This week began with several media headlines from Ottawa suggesting that the Liberal Government was not ruling out a tax increase to the GST to help pay for the rising Liberal deficit spending. It was not long after that I heard from many upset citizens on this subject as a GST increase was not in the Liberal platform. Fortunately our new Finance Minister, the Hon. Bill Morneau has stated through social media that these headlines were misleading and that the Liberal Government is not considering changes to the GST. It may seem unusual for an Opposition MP to help clarify that the new Liberal Government is not pondering a GST increase, however I feel that it is important to do so.
One of the things I discovered as a member of the Government caucus in the last Parliament was that all too often Government policy was reported in an erroneous and sometimes misleading way. In my view miscommunication of government policy not only does a disservice to elected officials, but more importantly the citizens they represent. As an Opposition critic it is my duty to hold Government to account however as a Member of Parliament I believe it also important to communicate Government policy and positions accurately, regardless of the Opposition position. The need to work constructively to try and raise the bar in our electoral governance and its institutions is an important one. While Government is often blamed for cynicism of voters, there is also room for Opposition to take action and that includes addressing misinformation when it occurs. As always I welcome your views on this subject.
Although the House of Commons is currently adjourned until Monday, January 25, 2016, there is still a large amount of events occurring. Throughout Canada including here in our region of British Columbia, the first Syrian Refugee families are now arriving. While the Government has been keen to take credit for much of this work it is also extremely important to recognize that many of the current refugees arriving are privately sponsored. We all at one point or another have faced a new situation whether it was starting at a new school or job and how stressful it can be, particularly if you find the environment less than welcoming. One can only imagine then the stress of leaving one’s home to another country entirely. I would like to personally thank the many individuals and organizations who are working tirelessly together as private sponsors to ensure that our newly arriving Canadian citizens are successfully welcomed and become proud members of our Canadian family.
Also occurring in Ottawa this week is the release of the full report from the Truth and Reconciliation Report that summarizes one of the darkest times in our history as the result of aboriginal children being forced to attend residential schools. While we cannot change our past we can learn from this chapter in history and use this experience to build on a better future. The Government has indicated that they will accept all of the recommendations from this report and work towards implementation. I will report further on this subject when more information becomes available.
Finally this week is the subject of town halls. A number of citizens have suggested they would like to see community town halls where citizens can meet directly with their Member of Parliament to discuss matters of importance and also to pass on comments and concerns. One area I have heard a number of complaints from is citizens who worked during this past election and still have not been paid or encountered other difficulties. While this is just one example there are others that have encouraged me to investigate the idea of hosting a number of community forums throughout our region. My question to citizens is a community forum something you would be willing to attend and are there specific concerns you would like to see addressed or more of an open format? All responses will be treated in confidence. I 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 elect for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.