Albas sees benefits for Okanagan in budget
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Okanagan Coquihalla MP Dan Albas looks to federal liquor regulation changes when talking about what is important for his riding in the 2014 budget.
Besides the number of wineries, breweries and distilleries in the Okanagan, Albas was the one that got the ball rolling when his private member’s bill, C-311, was passed in 2012, removing federal restrictions on transporting wine across provincial borders.
The Intoxicating Liquors Act is being further amended to give beers and spirits the same privileges. Since the introduction of C-311, Albas said the other liquor manufacturers have been lobbying for the same kind of treatment, along personal exemption lines, in transporting their brews and spirits.
But though the bill was passed in 2012, and B.C. — after some initial backlash from the wine industry — backed the opening of provincial borders with changes to our liquor regulations, other provinces have generally been slow to follow suit.
“Part of what we are doing here is by making these kind of changes is allowing those industries to have the same equal footing and hopefully that will allow provinces that have concerns to be able to open discussion,” said Albas. “When one level of government can remove itself, it becomes that much easier for local industry and consumers to focus in on their particular province and ask them to be part of the solution.”
Albas’ work on C-311 also earned him a mention in the budget, one of only three MPs to be named in the document.
“I appreciate the recognition, but I think it shows that one of the big successes of Bill C-311 was not only were we able to articulate a position, but it was widely resonated in Parliament and passed with a unanimous vote,” said Albas.
“It is nice to be acknowledged by the government that this was an important step and they were planning on building on it.”
Another item introduced in the budget that Albas is sure will be welcomed in the area is the new tax credit for search and rescue volunteers. With the Okanagan being a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts, as well as larger numbers of locals utilizing the wilderness, Albas said the tax credit recognizes the importance of the work done by the volunteers.
“I know many people in the Penticton area, particularly Cindy Smith, and the amount of time and energy that she and her crew put into training and then doing search and rescue efforts, so I think this recognizes their contribution to our country and keeping Penticton and area residents safe,” said Albas.
Volunteers investing 200 hours of service during the year will be able to claim the new tax credit, similar to the one introduced for volunteer firefighters in the 2011 budget.
“I think the government is quite right in acknowledging that if you contribute over 200 hours there are significant societal benefits from it, particularly in areas like ourselves, where we have lots of tourists that come and lots of outdoor enthusiasts.”
Along with a range of measures aimed at increasing skills training, such as expanding the Canada Student loan program to include apprentices training in Red Seal trades, the Canada Job Grant is back again in the 2014 budget. The grant, which would see businesses, the province and the federal government each contributing $5,000 for the training of an employee for a new or better job, was introduced in the 2013 budget to a cool reception from provinces and businesses alike.
The plan will be introduced on April 1, without provincial contribution.
“The way we are putting it forward at this time is that the costs would be shared between the federal government and the employer,” said MP Kerry-Lynne Findlay, minister of national revenue. “We really need to have Canadians get the training they need for the jobs that are available out there.”
Findlay said the investment in training will benefit not just youth, but the businesses themselves and encourage them to mentor young workers and teach them the skills they need.
Seniors are another target group for the 2014 budget, with a $5 million investment in the New Horizons program.
“That is for a variety of senior’s programs that help seniors’ groups and seniors’ centres, helps them with programming, perhaps upgrade of the facilities,” said Findlay, adding there is also an $75 million investment in a program to help older workers put their talents and experience back to work.
“There are lots of older people who still have a lot to contribute, a lifetime’s worth of experience,” said Findlay.