When I was re-elected as an MP and became a member of the Official Opposition I made a few commitments publicly that were important to me. One of them was not just to oppose but also to propose ideas and solutions that can be of benefit to our region and elsewhere. Another commitment was to communicate Government policy as clearly as possible in spite of the fact that said policy may be strongly opposed by the opposition. This commitment is a very important one to me as one my frustrations having sat on the Government side of the house was how government policy was frequently intentionally misinterpreted and distorted by the opposition. I believe misstating Government policy does a disservice to all involved and is why I have make every effort to avoid doing so in my weekly reports. This all leads me to the Liberal Governments announcement yesterday to approve the Pacific Northwest Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project.
Let me state for the record I commend the Liberal Government for making what is a difficult political decision that I am already hearing is very unpopular with many citizens who voted for the Liberals in the last election. A few points on this. The decision to approve the Pacific Northwest LNG project also comes with 190 conditions, many of them environmentally related, that must be met for the project to go forward. This is not unlike the approval for the Northern Gateway pipeline project that had 209 environmentally related conditions that must be met. (for more information view my June 19,2014 MP Report on this subject http://www.danalbas.com/mp-report/discussing-gateway ).
Aside from these conditions the Liberal Government has also noted that the Pacific Northwest LNG project will create significant economic opportunities for not just BC, but also for Canada. This project represents a total capital investment of $36 Billion and will create 4500 jobs during the construction process along with 630 direct and indirect permanent jobs after completion. Aside from these benefits the BC LNG project will contribute an estimated $2.5 billion in annual tax revenue to Government along with an increase of $3 billion per year to Canada’s GDP growth. These are important considerations given that increases in health transfer funding is now linked to GDP growth.
Having heard the many positive aspects of this project as opposition I must also share some of the concerns voiced from those who strongly oppose this development. As much as the Liberal Government likes to use the talking point that the environment and the economy go hand in hand the reality is they do not. This project will generate 4.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year not including an estimated 6.5 million to 8.7 million tonnes required for natural gas collection and transportation. As a result the project would become one of the largest GHG emitters in Canada and given that many climate experts already believe Canada will not meet the targets the Liberal Government has committed to in Paris is a concern frequently raised by opponents.
From my own perspective, one other aspect on this project that is often overlooked is the fact that relatively clean burning BC LNG can be used in countries such as China as an alternative to coal fired power plants. This not only significantly reduces GHG emissions on a global scale; it also greatly improves local air quality that is an important factor for human health in these regions. While all projects have environmental considerations on balance I believe the Liberal Government has made the right decision in approving Pacific Northwest LNG project. However I also believe the Liberal Government does a disservice by making commitments at the Paris climate conference that are at odds with our ability to meet them, not unlike what occurred when a former Liberal Government committed to the Kyoto agreement. I welcome your views on this or any subject before the House of Commons and can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or toll-free at 1-800-665-8711
This week the House of Commons is back in session after the summer recess and it did not take long for the usual Ottawa dynamic to get back into full swing. One of the major media stories occurring this week is revelations that the Prime Minister’s office & various Ministers have billed taxpayers over $1 million to move political staff to Ottawa. While Government does sometimes cover these types of expenses in this case claims as high as $126,000 for an individual political staff member to move from Toronto to Ottawa have resulted in demands for more transparency on providing details that substantiate these amounts.
On a local level I have already heard several concerns from citizens who have reported to moving much farther distances for considerably smaller amounts of money. Although some will argue one million dollars may be a small amount of money as part of the overall Federal Government budget it is also important for taxpayers to have confidence that every dollar is spent wisely and it is extremely difficult to comprehend how a move from Toronto to Ottawa can cost well over $100,000. As opposition this will be a subject that we will demand further information on.
Another interesting subject occurring this week in Ottawa relates to Canada`s climate change targets, more specifically known as targets for reducing industrial greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Many citizens may recall shortly after the 2015 Federal election our Prime Minister sent the largest Canadian delegation in history to attend the Paris climate change conference at a cost in excess of $1 million dollars to do so. While at the Paris conference the Liberal Government made several comments in support of increasing GHG reduction targets while at the same time criticizing the record of the former Conservative Government in this area. For this reason many in Ottawa were surprised this week when the Liberal Government announced that it would adopt the very same GHG reduction targets that were set by the previous Government under Prime Minister Harper. Yes, these would be the very same GHG reduction targets the Liberals formerly had criticized when in opposition.
For some history on Canada’s GHG reduction targets in 1993 former Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien promised to reduce our GHG emissions to 20% below 1988 levels by 2005. This promise was broken. In 1997 Prime Minister Chretien signed on to the Kyoto accord to reduce our emissions by a smaller amount of 6% below 1990 levels that would be achieved by 2012. In 2006 when the Liberals were voted out of office Canada was actually 30% over that target and as a result Prime Minister Harper eventually withdrew Canada from the Kyoto agreement that had set binding targets. In 2009 at the Copenhagen climate conference former Prime Minister Harper matched the USA target to cut GHG emissions by 17% below 2005 levels by 2020 and 30% by 2013 in what is a non-binding agreement. These target levels are the same the Liberals will now use as they prepare to ratify the Paris climate conference agreement going forward, a move that has angered some in the environmental movement and in particular the Green Party and leader Elizabeth May.
Somewhat related to this announcement is news this week that the Liberal Government also intends to force a carbon tax onto Canadian Provinces. From my perspective it is important to also point out that at this point no details are known how this might work and it should also be recognized that Provinces such as BC already have a Carbon tax so it remains unknown how such a federally imposed tax would impact British Columbia. I will continue to provide further information on the Liberal proposed Carbon Tax as the details become available. If you have any comments, questions or concerns on this or any matter before the House of Commons I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or contacted toll-free at 1(800) 665-8711.
As many will recall, in 2014 Canada Post announced it would be ending door to door mail delivery service for the roughly 1/3 of Canadians who still received the service. During the 2015 federal election this became a political topic as the now Liberal Government promised to halt the door to door mail delivery service elimination and instead maintain door to door delivery. More recently the Liberal Government has released an independent review of Canada Post that will be used for further scrutiny by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates. This committee will ultimately make recommendations that point to potential changes that the Liberal Government is considering with respect to how Canada Post operates. While it is unclear at this point what changes might occur some of the reviews findings do indicate the challenges being faced by Canada Post that may be of interest to many citizens in our region.
Overall the ongoing challenge at Canada Post remains declining mail volume, as an example in 2015 Canada Post delivered 8.8 billion pieces of mail; a number that is down almost 3 billion since 2007. At the same time Canada Post is adding roughly 170,00 addresses per year– in other words there are more addresses being created Canada wide and at the same time there is less mail. This results in increased delivery costs with steadily declining revenues.
Another long term challenge for Canada Post is that while revenues decline and costs continue to increase the employee pension plan is currently underfunded by just over $8 Billion. This means that more revenues must at some point be directed to fill the pension solvency gap that exists to eliminate this liability.
What are some of the possible solutions? The report suggests that the single largest potential for cost savings is to continue with the elimination of door to door mail delivery in favour of community mail boxes; this alone would yield savings in excess of $400 million. Further conversion of Canada Post run postal outlets to franchise operations is estimated to save $177 Million while further streamlining of processing operations would provide savings of $66 million. The report also looked at ways to increase revenue that included selling advertising, estimated to raise close to $20 million. Another potential revenue source raised in the report is the potential revenue from distributing marijuana if and or when it becomes legalized. Postal Banking was thoroughly examined although it was not recommended as an option.
Ultimately the report concludes that Canada Post costs are increasing at a rate faster than revenues and as a result Canada Post is not operating in a long term sustainable manner. The report concludes that significant changes and a new business model will need to be developed in order to allow Canada Post to be better positioned for new and emerging trends in the marketplace.
This will be a topic I will continue to follow once it reaches the Committee review and welcome your comments, questions and concerns on Canada Post or any matter before the House of Commons. I can be reached via email at email@example.com or at 1-800-665-8711.
Recently Statistics Canada released the GDP, income and expenditure report for Canada’s second quarter revealing some troubling indicators. Real GDP growth decreased .4% and while that may not seem like a significant drop, it is the largest quarterly decline since 2009. Another area of concern is business investment that has continued to decline for the last several quarters. Looking at the numbers from a sector by sector perspective construction has declined while the public sector has increased in size. Fortunately there are some promising indicators with some growth in manufacturing output along with an increase in mining along with oil and gas extraction.
For many of these reason the Bank of Canada announced the key interest rate will remain at .5% with a forecast for increased GDP growth in the next fiscal quarter. I mention some of Canada’s fiscal indicators in this week’s report as I believe it is critically important that fiscal policy is not overlooked in this coming Parliament that will resume in a few weeks on Monday, September 19th. We should not overlook that much of the Governments debt forecasts that already show a significant increase in debt are also depending on positive economic growth to help offset significant increases in spending. In the case of the 2013/14 fiscal year over $28 billion was spent just on debt servicing alone. To put that number into context the total amount of health transfers from the Federal Government to the Provinces and Territories in the same fiscal year was $32 Billion. If the Liberal Government continues to dramatically increase debt as is currently forecast and economic growth does not increase as is anticipated a serious fiscal crunch will emerge that will impact federal Government finances at a time when the population is significantly aging with health care costs expected to increase dramatically.
The intent of this week’s report is not to cast doom and gloom as overall at the moment Canada is relatively strong compared to other G-7 nations. However the current direction away from balanced budgets and into increased spending while ignoring policies and projects that create investment, employment and increased economic growth is a concern. In June I tabled a motion to immediately elevate the Comeau decision to the Supreme Court for constitutional clarification that could potentially significantly increase internal trade between Canadian Provinces. Despite having the support of the Conservative, NDP and Green Party MPs, something that rarely occurs in the House of Commons, even this modest economic motion was opposed by the Liberal Government.
I have received a great deal of positive comments from constituents on reducing interprovincial trade barriers as well as other suggestions to help grow our economy over my summer listening tour. In this regard my summer listening tour has been successful as I believe that the best ideas come from those closest to challenges or opportunities and why it’s critical for elected officials to hear those ideas and suggestions first hand. It is important to me to propose and not just oppose while in Opposition and I will continue to bring motions forward that can increase internal trade and help local producers to have unrestricted access to all Canadian Provinces. I welcome your comments, questions and concerns on this or any matter related to the Federal Government and can be reached via email 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.