Robo-calls and Old Age Security changes

Last fall I heard from constituents who concerned over allegations regarding automated phone calls during the last federal election.

Last fall I heard from a number of constituents who expressed their concerns over allegations made regarding automated phone calls during the last federal election.

These robo-calls as they are more frequently referred to, have been under investigation for some time and last fall I committed to providing more information on this topic as it became available.

Late last week a significant new development occurred as the Liberal riding association in Guelph, Ontario was found to have violated the Telecommunications Act by using automated “robo-calls” in a manner that did not conform to the act.

Specifically the Liberals had created a fictitious caller and proceeded to engage in anonymous automated calls of a political nature.

The Telecommunications Act requires that automated calls cannot be made in an anonymous manner and must provide call back information and disclose who the calls are being made on behalf of.

The penalties in this case included $4,900 fine for the Liberal Riding Association and my understanding is that Liberal MP Frank Valeriote has also issued a public apology for the calls.

For the record I fully support the introduction of new electoral oversight that would provide more transparency and accountability for our democratic process. While it can be beneficial to use technology to enhance our electoral system, we must also be vigilant to ensure that the use of new technologies cannot manipulate or otherwise interfere with the outcome.

In recent reports I have made efforts to debunk some of the more common misinformation that has been circulating, most recently pointing out that a widely circulated e-mail showing an extravagant new jail recently built here in Canada (rumoured to be located in northern Ontario) that is in fact not located in Canada at all but rather in Austria.

However not all information that circulates on government is false.

For example the single issue I remain most commonly asked about to this very day remains Bill C-428.

Bill C-428 was a Bill that proposed to amend the Old Age Security Act so that those who have immigrated to Canada could start collecting OAS pension benefits after just three years of Canadian residency instead of the current 10.

Enraged Canadian taxpayers continue to ask me on a weekly basis if what this bill proposes is accurate and what I am doing to stop such a bill, a bill in that their opinion is neither fair nor fiscally responsible.

The first part of the question is yes, Bill C-428 was a Private Member’s Bill introduced into the former 40th Parliament by the Liberals and was seconded by Liberal MP Bob Rae.

The second and most important part of the question to be aware of is that this bill did not advance beyond first reading and is not a bill that I or the government is supportive of and if such a bill was to be reintroduced by the opposition (as NDP MP Libby Davies did last year before suddenly withdrawing such a motion,) we would strongly oppose it.

Another concern I would like to briefly provide an update on is my ongoing effort to research local gas pricing in our region.

In the past week working with the assistance of a local citizen and the freedom of information act, some significant information has become available that I believe will benefit this process.

Although my research will continue I am hopeful to be able to present a submission to the Federal Competition Bureau at some point this fall.

I will continue to provide updates on this topic however I believe it is important to take action and consumers deserve more transparency and accountability in this process than currently exists.

As there are still a few weeks remaining before the House of Commons resumes I am hopeful to hear from more of you.

If you have the time for a meeting or phone call please give contact my office either locally at 250-770-4480 or toll free at 1-800-665-8711.

Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for Okanagan-Coquihalla and can be reached at