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ALBAS: The moving expenses controversy

Dan Albas, member of Parliament for Okanagan-Coquihalla.
Image Credit: Contributed
September 29, 2016 - 12:49 PM

OPINION


Editor,

This week the House of Commons is back in session after the summer recess and it did not take long for the usual Ottawa dynamic to get back into full swing. One of the major media stories occurring this week is revelations that the Prime Minister’s office and various Ministers have billed taxpayers over $1 million to move political staff to Ottawa. While Government does sometimes cover these types of expenses in this case claims as high as $126,000 for an individual political staff member to move from Toronto to Ottawa have resulted in demands for more transparency on providing details that substantiate these amounts.

On a local level I have already heard several concerns from citizens who have reported to moving much farther distances for considerably smaller amounts of money. Although some will argue one million dollars may be a small amount of money as part of the overall Federal Government budget it is also important for taxpayers to have confidence that every dollar is spent wisely and it is extremely difficult to comprehend how a move from Toronto to Ottawa can cost well over $100,000. As opposition this will be a subject that we will demand further information on.

Another interesting subject occurring this week in Ottawa relates to Canada’s climate change targets, more specifically known as targets for reducing industrial greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Many citizens may recall shortly after the 2015 Federal election our Prime Minister sent the largest Canadian delegation in history to attend the Paris climate change conference at a cost in excess of $1 million dollars to do so. While at the Paris conference the Liberal Government made several comments in support of increasing GHG reduction targets while at the same time criticizing the record of the former Conservative Government in this area. For this reason many in Ottawa were surprised this week when the Liberal Government announced that it would adopt the very same GHG reduction targets that were set by the previous Government under Prime Minister Harper.  Yes, these would be the very same GHG reduction targets the Liberals formerly had criticized when in opposition.

For some history on Canada’s GHG reduction targets in 1993 former Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien promised to reduce our GHG emissions to 20% below 1988 levels by 2005. This promise was broken. In 1997 Prime Minister Chretien signed on to the Kyoto accord to reduce our emissions by a smaller amount of 6% below 1990 levels that would be achieved by 2012. In 2006 when the Liberals were voted out of office Canada was actually 30% over that target and as a result Prime Minister Harper eventually withdrew Canada from the Kyoto agreement that had set binding targets. In 2009 at the Copenhagen climate conference former Prime Minister Harper matched the USA target to cut GHG emissions by 17% below 2005 levels by 2020 and 30% by 2013 in what is a non-binding agreement. These target levels are the same the Liberals will now use as they prepare to ratify the Paris climate conference agreement going forward, a move that has angered some in the environmental movement and in particular the Green Party and leader Elizabeth May.

Somewhat related to this announcement is news this week that the Liberal Government also intends to force a carbon tax onto Canadian Provinces. From my perspective it is important to also point out that at this point no details are known how this might work and it should also be recognized that Provinces such as BC already have a Carbon tax so it remains unknown how such a federally imposed tax would impact British Columbia. I will continue to provide further information on the Liberal proposed Carbon Tax as the details become available.

If you have any comments, questions or concerns on this or any matter before the House of Commons I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or contacted toll-free at 1-800-665-8711.


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