Reform Act of 2014, a Private Member's Bill from my Conservative colleague MP Michael Chong. This bill has a number of democratic reform proposals in it that continues to generate a strong amount of feedback from citizens and is a debate that promises to be very engaging. From a local perspective I have had a number of responses on this Bill and will continue to provide updates on the progress of it in the House of Commons.
Another important topic that may be the subject of debate is the deployment of a limited number of Canadian armed forces personnel to Iraq to work in a non combat capacity with American forces personnel advising Iraqi military forces. The purpose of this joint effort is to provide expertise on how Iraqi security forces can better protect innocent citizens against the threat of ISIL. The initial Canadian deployment is for 30 days and includes providing strategic and tactical advice to Iraqi forces but does not include a combat role. In response to the announcement the NDP raised concerns around mission creep while the Liberals offered their support for the deployment. From my own perspective there is no question that the deplorable tactics and actions of terrorist groups against innocent civilians are serious and represent very real concerns to all Canadians. Canada has a long history of opposing tyranny and protecting innocent civilians from brutality and acts of terrorism. I also recognize that serious conflict is a subject that Canadians have diverse views on and should never be taken lightly. I will continue to provide updates on this subject and welcome comments and questions in this or any subject coming before the House of Commons.
As I am soon off to Ottawa I would like to thank the many citizens, groups, organization and businesses that took the time to share concerns with me over my summer listening tour. This input was helpful for me and there are a number of items that I will be taking forward to Ottawa for follow up on as the fall session gets underway. I should also add there are still some unresolved and ongoing issues that I continue to actively work on and am hoping for resolution in the near future. I will provide more information on these topics in the coming months as well. If you have a comment, question or concern I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
Over this past summer I have been fortunate to receive some favourable comments in a local editorial on my work as a Member of Parliament and also have been the subject of some rather intense criticism for raising a subject that some citizens had strong opposing views on. Being in the middle of a media firestorm and the target of some opposing citizens is overall not an enjoyable experience; however it is a very important one. In a vibrant democracy in a country as diverse as Canada we expect disagreement and a difference of views. It is understandable that we would prefer opposition to be neatly delivered, constructive and without personal attacks or profanity; however we also recognize that citizens at times express points of views in unique ways. This can all be unpleasant for certain but we should also not overlook that ultimately when people make an effort to pass on questions, comments or views they are attempting to engage in our democratic process- a good thing indeed.
I mention these things due to the fact that in one municipality within Okanagan-Coquihalla, a local government is reported to have threatened litigation against a senior citizen who can be quite vocal on local issues of importance. As an elected official I can relate to the fact that at times we have critics who can be quite aggressive and we would prefer that they communicate in a more civil tone. It should also be pointed out that if a citizen is behaving in such a manner, that elected officials, if necessary through government, can state reasons why a certain behaviours are not tolerated and responses to vitriolic or vexatious inquiries not provided. Drawing a line between legitimate but uncomfortable inquiry and harsh or impassioned language is a difficult task and should be taken with care. In my view when local officials sanction legal means to attempt to silence members of the public, it crosses a line and that is a concern that I believe we should all share.
Withstanding criticism is never enjoyable however if we are to lead in public office at times difficult and unpopular decisions will be required to be made. Accepting criticism for those decisions is part of the process. We should also recognize that our more senior levels of government at the Provincial & Federal level were structured by design to have a funded and working opposition with certain legal and traditional immunities to raise issues when in legislative chambers. In Municipal Government, particularly in small to mid-sized communities, where there is no formal funded official opposition; often the opposition may well be from members of the public, who in this case we are reminded, may have no legal immunity to raise issues of concern.
The intent of this week’s report is to recognize that while criticism can be at times difficult to accept, it remains an important part of governance and elected office. Criticism, in my view is not something we should fear nor shy away from and most importantly should not attempt to silence. There is little doubt that some will criticize my report this week. From my general observation there are far fewer subjects that receive complete agreement than the vast amount of subjects that citizens agree to disagree on. That is the sign of a healthy democracy where citizens enjoy the freedom to express opposing views without fear of repercussion. I can be reached via email 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.