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ALBAS: Getting used to being a member of the official opposition

Dan Albas, member of Parliament for Okanagan-Coquihalla.
Image Credit: Contributed
October 22, 2016 - 12:00 PM

 


OPINION


Editor,

It has been suggested that if you are an elected representative, the worst day in Government is still preferable than the best day in opposition. Although I am still relatively new to the role of being a member of the official opposition I believe it is always important to focus on the fact that both sides of the house are important in a properly functioning democracy. I also believe that as opposition we can also aim higher and raise the bar in how we hold the Government to account and in that process ultimately influence the shaping of Government policy.

If you have been following the Prime Minister's efforts to change how Supreme Court Justices are appointed in Canada, you may be aware that part of these changes aimed to end the unbroken convention of respecting regional representation from different parts of Canada on the Supreme Court. As Atlantic Canada was the first to be adversely impacted by these changes, it was only natural that it became a very unpopular proposal there. Unfortunately for Atlantic Canada as there were no opposition MPs from the region, it was up to the official opposition to raise this unpopular issue in Ottawa.

In order to force the Government and its members to address these concerns the Official Opposition tabled a motion in the House of Commons to respect the convention of regional representation when making appointments to our Supreme Court. To the surprise of many in Ottawa, the Liberal Government ultimately voted in support of this Conservative Opposition motion and it was subsequently passed. As a result this week it was announced that Malcolm Rowe from Newfoundland is our newest Judge to sit on the Supreme Court Bench.

This example of maintaining regional representation on the Supreme Court illustrates that despite being in Opposition, well intended proposals can become part of Government policy. It is for this reason that I have maintained my position that as a member of the Opposition I will always include the importance of proposing alternatives from time to time as opposed to exclusively opposing.

On a related note earlier this week I was also honoured to be named as the Deputy Critic for Finance and by extension also a member of the Finance Committee. This is an opportunity that I greatly welcome and one of the reasons why pertains to input I am hearing from many local credit unions who are frustrated with changes that increasingly force administratively costly one size fits all policies onto them. As many in our riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola will know credit unions provide an important community based alternative to the larger financial institutions. Unfortunately for credit unions they simply do not have the clout and lobbying power of the big banks who are increasingly shaping Liberal Government policy as was evidenced by recent changes to mortgage rules that benefit banks over independent mortgage finance companies.

As the Deputy Critic for Finance these are some of the local community related issues that I will raise with my work in this area. It is also my intention as critic from time to time to mention those actions that I believe are potentially beneficial to Canadians. As an example I have heard large concern from home builders and those involved in construction that recent significant increases in tariffs, in some cases as high as 276% on dry wall will make housing even more expensive. I have heard this may attach an extra $5000 or more to a new home. I have raised this issue in the House of Commons appealing both publicly and privately to Liberal Government members. Although I am disappointed that the Finance Minister has not supported the Canadian Home Builders Association suggestion to suspend the new tariffs, I am pleased to report that the Finance Minister has announced that this tariff policy will be formerly reviewed. This is an issue I will continue to press the Government on as every effort from Ottawa should make housing more affordable, not more costly.

I welcome your comments, questions and concerns on this issue or any other matter before the House of Commons. I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or toll-free at 1-800-665-8711.


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