This week I was saddened to learn of the passing of former World War II veteran and retired Member of Parliament Fred King of Kaleden, B.C. Fred King was a kind, caring man who gave back greatly to his community in many different ways that extended well beyond his time in Ottawa. Although I considered Fred a close personal friend, he was also a mentor who offered support and sage advice on many issues around our region. From his time spent as a Member of Parliament Fred had many accomplishments although he was most proud of the work he performed securing federally owned lands that could be used for Okanagan College's Penticton campus. Some have pointed out to me before that if it were not for MP King's intervention, the Penticton campus may have been placed in a far less convenient location nor without considerable extra costs. Fred was a strong believer and supporter in our youth and the importance of upgrading skills and education. As some will know Fred continued to quietly provide support and assistance for many individuals in hopes they would have a better future.
What I most admired about Fed King was his sincere willingness to always help others, many who were complete strangers never asking anything in return only a desire to try and bring happiness and help to those who were in need. It is a privilege to consider Mr. King my friend and to recognize his contributions and his service for the betterment of others.
Another former Member of Parliament I would like to pay tribute to is our former Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, who recently announced he will be retiring from Parliament, effective immediately. From my own personal experience Mr. Harper was perhaps one of the most misunderstood elected officials I have yet met who endured significant personal and public attacks that were at odds with my interactions with him during my time in the previous Parliament. In my experience Mr. Harper was someone who cared deeply about Canadian families and encouraged policies that promoted prosperity and employment. As my colleague MP Pierre Poilievre recently observed, under Mr. Harper’s term as PM the number of Canadians living in poverty declined down to a record low of 4.2% while middle class incomes rose by 11% and as we know Canadian middle class prosperity actually surpassed that of the United States for the first time in 2014; all while managing to balance the budget in the final year of the previous Parliament.
On a personal level as Prime Minister Mr. Harper also eliminated retroactively a gold plated pension perk that paid every former Canadian PM 66% of the PM salary on retirement. Eliminating this perk alone personally cost Mr. Harper (and saved taxpayers) between $1.5 million and $2 million in future retirement benefits. Mr. Harper also brought fairness to the formerly "gold plated" MP pension plan and to the public sector pension plan by ensuring that these plans were funded equally on a 50/50 contribution rate. These changes alone are estimated to save Canadian taxpayers close to $2.6 Billion over the next 5 years. What I most admired about our former PM was that he was not afraid to make difficult and unpopular decisions that were necessary for Canada’s long term prosperity. It should also be noted that his electoral rivals tried to paint him as someone who would try to dismantle our health care system by cutting federal transfer payments to provinces as the former Liberal Government had done to balance its budget woes. Mr. Harper consistently raised federal transfers each and every year while in office and insisted that his Ministers support these year over year increases while finding efficiencies in their departments and staying focused on growing the economy. While I appreciate some may see my comments as partisan I have met few people who believe reducing federal funding for important priorities like health care or that forcing MPs to pay more into their pension plan was a bad one. Ultimately leadership means taking principled positions and making at times difficult decisions and for that I would like to recognize Mr. Harper’s service to Canadians.
If you have a comment, question or concern about this week’s report or any federal matter I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or contacted toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament elect for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.