May 4, 2014 2:13 pm
Updated: May 4, 2014 2:17 pm

Transcript: Episode 35, May 4

THE WEST BLOCK

Episode 35, Season 3

Sunday, May 4, 2014

 

Host: Tom Clark

Guest Interviews: Alan Carter, Jackson Proskow, Chantal Bernier, Zita Cobb

Location: Ottawa

 

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Global News

On this Sunday morning, drugs, racism, Rob Ford, and an election.  It’s been a big week in Ontario.  It might actually be fair to say, it’s turned into the centre of the universe.  Well for now at least.

 

And…

 

Chantal Bernier:  “It is a matter of privacy and privacy is a guarantee of freedom.  That is what’s at stake”.

 

Sounding the alarm on your private information; is anyone actually in the business of protecting it?  Privacy commissioner, Chantal Bernier is here.

 

Plus, how one multi-millionaire entrepreneur went back to her roots and brought her wallet with her.  We go to Fogo Island for the next Big Idea.

 

It is Sunday, May the 4th and from the nation’s capital, I’m Tom Clark, and you are in The West Block.

 

Well it has been a stunning week in Ontario politics.  On Thursday, Rob Ford got out of dodge after more damming photos, videos and audio recordings surfaced.  And then on Friday, facing certain defeat in the legislature, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne pulled the plug on her minority government, plunging that province into an election on June the 12th.

 

And to break it all down, I’m joined now by Global’s Queen’s Park bureau Chief Alan Carter and our City Hall reporter in Toronto Jackson Proskow.  Welcome to you both.  Well where to start, what a week in Ontario.  Ah heck, let’s start with Rob Ford.  The whole world wants to talk about Rob Ford so Jackson let me go to you.  We now know a lot about his past, which really consists of drugs, drugs, booze, hanging around with criminals, drugs and lying, but let’s take a look at his future, his political future.  Is this finally it for Rob Ford or is there any life left in him at all, politically?

 

Jackson Proskow:

Well I look at it in two different ways Tom.  I mean he was given the opportunity a year ago to step aside and seek help.  His own staff were telling him to do that before there was any whisper of a crack-cocaine scandal.  And then in November when he finally confessed, the same thing, he had this great opportunity to go away, seek help and be the comeback kid and fight the next election.  Now for a lot of people, it’s simply too little way too late.  I mean he let this drag on for so long, seemingly lied to the public for so long; said he cleaned up his act when he hadn’t and here we are today.That said you’ve been around long enough to know that Rob Ford isn’t like any other politician we’ve seen before and I hate to say it, you just can’t predict anything with this guy, so you probably can’t count him out of the race just yet.

 

Tom Clark:

Well you know there was a significant…yeah, go ahead Alan.

 

Alan Carter:

You know Jackson makes a point about not only is he a political force himself, he is also a political force within the Progressive Conservative movement in Ontario, which is why during the budget lockup this week, Tim Hudak, the PC leader must have been asked a dozen times to come out and strongly condemn the things that Rob Ford was recorded saying at that bar, he would not do so.  And part of the reason is, is that Mr. Hudak, even though he doesn’t want to be associated with the Ford’s in any way, knows that he cannot alienate that rock core solid support that Mr. Ford has in Toronto.

 

Tom Clark:
Yeah, and you know what’s interesting though, that here in Ottawa, for the first time, Stephen Harper broke his silence on Rob Ford, issued a statement saying that he found that Ford’s remarks and his actions were very troubling.  Well to translate that into English, what that means in Harper language is you’re toast, you’re gone.  If you are troubling me, you are no longer going to be around me.  So it seems the Conservative mantle at least federally has been removed from Rob Ford, and I’m wondering how much of a problem that’s going to be?

 

Jackson Proskow:

Well you’ve got to think, I mean we don’t know what political machine, if any is actually left behind Rob Ford at this point.  He’s got his brother Doug who is managing the campaign and a lot of individual people who are interested in supporting Rob Ford, but the big machine, it’s simply not there.  We don’t even know if there is going to be a campaign left when Rob Ford comes back from rehab.

 

Tom Clark:

Well speaking of campaigns…

 

Alan Carter:

Well the other thing we gotta worry about too, is the campaign that is now underway in Ontario, June 12th; the voting day.  So, what happens to all of those Conservative voters in Etobicoke, in the outskirts of the sort of suburban bits of Toronto?  Tim Hudak, if he wants to win this election, he must, and I mean must have those ridings because he’s already got rural Ontario wrapped up.  If he wants to break through, he needs those so-called Rob Ford ridings.

 

Tom Clark:

Yeah, and where does Ford Nation go in that case because Rob Ford also took a swipe at Tim Hudak, the Progressive Conservative leader in Ontario for his stance pride day; the pride flag and so on.  You know Alan, let me just ask you generally, it seems if you read the polls anyway, that Ontario seems at best to be a split decision at this point, regardless of what happens to those Ford Nation workers and so on.  Give me some idea in 20 seconds as to what you see the beginning landscape being in this campaign.

Alan Carter:

This is a fight on the left, all on the left.  So you’ve got Kathleen Wynne who has tacked hard to the left, put out a budget that’s got a little bit of everything for everybody, including probably more fantasy than a Tolkien trilogy.  And she’s going to go after Andrea Horvath, that’s the NDP leader after her lunch.  There’s going to be a big fight on the centre, centre left.  It’s going to leave Mr. Hudak out there on the right.What the hope is for the Liberals is that they can eat the NDP’s lunch, whereas the NDP is hoping, well listen, if we don’t really say what we’re up to, they haven’t put out a platform, a campaign platform at all, that people will be tired of 10 years of Liberal scandal in Ontario.  They’ll think Mr. Hudak’s a little maybe just a little outside there on the right hand side and they’ll vote, and they’ll park their vote with the NDP.  That is the NDP strategy.

 

Tom Clark:

Jackson, what’s it looking like in Toronto for the provincial parties?

 

Jackson Proskow:

Well I mean we know Toronto is not a hot bed of Conservatism and the one thing I do hear though, and I hear a lot from Ford Nation; when you cover the guy that tends to happen.  Ford Nation is very upset that Kathleen Wynne and Liberals have not had the level of scrutiny that their guy has had.  That said, I don’t think they were going to be voting Liberal or NDP in the first place.  People here are pretty entrenched and it is that urban-suburban divide.  So, the burbs are going to tend to lean Conservative, the inner cities leaning Liberal and NDP.

 

Tom Clark:

Jackson Proskow and Alan Carter; Queen’s Park and at Toronto City Hall.  Great conversation.  Nice that Toronto and Ontario is actually getting interesting for a change.  You guys have been kind of boring for a while.

 

Alan Carter:

The centre of the universe is back.

 

Tom Clark:

Thank you very much guys, I appreciate your time.

 

Well still to come, who’s accessing your private information and why?  You might be surprised by the answer.

 

And, we take you to a place that is far away from far away with a lesson for all communities.

 

Break

 

Tom Clark:

Welcome back.  Well jaws dropped at a number released last week; 1.2 million.  That’s the number of times that the government and its agencies asked cell phone and internet companies for information about its customers; that’s you.  It’s a staggering number and we still don’t have a clear picture of what was being requested and if and when they used a warrant to get the answers.  It led to some very heated exchanged in Question Period last week.  Take a listen:

 

Tom Mulcair:  What information is the government seeking and why?  And which telecommunications companies are handing over that information?  And which are refusing to do it?

 

Stephen Harper: Once again Mr. Speaker, the issues in question would be those of investigative authorities, ranging from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Canada Border Services Agency and others.  It’s not the government that requests information.  It is independent law enforcement agencies that do that.  The government is not involved in those investigations.  Rather, there is independent oversight on those matters.

 

Tom Clark:

Well joining me now to talk more about this is Canada’s interim privacy commissioner, Chantal Bernier.  And welcome, good to have you back on the show.  We don’t have a lot of answers yet to all these questions about what it was for but a lot of the telcos are telling us that its basic information; name, address and phone number.  And if that’s the case, why should anybody be concerned about that.

 

Chantal Bernier:

Well first of all, we don’t know.  I mean that is really the issue here is the fact that we don’t know.  We were seeking some kind of specificity around this exchange, probably between police services who try and find information, probably for criminal investigations but we don’t know.  And I think that there is an accountability gap really, going back to our special report to Parliament on January 28th where we precisely brought that out; the accountability gap that Canadians don’t know enough.

 

Tom Clark:

But is what you’re saying commissioner, that it is not a question of right or wrong, it’s just a question of we don’t know as much because a lot of people might say, for instance, you know one of, for example, Rogers told us this when we asked them what they were doing with information.  They said: “where there is an immediate danger to life; we will provide information to law enforcement agencies to assist with 911 service, missing persons cases, individuals in distress,” and so on.  And a lot of Canadians might say what’s wrong with that?

 

Chantal Bernier:

Actually I agree.  I agree with Canadians that in privacy law, probably there the balance is right between privacy and public safety.  The point is that we need a record of that.  We need accountability.  So that’s why what we have recommended is that there be statistics.  So for example, there could be statistics on how many times do they give information with a warrant which is truly very well framed in terms of oversight.  Without a warrant for example, when there is immediate danger to life and then why, what are the circumstances, what kind of information, and how many times?  And then at least we would have an idea of the scope of this practice.

 

Tom Clark:

But some of the telecom companies, again Bell Canada told us for instance that they said they’d kind of like a little bit of direction from you on this because they don’t know legally what they can give you when you ask them these very questions that you’re putting out there.  So, would you provide some?  And why doesn’t Bell or any of the other telco’s have this type of guidance from you on this?

 

Chantal Bernier:

Well there is actually guidance in the legislation.  Legislation provides very clear parameters for when the information can be disclosed or not disclosed but the thing is that we don’t even have statistics on the actual practice.  To us, that was the first place to start.  What are the statistics?  How often and why do they disclose information and what kind of information they disclose?  Now since for all sorts of reasons they were not comfortable giving us this information, and yet we believe it is essential for them to be accountable, that’s why we made this specific recommendation in our special report to Parliament on January 28th that there be a legislative amendment to require them to publically report on those statistics.

 

Tom Clark:

We’re quickly running out of time but I think from most Canadians’ point of view they might say, look shouldn’t we just accept the fact that in this digital age, all of our information is available to almost anybody; commercial, government.  And so at the end of the day, the only person who can protect your privacy is you; the person, the individual.  Do you think that’s…

 

Chantal Bernier:

I think that’s an unfair burden, particularly in face of the technological complexities at hand here.  Yes of course, people can be careful about what information they put on the internet and how they use their privacy controls, but still, you can’t ask them to exercise complete control over a technology that is way beyond their capacity and understanding.  The data holders have a responsibility.

 

Tom Clark:

Chantal Bernier, Canada’s interim privacy commissioner.  Thank you very much for being here, as always.

 

Well up next, a Big Idea from a small place.  We’re heading to Fogo Island, Newfoundland where a millionaire is putting her money where her dreams are.

 

Break

 

Tom Clark:

Welcome back.  Well as the song goes, “If I Had a Million Dollars”.  Well multiply that number a few times and then ask Zita Cobb.  Her answer would be, look at what I’ve done.  Cobb is a proud Newfoundlander and a champion of rural communities everywhere, and she’s putting her money where her dreams are, in Fogo Island Newfoundland.  And that is where we go for the next installment of The Big Idea.

 

They say that Fogo Island is far away from far away.  It’s a mere spec of a place off the coast of Newfoundland.  When the cod fishing industry collapsed here almost 30 years ago, half the population packed up and left.  Today, fewer than 2,500 people call it home.  Kept alive by seasonal catches of shrimp and crab, Roy Dwyer has lived here all of his life.

 

Roy Dwyer:

Without these fisheries, Fogo Island will be abandoned, will be resettled.  This is the only thing…that’s the economic engine of Fogo Island right here.

 

Tom Clark:

Luring people back to this remote rural island or even keeping them here would require special bait; enter Zita Cobb.

 

Cobb was born and raised on these rocks but at 16, she moved with her family to better opportunities.  Cobb discovered a talent for business and she earned multi-millions on Wall Street.Thirty years after leaving, she came home to save the island’s dying economy.  And she put her own money, $40 million dollars of it, where her mouth was.

 

The centrepiece of her vision is this high-end 29 room Fogo Island Inn.  She built it and then gave it to a foundation that she established with the soul mandate to invest in the island.  And that means, restoring old buildings, resuscitating the cultural life, and creating jobs.

 

Zita Cobb:

This has been equal parts pain and pleasure.  Don’t know why I do it but I’d do it all again.

 

Tom Clark:

The inn towers over the houses lining the shores of Fogo Island.  Cobb tapped local talent for all aspects of the inn.  Here, Earl and Guy build all the furniture that helps give the inn its modern and yet unquestionably Newfoundland feel.

 

Just across the road, the women at the guild make the quilts that adorn the inn.

 

Millicent Dwyer:  It did start out with the quilts and then it was all the knitted product for the cushions and crocheted mats for the floors.  Whatever you see in the inn in textile came through here.

 

Zita Cobb:

Oh my goodness, absolutely.

 

Tom Clark:

Zita Cobb is doing what she can for the small island’s economy.  She is only one person, focusing on one rural community, but she calls this a revolution of thought and says it’s time that others joined the cause.

 

What can this country do in the next 10 years that is going to make a substantial and positive difference?

 

Zita Cobb:

Well I think we have to start by recognizing that nature and culture are the two great garments of human life.  And that business and technology are the two great manmade tools that can and should serve them.  Now the good news is we’ve got all the parts.  The bad news is they’re exactly upside down.  So what we need to do is to find a way to get business being a better servant to nature and culture.

 

Tom Clark:

But let’s deal with that because if you’re trying to revitalize or save a lot of the rural remote areas in this country and the culture, a lot of people will say well that’s great Zita but it’s going to cost a fortune to do that.

 

Zita Cobb:

But that’s just ridiculous.  This is, now we’re into this faulty accounting.  Let us reflect on, as a country, we are a resource rich country.  I have not met a Canadian whose money if he has, or she has any, didn’t come from a rural place, somehow.  It happens to reside in the urban areas so roughly speaking, we have for generations, extracted resources from rural places and these rural people’s whose culture is very deeply tied to whether it’s fish or farming or whatever that is, have generally speaking, not been the owners of the capital.

 

Tom Clark:

Did you learn this personally because going back into your previous life where you did extremely well; you made an awful lot of money?  Is it because you saw at that point the difference between doing good and making money?  I mean I don’t mean to put it that starkly but…

 

Zita Cobb:

Yeah, and it doesn’t need to be that stark.  I mean this is the thing, I think we do need a revolution.  I don’t mean the people need to die in this revolution. We need a revolution of imagination so that we re-invent the way we do business.

 

Tom Clark:

I want to go back to how you got to your central idea.  You grew up just down the shore here in Joe Batt’s Arm.

 

Zita Cobb:

On these rocks.

 

Tom Clark:

On these very rocks here and when you were a little girl growing up here, you had no road, you had no electricity…

 

Zita Cobb:

No running water…

 

Tom Clark:

No running water…

 

Zita Cobb:

We had everything.  We did.  We had the gift of place and when I moved away to study.  I went to a city.  I started to realize really what it meant to have a gift of place and I think every human being, we should put that in our Charter of Rights, that every human being should be, is entitled to a gift of place because place contains wisdom.  I mean physical place, the natural world contains wisdom.  And it contains the elements of things that we as human beings need to operate internally and externally in some kind of harmony.  And without it, if you extract us from the natural world, we become disoriented very quickly.  I know I did.  You become a little bit lost and then of course it’s very easy to find yourself trapped in this iron cage of consumerism because there’s no rock to hold onto.

 

But what is important about Fogo Island is that it’s specific.  I mean I think as human beings we are thirsty for the power of the specific.  Do you want to live in a world where everything’s the same?  No.  Nobody wants to live in that world.

 

Tom Clark:

Well but let’s deal with that because a lot of people would say, first of all, in terms of the cost of helping to revive or save these areas, you know isn’t everything about minimizing the amount of money that we pay in taxes, making more efficient use of the money so that we have opportunities to do other things?

 

Zita Cobb:

I would say that short-sighted thinkers would say it’s about the money and about being efficient.  If we optimize for efficiency and money, that is a very slippery and quick road to a bad place because human joy doesn’t come from money.  Our ability to live responsibly with each other, our ability to have a democracy comes from a lot more than money.  And when you think about capital, people generally think its financial capital but there’s actually this concept of sacred capital; so sacred capital are things like ecological capital, cultural capital, social capital, physical capital and perhaps even spiritual capital.  If we have such little imaginations that all we know how to do is to suck the good out of that sacred capital until it dies and then abandon it in order to create financial capital, we don’t deserve the country we have, and we’re certainly not going to be a great country.  You don’t have to go very far forward for that.  And just because it’s easy, I mean I used to be a half-assed accountant in my career.  Just because it’s easy for us bean counters to measure financial capital and earnings per share and all of that, doesn’t mean that that’s the most important thing.

 

Tom Clark:

What is the most important thing?

 

Zita Cobb:

Well you must have known my old boss.  Every morning he’d say, okay the most important thing is to keep the most important thing the most important thing.

 

Tom Clark:

And?

 

Zita Cobb:

So for me, the most important thing is nature and culture.  They are the true garments of human life.  Everything else needs to be supportive of that.  And then we’ve got these really wonderful tools; technology.  I mean everyday it’s getting better and better.  I came out of that world.  And business, which is the most remarkable tool of all, that could be such an amazingly powerful servant to nature and culture.

 

Tom Clark:

That’s the pyramid.

 

Zita Cobb:

That’s the way it has to…that’s the only way.  There is no other way that’s going to endure.

 

Tom Clark:

And so we’ve just got to figure out how you do that.

 

Zita Cobb:

We’ve just got to figure out how to turn it around.

 

Tom Clark:

And that is our show for today.  Let us know what you think about Zita Cobb’s Big Idea.  You can find us online at www.thewestblock.ca.   You can also reach us on Twitter and on Facebook.  Thanks for joining us today.  I’m Tom Clark.  We’ll see you next week and as we go, we leave you with some sights and sounds of Fogo Island.  See you next week.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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