On April 19 & 20, I had the pleasure of hosting two townhalls in our riding of Cloverdale-Langley City. The purpose of these events was to get input directly from constituents here at home, and hear about how our community feels about a broad range of Government initiatives.

I would like to thank everyone who attended for their dedication to bettering our community. For those who were unable to attend, and to follow up on some important questions posed during the meetings, I have compiled a “Townhall Review” for the benefit of those living in Cloverdale-Langley City.

If you have any other questions or comments about my work here at home and in Ottawa, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,

John.jpg
 

John Aldag
Member of Parliament
Cloverdale-Langley City

Video replay

 
 

On The Issues

Budget 2017

On March 22, our Government tabled a budget that aimed to make strategic investments in the Canadian economy to ensure growth over the long term. In line with investing in the prosperity of the Canadian economy, our Government’s focus has been on strengthening the middle class and those working hard to join it because without a strong middle class, the entire country suffers.

Key Investments:

Transit

Transit infrastructure is one of the Government of Canada’s main priorities. As we look to ultimately transition from a carbon-based economy, public transit is fundamentally important to creating a green economy that is both beneficial to the environment, and stimulates job creation across the country.

In Budget 2017, the Government of Canada called for the investment of $20.1 billion over 10 years to directly fund transit initiatives through bilateral partnerships with provinces and municipalities. This includes over $1 billion that is being invested in the Lower Mainland for use towards projects such as those in the Surrey-Langley corridor. Ultimately, a further $5 billion will be invested in transit initiatives by the newly created Canada Infrastructure Bank.

Housing

Alongside transit, housing affordability is one of the topics I hear most about from the residents of Cloverdale-Langley City. The problem is felt across all demographics, from young people entering the workforce, to couples trying to raise a family, to seniors living on a fixed income.

In Budget 2017, our Government called for $11.2 billion over 11 years to be directed to housing action. This money will build, renew, and repair Canada’s affordable housing stock, creating new units for those struggling to find shelter, and easing the housing burden on all Canadian families. In addition, the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, Minister Jean-Yves Duclos has been working to create a National Housing Strategy that will target acute housing issues experienced by Canadians from all regions of the country.

Health

On February 21, the Government of Canada signed the BC Health Accord with the Provincial Government. Over the next 10 years, this historic agreement will provide more than $1.4 billion to our province, improve our overall quality of health care, and target initiatives such as improving mental health services and increasing home care infrastructure.

Budget 2017 also calls for $140.3 million over 5 years to tackle the growing issue of prescription medication affordability, and implemented the Community Heroes Program, which will help support the families of emergency responders who die in the line of duty.

At the townhalls, I heard about concerns related to BC’s opioid crisis. The Government of Canada is committed to addressing these issues, with $100 million over 5 years dedicated to opioid crisis mitigation, including a much needed allotment of $10 million to the provincial government to tackle the issue.

M-103: “A motion regarding systemic racism and religious discrimination”

In recent months, M-103 became somewhat of a contentious issue across the country. Proposed by my colleague Ms. Iqra Khalid from Mississauga, this motion sought to address the statistically observed rise in hate crimes being perpetrated upon Canada’s Muslim community, while calling for the Standing Committee on Heritage to conduct a study on strategies to reduce or eliminate race and religious – based hatred experienced by any Canadians.

The motion drew criticism for what was perceived to be a favouring of one religious community over others, and its implications on Canadians’ ability to exercise free speech. Because M-103 is a motion, it is a legally non-binding declaration of the House of Commons and does not have any ramifications on Canadian law, nor does it affect anybody’s ability to speak in whatever way they choose. Canada currently has hate-speech law that guarantees freedom of expression while criminalizing that which causes harm or incites violence. In addition, M-103 simply addressed the fact that while hate crimes decreased in Canada over the last several years, those enacted on Muslim Canadians have more than doubled. M-103 addressed this troubling statistic, while working towards a holistic solution to hate-based criminality in general. Overall, M-103 was similar to a motion concerning anti-Semitism introduced by Mr. Irwin Cotler, and passed unanimously in the House of Commons in the spring of 2015.

On March 23, I was proud to stand in support of M-103, and help pass it in the House of Commons.

You may find the exact text of the motion below:

“That, in the opinion of the House, the government should: (a) recognize the need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear; (b) condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination and take note of House of Commons’ petition e-411 and the issues raised by it; and (c) request that the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage undertake a study on how the government could (i) develop a whole-of-government approach to reducing or eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia, in Canada, while ensuring a community-centered focus with a holistic response through evidence-based policy-making, (ii) collect data to contextualize hate crime reports and to conduct needs assessments for impacted communities, and that the Committee should present its findings and recommendations to the House no later than 240 calendar days from the adoption of this motion, provided that in its report, the Committee should make recommendations that the government may use to better reflect the enshrined rights and freedoms in the Constitution Acts, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

Pipelines & the Environment

Kinder Morgan

Otherwise known as the Trans-Mountain Expansion, this pipeline runs from Edmonton to Burnaby, twinning the currently existing Kinder Morgan pipeline that delivers oil to the Port of Vancouver. The pipeline has been contentious in BC, and I have heard a great deal of feedback both in favour and opposed to the Government of Canada’s decision to approve the project.

The creation of the TMX pipeline will create 15,000 jobs, the majority in BC. That being said, many have been concerned about the ecological risks of this project. When approved, Kinder Morgan was given 157 stringent environmental conditions to ensure they are a responsible ecological partner to both BC and Alberta. Such conditions aim to ensure that the TMX pipeline delivers oil safely to market, and maintains ecological well-being in our province. Because TMX will twin an existing pipeline, the vast majority of construction will be done along the route of the existing line, reducing the environmental impact of construction.

Ocean Protection Plan

To further ensure the safety of our coastal waters, the Government of Canada has invested $1.5 billion in the protection of Canada’s oceans and marine-ways. The Oceans Protection Plan has four key priorities:

  • To create a marine safety system that improves responsible shipping, protects Canada’s waters, and strengthens response measures;

  • To restore and protect marine ecosystems and habitats

  • To strengthen partnerships and launch co-management practices with Indigenous and coastal communities

  • To invest in oil spill cleanup methods and research.

The Government of Canada believes that our country needs an advanced and effective protection system for our coastal waters, and building off of work done between Indigenous and coastal communities and various government programs, the Oceans Protection Plan will help ensure our province’s environmental health.

Protected Areas

As a member of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, I have studied Canada’s network of protected areas. This builds off my experience with Parks Canada, and is a personal passion of mine. Not only do protected areas safeguard the ecological richness of Canada’s most sensitive and sensational areas, it promotes the value of our natural environment to Canadians, and people across the world.

In Budget 2017, the Government of Canada called for $364 million to be invested in Parks Canada over 2 years, which will help the organization continue maintaining Canada’s protected spaces, and expand to others. Canada has committed to protecting 17% of terrestrial land and 10% of marine areas by 2020 in line with our AICHI commitments, and I am incredibly excited about this important initiative.

Coal Phase-Out

Coal is a major carbon emitter, and one of the least environmentally friendly energy sources. The Government of Canada’s goal is to bring Canada’s electricity output to 90% non-coal generated sources by 2030. This will help Canada keep its climate commitments, and reduce carbon pollution by more than 5 megatonnes in 2030, the equivalent of removing 1.3 million cars from Canada’s roads. Pursuing this goal will mean cleaner air and healthier lives for Canadians.

Carbon Pricing

The threat of climate change is an immediate and serious risk to the well-being of all Canadians. That is why the Government of Canada has implemented a structure of carbon pricing. This system will ultimately be under the control of the provinces, and revenues can be used by provincial governments as they see fit. Rather than being a means to generate government revenue, the Government of Canada believes carbon pricing is an important initiative in reducing our country’s carbon emissions over the long term.

As British Columbians, we already have a long-standing provincially-implemented price on carbon, whose revenues are used to reduce the level of income tax paid across BC.

Seniors

Investing in Home-Care

Approximately 15% of hospital beds are occupied by those who could, and would rather be treated at home. As part of the Government of Canada’s efforts to improve seniors’ quality of life, the BC provincial federal Health Accord provides $785.7 million for better home care including addressing critical home care infrastructure requirements.

Budget 2017 has also called for an additional $1 billion over 4 years to help provinces and territories build this critical home care infrastructure, and a total of $6 billion over 10 years to address current home-care gaps.

Returning Eligibility for OAS and GIS to 65

In 2015, the Liberal Party campaigned on a promise to reverse a decision by the Conservative Party of Canada to increase seniors’ eligibility for Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement to 67. By maintaining the current eligibility of 65, this will help over 750,000 additional seniors every year.

Additional changes in benefits mean up to $947 more per year for Canada’s vulnerable seniors. This is estimated to help lift 13,000 seniors, 12,000 of whom are women, out of poverty.

Dedicated Housing Fund

Canada’s National Housing fund will help increase affordable housing for seniors, and dedicate an additional $200 million over 2 years for affordable seniors housing.

Digital Literacy Fund

Budget 2017 also proposes $29.5 million over five years, starting in 2017–18, for a new digital literacy exchange program.

This program will foster more inclusive Canadian Internet literacy by supporting initiatives that teach basic digital skills, including how to use the Internet safely and effectively, to certain groups that are affected by digital divides, including seniors, low-income Canadians, Indigenous Peoples, and those living in northern and rural communities.

Cannabis Legalization

Bill C-45: An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts

On April 13, the Minister of Justice tabled Bill C-45. This proposed legislation is the culmination of over a years’ work, and the recommendations of the Cannabis Task Force. It is clear that the era of cannabis prohibition has not worked. The current system has allowed organized crime to profit from the sale of illicit cannabis, and has not kept marijuana out of the hands of our country’s youth. Too many kids have easy access to cannabis and this needs to stop.

Bill C-45 calls for the legalization and strict regulation of cannabis, and implements serious penalties for those found guilty of driving while under the influence of marijuana, and for distributing it to minors. While the Government of Canada has set the lowest allowable age of majority for the sale of marijuana to be 18, the provinces will ultimately decide the age at which it may be legally purchased.

Our legislation is robust and well informed by experts in many fields, including health, public safety, justice, and law enforcement, as well as from over 30,000 Canadians. In the weeks and months ahead, our Government will continue to engage collaboratively with the provinces, territories, municipalities, and our Indigenous partners who share responsibility with us in implementing cannabis legalization and regulation.

Modernization of the House of Commons

Our government wishes to improve the tenor and quality of legislative debate and to make the House a place where MPs from all parties can best perform their duties on behalf of constituents. Consistent with our Party’s 2015 platform, Government House Leader, Ms. Bardish Chagger introduced a discussion paper on possible reforms to the House of Commons Standing Orders.

The paper contains ideas on how to modernize the House to make it more accountable, predictable, efficient, and transparent and we believe sensible reforms will serve to modernize this House to bring it into the 21st century and to make it more relevant, transparent, and accountable to Canadians.

There are three primary themes of this discussion paper: management of the House of Commons, management of debate, and management of Committees and included several specific possible ways to address these issues. Such proposals were the introduction of a “Prime Minister’s Question Period” which would dedicate one Question Period per week to questions answered solely by Canada’s Prime Minister. This would make him or her more directly accountable to Canadians, and allow the Official Opposition to directly investigate initiatives put forward by their Government.

Another suggestion was the re-allocation of sitting hours on Fridays to the remainder of the week. Currently, the House sits a half day on Fridays, meaning that those representing Western or Northern constituencies cannot get back in time for the rest of the work day at home. By distributing these sitting hours throughout the rest of the week, Members will be able to have longer work weeks, and spend more time connecting with their constituents. In addition, the discussion paper touched on the possibility of introducing electronic voting for Members of Parliament. Under current Standing Orders, parliamentarians vote by physically standing in the House of Commons and participating in a roll called by the Speaker. Our Government was interested in exploring the possible benefits of allowing Members to vote remotely, thereby increasing their efficiency, and the efficiency of the House of Commons.

The nature of this discussion paper was never to unilaterally change the way Parliament functions, but to engage with our colleagues in Ottawa, and Canadians across the country on ways that we could improve the House of Commons to reflect our 21st century world. Having discussed the matter at length with members of the Official Opposition, our Government of Canada will only be recommending changes in line with our Party’s 2015 election platform.

Q&A

What reassurance can the Government of Canada provide that Canada is taking a stronger position on the environment and climate change?

  • The Government of Canada believes that we must gradually transition to a carbon-free economy if we want to mitigate the damage of human-induced climate change. Indeed, the overwhelming bulk of scientific research that across the globe, we must do more to address environmental issues if we want to maintain our current quality of life. In line with this acknowledged necessity, the Government of Canada is taking several key environmental initiatives such as the phase-out of coal-fired electricity by 2030, the Oceans Protection Plan and a national framework on carbon pricing. In addition, Budget 2016 and Budget 2017 invested significant funds into green technology, and our Government believes the fostering of clean tech is crucial to our efforts to combat climate change.

What is the Federal Government doing to keep up with the growing needs of electric vehicle services across Canada?

What is the National Housing Strategy, and what does it include?

  • Canada’s National Housing Strategy was unveiled in the 2017 Federal Budget. It includes $11.2 billion in investments over the next 11 years to address critical housing challenges across the country. This strategy has several key focuses, including housing affordability, the creation and maintenance of affordable housing units, making federal land more available for the creation of affordable housing, Indigenous housing and the unique housing challenges faced in Canada’s North. It seeks to work with provincial and municipal governments to form lasting and effective partnerships that will respond to the housing needs of Canadians.

  • In Budget 2016, the Government of Canada announced an interim housing framework while the National Housing Strategy was implemented. This arrangement will continue for the 2017 fiscal year, with the National Housing Strategy and related funding being implemented in April, 2018.

  • For more information on Canada’s National Housing Strategy, visit page 132 – 137 of the 2017 Federal Budget: http://www.budget.gc.ca/2017/docs/plan/budget-2017-en.pdf

What is the Federal Government doing with regards to Canada/US relations?

  • The Government of Canada takes its relationship with the United States very seriously. With the world’s longest contiguous border, Canada and the US have a tremendous history of close cooperation. In recent months, many Ministers and Members of Parliament have travelled to the United States, and many officials from the US have travelled to Canada to share information about our respective countries and their local economies. As a member of the Standing Committee on Environment and Climate Change, our committee will travel to the United States this June to discuss important topics related to climate change, protected spaces, clean air and water, and ecological preservation with our US counterparts.

Can the Federal Government do anything to improve access to physicians and reduce surgical wait times?

  • Ultimately, health care is constitutionally under provincial jurisdiction, and the distribution of health care funding is handled by the Provincial Government. With that being said, the Government of Canada provides provinces and territories with transfer funding that enables provinces to invest in crucial matters such as education and health care. The BC Health Accord signed between the BC Provincial Government and the Government of Canada will deliver federal funding to better equip our province’s healthcare system. With over $1.4 billion over the next ten years to be delivered, the BC healthcare system will be able to better adapt to changing conditions and improve the quality of care amongst all British Columbians. An important measure being carried out with this funding is a hugely substantial increase in home-care in BC. By allowing people to get adequate care from home, this both increases the quality of care for those who do not need to, nor wish to be treated in the hospital and opens up space for additional patients who otherwise may not have had access to hospital treatment such as surgical procedures.

What are your feelings on Electoral Reform?

  • As a member of the Special Committee on Electoral Reform, I had had the ability to study the issue of Electoral Reform in-depth. While I personally believe that Canada would benefit from some measure of Electoral Reform, the lack of public engagement our Committee, and the Minister of Democratic Institutions had on the matter indicated it would be irresponsible to unilaterally change the voting method when most Canadians had little or no knowledge on the types of changes possible, and with little consensus on the best possible alternatives among those who were vocal proponents of Electoral Reform.

  • If you would like to read more about my thoughts on Electoral Reform, you can read my public statement here: http://www.johnaldagmp.ca/my-work/electoral-reform-open-letter

Why was the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline not approved?

  • After thorough examination, the Government of Canada decided not to proceed with the Northern Gateway Pipeline. This decision was reached for many reasons; economic and environmental. With the Kinder Morgan Trans-Mountain Expansion going forward, the need for Northern Gateway to bring Canada’s oil to Pacific port was greatly diminished. Given that its economic value was lessened, disrupting the natural environment of British Columbia’s northern region made little sense when the Kinder Morgan pipeline would twin existing infrastructure, and cause greatly less ecological disruption.

How will legalizing cannabis make it less accessible to youth?

  • The era of marijuana prohibition has frankly failed at keeping it out of the hands of our youth. Its proliferation on the black market has made it widely, and easily available across many youth forums, especially our schools. By legalizing and strictly regulating cannabis, the Government of Canada plans on making the illicit production and sale of illegal cannabis by organized crime simply unprofitable. When the unmonitored trade of cannabis is undercut, consumers will be left with legal avenues to attain cannabis, where age of majority laws will be strictly and universally enforced.

How is the Government of Canada responding to refugee claimants crossing over the US border into Canada?

  • Canada has a long-standing, effective and compassionate response to those claiming refuge in our country. Upon entering, all individuals, without exception, are detained in an RCMP or CBSA facility and screened for any possible criminality concerns. Once an individual has passed this rigorous process, he or she is given temporary status in Canada, awaiting a decision by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship on the legitimacy of their refugee claim. If they are approved, they become a permanent resident of Canada. If however they are denied, they are notified they must leave Canada voluntarily, or be deported by the CBSA.

How is the Government of Canada responding to accusations of trade impropriety regarding Canada’s dairy and softwood lumber industries coming from the United States Government?

  • The Government of Canada stands by Canada’s system of supply management, and is disappointed by arguments put forward by our US counterparts that our trade system presents an imbalance to the United States. We are continuing to engage our trading partner to resolve this issue, and the Government of Canada is proactively addressing all trade concerns regarding our largest trading partner, and those around the world. In addition, Canada’s Ambassador to the United States, Mr. MacNaughton, sent an open letter to the Governors of New York and Wisconsin addressing Canada’s dairy industry. In this letter, he challenges the argument that Canada is responsible for any challenges to US producers, which are caused by global overproduction, to which Canada does not disproportionately contribute.

How does the carbon pricing affect the local economy?

  • Canada’s carbon pricing framework is a federal initiative that will ultimately be executed by the provinces and territories themselves. This means that any revenue generated through carbon pricing will be handled in whatever manner the provincial governments choose. For reference, in British Columbia, we have had a carbon pricing structure since 2008, whose revenues are used to lower the income tax of every British Columbian.

What is the Government of Canada doing to increase the involvement of women in politics?

  • Striving for gender equality in Parliament and across the country is a fundamental goal of our Government. We have learned an important lesson: when women run for Parliament, they win. In fact, when women run for the House of Commons, they win proportionately more than men. It is crucially important to encourage women to run at every opportunity, and foster our country’s political discourse to be supportive of female candidates, Members, Ministers, and Prime Ministers. In 2015, our Government took the historic step of appointing a gender-balanced Cabinet. In the past year, we have seen 5 by-elections, in which the Liberal Party had 4 female candidates, 3 of whom won their riding along with another female colleague elected from the Conservative Party of Canada. In addition, our Government’s discussion paper on modernizing the House of Commons put forward proposals to create a Parliament more suited to the 21st century workplace. It sought to make the House of Commons more family friendly for both men and women, and decrease traditional barriers to entry for women entering politics.

With my name due to be selected to introduce Private Members’ Business in the House of Commons, what topics am I considering?

  • At the beginning of every new Parliament, there is a random draw to select the order in which Members of Parliament are selected to proceed with Private Members’ Business. My number is 79, and I am due in late June, or when the House of Commons resumes in September. This “Members’ Business” can be a bill, concerning Canadian legislation, or a motion, which is a non-binding declaration in the House of Commons. I have several ideas for how to proceed with my PMB, including:

    • A motion calling for a study on broadening the eligibility of parental leave. I have been advocating for changes to the parental leave EI system since I became a Member of Parliament, and strongly believe that making parental leave more flexible will benefit all families.

    • A motion to establish February 21 as International Mother Languages Day. This day of celebration, already adopted by the United Nations and the Province of British Columbia, celebrates linguistic diversity both in Canada and across the world. This builds on work I have done in Ottawa and the riding, as one of the most influential advocates who pushed for the motion to be adopted in the UN is a constituent of Cloverdale-Langley City.

    • A bill to consolidate existing legislation concerning built heritage and National Historic Sites of Canada. This is an extension of my 32 year career with Parks Canada, over a decade of which was with National Historic Sites. Currently, Canada’s framework surrounding these crucial sites is inconsistent, and inadequately protects these pieces of our cultural heritage.