May 25, 2014 12:26 pm

Transcript: Episode 38, May 25

THE WEST BLOCK

Episode 38, Season 3

Sunday, May 25, 2014

 

Host: Tom Clark

Guest Interviews: Tim Hudak, Mark Kennedy, Susan Delacourt, Scott Gilmore

Location: Ottawa

 

**Check against delivery**

 

Story continues below

On this Sunday, gone broke, as more provinces are warned about their perilous finances, is a radical fix the way to go?  We talk to Ontario Conservative Leader, Tim Hudak.

 

And, school’s out.  Well almost.  With four weeks left on Parliament Hill, our panel checks out the report cards on the party leaders.

 

Plus, a Big Idea for Canada: Why sending our students abroad could make a world of difference here at home.

 

It is Sunday, May the 25th, from the nation’s capital, I’m Tom Clark, and you’re in The West Block.

 

Well Canadian provinces have been put on notice by the bond rating agencies.  Get your house financial houses in order now or risk a European style meltdown.  In the Ontario election campaign now underway, Conservative Leader Tim Hudak is proposing some radical surgery and it’s all about jobs.  Hudak wants to get rid of a lot of them.  He promises to cut 100,000 public sector jobs in just two years and then he’s promising to create a million new private sector jobs, but that’s over eight years.

 

And joining me now, the Leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, Tim Hudak.  Mr. Hudak good to have you here.

 

Tim Hudak:

Good to see you Tom.

 

Tom Clark:

A lot of the issues in the Ontario campaign are being watched closely right across the country because it’s issues that every jurisdiction is interested in, so I want to dive into it.  Let’s take a look at the jobs plan.  At least one side of it because you want to cut some, you want to create some other ones.  You want to cut the corporate tax from 11 to 8 and you say that, or your book says that is going to create 119,808 jobs.

 

Tim Hudak:

I got them all counted.

 

Tom Clark:

Seriously?  808 jobs?  What were those last eight jobs?

 

Tim Hudak:

Well you’re getting a big promotion as you deserve it.  You can go even higher on the ladder.  Well look what we did here was…when I talk about my jobs plan, it’s all focused on how we can make Ontario the leader again in North America.  That’s the Ontario I want to see.  The best place to get a job with better take home pay and to start a business and see it grow.  What measures will get us there fastest and the best quality jobs.  And we use the Conference Board of Canada figures to say if we reduce taxes in Ontario with the most attractive for job creators in North America, that’s the number that you get; over 120,000 new jobs.

 

Tom Clark:

119,808. I guess what I’m talking about is the nature of promises that are made during election campaigns.  I mean that looks a little bit absurd to say 808.

 

Tim Hudak:

Well it comes from the Conference Board of Canada.  That’s where we get our data from and I want to very careful and practical about the jobs plan that we have.  So these are ideas that I know in my heart are going to work.  Lower taxes create jobs.  More affordable energy means more jobs.  Higher energy means we lose jobs.  And then we used independent economists to say if we try this, if we pull this lever, what’s going to be the impact when it comes to job creation.  So that Conference Board of Canada, that’s where that data comes form.

 

Tom Clark:

The experience federally has been, in the past, that when corporate tax rates were cut and Mark Carney, the former Governor of the Bank of Canada talked about this extensively, is that it created dead money, that corporations took that money, it sat on the sidelines.  It wasn’t invested and jobs were not created as a direct result of that.  How can you be assured or how can you reassure Ontarians that if there is a corporate tax rate that it’s not going to become corporate dead money?

 

Tim Hudak:

Well it’s worked in the past.  When we lowered taxes in the province of Ontario under the previous PC government resulted in a big expansion of jobs in the States, the United Kingdom.  I mean this is a tried and true method because it basically says, if you’re going to open up a new plant, if you’re going to add a new machine, we’re going to reward you for that hiring of people in the province with a low tax rate on job creation.

 

Tom Clark:

Well except Mark Carney said that that’s not exactly the way it turned out.

 

Tim Hudak:

Well I get it now why businesses are not investing in the province of Ontario.  I mean think about this Tom, if you’re an investor and I come to you and I say, invest in Ontario.  You say okay, make the case.  Well we have the highest energy rates in industry in North America.  We have among the highest taxes in North America as a whole.  We’re deep in debt and we’ve got all kinds of red tape, well of course you’re going to say no.  We see that every day with businesses pulling out, moving to the states or other provinces.  But if I came back to you and you said, I’m going to lead a province of Ontario that will have the lowest taxes on job creation.  We’ll have more affordable energy and will actually balance its books, so less debt.  They’re going to line up at the door to open up shop here in Ontario.  I’m confident in that.

 

Tom Clark:

Let’s go to the nature of promises again because this jobs promise that you’re making, the million jobs, is over and eight year period.  Your only running for a four-year mandate, so how does this work out?  I mean essentially are you asking for two mandates to complete this task?

 

Tim Hudak:

I’m the kind of leader who is not focused on the short term.  I’m not going to be somebody who is going to…

 

Tom Clark:

Yeah but you’ve only got four years.  I mean we can’t change the Constitution.  You’ve got four years, but…

 

Tim Hudak:

We have to have a plan that’s not going to just work for today but it’s going to build a stronger Ontario for the future, something that’s sustainable.  The other two leaders are making a lot of short term promises.  I’m never going to sacrifice the future for the present.  I want to build a plan that’s going to work.  Parts of our plan will kick in and create jobs right away.  Others will take longer to kick in.  Like I said of personal income tax, after we balance the budget.  But we need to do something to create jobs to say to our young people in the province of Ontario, stay home.  Those watching The West Block out in Alberta Saskatchewan that used to be from Ontario, send a message I want you to come home.  This is going to be the place that you’ll get the best possible job or start that business.

 

Tom Clark:

I want to touch on one other thing that you’ve identified as a priority for your first budget and that’s fixing the transit problems in the GTA area.  Every city across the country is worried about gridlock in their cities.  So they’re looking at what you’re going to do and one of the things that I picked out of your plan, which interested me, you said that you will have, “the private sector play a greater role to deliver value.”  What on earth does that mean?  Are you going to privatize parts of the transit system?

 

Tim Hudak:

It means encouraging private sector investment into our public transportation systems.  And it also includes our pensions.  Let me give you an example:  some of the biggest pensions in Ontario like OMERS, like teachers’ pension, they’re investing in transportation and other infrastructure Tom but they’re not doing it here in the province of Ontario.  They’re doing it in Europe, in the states.

 

Tom Clark:

Right but a lot of what’s in Europe and the states is privatized.  Are you talking about privatizing parts of the transit system?

 

Tim Hudak:

Well if you’re adding on a new line for example, let’s see who can actually deliver it at the best possible quality of service and price for the customer at the end of the day.

 

Tom Clark:

I just really want to be clear about this, what you’re saying is, if I’m right, is that you are not opposed to the idea of having private corporations either run bus lines or subway lines?

 

Tim Hudak:

Sure, absolutely, whoever can deliver the best quality.  I mean it’s happening today, as you know Tom, I’m not always the best guy who’s going to say the best things about the Liberals.  They did do the right thing though; they contracted out Go Train service to Bombardier.  It’s a strength in our system.  I intend to build on it.  The Go Buses are currently still run by the province, but if somebody, Bombardier or others can actually get us a better quality and better price, I’d take that deal.  I’m sure most people would too.  It’s the right thing to do.

 

Tom Clark:

Tim Hudak, Leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party.  The election is coming up June 12th.  Thanks very much for taking the time to drop in.

 

Tim Hudak:
Appreciate the time.

 

Tom Clark:

And coming up, with summer break in sight, we take a look at the performance of all three federal leaders; the wins, the losses, the flips and the flops.  That’s coming up next.

 

Break

 

Tom Clark:

Welcome back.  MP’s return to the Commons tomorrow for the home stretch before that long summer break.  Now it may be a little early to send out the report cards, but we’re going to try.  And by we (us), I mean Susan Delacourt, political columnist for the Toronto Star and Mark Kennedy, the parliamentary bureau chief for the Ottawa Citizen.

 

Susan, let me start with you.  Let’s start right at the top, Stephen Harper.  I would argue that he had a pretty good winter and spring, certainly better than his fall.

 

Susan Delacourt:

Yeah one of these kinds of…

 

Tom Clark:

That’s right; there’s been no Nigel Wright, no more new Nigel Wright.  No more new Senate stuff and so on.  Question is has the good news that he’s enjoyed for the past few months been enough to turn around his prospects which have not been all that great recently?

 

Susan Delacourt:

The thing that baffles me about Harper and it may be a symptom of just a late term prime minister, is he doesn’t seem to be out looking for new friends.  You know, he’s surrounded himself with the same people, an increasingly smaller circle.  In the case of Dimitri Sudas, we saw he went to his old press secretary.  That didn’t last that long but there’s a bunker mentality around him, the picking fights with everybody and I wonder where he thinks he’s going to find new friends because he does need to find some new ones if he wants to keep his majority.

 

Tom Clark:

Well and some voter friends as well.  Mark?

 

Mark Kennedy:

There’s no doubt about it.  Listen we’ve got to keep reminding ourselves, by the time we’re through the spring session and when MP’s come back in the fall, the clock is ticking.  We’re a one year away from the next election.

 

Tom Clark:

Maybe even sooner.

 

Mark Kennedy:

Maybe even sooner if he decides to break the fixed election promise.  That means Canadians are going to ask themselves awfully quickly, does this man in the prime minister’s office deserve a fourth mandate.  That rarely, rarely happens, it’s been decades.  It’s been generations since that has happened.  So Stephen Harper is tempting fate in many ways.  He has to go out there and start giving people a fresh reason why they should give him their trust and we haven’t seen anything new from him, and that’s potentially his problem.

 

Tom Clark:

So one thing new though, his party sent out a fund raising letter the other day, talking about these five corporations that are standing between the truth and Canadians.  And the five corporations were not named.  The Conservatives called them a cartel, which is kind of illegal, but this idea of running against not only the media, I guess us, but also running against the corporations that own the media.  Could that just possibly work?

 

Susan Delacourt:

Well it’s a fusion of two techniques.  One is their two most successful fundraising things have been gun control, the gun registry which explains why it took them so long to get rid of it and the CBC.  They love their donors.  The people who donate to the Conservatives love giving money against the CBC.  And then you look at the war they started waging on the telecos…the telecommunication firms earlier this year.  You fuse those, you get everybody saying you know who’s against you, those people who charge you large cell phone rates, those people who could talk to you from you know scary Ottawa, and they send money.

 

Tom Clark:

And who also happen to own a couple of TV networks.

 

Mark Kennedy:

Yeah but you know it might raise money.  Let’s give them credit for that but stand back and ask yourselves, will it actually get any votes?  Frankly, I think it’s silly.  It’s ridiculous and it’s factually wrong because the media in this, we’re not part of cartels out to not compete against each other.  And journalists by enlarge are not biased.  Journalists in this town are here to hold governments to account and Opposition to account.  You know, ten years ago  when the Liberals were in power, I don’t recall the Conservatives accusing reporters in this town of being biased when they were out writing stories about Shawinigate and the Quebec sponsorship scandal.  So that as it may, is wrong.  I think what it shows is an act of desperation.  When you are circling the wagons and making enemies out of people who are not really your enemy.  Voters might stand back and say there’s something wrong there.

 

Tom Clark:

Let’s go now to Tom Mulcair and Justin Trudeau.  Tom Mulcair, again a bunch of positives:  master of Question Period, master of the House of Commons, prosecutor and chief if you want.  It looks as if he’s going to keep at least half of his Quebec ridings at this point, this early point.  All good achievements, all good signs for him, and yet, and yet, there hasn’t been a breakthrough for Tom Mulcair.  He hasn’t had the magical moment with the electorate, why?

 

Mark Kennedy:

He’s been eclipsed by the celebrity who happens to be named Justin Trudeau.  It’s as simple as that.  It happened the day that Justin Trudeau became leader of the Liberal party and he’s been fighting against it ever since.  I did a series of interviews recently for the Ottawa Citizen of the leaders and Tom Mulcair is trying to make the point to Canadians you can trust me.  You can look back and think of all the bad old days when Bob Rae was in power in Ontario, put me in the prime minister’s office and that won’t happen.  And that’s his big challenge.

 

Susan Delacourt:

Yeah, if we think back, Jack Layton didn’t have any breakthrough moments before the 2011 election campaign either.  You know, I think there’s a group of the public out there that is watching the news very diligently and taking the stock of the leaders.  Justin Trudeau, I think Mark is right, has the attention of the people who don’t pay that much attention to politics right now.  Mulcair has the attention of people here.  It may… you know 36 day election campaign, he could show a side of himself…people could say, Justin: not ready to take a chance on him.  Harper: tired of him.  He might come up the middle.

 

Tom Clark:

Let me quickly show you this.  This is the Liberal ad that was boasting about the fact that Justin Trudeau spends very little time in Ottawa and that he’s out on the road making a real difference in an engagement with Canadians.  The NDP then came back almost immediately with a mirror ad, same layout; same everything mocking Justin Trudeau, saying at least Tom Mulcair stays in Ottawa, shows up on the job and keeps the government to account.  This was the very thing that sunk Michael Ignatieff, the idea of not showing up to work.  So if Trudeau is running as somebody who doesn’t really care all that much about Parliament and the institutions of the House of Commons and so on, what does that say about his prospects, perhaps if he’s elected?

 

Susan Delacourt:

Well everybody wants to be against Ottawa.  That’s why the Conservatives are taking out ads against us, as we say.  That’s why Tom Mulcair and the NDP did the Ottawa is broken thing.  And I saw this a couple of years ago, I guess a year ago at the Politics in the Pen dinner.  Justin Trudeau didn’t turn up for the part where everybody had to wear suits but he did come to the bar at the end and he said to me deliberately, I don’t want to be seen as one of the people wandering around in suits in there.  He wants to be seen as the outside Ottawa guy.

 

Mark Kennedy:

Again, when I sat down with Trudeau, he’s making it very clear; he wants to be the anti-politician.  He’s not going to engage in gutter politics.  He thinks; I think Parliament is too much engaged in that kind of behaviour.

 

Tom Clark:

So what you’re saying is that the only real insiders in Ottawa are the three of us…

 

Susan Delacourt:

Here we are.

 

Tom Clark:

Here we are.  This is it.  Okay.  Susan Delacourt of the Toronto Star.  Mark Kennedy of Ottawa Citizen.  Thanks very much for being here, I appreciate it.

 

Mark Kennedy:

Thank you.

 

Tom Clark:

And coming up next, the latest in our Big Idea series; a simple idea to boost Canada’s reputation by getting out of the country.  That’s next.

 

Break

 

Tom Clark:

Welcome back.  Entrepreneur, businessman, innovator, humanitarian – just some of the words used to describe Scott Gilmore.  A name that every Canadian should know is one of this country’s most noteworthy exports.  And the person we spoke with for the next installment of The Big Idea.  Take a look:

 

Scott Gilmore works in some of the world’s poorest countries: Liberia, Myanmar, Afghanistan, and Haiti; harnessing the enormous potential of foreign aid to do more than just bring short term aid to a region but to invest the money in local economies and companies for longer lasting impact.  It’s known in the business community as impact investing.

 

His work has taken him from remote villages in impoverished nations to international summits, and the world’s leadership elite.  This unique position gives him a very different vantage point on Canada and how it fits into the world economy and the social market.  We recently caught up with him at his base in Ottawa.

 

Tom Clark:

What is the one thing that this country can do collectively, in the next ten years that would make a substantial difference to our future?

 

Scott Gilmore:

You know I’ve thought about this quite a bit and I think it’s a very simple thing, which is to send our children abroad.  Send our children overseas.  We operate under the illusion in Canada that we’re a global multinational society…multicultural society but really we’ve become very provincial, very parochial, and we’re not going overseas.

 

Tom Clark:

Let’s flesh this out a little bit.  So send our kids overseas.  Is this what people would consider to be a gap year between high school and university?  Is that the ideal time to go?

 

Scott Gilmore:

It could be that.  It’s very simple.  You know we live in an age right now where it’s cheaper to fly to China or Korea or Peru or France than it is to buy an iPhone. And so let’s take advantage of this.  Let’s encourage our children as a gap year or as a semester of high school to fly overseas and learn more about the world because right now, Canada is being left behind globally.  And it’s because we’ve become very, very stay at home.

 

Tom Clark:

Is there a role for government in this or do you see this as a private initiative?

 

Scott Gilmore:

You know the Canadian instinct is always to find a role for government in this but I think it’s much simpler.  In Canada when we say Canada does not present international, it is usually a partisan attack.  It means that the Canadian foreign policy isn’t active in this issue or that issue.  The Canadian individuals aren’t active overseas.  You know you go into Burma, Mozambique, Nigeria, some of the fastest growing economies in the world, they all have one thing in common which is there is almost no Canadian presence on the ground.  Canadians, they go to Cancun and back.  They commute to their college campuses, they never study overseas.  Canadian businesses are much happier to go to Nebraska then they are to go to Nigeria and this has to change.  If we want to continue to be a country that’s engaged in the world, a prosperous country, we’ve got to embrace the world and so let’s start at the age of 18.

 

Tom Clark:

Surely it’s not just a matter of engaging in the world, it has to be a matter of how we engage in the world and I think you’re suggesting that if they’re exposed at a very young age to different cultures in different parts of the world that that how question might be answered a bit more effectively.  Is that a fair assessment?

 

Scott Gilmore:

Yeah I’m not as worried about the how.  We have the saying in Canada that started at a book chain that the world needs more Canada.  And conceit behind that is that we’ve got a great standard of living, we’ve come up with a good just society in many ways and I think that you see that being manifested in how we react with the world.  Canada’s foreign policy, for all the criticism, is actually a fairly humane just foreign policy.  It’s hard to criticize it for that.  Our aid programs are that way.  Canadian businesses in spite of all the scandals here and there actually behave remarkably well compared to other businesses overseas.  And Canadian tourists are famous for being polite and always having a flag on the backpack.  And so I’m not so worried about the how, it’s just the “if”.  We’re not simply doing it.  You know you don’t see the Canadian tourists in Hong Kong; they’re going to Hawaii.  You don’t see, in our newspapers, a conversation that reflects a broader world.  It’s all focused you know the local mayor’s recent antics and not the humanitarian crisis that’s unfolding in Syria.  And so let’s start at a formative age.  Let’s get our citizens out there.  Let’s send our children abroad.

 

Tom Clark:

And the point of doing that then is what?  If it’s not a question of how to engage in the rest of the world, what then is the overriding advantage of doing what you’re suggesting in the Big Idea?

 

Scott Gilmore:

Well there are economic reasons and there are social reasons.  The economic reasons are is that the world is changing very, very rapidly.  You know Nigeria, which I mentioned before is going to have a larger population in the United States within our generation and if Canada continues to want to be a prosperous nation that can afford the social services that we provide, we’re going to have to participate in that shifting global economy.  And right now we’re not.  We’re waiting for them to come to us and that’s not good enough.

 

Tom Clark:

When I brought up the how we engage, I was thinking for example what you do.  You’re a Canadian.  You’re out engaging in the world.  You feel very comfortable travelling almost anywhere in the world and yet what you do in terms of investment, in terms of what you do for development aid around the world is very different than what the Canadian government does or has done for many, many years.  I mean is yours sort of the pattern of a re-engagement under a different guise in the world for Canada?

 

Scott Gilmore:

You know I think I arrived at this idea probably because of my own experience.  When I was 18, I went overseas.  I went to do the usual backpack tour of Europe and through incidents and accidents, I ended up in the Middle East and in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and I got a real sense of actually what was happening that was completely lost to me as a boy growing up in the suburbs of Alberta.  And I took those lessons with me when I joined the Canadian Foreign Service.  But I realized that we are limited in our collective ability that paradoxically as individuals, we can have catalytic change, and so I quit my job as a Foreign Service officer to start a social enterprise to look at how I as an individual could have a direct impact on poverty reduction by harnessing the power of investment and business.  And it’s worked.  We’ve been able to do over a billion dollars’ worth of contracts in some of the world’s poorest countries, creating over 70,000 jobs.

 

Tom Clark:

You know Scott, a lot of people listening to this might say well that’s fine for you to say, you’ve got money, you’ve got a privileged background and so on, but I’ve got three kids.  How am I going to afford to send them out into the world for a whole year?  Yeah the airfare may be cheap but you gotta live, you gotta eat and what are you going to do for a year?

 

Scott Gilmore:

Listen, I was very fortunate in the way I was raised but I mowed lawns to pay for my airfare ticket and I hitchhiked my way through Europe in the Middle East and I slept on floors of train stations and what I did wasn’t particularly special.  There were thousands of other kids doing the same thing and there are today right now.  They tend to be Australians.  They don’t tend to be Canadians and what I think is that this is not an initiative that is for the privileged.  It’s not just for the middle class; it’s for all of us.  It doesn’t take that much

 

Tom Clark:

Can I just turn this around and ask you, you’ve outlined what the positive aspects are of your Big Idea.  If we don’t do that collectively, what are the consequences of not doing this?

 

Scott Gilmore:

Well I think we’re already getting to see the consequences of that.  A lot of international issues are being decided without us.  Canadians aren’t present.  International business, it’s moving on without us.  You’re not seeing the great innovative ideas that are coming out of Africa and Europe and Asia coming out of Canada anymore.  Conversations are moving overseas.  They’re moving away from us and we’re not having the impact.  If we again, believe the world needs more Canada then we’ve gotta connect to the world, and we can’t do it from our living room.

 

Tom Clark:

So pull out the backpacks, sew on the Canadian flag and get out there.

 

Scott Gilmore:

It’s that simple.

 

Tom Clark:

Interesting stuff.  Well that’s our show.  Thanks very much for being here, and we will see you back here next Sunday.  Have a great week.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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