MP questions truthfulness of government response to his question

Looking for straight answer

A few weeks ago, I mentioned the topic of order paper questions in a column.

To refresh your memory, an order paper question is a written inquiry that, after a 48-hour notice period, is posted on the Order Paper. It is expected the responsible minister will provide a comprehensive response within 45 sitting days.

Recently, I received a response from the government to my order paper question, which was about the its online “censorship” activities. As some may know, the government, through various bills, aims to gain more control over the Internet. That includes the power to define online hate speech and penalize citizens accordingly.
In my opinion, any government endowed with the power of censorship should exercise great responsibility.

Therefore, I submitted an order paper question requesting the government disclose how many times it has asked a social media company to censor and remove online content.

The response I received from the Privy Council Office (PCO) was unambiguous. It stated it has never "made any requests to censor information."
I assumed the case was closed. However, on April 5, a representative of the Privy Council Office testified at the

Public Inquiry on Foreign Interference. The representative stated that, in 2019, the PCO asked Facebook to remove a post about the prime minister from The Buffalo Chronicle.

The representative of the PCO further revealed Facebook agreed to the request, resulting in the content's removal. The PCO expressed its belief the post was disinformation, which could potentially compromise the integrity of the 2019 election.

The PCO also stated it was aware of misinformation targeting Conservative candidates during the same time frame. However, in those instances, it took no action. Frankly, I’m disturbed by the double standard.

The PCO took measures to guard against disinformation aimed at the Liberal Party of Canada, citing the integrity of the election as the reason. However, it did not take similar actions to protect the Conservative Party of Canada under similar circumstances.

While I have serious concerns about that issue, that's not the focus of my column today.

My main concern is the contradiction regarding the PCO. It admitted asking Facebook to censor and remove a post, however, in response to my question in the order paper, it stated, “Since Jan. 1, 2016, the Privy Council Office has not made any requests to censor information.”

That suggests the PCO wasn't truthful in its response to my order paper question. As a result, I brought up a "Question of Privilege" in the House of Commons.

What does "Question of Privilege" mean? The House of Commons describes it thus, "Parliamentary privilege refers to the rights and immunities that are considered necessary for the House of Commons, as an institution, and its members, as representatives of the electorate, to carry out their roles."

In our roles as a members of the official Opposition, we must rely on the government to provide factually accurate and honest information to all members through order paper questions in order to hold the government accountable. That did not occur here.

I believe MPs should be prepared to stand up when our right to truth from our government is undermined. If we remain silent, we will only witness more of the same.

My question for you this week is:

Do you support the federal government's ability to censor and potentially remove online media content without disclosure? 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.


MP says proposed federal Renters' Bill of Rights encroaches on provincial jurisdiction

Renters' Bill of Rights

In my column last week, I discussed how the Liberal government allocated nearly $42 million for a gun buyback program. Despite being announced almost four years ago by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, it hasn't bought back a single gun.

Since that report, Trudeau introduced another initiative, referred to as the Canadian Renters' Bill of Rights.

Let's begin by clarifying residential tenancy falls entirely under provincial government jurisdiction in Canada. That is worth mentioning because Trudeau has been increasingly announcing programs that exceed the jurisdiction of the federal government.

The Canadian Renters' Bill of Rights proposes three main measures. First, it intends to establish a $15 million fund to protect tenants' rights within the legal system. Second, it requires landlords to disclose a clear history of apartment pricing, enabling renters to negotiate fairly. Third, the bill proposes amending the Canadian Mortgage Charter. That would allow landlords, banks, credit bureaus and “fin-tech” companies access to a tenant's rental history, which could be factored into their credit score.

Over the past week, I've received several concerns and feedback regarding these proposals. Here are some of the major points and my thoughts on them.

There's no doubt some in the legal community will support a $15 million legal fund, as one local MLA has already shared with me. However, in B.C., the provincial government has policies in place to protect the rights of tenants.

The Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) provides low-cost options to resolve landlord-tenant disputes without the need for a lawyer. I believe this measure may not be extremely effective in helping Canadians secure affordable housing. Creating a fund that works within a legal system that is not known for its speediness instead of improving the timeliness of the RTB, is a head scratcher.

The second proposal is perplexing. In a market where affordable housing is scarce and prices are largely driven by demand and shortage of affordable alternatives, knowing a previous tenant paid less imposes no restrictions on what a prospective tenant might be willing to pay in the current market. This proposal seems surprisingly naïve, failing to recognize the real problem—a lack of affordable housing and increased demand leading to rental prices that are unmanageable.

The final proposal is particularly intriguing. As the prime minister has stated, "renters deserve credit for the money they put toward rent over the years, especially when it comes time to apply for a mortgage for their first home." At first glance, this proposal seems promising. Several landlords have already expressed their support, seeing it as a tool to ensure timely rent payment. The potential negative impact on a tenant's credit rating could deter unpaid rent or property damage, reducing the risk of units being left vacant.

However, I've received several serious concerns from tenants. One tenant explained that many renters resort to having roommates to afford the rent and bill payments. The issue arises when a roommate, who is not named on the lease, fails to pay their share on time. This could unfairly impact the credit rating of the person named on the lease.

Another concern involved the B.C. government closing the Okanagan Valley to tourists between Aug. 20 and Sept. 4, 2023. As a result of that decision, some people were immediately laid off. They had not qualified for EI and were unable to pay their rent at the end of the month. That situation could potentially negatively affect their credit rating under Trudeau's plan.

From my perspective, it's concerning when one level of government encroaches upon another's jurisdiction without proper consultation. That often happens when attempting to "fix" complex problems, which can inadvertently create unforeseen issues and potentially worsen the situation.

This week's question is:

Do you support the idea of a Canadian Renters' Bill of Rights, or do you believe that the federal government should leave this issue to the provinces to handle? Why or why not?

You can reach me at [email protected] or call toll-free at 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.

No guns bought back in federal multi-million dollar 'buyback' program

What was money spent on?

More and more, I hear from my constituents about the same issue. The cost of groceries, insurance renewals, utility bills, wireless plans, "bring it back" smartphone charges and mortgage or rent payments are all on the rise.

For an increasing number of (Canadians), their income has not kept pace with the rising costs. This issue is especially problematic for those on a fixed income.

Given their unchanging income, these individuals need to find ways to cut costs. This typically means eliminating certain expenses or reducing spending to manage monthly bills. This is an uncomfortable reality for many, resulting in the dramatic increase in food bank usage.

Many governments, whether local, provincial, or federal, have noticed a rise in costs. However, they frequently fail to review existing spending and opt to increase taxes instead, overlooking the fact that many citizens can't afford to pay more. Indeed, in Ottawa, whenever we, as the official Opposition, challenge the Liberal government's current spending, the prime minister labels us as promoters of "austerity".

A quick search of Hansard shows that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has mentioned "austerity" more than 70 times in the House of Commons. The issue is that all levels of government should have their spending examined meticulously, a task typically undertaken by opposition parties.

However, in Ottawa, we are facing an unusual scenario. The fourth party, the NDP, has formed a “partnership” with the Trudeau Liberals, leading to consistent spikes in spending without sufficient accountability.

This week, I'd like to illustrate a recent example. Conservative Sen. Don Plett, who serves as the leader of the Opposition in the Senate, recently received a response to an Order Paper question. An Order Paper question is a written inquiry. After a 48-hour notice period, it is posted on the Order Paper. The expectation is that the responsible minister will provide a comprehensive answer within 45 sitting days.

Plett queried the government about its expenditure on the "gun buyback program", announced by Trudeau on May 1, 2020. Additionally, he sought to know the current number of staff working on the program.

The response to these questions was startling. The government revealed it spent $41.9 million on the program. How many guns were "bought back" under this program? The answer is none.

In summary, nearly (nearly) $42 million has been spent on a so-called gun “buyback” program that hasn't bought back a single gun in the almost four years since Trudeau first announced it.

My questions to you this week:

Should the federal government examine how your tax dollars are spent more closely or do you agree with Prime Minister Trudeau that this would just be austerity? 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.


Tory MP disappointed B.C. premier won't oppose federal carbon tax hike

Carbon tax hike opposition

This week's column begins with a warning—much of the content will focus on the latest official Opposition motion against the government, set to be tabled in the House of Commons.

As commonly known, both the federal carbon tax and the B.C. carbon tax are set to increase by 23% on April 1. The current rate of $65 per tonne will rise to $80 per tonne—an increase significantly above inflation.

Currently, seven Canadian premiers have publicly urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to delay the upcoming (federal) carbon tax increase. I am disappointed to say David Eby, the premier of British Columbia, is not part of the chorus of provincial leaders concerned about the hike.

Trudeau announced a temporary, three-year pause to the federal price on pollution (fuel charge) on deliveries of heating oil in all jurisdictions where the federal fuel charge is in effect. However, he has not yet agreed to provide a carbon tax break elsewhere.

This week, Conservative Leader, Pierre Poilievre, announced if the Liberals refuse to vote against the April 1 carbon tax increase, (his party) will introduce a vote of non-confidence in the government. If a majority of MPs vote non-confidence, it could trigger an election.

The federal NDP, as well as B.C. NDP government, strongly support increasing the carbon tax. In Ottawa, it's widely expected federal NDP MPs will once again vote with the government to raise the carbon tax rate. As a result, the (non-confidence) motion will likely fail.

The Liberal/NDP plan is to annually increase the carbon rate (each) April 1 until it reaches $170 per tonne on April 1, 2030.

Both the B.C. and (federal) governments defend their carbon taxes, frequently highlighting some households will receive rebates exceeding the amount they pay in carbon taxes. However, the 2023 B.C. budget noted in its supplementary tax information, "rural communities may bear higher indirect carbon tax burdens due to increased shipping costs, resulting in higher prices for goods. Additionally, colder regions of the province may incur higher carbon tax costs for home heating."

In my view, one of the major flaws of the carbon tax is it unfairly, and severely, harms the economy of many rural regions in Canada, including the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.

Trudeau acknowledged this when he exempted home heating oil—primarily used in Atlantic Canada—from the carbon tax for three years. Unfortunately, he refuses to extend that exemption to all other home heating fuels.

Locally, I increasingly hear from seniors on fixed incomes who pay more for the carbon tax on their gas or propane home heating bills than they do for the actual cost of the natural gas or propane used.

A senior shared with me earlier this year that the extreme cold we experienced in December resulted in a $50 carbon tax charge on his gas bill. That $50 had to be deducted from his grocery budget.

Considering 9,097 people visited the food bank in Central Okanagan in January alone—setting a new record—and nearly 9,000 people visited in February, this poses a serious concern. Many British Columbians can't afford another increase in the carbon tax.

Given the potential confidence vote in the House of Commons this week (which I anticipate will be defeated), there are several questions to consider, given the seriousness of a non-confidence motion:

What is your preferred outcome for this vote? Do you want a federal election to take place at this time? Please explain why or why not.

Let me know what you think by email at [email protected] or call toll free at 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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