In my mid July MP report I focussed on our newly named Federal Cabinet and the many ways Ministers can serve the interests of Canadians including specific examples where cabinet Ministers have supported my work as a Member of Parliament on behalf of citizens here in Okanagan-Coquihalla. One point that I did not address in that report was the fact that the majority of the new faces who were promoted into cabinet were formerly Parliamentary Secretaries. This in turn created a number of vacancies for Parliamentary Secretaries, (or “PS” as they are referred to in Ottawa) that were filled when an announcement was made by our Prime Minister on Thursday of this week. I mention this because I was honoured to be among those named to serve as a Parliamentary Secretary. My particular appointment is to serve as the Parliamentary Secretary to the President of Treasury Board.
What does a Parliamentary Secretary do? The Guide of Parliamentary Procedure defines this role as a “member of the government party named to assist a Minister as the Minister directs. A Parliamentary Secretary may table documents or answer questions on the Minister's behalf, but may not present government bills". In my case the responsibility is to serve the President in the execution of his duties as chair of Treasury Board. Typically a PS will communicate decisions and policy and also help to facilitate related Bills and legislation through the House of Commons and in particular, to provide guidance at the committee review stage of proposed legislation. Having taken my own private member's bill through the House of Commons to Royal Assent with unanimous support and having served on several Parliamentary Committees these are challenges I look forward to. A Parliamentary Secretary is also subject to the Conflict of Interest Act and in many cases will also be required to obtain a security clearance depending on the portfolio involved.
For those of you wondering what Treasury Board is, the summarized definition is a cabinet committee responsible for financial, personnel and administrative management within the Federal Government. This also includes comptrollership, approving regulations and most Orders-in-Council. The President has the responsibility for translating the policies and programs approved by Cabinet into operational reality within Government and to provide departments with the resources and the related administrative infrastructure required. As the Secretary to the President I view my role as a great honour and one I share with residents of Okanagan-Coquihalla given the importance that our region has in reflecting the views of our great country.
I am also encouraged by other Parliamentary Secretary appointments announced by our Prime Minister that I believe will also benefit our region. My colleague and good friend MP Mark Strahl has been named as PS to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. In light of some of the significant projects currently before the Penticton and Westbank First Nations, having a nearby representative with a BC perspective will be helpful. Other positive British Columbia based appointments include MP Andrew Saxton serving as PS to the Minister of Finance, MP Cathy McLeod serving as PS to the Minister of Labour and for Western Economic Diversification, and MP Randy Kamp serving as PS to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. These portfolios are all of considerable importance to our Province and to our region. Although my new duties will require me to spend more of my time in Ottawa, I will continue to personally return your calls and meet with local citizens, groups and organizations. Taking your concerns to Ottawa is just as important to me as an MP as it was to represent citizens to City Council when I was a councillor. Accountability can only begin when the voices of citizens are heard. On a final note, I would like to pass on my sincere thanks to the many citizens who have taken the time to pass on kind words on my recent appointment. Your comments (and criticisms) are always welcome.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament elect for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.