Treating forest firefighters the same as regular firefighters

Treating firefighters equally

Each year in British Columbia, forest firefighters undertake challenging, perilous and strenuous tasks under demanding circumstances.

Last year was notably tragic, six forest firefighters lost their lives in the line of duty. These facts are well-known, especially to those who live in or near interface areas, where the risk of forest fires is widely recognized.

What isn’t well known is despite the demanding work environment, forest firefighters are currently not included in the list of public safety occupations under the income tax regulations.

What does this imply? Individuals listed in “public safety occupations” can retire early, at age 50, and contribute 2.33% annually to their pension. At present, forest firefighters are categorized as silviculture and forestry workers. For those workers, the minimum retirement age is set at 55 and the maximum pension accrual rate is capped at 2% per annum.

Currently, firefighters in local and regional locations, at airports and in industrial and shipboard environments are included in the “priority occupation” list, as defined by the Government of Canada's national occupational classification (NOC). However, forest firefighters are not included.

As the official Opposition, we believe it’s time to change this. Our common sense solution is to amend the NOC list to include “forest firefighter” under the definition of “firefighter.” That amendment would enable forest firefighters to access the pension benefits other firefighters receive in recognized public safety occupations.

In the Okanagan, Similkameen and Nicola Valleys, we are extremely fortunate to have many dedicated and experienced forest firefighters. They work tirelessly each year to protect homes, other structures, animals, and, most importantly, lives right across the province.

In my opinion, this is a modest but important change that acknowledges the importance of our forest firefighters' work. This issue transcends partisan concerns, which is why I'm pleased to report the Liberal government has announced its intention to adopt our proposal.

However, as of writing, it has not been implemented for this year's forest fire season, which would allow forest firefighters to start saving for their retirement like other firefighters.

My question this week:

Do you agree that this Conservative proposal should be implemented immediately? Why or why not?

I can be reached at [email protected] or call toll-free 1-800-665-8711.

Dan Albas is the Conservative MP for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Capital gains tax increase will hurt some who rely on those gains for their retirements

Capital gains change

If you follow the news from Ottawa, you may know that the Liberal government, backed by the federal NDP, plans to increase the capital gains tax.

This news might not affect most people, but it could be problematic for some, particularly farmers, doctors and small business owners who rely on capital gains for their retirement.

In basic terms, capital gains tax is a tax levied on the profit you make from selling certain types of assets or properties in Canada, such as stocks, bonds, precious metals or certain real estate. This tax only applies when you sell these items. The "inclusion rate" applies to the profit from the sale of these assets. Some or all of the profit from a capital gain is limited by this rate. For example, a home designated as a "principal residence" is exempt from capital gains tax.

Many non-exempt assets are subject to a capital gains tax, which is currently applied to 50% of sale profits. The government proposes to increas the inclusion rate to 67% for individuals with over $250,000 in capital gains in a tax year, and for many corporations and most trusts.

To clarify, someone in this situation would not pay a 67% tax rate on capital gains. Instead, 67% of the profit from a sale could be subject to capital gains tax. This gain would be reported on their taxes, and 67% of their profit from the sale would be added to their income for tax calculation.

According to the government, this capital gains tax increase will only affect "multimillionaires" and Canada's wealthiest individuals. However, this statement doesn't provide the full picture. Economist Jack Mintz pointed out many Canadians may face a capital gains tax due to an uncommon event, and about 80% of people experience large capital gains only once or twice, suggesting those who experience capital gains in a given year usually have middle or modest income in other years.

Examples include a family inheriting a farm or recreational property or a small business owner retiring or selling for personal reasons such as health or marriage. The Canadian Medical Association opposes the tax increase, stating changes to the capital gains inclusion rate will impact community-based physicians and affect their retirement savings, creating more obstacles to keeping and attracting physicians in Canada.

The Conservative Party, for its part, opposes this increase. In the words of Opposition Leader Pierre Poilievre, “(Prime Minister Justin) Trudeau is increasing taxes on home construction during a housing crisis, on doctors when we have a shortage, on farmers as food costs soar, and on small businesses when Canadian salaries are decreasing."

He also shared his thoughts on simplifying and improving the fairness of our tax system and reducing taxes for low- to middle-income earners. I'll cover that more in another column.

I'd like to ask you:

Will you or someone you know be impacted by an increase in the capital gains tax inclusion rate, and do you support or oppose it? Why or why not?

You can reach me at [email protected] or call toll-free 1-800-665-8711.

Dan Albas is the Conservative MP for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

MP 'disgusted' communities did not get federal funding for floods

Upset by Ottawa's response

In 2021, floods badly affected places like Princeton and Merritt, including nearby unincorporated regional district areas.

In the following weeks and months, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised these communities he and his government would have their backs.

In February 2022, when the bills began to pile up for the critically needed flood restoration work, I again reminded the Trudeau government of the promises it made to “be there” and “have people’s backs”. I was once again assured by the minister responsible that he and his government would continue to work with me and with the affected communities, “to be there for them and to help in the recovery.”

This week the flood-affected communities of Merritt, Princeton and Abbotsford all learned they were denied funding from the federal Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Funding program (DMAF). The frustration I heard from Merritt Mayor Michael Goetz and Princeton Mayor Spencer Coyne on the denial has been palpable.

After my invitation to have them present their challenges at the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities, MPs from all parties recommended to the government smaller, vulnerable communities like Merritt and Princeton be prioritized for disaster adaption funding.

After being encouraged to apply to the fund, the three communities spent their scarce taxpayers dollars in engineering reports to apply, only to be summarily rejected.

After three years of Trudeau’s promises, only to be denied now, is a completely unacceptable situation. As the local MP, I partnered with other MPs whose ridings were also impacted by floods and have written to the minister asking for reconsideration of these applications.

At the same time this was going on, this week the Office of the Auditor General released reports five to seven auditing the Liberal-government created Sustainable Development Technology Canada program. That program is intended to award funding to support new technologies that promote sustainable development.

The results of the audit are shocking. The auditor general stated, “We found that the foundation awarded funding to 10 ineligible projects of 58 we examined. These 10 projects were awarded $59 million even though they did not meet key requirements set out in the contribution agreements between the government and the foundation.”

More alarming was the auditor general’s finding that, “We found 90 cases that were connected to approval decisions, representing nearly $76 million in funding awarded to projects, where the foundation’s conflict-of-interest policies were not followed.”

Overall, that was a program that, from March 2017 to December 2023, approved 226 start-up, scale-up, and ecosystem projects to receive a total of $836 million. All of that was public money, being overseen by experienced Liberal ministers.

While communities like Merritt, Princeton and Abbotsford, which experienced devastating flooding and despite years of promises from the prime minister, are being denied grant funding, this program is handing out hundreds of millions to ineligible programs and in many cases ignoring ethics and conflicts of interest rules when doing so.

In all my time as an elected official, I have never been more disgusted by (what I consider) the corruption and incompetence of the Liberal government than I am feeling this week.

My question this week:

Do you think that the ministers responsible for overseeing these programs, that were singled out by the auditor general, should resign?

I can be reached at [email protected] or call toll-free 1-800-665-8711.

Dan Albas is the Conservative MP for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Impact of the housing crisis in Canada widely felt

Housing crisis impact

The housing crisis in Canada for many is very real.

However, depending on where you live and your situation, the crisis may present very different challenges.
For tenants who have lost an affordable rental, it can be very hard to find a similar place at a price close to what they used to pay. Some can't stay in their current home because they've split up with a partner, spouse, or roommate, but they can't find a cheaper place to move to. Some, especially seniors on fixed incomes, can't afford their current home due to rising interest costs and living expenses. However, they can't find anything more affordable.

This is a situation many homeowners face today. Some might not be in this situation yet but could be dealing with a future mortgage renewal. The higher monthly payment could make things difficult. Sometimes, adult children can't find good or cheap housing nearby, so they still live at home. For everyone in these situations, it can be a very tough and stressful time.

Due to the current housing crisis, both the federal Liberal and provincial NDP governments have haphazardly introduced various housing policies and allocated substantial tax dollars to show they are "taking action" on this issue. I use the word "haphazardly" because these programs and funding often lack proper discussion and clear goals.

Is it working? Sadly, no. A recent report from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) said, "Supply isn't expected to meet demand, which will lead to higher rents and fewer available homes in the future."

"However, tough money lending situations may make it harder for homebuilders to begin new rental projects in 2024."

Clearly, high interest rates are causing issues for builders and developers too.

As a former Conservative finance minister, Joe Oliver, recently stated, “A stable money supply is critical for economic stability. To cope with out-of- control government spending, the Bank of Canada expanded the money supply dramatically, pushing it to $3.6 trillion, 83 per cent more than when the Liberals took office. As a result, in 2022 inflation hit a 40-year peak of 6.8 per cent. Consumer prices are now 27 per cent higher than in 2015. Rising prices disproportionately affect low- and middle-income Canadians, who are also vulnerable to hikes in interest rates, including mortgage rates up 50% from 2015. In aggregate, total mortgage payments could rise by as much as $4 billion this year.”

I noticed a local news story this week. It said in the City of Kelowna, the value of building permits fell by nearly 30% in the first quarter. That was compared to the same time last year. Home construction in Kelowna dropped nearly 24% this quarter. This decrease matches the report from the CMHC I mentioned earlier.

The purpose this column is not to point out the failure of the current provincial and federal government approaches but rather to ask an important question.

My question this week is:

Are you or is someone in your family currently, or expecting to be, facing a housing challenge in 2024?

If so, I would appreciate hearing more about your situation. I can be reached at [email protected] or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.

Dan Albas is the Conservative MP for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

More Dan in Ottawa articles

About the Author

Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola and the co-chair of the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations.

Before entering public life, Dan was the owner of Kick City Martial Arts, responsible for training hundreds of men, women and youth to bring out their best.

Dan  is consistently recognized as one of Canada’s top 10 most active Members of Parliament on Twitter (@danalbas) and also continues to write a weekly column published in many local newspapers and on this website.

Dan welcomes comments, questions and concerns from citizens and is often available to speak to groups and organizations on matters of federal concern. 

He can be reached at [email protected] or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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