What follows are highlights of the 50-minute interview with Albas, conducted a few days before Christmas at The Herald's office. Most of the questions were geared towards federal politics.
HERALD: What is in store for Canada in 2014?
ALBAS: We're two years away from the 150th (anniversary) and there have been lots of round tables done for that. It will be a chance for everyone in Canada from coast to coast to coast to come together. It will also be the 100-year history of the First World War, an important part of our heritage.
I'm hearing from people the economy still remains an issue. There's different parts. There's a skill shortage for employers. There's also talk about pensions. CPP is
doing very well, as far as being financially sound and delivering each and every month. People have concerns about should we look to enhance that.
We need to continue to find ways so that everyone who wants to work does work, and when they choose to retire, they can retire with dignity. These are not easy issues,
particularly when I hear from seniors who don't want their taxes to go up. That's one of the challenges we have.
Even today, the Supreme Court has called some of Canada's prostitution laws unconstitutional, and we'll need to address that.
HERALD: Are we out of the recession?
ALBAS: Everything you see as far as the data shows there's a million new jobs-plus. All of the jobs that were lost because of the recession are back. We're not seeing that universally across the country. There's certain areas hit harder than others. In Ontario, Kelloggs is said to be closing a plant (in London) and Heinz even sooner (in Leamington).
Even here in the Okanagan, if you go to places further away from Kelowna, there seems to be some issues.
How do we find national programs or do we take existing ones, with some flexibility, so that local people can best utilize them? That's what we're going to continue to
HERALD: What's been the biggest accomplishment of your government over the past two-and-a-half years?
ALBAS: Going back, the million-plus new jobs. Canada is the best of the G7 countries. But again, we have to continue to climb because not everyone has seen recovery, and in some areas, certain industries are leaving. These are issues that can't be solved as easily a tax credit.
All of the fundamentals of Canada are
doing well, but again, it's up to individual communities to continue to try and attract employers.
HERALD: How much of a distraction has the Senate and Rob Ford been on the business of Ottawa?
ALBAS: The legislative agenda of the government is solid. We've seen 40 bills passed in this past year which is near an all-time high for Parliament. On the other side, a lot of oxygen from Question Period has been highlighted by the Senate issue. I understand Question Period is there so that the government of the day is held accountable, and I understand the Opposition has a job to do, but one of the things I notice is it seems to be about what the Opposition wants the issues to be, rather than what the issues are that we hear at the doorsteps.
I went door-knocking the other day and most people are concerned about the cost of living. Most are concerned about improving CPP rather now than for the next generation.
From the actual legislative agenda, I think we're doing well.
HERALD: Canadians are upset about the Senate.
ALBAS: Absolutely. I'm upset about it. It doesn't matter if you're a mayor, councillor, MLA, judge or MP Ñ if you're in a position of public trust, we should be held accountable and this is where it hurts people the most. People see it as someone taking advantage of their office in a way that would never be tolerated in a private enterprise. They're absolutely right. This is why the government is dealing with the issue.
HERALD: Assuming you run in the next election, it won't be in Penticton and a lot of people are disappointed because you grew up here and were first elected to city council here.
ALBAS: It's not a new riding. I have five out of six mayors who will still be in my riding. Every year, I've driven throughout the riding to get to know the issues and I represent all those people as well. The majority of the riding is staying intact, except Penticton. Personally I would have loved to keep Okananagan-Coquihalla, but it shouldn't be up to elected officials to pick and choose what their ridings should look like. An independent commission Ñ I know they didn't listen to the people of Penticton and Summerland Ñ has to try and keep it to 105,000 people across the country for every Member of Parliament. Places like Logan Lake needs good representation as much as anyone else.
HERALD: Are we united as Canadians or, during tough economic times, are most people concerned about their own province and region of the country?
ALBAS: I think most of us would say in B.C, because of our coastline and national resources, we have a really key place in our Confederation, but if every MP went to Ottawa and said "I'm going to get as much money for my riding as possible," pretty soon the entire system would unravel. We'd just be running larger and larger deficits. Having strong leadership that says "yes, we're going to put more money through the Federal gas tax," that puts a lot of stability back in communities right across the country. How do we increase trades so that companies can make the most of it? We need to get products out on the international market. China has eclipsed the Americans for buying wood from B.C., that's huge.
My job is to know and hear as many concerns of constituents as possible and make full representation in Ottawa. Everyone can't behave like there's 308 Canadas rather than one Canada, or else we wouldn't be as strong as we are today.
HERALD: On the proposed pipeline, many feel that Alberta will receive all of the financial benefits as B.C. takes all of the environmental risks.
ALBAS: We have things like transfers. Money from one area gets drawn and spread around so we can all benefit. No one for a second would say that we should compromise any province. B.C. is not unique, we all have beautiful countryside. We have to have an economy where the entire country can benefit. That's why we have to have an independent process to make sure that environment safeguards are looked into and properly managed.
If we want to see Canada succeed, we all have to be able to make accommodation.
How crazy would it be to tell people in Ontario that you can't sell your cars outside of Ontario? In the Maritimes, you can't sell your lobster back home. There has to be a way we can all agree to do it with a high standard.
One of the things we have to do is show people that we are operating in a way that demonstrates that it can be done safely.
HERALD: You government, as well as the prime minister's wife, has taken an active stance against bullying.
ALBAS: Until recently, I was on the Justice and Human Rights committee. One of the challenges you have is the Criminal Code, when it comes to technology, there's a fair amount of flexibility.
We just tabled a bill a few months ago that will make it a criminal offence to share intimate photos without mutual consent.
As a parent and the father of four girls, I want them to know how to handle technology and make great choices, but I also know in some of these tragic cases that there's a role that we have to say some activity being done online is criminal.
We have a bill before the house. It's a balancing act. The police and authorities have to have the tools online that we expect them to have. Many tools are not readily available for RCMP online. We have to give law enforcement the ability to do something.
We want certain activities to stop and we want to make sure that kids get the message that they will be protected at school and on-line at home.
HERALD: Will you be endorsing any specific nominee for the Conservative nomination in the new riding of South Okanagan-West Kootenay?
HERALD: A municipal election is 11 months away. You were first elected to Penticton city council at the age 30 and topped the polls. What advice would you offer interested candidates?
ALBAS: There's so many options in Penticton for community service, whether it's working for the Rotary Club, or going down to the Salvation Army and packing a hamper. There are some people that have a variety of backgrounds and if they have interest, being on municipal council or school board is a chance to serve.
It's important to show interest ahead of time. Don't show up to the issues late. Attend council meetings, get on a committee. That gives you a good idea of seeing council in action, learning the dynamics and you get to know the people. I think that's invaluable for someone wanting to get involved.
Andrew Jakubeit was the downtown president (prior to being elected to city council) and was very vocal on a number of issues.
I myself worked with the Chamber of Commerce on a variety of things.
I encourage anyone to get informed and participate ahead of time and learn something and that will help them come election time.
I found running for office to be one of the most exciting times. Whether the question was on affordable housing or aggressive panhandling, I didn't know everything, but I had an idea.
HERALD: Does criticism bother you?
ALBAS: I think it always does but it depends what type of criticism. If the criticism is we don't care or we don't care about getting people information, I see that as a problem. Some people may disagree because of something I stand for based on which party I run for. The most positive feedback I receive is that I will phone somebody, answer an e-mail and listen to what people have to say. They appreciate that you can at last give them the information because quite often, there's three sides to any one issue. When you get results for people, that makes it all the more satisfying.