From a Canadian political perspective 2015 has been a big year as Canada now has a new 42nd Parliament with a change in Government, a change in the Official Opposition and a change in the third party. Aside from these obvious changes come new Ministers, a new Speaker in both the House of Commons and the Senate along with roughly 200 newly elected MPs. From a Provincial perspective a number of elections have also resulted in a change in Government and Opposition most notably in Alberta where for the first time an NDP Government is now in power.
Political change is a sign of a healthy and vibrant democracy as citizens have the freedom to vote for the elected representatives and Government they feel will do the best job in providing good governance. I was reminded of the significant changes in Federal and Provincial Governments in late December as all Provincial and Territorial Finance Ministers gathered in Ottawa to meet with our new Federal Finance Minister, the Hon. Bill Morneau. Many of the Finance Ministers in attendance at this meeting were relatively new, a point that was well profiled in many media stories.
Unfortunately there was another point that in my view was overlooked by many: of the 14 Finance Ministers at this meeting (Including the Federal Finance Minister & Territorial Ministers) currently only two Ministers are presiding over a balanced budget- British Columbia and Saskatchewan. Ironically both of these Provinces have not recently had a change in Government. I raise this point largely because of the growing number of Governments that are increasing debt and deficits while media attention seems often focused on other subjects. As an example of my concern Ontario is now the largest sub-debtor in the World with a debt of $294 Billion that is more than double that of California, which has a much larger population. Already our newly elected Liberal Government who during the election promised to run “modest deficits” has revised this promise to indicate it was only a goal and not an actual promise in the face of rising deficit spending.
My point in this week’s report is not to revisit the election or single out specific governments but rather to remind citizens that this is our debt that continues to grow and payments on the interest of that debt leaves less capacity for spending on other much needed Government services. As it is often pointed out while we have three levels of Government in Canada, there is only one taxpayer. Democracy allows us to vote in Governments at all levels and one question we should all ponder as we head into 2016 is what fiscal priorities are most important to you. Do not be afraid to reach out to your local councillor, Mayor, area director, MLA or MP to share your views. I am available at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
Before I close I do have one small bit of positive good news to share for Canadian taxpayers. The new 42nd Parliament will be the first where newly elected MPs will no longer qualify for the former gold plated pension plan. MP pensions, much like the Federal public sector pension plan, will move towards 50/50 cost sharing and MPs will no longer be fully eligible until age 65. The combined savings from the changes to the MP and Public Sector pension plans is estimated to be $2.6 Billion over the next five years alone. On that note I would like to wish all citizens a happy and prosperous New Year.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.