I had written my MP Report for today, and then we had some breaking news.
We learned that Prime Minister Trudeau has been found guilty on four violations of the Conflict of Interest Act in a report released by Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, Mary Dawson.
The various conflict violations are related to a vacation that the Trudeau family and friends took on a private island owned by the Aga Khan in December of 2016.
Ultimately this relates to the fact that the Aga Khan Foundation is a registered lobbyist that receives millions of dollars in funding each year from the Federal Government. The Conflict of Interest Act is intended to ensure that elected officials do not personally benefit from their position of public office.
With the Prime Minister and also the Finance Minister recently being found in violation of the Conflict of Interest Act, I am often asked, what is the penalty?
Currently the penalty for being found in violation of the Conflict of Interest Act is a fine that has a maximum of up to $500.
My question for this week- do you believe that the fine for a violation of the Conflict of Interest Act is sufficient at $500 or should it be higher or something else, other than money?
Now on to my original report.
I would like to take a moment to thank the residents of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.
We share a large, diverse and beautiful region together; the one constant is the friendliness of the people and the level of interaction and engagement, that from my perspective, is very high.
It is truly an honour to represent you and raise your issues of importance in Ottawa.
Recently, I was able to bring forward the challenges single parents, most often mothers, were having in dealing with the Canadian Revenue Agency in obtaining Canada Child Benefits. I asked the Minister of National Revenue about this in Question Period and have since been interviewed by CBC. This has now become a national story with wide reaching implications.
I credited the Minister’s office recently for resolving some of these issues, which will ensure some households will have a far more meaningful holiday season.
When an issue can be raised by Opposition and the Government can respond in a positive manner, it is an example that our democracy is working and for that we shall all be thankful.
On that note, I would like to sincerely wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a safe and enjoyable holiday season.
Best wishes for a prosperous 2018 and a special thank you to our armed forces and first responders for the ongoing work that they do on our behalf.
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
I was not planning on mentioning the controversy surrounding a temporary ice rink the Liberal Government built in front of the Parliament buildings to celebrate Canada 150.
However, a nearby Liberal MP referenced this rink locally and defended the project against allegations of government waste. Unfortunately the Member of Parliament in question failed to mention the actual costs to build this temporary rink.
That omission of relevant fact led to many citizens asking me what were the actual costs.
Originally the costs to build this temporary ice rink were quoted at $5.6 million dollars. The rink would only be open for just over three weeks in December. Later it would be donated to a community near Ottawa.
The public outcry over the costs in addition to the limited schedule led to an announcement extending the opening schedule to the end of February 2018. However, the extra costs of doing so are not clear.
I will leave it up to local citizens to decide if $5.6 million dollars, plus additional costs not known, is money well spent for a temporary skating rink outside of the House of Commons.
More importantly I have have received a considerable response from many single parents, the majority of which are single mothers, who have encountered serious difficulty in dealing with the Canada Revenue Agency(CRA).
These single parents are having their Canada Child Benefit arbitrarily denied, reduced or clawed back. I will credit the Minister of National Revenue's office who has reached out and to date we have been able to successfully restore the benefits for one local single mother. I am currently working on a number of other cases.
I do believe it is important to give credit where it is due and on behalf of my constituents, I appreciate the assistance of the Minister’s office in these matters.
On a somewhat related theme, the House of Commons will adjourn this week.
Earlier today, the Finance Minister revealed details to the Liberal Government tax changes affecting Canadian small businesses, effective January 1st, 2018.
I am concerned over the timing of this announcement, being so close to the holiday season. Last year, the Liberals quietly released a report on Christmas Eve showing they would not balance the budget until at least the year 2050.
What is more concerning is these small business tax changes will add more discretionary power to the CRA in areas such as the dividends to family members, who help run those small businesses.
My greatest concern relates to the experience I have encountered with single parents and how unfairly the CRA may use their discretionary power. This could lead to the CRA unfairly penalizing Canadian small business owners without proof of any actual wrong doing. I have witnessed many examples where citizens do provide the required documentation only to be arbitrarily denied again by the CRA.
While I do appreciate the Minister of National Revenue's efforts, it is not practical to have the Minister`s office continue to intervene on a case by case basis for what should not be a problem in the first place.
This leads to my question for this week:
Do you believe the CRA should have ultimate and sole authority when interpreting the status of information reported by taxpayers?
By extension, should there be a greater burden of proof required from the CRA before they can arbitrarily and adversely impact a taxpayer?
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.
The headlines coming out of Ottawa this week were unrelenting:
"Trudeau's trade deal with China turns into an embarrassment" and
"Trudeau breaks the three rules of doing business in China, leaves Beijing empty-handed"
At issue was a press conference in Beijing where it was widely expected that the Prime Minister would announce that Canada and China were entering into formal trade talks. That did not occur and even at the present moment it is unclear what the current status is of talks between Canada and China that are trade related.
The rumored stumbling block is the Trudeau Government's insistence on demanding what they call "Progressive Trade".
What is "Progressive Trade"?
Based on the Government's own definition, it is a trade deal that also has guarantees on topics such as labour, gender and environmental rights that are not normally part of a free trade agreement. There are many criticisms of this progressive trade policy -- as an example would Canadians accept societal values from another country demanded upon us in order to accept a trade deal?
I suspect many Canadians would not.
So it is no surprise that this progressive trade approach has been rejected in NAFTA, TPP and now Chinese trade related discussions thus far. Why does the Liberal Government insist on "progressive trade" language? It has been suggested this language is more aimed for Canadians to hear back at home, for political reasons. Obviously this is also confusing for our potential trading partners.
However, I believe there is another aspect to this.
For example, the Trudeau Liberals have insisted on a national carbon tax here in Canada. In the event Canada enters into a free trade agreement with a country that does not have a national carbon tax, our producers and manufacturers would be at a competitive disadvantage. Likewise Canada has significant worker protections with social programs such as EI, CPP, parental leave, medical leave, the right to collective bargaining and more.
Other countries, particularly China, do not typically offer similar protections for workers. As many of these programs are funded in part by employers once again a competitive disadvantage would be created in a free trade agreement.
Canada already has a trade deficit with China of roughly $45 billion annually and growing. Obviously there many other concerns related to Chinese human rights and environmental policies or lack thereof. In addition, past cyber-attacks on Canadian Institutions such as the National Research Council that Communications Security Establishment Canada identified as coming from a "highly sophisticated Chinese state-sponsored actor" have yet to be reference by the Trudeau Liberals as they continue to negotiate with China behind closed doors.
My question this week: are you in support of a "Progressive Trade" deal with China?
I can be reached 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.