MP Dan Albas aired concerns about the cancellation of flights to Penticton’s Regional Airport in Parliament’s question period on Dec. 7. (Cable Public Affairs Channel)

MP Dan Albas aired concerns about the cancellation of flights to Penticton’s Regional Airport in Parliament’s question period on Dec. 7. (Cable Public Affairs Channel)

COVID-19 pandemic saw parties work together, Okanagan MP says

MP Dan Albas said Liberals and Conservatives cooperated to bring about relief in 2020

For MP Dan Albas, 2020 was a year of working together, across party lines, to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

Albas, the Conservative MP for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, recalls how elected officials were able to work together to provide relief to Canadians affected by the pandemic.

“We came together to try to make things work,” he said.

In mid-March, when the first pandemic restrictions were introduced in Canada, the federal government quickly rolled out funding to provide support.

Albas raised concerns with the federal minister of employment about the eligibility for students and about other gaps he saw in the funding system. These concerns were addressed, he added.

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“Now the system seems to be supporting a lot of people,” he said.

He said his role as an opposition member in the House of Commons is not just to point out flaws in government decisions but to also work on finding ways to make improvements.

While the COVID-19 pandemic was foremost in the minds of many Canadians in 2020, the Conservative party also faced internal changes as the party selected a new leader.

In August, Erin O’Toole was selected as party leader, replacing Andrew Scheer, who had been the leader of the party since May, 2017.

“Leadership is fundamental in politics,” Albas said, adding that he believes O’Toole has the experience and substance needed for the role.

He believes the choice of O’Toole as party leader will bring a change to Canadian federal politics.

“Too much time has been spent discussing our disagreements rather than the things we can agree on,” he said.

For his constituents, Albas has continued to work over the last year on his efforts to remove barriers to interprovincial alcohol sales.

In December, he tabled a private member’s bill that would allow Canada Post to offer direct-to-consumer sales of out-of-province alcoholic beverages across Canada.

At present, four Canadian provinces — British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Nova Scotia — allow the interprovincial sale of alcohol directly to consumers. For several years, Albas has been working to expand this to include all Canadian provinces and territories.

Looking ahead to 2021, Albas believes the COVID-19 pandemic will remain a priority for the federal government.

He believes vaccination will be a key component of the coming year. Businesses will also work to recover from the effects of the pandemic, although not all will succeed, he said.

The numbers associated with the COVID-19 pandemic are staggering, with more than 500,000 cases in Canada to date and more than 15,000 deaths as a result, but Albas said the story is about more than just the numbers. He said there is an individual and a family behind each of the numbers from the pandemic.

In addition, Albas wonders if a federal election will come in 2021. He said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, leader of the federal Liberal party, put out a call in December seeking candidates to run in the next federal election. If an election is called, Albas said he is prepared.

“I’m always ready for an election,” Albas said. “I work very hard for my constituents.”

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