MP Calkins considers highs and lows of 2013

While Ponoka’s new council is navigating uncharted waters with a mostly new group, Wetaskiwin MP Blaine Calkins has kept busy in 2013.

While Ponoka’s new council is navigating uncharted waters with a mostly new group, Wetaskiwin MP Blaine Calkins has kept busy in 2013.

A personal highlight for Calkins was helping pass Bill S-213, which created a national day for Korean War veterans. He helped Senator Yonah Martin by sponsoring the bill in the House of Commons.

“2013 was the year of Korea in Canada and it was the year of Canada in Korea and it was the 60th anniversary of the end of the signing of the armistice, which ended hostilities,” said Calkins.

An issue that attracted much attention in the press was the senate expense scandal and Calkins is pleased to see it is being dealt with. For the first time that he can remember, there are three senators on leave without pay.

“It’s an issue that’s probably not going to go away anytime, but it’s an issue that the public at large has seen enough,” he said.

Despite the senate expenses controversy, Calkins received feedback from constituents on different issues. One is that employers are struggling to keep employees; they need workers in all levels of employment in the province; the need is high. “If you’re willing to go to work, there’s a job for you here.”

“Most companies are struggling to expand or just keep up with their basic service levels,” he added.

The temporary foreign worker program is one avenue people have to secure work in Canada. Despite reports of abuse of the system, Calkins expects to see further development in the near future.

“These are things that are going to create long-term opportunity for Canadian manufacturers, exporters, producers,” explained Calkins.

Municipalities are looking for details on the Building Canada Fund, which ends in 2014. Calkins said transfers have been increased through the Federal Gas Tax and indexed so municipalities have a predictable and stable source of revenue.

On the agricultural side of things, a bumper crop in 2013 has producers looking at different avenues to sell their products. Calkins feels expanding trade markets outside of North America is critical. The development of the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) with the European Union (EU) is an important step in that direction.

Calkins said the recent agreement has two years before all the details are agreed on but he feels this will benefit the country. The agreement will remove more than 99 per cent of tariffs between Canada and the EU, but both parliaments must still vote on it.

Getting back to balanced budgets is another factor important to the federal government. Calkins said the parliamentary budget officer and independent organizations are forecasting a faster return to balanced budgets. A $4 billion surplus is expected by 2015.

“We’re doing it without downloading on the provinces. We’re not cutting back. We’re maintaining the transfers for health care,” said Calkins.

“We’re finding the savings through growth in our economy. As a matter of fact, we’ve reduced business taxes but we’re now collecting more in business taxes since the recession because of the growth in the economy,” he explained.

Changes are underway for members of parliament’s ridings. In the 2015 election Calkins’s riding is changing and Alberta will see more MPs in the province. Calkins, who announced his intention to run for re-election, will take over parts of north Red Deer and Sylvan Lake. He will lose north of Hobbema but still keep Ponoka and Lacombe counties.

The geographic area is smaller but the number of constituents is approximately the same.

“At the end of the day every single person is going to have a Member of Parliament. That’s the reality,” said Calkins.

“Alberta will have a better say,” he concluded.