May 18, 2014 10:58 am

Transcript: Episode 37 May 18

THE WEST BLOCK
Episode 37, Season 3
Sunday, May 18, 2014

Host: Tom Clark
Guest Interviews: Gregor Robertson, Barrie McKenna, Laura Dawson, Mark Kennedy
Location: Ottawa

**check against delivery**

On this Sunday, Canada from coast to coast to coast; a new report says a rise in sea levels is now unstoppable. What that means for your favourite waterfront spot.

Story continues below

And where are the free trade agreements? The government has made big promises but has yet to deliver on most of them. We find out what’s holding things up.

Plus, the RCMP gives us the most complete picture yet of missing and murdered aboriginal women and it’s not encouraging. Where do we go from here?

Tom Clark:
It is Sunday, May the 18th and from the nation’s capital, I’m Tom Clark, and you are in The West Block.

Well it is a sobering reality check, a massive ice shelf in Western Antarctica is melting and scientists say its collapse is now inevitable. With that comes an increase in sea levels that will dramatically change the world’s geography. We’ve already seen storms doing some incredible damage to the North American coastline and it’s going to get worse. And the rising water level will be permanent. A new report, co-authored by the American Space Agency, NASA says that as a result of the Antarctic melt, sea levels will rise between 1.3 and 3.6 metres over the next few hundred years. Put another way, is higher substantially than an NBA basketball net.

The rising sea level could cause British Columbia alone, between $2 and 8 billion dollars in damages by just the year 2050. That’s 35 years from now. Well to find out how Vancouver is preparing for this, I’m joined now by its Mayor, Gregor Robertson. And mayor thanks very much being with us.

You know, your own city report of a year or two ago said that in 50 or 60 years from now we won’t recognize Vancouver. What won’t we recognize about your city?

Gregor Robertson:
We do expect the coastline will change significantly given all of our low lying areas and the Fraser River delta on the south edge of downtown; we have a significant coastline that will be impacted by sea level rise. We’ve seen over the past century, we’ve seen about 20 centimetres rise…millimetres but we have a real sharp, steep curve of that now. Sea levels rising, last winter we had a serious impact on our sea wall, breach into the seaside pool at Kits Pool, so we’re starting to see very dramatic impacts as the sea levels rise and extreme weather combine.

Tom Clark:
Just so people across the country can get an idea of this, are we talking about a threat to Stanley Park or to the International Airport in Vancouver?

Gregor Robertson:
Well the airport is actually right at sea level. It’s in the delta there and basically at risk with sea level rise. The estimate for our region right now that was done last year was $9.5 billion dollars to deal with keeping the ocean at bay in the decades to come. So that’s the airport, that’s significant low lying areas south of the city where the Fraser River meets the ocean and right in the core of Vancouver, in Falls Creek we have significant low lying areas as well that have lots of people and jobs situated on them now.

Tom Clark:
This new report, co-authored by NASA, says that things are going to happen a lot more quickly and a lot more dramatically than we had thought before. In other words, the old standard of worst case scenario now looks to be the base scenario. As a mayor, what do you do? I mean you know this is coming. You know that it’s less than a hundred years away for at least the beginning of the effects of this. At what point does the city have to start saying okay we’re not going to develop or work in the downtown area anymore because it’s going to be under water. We’re going to start heading for higher ground. When do you get to that point?

Gregor Robertson:
Well we are already at that point. We’ve already seen the impacts, certainly with sea level rise. We’re seeing that. We’ve seen the impact last year on Calgary and Toronto, extreme weather and the big floods that took their toll on those cities. New York before that with hurricanes so we’ve seen very dramatic impact in cities around the world and it’s escalated over the past decade. I think the last estimate I saw, ten or so years ago, $6 billion dollars a year of impact to cities. While today, it’s over $60 billion dollars every year of impact to a sampling of world cities, and so seeing that kind of tenfold increase in a short decade is dramatic. So cities are having to plan for this, having to take action. We’ve risen (raised) the flood control levels so all buildings at sea level have to be to a higher level. We’ve increased those levels. Just on the kind of base case and when situations like we see in Antarctica develop, all of a sudden you know all of the math changes. That’s very, very concerning when it’s already extraordinarily expensive to improve the infrastructure to deal with climate change but as it accelerates, the pace will have to quicken for us.

Tom Clark:
You also represent the large cities in this country. Are there some coastal cities in Canada that won’t survive this?

Gregor Robertson:
Well I think, I’d say all Canadian cities will survive. It’s really the impacts, the costs at the loss of real estate. I think in Vancouver, the estimates right now are about $25 billion dollars of land value is at risk with sea level rise that’s projected in this next few decades. So we will see great impacts and that’s not only from the ocean but from the severe weather events that we’re seeing across the country that will impact all Canadian cities and we don’t have the infrastructure to address that kind of impact. We’re not built for that. When we build infrastructure going forward, it is for generations. We build our infrastructure for over a century at times ahead and it’s very difficult now given the rapid change to project what we need to build given how severe the impacts are.

Tom Clark:
Let me ask you this because you’re talking about this vast amount of money that we’re going to need to adapt our cities to this. Is the federal government involved to the extent that you would like to see it? Does there have to be a national effort in this regard? And finally too, the question about the Antarctic Ice Shelf, they say it can’t be stopped but it can be slowed if we do something about greenhouse gases. Put that all together and tell me where you think the feds are on this.

Gregor Robertson:
We absolutely have to see dramatically more support from the government of Canada and from the provincial governments to deal with the impacts of climate change and we can look at that in two ways. One is that we obviously have to deal with the crisis as it unfolds and have investments and infrastructure that meet the test. So dramatically more dollars into infrastructure that will be resilient, the will make sure our cities can survive and thrive. Our economy stays strong through the impacts of climate change but beyond that, we have to change our energy policy. Frankly, we have to dramatically reduce our greenhouse gases to prevent even deeper catastrophe and that means a focus on renewable energy. That has to be number one. The energy decisions have to be focused on eliminating emissions and focusing on renewable energy which is a great economic opportunity as well.

Tom Clark:
Okay Vancouver Mayor, Gregor Robertson, a chilling interview in many respects but I thank you for your time. Thank you.

Gregor Robertson:
Thank you Tom.

Tom Clark:
Well coming up, as free trade deals stall, is it time to just tear down all tariff barriers and let her rip?

 

Break

 

Tom Clark:
Welcome back. Free trade is one of the cornerstones of Stephen Harper’s efforts to kick the Canadian economy into high gear. Europe, Japan, India, they’re all on the list, as is a foreign investment deal with China, and of course the massive Trans-Pacific partnership. The problem is, not one of them is a reality. Last October in the midst of the Senate scandal, the prime minister flew to Brussels to sign the EU deal in principle. Well it turns out it wasn’t any more than that because more than six months later, the deal is still stalled in negotiations; same with India, same with Japan. So, why all the delays on Canada’s free trade agenda?

Joining me now from San Diego is Laura Dawson a trade consultant for governments including Canada and the United States and she’s the President of Dawson Strategic. And joining me here in studio in Ottawa is Barrie McKenna, the national business correspondent for the Globe and Mail. Welcome to you both.

Laura let me start with you, what’s going on? Why can’t we conclude these deals?

Laura Dawson:
Well I think it’s a matter of perspective. I mean trade agreements tends to move in at a very glacier pace and if you look at what we’re doing on a regional or a bilateral level, these are the smaller agreements, compared to what we were able to achieve or not achieve with the WTO Doha around, we’re actually doing pretty well. The thing to remember is, these are really, really complex agreements and Canada’s not a very big player. Not everyone is interested in doing a deal with Canada so sometimes it takes us a while but I’m fairly optimistic. I think we’ve done some really good things recently, particularly with South Korea and the European Union.

Tom Clark:
Barrie let me ask you because the big one at least right in front of us right now is the Canada-European Trade agreement. As I said, it is stalled. I mean as each day goes on, is there a consequence to us in not having this deal and what’s the main hurdle at this point?

Barrie McKenna:
The problem is turning a political deal with the EU and Canada into legal language and into writing. The technicalities of the deal when you start to look at the particulars become much more complicated and they can mean tens of millions of dollars one way or another so people really want to make sure that what they agreed to is what they’re putting down in that final text.

Tom Clark:
Is it conceivable though and I’ll throw this out to both of you, picking up on what Laura said, is it conceivable that we are not going to achieve these deals or is it simply a matter of having to be patient? Barrie, go first.

Barrie McKenna:
I’m optimistic as well but it could take a lot longer than they expected. They estimated it would take two years to get the whole deal ratified. It could take that and more. The problem is, is that Canada is in a situation where our exports are not performing very well. We need something more urgently. Our export volumes are still below what they were in 2000. I mean Canada has not come out of the recession very well and we need to get our export economy going. And these deals are part of the way to do it but waiting another three years is really going to be problematic for a lot of exporters in Canada.

Laura Dawson:
And there are different kinds of trade deals too. There are the sorts of deals that we have been doing with developing countries which are almost like diplomatic exercises where we’ve almost photocopied the NAFTA and gone ahead and done a very similar type of agreement. The Canada-EU agreement is really you know NAFTA 2.0 or 3.0. It’s very complex. It’s the only trade agreement I think that we’ve done with the developed industrialized economies where we really stretched since 1994 when we did the NAFTA. So it’s tough but again, I think it’s going to be worth the effort.

Tom Clark:
Okay, and as a lot of people say too, it’s difficult for Canada to negotiate these deals because somehow the US is always in the room because that’s the true elephant. But let me turn it around a little bit because last week, the Council of Chief Executives in this country suggested, and I think Barrie you used the expression to disarm unilaterally. In other words, bring down all the tariff walls, say no, no we’re open for business everywhere in the world. Forget the bilaterals, come and do business with Canada. Is that realistic? Are the chief executives leading us down the right road?

Barrie McKenna:
I don’t know that it’s realistic politically. It’s attractive economically. What you do is, companies…the supply chains are so complicated now. You bring in product from overseas, you’re converting it, you’re adding to it and then you’re shipping it overseas again. And this can happen several times along the way of a supply chain so that things cross the border. If you can get rid of all those tariffs you make the companies based here much more productive, much more efficient. The problem is that most of the tariffs that Canada still has are on the supply-manage products. That’s where the big value is and getting rid of those as we all know is very, very complicated, given the power of the dairy industry in parts of this country.

Laura Dawson:
And their suggestion…

Tom Clark:
Go ahead Laura…

Laura Dawson:
Oh sorry, their suggestion is really churning the theory of trade negotiations on its head. We have this sort of competitive, use the word disarmourment type approach to trade negotiations that you don’t want to give away too much; it’s got to be quid pro quo. I’ll give you this, you give me that but you have to realize that Canada is a small economy. I’m in California right now, our economy in Canada is about the same size as this state’s economy. And so we don’t have that much negotiating leverage and it’s really difficult to trade say an agricultural issue. I’ll give you this on supply-management if you give me that on autos. Those are tough trade-offs to do so what the council is suggesting is forget all that. We know that in economic terms do you lower your tariffs unilaterally and you’re going to be better off. What if we start negotiating in a whole new way. Maybe it won’t happen but it’s a really cool paradigm to consider.

Tom Clark:
Yeah bold ideas are not you know necessarily known in Canada but this could be it. However, as you both said, politics plays a big role in the trade agenda and in the economic agenda. Barrie you were suggesting, as did Laura that if we are going to bring down the walls, that means getting rid of supply-management. That means losing votes in Quebec. Those very important seats in Quebec and so far there’s not a single party in this country who’s willing to give up the protection for egg and dairy and chicken farmers in this country.

Barrie McKenna:
Exactly and Ontario. Ontario is very important as well.

Tom Clark:
Ontario too, yeah.

Barrie McKenna:
Yeah, and it’s almost impossible to get rid of but that doesn’t mean that you can’t take all the…put supply-management aside and just get rid of all the other tariffs that you’ve got. And it sends a signal to other countries that you’re a player that you want to be an open economy. We already are a very open economy. We want to be a more open economy. And I don’t think the downside is all that great.

Laura Dawson:
Yeah, and that’s maybe the other way out because frankly we’ve lost a lot of credibility at the negotiating table. When Canada goes into a negotiation and says we really want you to open your markets. We really want to do business with you seriously and we have these tremendously high protections and supply-manage products, they don’t take us seriously. So maybe if we do the unilateral disarmourment approach, we might have a bit more credibility in getting the things that we want in manufacturing services and other non-agricultural sectors.

Tom Clark:
Well who knows maybe the CEO’s of this country have just come up with a blueprint for the future? Barrie McKenna of the Globe and Mail and Laura Dawson, an independent trade consultant joining us from San Diego. Thanks very much for being here – appreciate your time.

Barrie McKenna:
Thanks.

Laura Dawson:
You’re welcome. Thank you.

Tom Clark:
Well still to come, the RCMP call it a national tragedy. Can the government avoid a public enquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women?

 

Break

 

Maria Jacko clip:
I have a niece who went missing. Her name is Maisy Odjick. It was almost going on six years right now. She went missing her friend Shannon Alexander and really they went missing without a trace. We have no clues. We have no nothing since they went missing and I think you know we’ve run out of options.

Tom Clark:
Well that is just one of hundreds of stories about missing or murdered Aboriginal girls and women. On Friday, the RCMP confirmed what many experts suspected. While Aboriginal women make up 4 per cent of women in Canada, in 2012, they represented 23 per cent of murdered women in this country and 11 per cent of missing women.

We requested an interview with either the Justice Minister, the Public Safety Minister or their Parliamentary Secretaries but no one was available. We were sent a statement from Justice Minister Peter MacKay which said in part, “We must continue to take concrete action now, not just to continue to study the issue. Police investigations, new tools and techniques, as well as preventative pre-emptive programming are what deliver tangible results.”

Well the Opposition has a somewhat different view. NDP MP Charlie Angus says, “There needs to be a full public enquiry.” He told us, “The actions that the government have taken so far have been ineffective and disingenuous.”

Charlie Angus clip:
Peter MacKay is a man who has made his reputation a standing up for victims. Wherever there’s a victim, he’s going to be standing beside them. When we have the mothers of the murdered and missing standing outside in Parliament and he’s sneaking out the back door all the time.

Tom Clark:
Well joining me now to talk more about this is Mark Kennedy. He is the Parliamentary Bureau Chief for the Ottawa Citizen. Mark good to have you here. The back and forth that we heard on Friday on this, the government seemed to be saying we’re just going to continue on what we’re doing. No big brand new initiative, certainly no enquiry yet things are getting worse. They’re not getting better. Can the government with everything that’s on the table now avoid doing more than what they say they’re going to do?

Mark Kennedy:
Well it’ll be hard to think that they are going to change their mind all of a sudden. I mean they did release a statement within minutes actually from the Justice Minister indicating very clearly that they are not about to have another enquiry…to have an enquiry. And the Prime Minister himself has said that the time for enquiries is behind them. And I think you know to give them credit, I suspect what they’re thinking is enquiries cost a lot of money, can go on much longer than you think they might happen. At the end of the day they come forward with recommendations that don’t really tell you much.

Tom Clark:
And one more thing, enquiries tend to also criticize the government in power at the time.

Mark Kennedy:
Well exactly. There’s no political upside for Stephen Harper on this but as all of this is happening, we have to think of two things, both domestically and internationally. Domestically, this government and this country is on the precipice of having significant problems with this countries aboriginal people, through the Assembly of First Nations, we have chiefs just last week in this town, who were starting to talk about economic action to grind down the economy of this country.

Tom Clark:
Yeah everything from blocking highways to blocking ports, shutting down cities.

Mark Kennedy:
Precisely, I mean they’re talking about the Education Act they don’t like but in the context of all of this, if the government in the wake of the RCMP report says no, nope, no enquiry, to them it will be a slap in the face and we don’t know what that might do. Internationally, just last fall, the United Nations special rapid tour on indigenous peoples, James Anaya came to the country, travelled all across the country. He has submitted a report. It calls for an enquiry into missing and murdered indigenous peoples. There will be further talk on this at the UN this fall. If the impression internationally of Canada and its treatment of missing and murdered aboriginal people becomes one of indifference, it’s a problem. It could stain our reputation.

Tom Clark:
And yet, domestically, how many votes are going to be won or lost on how you handle the Aboriginal file?

Mark Kennedy:
Yeah well sadly that’s the crux of the issue here because frankly, and I think historically and everyone in this town politically knows it doesn’t win or lose many votes. They are, Aboriginals are a small segment of the Canadian population and for generations they have been ignored because they don’t move votes. And elections are not won or lost on this, generally.

Tom Clark:
I think this is an important issue, certainly for some cities that have significant Aboriginal populations. I’m thinking of Regina for instance, many towns in Saskatchewan. Manitoba the same thing and yet when you come into the area that is going to win or lose the election for any party, it’s Southern Ontario and frankly, it doesn’t exist as an issue in Southern Ontario.

Mark Kennedy:
Oh absolutely and if you walk the streets of Manitoba, of Winnipeg, of Regina, even downtown in Vancouver, you know that this is a problem. You don’t see that problem when you walk the streets of the outer core of Toronto, of the greater GTA. And so therefore…

Tom Clark:
Or even here in Ottawa.

Mark Kennedy:
Or even here in Ottawa so for that reason, it’s an isolated issue that people in only some parts of the country know, needs to be addressed. But in other places where elections are won or lost, and the next one will be the GTA of Toronto, it’s not an issue.

Tom Clark:
But let’s put this together because if the government is right and many people, including some critics are saying that the government is right, that another enquiry just simply delays the day of action and is really just self-serving for the politics interests involved. But let’s say that there is a demand for an enquiry, do you think that it is politically possible at this point for the government to ignore the idea of an enquiry and yet at the same time, take any substantive action towards this because politics aside, I think you and I and probably everybody watching us would agree, this really is a serious issue. This is part of what our country is ailing right now. We’ve got a need to fix it but how much is politics going to interfere with the solution?

Mark Kennedy:
Well the numbers are horrifying. You know I’ve done some work on residential schools. This was a scandal that simmered away in this country for generations that not enough attention was paid to. Over the course of the last three decades, we’ve had over a thousand Aboriginal women die in this country at the hands of someone else. Something has to be done about it. We know…we need to know why it’s happening in such numbers and how to stop it because the trend does continue. But then the case becomes, what are they going to do about it? The government in its initial release made the case that in large part, many of those murders are happening at the hands of family members. In many cases, the women had been in trouble with the law. In many cases, intoxication was involved. So the case they make, the point they make is that we already know what the problems are so let’s get moving on it.

Tom Clark:
Mark Kennedy – huge problem. Good talk. Thank you very much. Parliamentary Bureau Chief for the Ottawa Citizen, Mark Kennedy. Thanks.

Mark Kennedy:
Thank you.

Tom Clark:
Well that is our show for today. Parliament’s taking a break next week but we’re not. Stay tuned to Global National with Dawna Friesen for all the stories that matter. Thanks very much for being here and enjoy the rest of May 24. See you back here next Sunday.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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