It’s been two years since John Aldag was first elected as the member of parliament for the new Cloverdale-Langley City riding, and he’s seen a few changes during that time.
From heritage initiatives to economic legislation, the federal government has put forward funding and bills that have impacted the lives of Cloverdale and Langley residents.
The Cloverdale Reporter sat down with Aldag to recap on some of the major happenings on the federal level that has impacted him and his riding.
For Aldag, economics “remains the top issue” in the Cloverdale-Langley City riding. So it makes sense that he sees the federal government’s greatest success, and one of its significant challenges, fall under this category.
The success? The Canada Child Benefit.
This is “the thing that I am most proud of that our government has accomplished,” Aldag said.
In June 2016, the new Canada Child Benefit was given royal assent. As a simplified, tax-free payment, it replaced the Universal Child Care Benefit, the Canada Child Tax Benefit, the National Child Benefit, the Conservative’s family tax cut, and Children’s Fitness Tax Credit and Children’s Arts Tax Credit.
According to a spreadsheet Aldag brought out during the interview, Cloverdale-Langley City has 23,910 children in the riding — the second highest in the province. It’s seeing 13,500 benefit payments being paid monthly, with an average payment of $530 per family.
This totals around $7,090,000 in benefit payments every month, which is the third highest amount in B.C. The ridings with the highest payments are Surrey-Centre and Surrey-Newton.
“That’s huge,” Aldag said about the benefit payments. “So when we have that notion of families struggling to get ahead, it’s a huge piece to helping them.”
It wasn’t all peachy for economic legislation in the past two years, however. This past summer, Aldag hosted consultations on the proposed small business tax reforms.
“The amount of opposition on the tax reforms was unlike anything we’ve seen so far,” he said.
The proposed tax reform would have see an end to “passive investment income,” which the federal government describes as an individual holding money inside their business to protect it from a higher personal tax rate, as well as cut backs on “income sprinkling,” where business owners shift part of their income to family members through salary or dividends and the ability of owners to convert regular income into capital gains.
The proposed changes saw significant resistance from local business owners, ultimately leading to a scaling back of the tax reform.
Aldag said he pushed back against the community’s request to extend the consultation period past the Oct. 2 date.
“There were stories about businesses that were going to expand, and they put it all on hold because of these consultations because they didn’t know what the impacts would be,” he said.
“And I thought, that’s bad for the economy. It’s bad for our community if businesses aren’t moving forward and doing what they need to do.”
A key part of Aldag’s work as a member of parliament, although not a priority he identified for Cloverdale-Langley City, is heritage iniatives.
“It’s been really interesting being able to take heritage, both national and cultural, as that was my life beforehand, and [use] that experience to move forward a national conversation,” he said.
Currently, Aldag sits on the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, and has been active in discussing heritage needs within that committee. He said is has been part of a report, soon to be released, on how Canada can meet its goal for protected areas by 2020 and has been active in promoting the importance of marine protected areas.
He is also finishing a study on the importance of built heritage in Canada, which could help give the government a blueprint of how it can preserve historic buildings in the face of development.
“It would be great to have some sort of program to preserve some of those so we can have some sort of narrative of our country’s history, where we come from and where we’ve gone to through built heritage,” he said.
Significantly, Aldag introduced his first private member’s bill, C-374, to the House of Commons on Oct. 25 of this year.
The bill would add three new representatives to the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, one for the First Nations, Metis and Inuit.
“One of the challenges is the Historic Sites and Monuments Board has been painted as a bit of a colonial construct,” Aldag said, “and how we commemorate history and Indigenous heritage is often living and moves forward with generations.”
There is no formal representation of Indigenous peoples, organizations or governments on the board, which has existed for nearly 100 years.
If his bill recieves royal assent, Aldag intends to hold an event in Ottawa to invite Canadian Indigenous communities to bring their historic place, people and events to the board and “have them evaluated with an Indigenous lens that previously was missing.”
Aldag is also proud of federal heritage funding that has impacted the Cloverdale-Langley City riding, including funding for the $15.7 million Surrey Museum expansion.
“I’m really really proud of that,” Aldag said, as it is the largest single funding amount in B.C. for that type of project.
“I hope the community is as excited as I am when that project is going to be finished and shared with us,” he said.