This week in Ottawa began with the Finance Minister under fire for failing to place his investments into a blind trust and also refusing to disclose them in the House. As a result the Liberals made the politically wise decision to move up the fall fiscal update. Select media in Ottawa were leaked certain details suggesting that this would be a "good news" fiscal update with increased revenues and a promise to further increase the child benefit program.
In the end we learned that the "good news" was the fact that the Liberals revised deficit was going to be just under $20 billion this year.
For the Liberals, this was good news as they had thought the deficit would be even higher.
For the Opposition, this deficit is basically double the size of the modest deficits the Liberals promised. In fact the Liberals are now on a path to add $100 Billion in debt over the next 7 years with no plan to return to balance whatsoever.
I participated in a press conference with Diabetes Canada last Sunday where it came to light that many vulnerable citizens with Type 1 Diabetes are being denied the Disability Tax Credit from the Canada Revenue Agency.
This has shocked both the people applying and physicians, as many have qualified in previous years but have been rejected with no clear explanation as to what has changed.
Subsequently I have raised this in Question Period with some urgency. The Government has denied this is an official change of policy and is working on this issue. If you someone you know with type 1 diabetes is having any difficulty with CRA, please contact my office at 1-800-665-8711 for assistance.
My question this week: Do you see tabling a budget deficit that is roughly double the size of what was promised as "good news"?
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.
On a final note, I would like to pass on a sincere thank you to the many citizens who responded to my previous MP reports regarding the enforcement of the Bank Act.
For those of you unfamiliar, Ottawa had announced that it intends to prohibit Credit Unions from using the terms "bank' "banking" and "banker". Many citizens have shared with me strong opposition to these heavy handed tactics that will add cost and create confusion to consumers and unfairly impact Credit Unions.
As a result this week I tabled my private member’s bill C-379 that proposes to amend the Bank Act and allow Credit Unions to continue using the terms "Bank" "Banking" and "Banker".
Question Period, 25 Oct 2017
On Monday of this week the Liberal Government announced that it will be abandoning some of the proposed tax changes that had generated a considerable amount of concern and opposition throughout our region. Although it is unclear at this point the total scope of what changes will ultimately be tabled in legislation I believe that any time a Government listens to overwhelming opposition it deserves recognition for doing so.
My greater concern at this point is the pattern that has emerged. Over the past year the Liberals have raised proposals to tax employer provided health and dental benefits, to finally close the stock option tax loophole, more recently the small business tax increase and even a proposal to tax employee discounts.
All of these measures the Liberals have since indicated they plan to abandon raising the question what will be the next tax increase to be proposed?
As the Liberals continue to run deficits much larger then they promised and currently have no path to return to a balanced budget until possibly sometime close to the year 2050, a plan will be needed to reconcile this situation. Given that the Liberals continue to increase spending, most recently just over $216,000 just to produce the cover of the most recent Budget document, it seems clear the Liberals will continue to look for ways to increase taxes.
While the Liberals back down on small businesses tax increases has been generally well received, the Finance Minister remains firmly under fire in Ottawa.
At issue was the recent disclosure that the Finance Minister has a corporately registered private Villa in France as well as significant personal assets that are not placed into a blind trust. As a result, the NDP has written to the Ethics Commissioner demanding a full investigation. Meanwhile the Conservative Opposition has used an Opposition Day debate to call for the full tabling of the assets held by the Finance Minister.
Ultimately the question raised is what impact does the Finance Minister’s potential policy decisions have on his own personal finances? This is ultimately why all public office holders who are Cabinet Ministers, provincially and federally, are required to make full disclose of personal assets to ensure they do not unduly benefit from policy decisions they may be involved with.
Some believe this disclosure is an invasion of personal privacy and that it is an unfair expectation that elected officials utilize mechanisms such as a blind trust that currently is not mandatory.
My question this week: Should it be a mandatory requirement that the personal financial assets of Cabinet Ministers be placed into a blind trust?
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free 1-800-665-8711
Social media allows citizens to share comments, questions and concerns with elected officials in real time that can quickly demonstrate a trend.
As an example, early on this week my social media feed along with in person meetings was filled with outrage over news that if you are an employee who receives a staff discount, that discount would now be considered a taxable benefit by the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA).
Public reaction to this change in interpretation from the CRA has been overwhelming angry and strongly opposed. For small business owners, the thought of attempting to administer the records of documenting staff discounts was another serious concern as was a potential reduction in wages for staff that might use a staff discount.
Fortunately there may be some positive news on this matter.
The National Revenue Minister, Hon. Diane Lebouthillier has indicated that this change on interpretation of the tax code is not one that the Minister authorized. It has been further reported that the Minister has instructed the CRA to remove this interpretation from the CRA website.
In Ottawa circles this is often referred to as “the Minister throwing the Department under the bus” .
From my perspective it seems clear the Minister recognized the outrage of this decision and has acted quickly to attempt to mitigate this change to the tax code.
Currently this interpretation of the tax code is said to be officially under review while CRA consults with stakeholders. Unfortunately this does not necessarily mean that the CRA may not again attempt to implement a similar tax grab targeted against workers who receive a staff discount.
Given that many workers are in occupations that may not involve a staff discount I would like to hear your views on this subject.
Would you support a staff discount being considered a taxable benefit or do you prefer the status quo where discounts are left alone by the CRA?
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711
Many now believe this well-intended tweet from Prime Minister Trudeau helped to instigate a surge of illegal border crossings into Canada. I will give the Prime Minister some credit as he has since modified his message to point out that while “Canada is an opening and welcoming society,” that “We are also a country of laws.”
These more recent quotes were a result of roughly 8,000 recent illegal border crossings into Canada. Keep in mind in Ottawa, the Liberal Government refers to an illegal border crossing as an “irregular” border crossing.
Recently at the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, opposition MP's had the opportunity to question senior officials from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to learn more about how this situation was being handled.
The committee learned that in many cases there is an alarming lack of data. As an example, the Department had no information of how many people, who entered Canada in 2017 through illegal points of entry, had been found to have criminal backgrounds. Likewise there is no data on the percentage of asylum claims from those entering Canada illegally, as opposed to legally.
Some information that Department could confirm. The Government has directed, through Ministerial order, that those entering Canada illegally will receive expedited health benefit coverage along with expedited work permits. This basically means that those who are entering Canada illegally are going to the front of the line ahead of those who enter through legal methods.
Conversely, it has also been revealed that roughly 80 IRCC staff members have been diverted to deal with asylum claims from those who have entered Canada illegally thus increasing the wait time for those who have legally followed all of the rules to remain in Canada.
My question for this week: do you think it is a good policy for those who enter Canada legally and follow the rules, to be placed at the back of the line while those who enter illegally receive expedited treatment?
I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.