June 22, 2014 11:51 am

Transcript: Episode 42, June 22

THE WEST BLOCK

Episode 42, Season 3

Sunday, June 22, 2014

 

Host: Tom Clark

Guest Interviews: Tom Mulcair, Jason Kenney, Georgiy Mamedov, Mark Kennedy

Location: Ottawa

 

**Check against delivery**

 

 

Story continues below

On this Sunday morning, as the session ends, the NDP finds itself accused of scandal.  We asked Tom Mulcair will he pay back the money?  Yes or no?

 

And the future of the embattled Temporary Foreign Workers program.  The minister in charge Jason Kenney joins us.

 

Plus, “Hi everybody, I didn’t know I was so popular.”  He is the dean in the diplomatic corps in Ottawa but as he goes into retirement, the Russian ambassador has some undiplomatic words for Stephen Harper.

 

It is Sunday, June the 22nd, and from the nation’s capital, I’m Tom Clark and you are in The West Block.

 

Well to paraphrase that old car commercial, “This isn’t your father’s NDP”.  In the last Ontario election, the provincial NDP campaigned to reduce small business taxes by 30 per cent and balance the books within three years.  That’s hardly left wing dogma.

 

In New Brunswick, the NDP have gone even further.  Its new leader, Dominic Cardy is proposing to scrap small business taxes altogether.  It’s a turn of the centre that has infuriated some party stalwarts but also has come to define the federal NDP.

 

Joining me now, the leader of the Official Opposition, Tom Mulcair.  Mr. Mulcair awfully good to have you back on the show.

 

Tom Mulcair:

Good to see you Tom.

 

Tom Clark:

You know a couple of weeks ago there was an extraordinary thing that happened in the Ontario election campaign.  There was an open revolt led by some of the icons of the NDP saying in a sense that the party had lost its way.  And here’s just one of the things that they said in an open letter to the Ontario NDP leader at the time.  “It seems in your rush to the centre you are abandoning those values and constituencies that the party is always championed.  If the NDP does not stand with working people, poor people, with women, with immigrants, then what does it stand for?  We urge you to change course”.  Is that fair criticism?

 

Tom Mulcair:

It was a criticism levelled at the Ontario party.  I don’t think it was fair because I know a lot of people in the Ontario party and I also know that almost everybody who signed that letter had nothing whatsoever to do with the NDP although there were a couple of people who did.  The vast majority…there were a couple of people…

 

Tom Clark:

Well, there was the spouse of Stephen Lewis.

 

Tom Mulcair:

No, no, I completely agree there were a couple of people of the 34 who had something to do with the NDP.  Twenty-eight of the thirty-four had nothing to do with the NDP, so it was fair game in the middle of an election for a bunch of mostly Liberals to start attacking the NDP.  It was a shame that a couple of NDPers were in there as well.  I don’t think the criticism was valid.  I know the values of the party, well espoused and represented by Andrea Horwath.  I think she did a great job and you know what, she rode us to our best election result in 24 years in Ontario so she must have been doing something right.

 

Tom Clark:

But you know it brings up an interesting question because there has been, if you want, an ideological shift in the NDP over the years.  I’ve been around long enough to remember when the NDP favoured nationalisation, when all you would talk about where the working class, now you’re talking about the middle class.  And now you’ve got provincial leaders such as in New Brunswick who want to eliminate business tax for small businesses altogether, a very Conservative thing to do.  What’s happening to the soul of the party?

 

Tom Mulcair:

Well don’t forget, in Manitoba where we’re in our fifteenth year in power, the NDP has brought the small business tax rate down to zero because we know that small and medium size businesses are the job creators.  So it’s not because we are social democrats that we don’t understand the importance of creating good full-time permanent jobs in our economy.  That’s what we’ve done so successfully in Manitoba, which has one of the lowest unemployment rates in Canada and that’s what we’ll do when we form a government in 2015.  So, I understand public administration because I’ve been at it for 35 years but I also understand that the NDP brought free universal public medical care to Saskatchewan and that became the Canadian model, and it’s a reflection of us.  And I can tell you because I did it in Quebec City that when we form government, we’re going to bring daycare across Canada as well, something that’s been talked about by successive governments before but never been done.

 

Tom Clark:

Fair enough, I don’t mean to interrupt, but at the same time, this party is one that has been in ideological transition for at least ten or fifteen years.  I think you would agree with that.

 

Tom Mulcair:

I think that if you look at the history of some of the social democratic parties, look at British labour under Tony Blair, you know he used to quip that it wasn’t a question of left and right, it was a question of what worked and what didn’t work.  And I think Canadians want people who are realists, who understand for example the importance of our extractive industries and the creation of jobs, but they also want to have a government that’s actually going to enforce rules of sustainable development like polluter pay.  We can do both.

 

Tom Clark:

But if you want to become the new “small-l” Liberal party, why wouldn’t people just vote for the Liberals?

 

Tom Mulcair:

Well there are a couple of reasons, not the least of which is it’s only the NDP that’s been able to take on Stephen Harper and take him on seriously.  We’re the only Opposition he’s ever faced but I’ll give you two numbers.  They are 103 and 107.  A hundred and three – number of seats that the NDP won in the last election, a 107 – the number of seats in which we finished second to the Conservatives.  We finished second to a bunch of other parties.  That is clearly showing that Canadians want an alternative to being told that there’s only the red door and the blue door of Liberal and Conservative corruption.  Jack Layton said you know there’s an orange door.  Four and a half million Canadians wanted that open optimistic approach.  We have a strong base, not only across the country as we always have, but the NDP is now well ensconced in Quebec.  We’re the only party that can tell you that we’re going to win a majority of seats in Quebec and across the country.

 

Tom Clark:

I guess my point is that the colour of orange has been changing quite a bit.

 

Tom Mulcair:

Well it’s a pragmatic approach that we’ve been taking but that’s the approach that I took in the leadership race.  Our views on Canada’s role in the world are very similar to the tradition of views of the NDP.  We want a very open approach, we want to work for peace; we want to get Canada back on the world schedule.  Look, there’s nothing I’d love more Tom than to make my first gesture as PM to be to attend the conference of the parties on Kyoto in Paris in December of 2015.  Stephen Harper is not only fighting against the world, he’s fighting against the planet so we do want to start getting these things right and we’re actually going to do them and not just talk about them.

 

Tom Clark:

One last question:  You have been known as the prosecutor in chief on Parliament Hill.  Your party is now facing accusations and prosecutions from the other side.  It deals with parliamentary money.  Are you going to repay the $36 thousand dollars that they say your party must repay?

 

Tom Mulcair:

Well what we do have are recourses.  Don’t forget, there has been a process here that’s broken every single rule of natural justice.  We only started these mailings when we checked with the House, both the Speaker and the clerk because we were getting mailings from the Liberals and the Conservatives. The only ones that have been looked at are the NDP and that Tom, is a reflection of where the NDP is right now.  When we were the fourth party sitting in the corner, nice and tranquil, we didn’t get attacked by Liberals and Conservatives.  I take it as a positive sign that we’re doing something right that Stephen Harper is turning his guns on us.  The fact that his hand maiden is the Liberal party says a lot about the fact that the NDP represents a real threat to them because for the first time, we’re going to form a government.

 

Tom Clark:
So is that a yes or is it a no, in terms of repayment?

 

Tom Mulcair:

We’re going to exercise our recourses.  We’re going to make sure that the rules are followed.  We followed them every step of the way.  People have not been told what rule they are supposed to have broken.  They’ve never had the right to be heard.  We are dealing with people who are judges in their own case.  We’re going to make sure our rights are respected.

 

Tom Clark:

Okay, I’ll take it that the simple question about whether you’re going to repay the money or not, I take it that the answer is maybe, it depends.

 

Tom Mulcair:

The real answer is if a real judge says that everyone’s broken the rules, we’ll all pay back.  If a real judge says that the NDP has broken the rules, of course we’ll pay back but since we’re in a process where no one’s had a right to be heard, no one’s had a right to know what they’re actually being accused of, as people who are supposed to be standing up for the rule of law in a democracy, we’ll stand up for the rule of law which means it applies to everyone, including us, which means we have rights as well.

 

Tom Clark:

Tom Mulcair it’s always a pleasure to have you on the show.  I really enjoy the conversation.

 

Tom Mulcair:

Good to see you Tom.

 

Tom Clark:

 

Tom Mulcair:

Bye-bye.

 

Tom Clark:

Well coming up, Mr. Fix-It, employment minister Jason Kenney makes changes to the Temporary Foreign Workers program.

 

And then, from Russia with no love; Russian Ambassador, Georgiy Mamedov throws a stink bomb at Stephen Harper on his way out.

 

Break

 

Tom Clark:

Welcome back.  Well after months of scrambling to defend and define the Temporary Foreign Workers program, the government has decided to change it, cutting its size and its scope.  The government will limit access to the program in areas with high unemployment.  A cap is being placed on the number of foreign workers a company can have.  And employers must pledge not to lay off Canadians or cut their hours if they bring on temporary foreign workers.  Those are just some of the new provisions and joining me now, the minister who introduced the program and now the fixes, Jason Kenney.  Good to have you here Mr. Kenney.

 

Jason Kenney:

Good to be here Tom.

 

Tom Clark:

Isn’t at the core of this, the problem that Canadians just don’t want to take on low paying jobs that they think are beneath them?

 

Jason Kenney:

I don’t think so.  Let me correct one thing, I didn’t create the program.  Most of it has existed for decades and we actually have modified the program already which probably prevented its further growth and a lot of employers say they think it’s too difficult to use already.  What we’re trying to get to is a temporary foreign worker program that is there only as a last and limited resort, when it’s absolutely clear that qualified Canadians are not available for a particular job.  It’s true; there are some low-paying occupations that Canadians are less enthusiastic about taking now than maybe decades in the past, but that’s not an excuse for employers to look abroad first.  They’ve gotta do more to hire young Canadians.  Immigrants have a high unemployment rate.  Aboriginal Canadians who happen to be close to many of these tight labour markets in the west and the north , today’s reforms send that message, redouble your efforts to hire Canadians, raise wages, recruit more actively, invest more in training and only then, if no one’s applying, will you be able on a limited basis to go abroad.

 

Tom Clark:

But I don’t understand how you convince Canadians to suddenly start working at McDonald’s flipping burgers when they haven’t done that in the past and what I’m wondering too is if you can’t do that and you’re limiting temporary foreign workers, aren’t you condemning some businesses to closure?

 

Jason Kenney:

Look, there will undoubtedly be adjustment costs for some businesses in some of the more tight labour markets in Canada but let’s not exaggerate the situation.  You mentioned McDonald’s, 96 per cent of their employers…excuse me employees are Canadians.  In the restaurant industry, 98 per cent of the 1.1 million employees are Canadians.  Overall, low skilled temporary foreign workers represent only about one half of 1 per cent of the Canadian workforce.  Over 98 per cent of people working in Canada are Canadian citizens and permanent residents so my message to employers is, try a little bit harder, raise the wages where necessary.  In Alberta, where you’ve seen the heaviest use of this program, in the for example fast food sector, we’ve seen wages barely go up in that food industry but inflation has gone up twice as fast and the overall wages have gone up three times higher.  That indicates to us that where the program has become a business model, it’s resulted in distortions in the Canadian labour market, that’s what these reforms are designed to fix.

 

Tom Clark:

One of the other provisions is saying you can’t cut people’s hours and you can’t lay people off if you’re taking on temporary foreign workers but isn’t that the heavy hand of the state coming in and telling employers how they can run their business?

 

Jason Kenney:

To the contrary, I’m a free market guy Tom as a Conservative and I believe that governments should not distort markets, and we have a lot.  In some small sectors in some regions, a distortion to happen by allowing employers to look abroad too easily and that’s why we’re bringing in these measures.  Look, there’s no way that an employer should be able to bring in someone from abroad and then lay off a Canadian or cut their hours.  The changes we’ve announced this week will help to prevent that.

 

Tom Clark:

I want to switch gears a little bit here, but you brought in this very sweeping reform on Friday and here you are today talking about it.  Your press conference was a marathon press conference; you answered everything.  And yet, your government brought in a very fundamental decision last week and that was on the Northern Gateway pipeline.  Not a single minister, not one of your colleagues has gone to any microphone anywhere in this city to defend that decision.  What’s going on?

 

Jason Kenney:

Well in the case of the Temporary Foreign Worker program reform, this is a new policy being established by the government.  We have to explain and defend that.  In the case of the Northern Gateway licensing application, it’s a regulatory matter, overseen primarily by the National Energy Board and a political arm of government.  Yes we have to approve an application with conditions but ultimately it’s up to the project proponent in this case, Enbridge, and the regulators, provincial governments and others to actually make the final decisions about whether the terms, the 209 conditions have been complied with.

 

Tom Clark:

Okay, is it and I’ve only got 30 seconds left, is it still, Northern Gateway, still a national priority for this government?

 

Jason Kenney:

No particular project is a national priority but getting Canadian commodities and resources to market so we can actually get a global price is strategically important for this country.  Tom we have always been a country that exported in a responsible way, our energy and our resources.  And let me be blunt, if we want the hospitals and health care, pensions and education that we will need in the future, we have to pay for it somehow.  We should be selling our energy products and our commodities at global prices so we can give Canadians the standard of living they want in the future.

 

Tom Clark:

Okay well thanks for talking about both the TFW and Northern Gateway.  Jason Kenney, thank you very much, I appreciate it.

 

Jason Kenney:

 

Tom Clark:

Well, as the party leaders head off on the barbeque circuit, where do they stand with the voters?  Our journalists weigh in right after this.

 

Break

 

Tom Clark:

Welcome back.  He is the dean of the diplomatic corps, having served as the Russian ambassador to Canada since 2003.  Before that, he was a senior member of the Soviet Foreign Ministry and a key player in negotiating nuclear weapons treaties with the United States.  He is about to leave Canada and his diplomatic life and he joins me now.  Georgiy Mamedov, awfully good to see you again sir.

 

Georgiy Mamedov:

It’s almost like homecoming. Thank you Tom, because it’s your last day on the job, you’re going vacationing I know, and it’s the last day on the job for me – I’m going back to Moscow.

 

Tom Clark:

You have too much intelligence, but then again you’re the Russian Ambassador. Listen, two weeks ago on this show the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said that your country represented the greatest threat to peace in the world today, that your leader Vladimir Putin was an imperialist and an extreme nationalist. As you walk out the door, what do you think of Stephen Harper?

 

Georgiy Mamedov:

Well I think there is a bit of propaganda involved. Over the years we had a very good working relationship with the Prime Minister. I got acquainted with him when he was the Leader of the Opposition. His first major speech abroad was to St. Petersburg as you remember, for the G8 summit with Vladimir Putin. And I think the chemistry was there and they signed two important agreements, and over at least five of six years of Prime Minster Harper’s being on the job, we had a very good working relationship. Now we have a rough patch. I believe much of what is being said is for the public consumption. It has more to do with the politics than with the true state of our affairs. I believe we still have a lot in common with Canada and I’m looking forward to my successor bringing our relationship back to normal very soon.

 

Tom Clark:

You’re obviously still a diplomat because you’re speaking diplomatic language. But you know, the crisis in Ukraine has to be solved at some point, this can’t go on forever. From your position, does Canada have a role to play in that resolution or have we talked ourselves out of any meaningful position in that?

 

Georgiy Mamedov:

Well of course, you have millions of Ukrainian Canadians here. You have a stake. Like we in Russia have 25 million Ukrainian Russians. And historically we have a huge stake in stability and well-being of Ukraine so of course you have a role to play. The question is whether you’re using this opportunity or whether you’re involved more in propaganda rather than in actual negotiations. For example, we talk almost on a daily basis now, not only with Poroshenko but with Americans, Germans and French. But I haven’t heard much about our discussions with you, other than unilateral statements by your politicians. When I was summoned several months ago to your foreign affairs and they remonstrated with us – they didn’t like our policy vis a vis Ukraine – I said I disagree but of course as Ambassador I will pass it over to Moscow. But I am very curious: why did it take so long just to summon me if you are really concerned about our behaviour? And I said, at least I hope this is the beginning of a long and serious dialogue, and since that encounter I haven’t had an opportunity to talk to your officials. This strikes me as being rather strange because you know that before Canada, I spent 30 years of my diplomatic career with Americans, in the heat of Cold War, when we were close to real confrontation, not political or propaganda, but real military confrontation. And we talked almost every day. And this was my habit. When you have a problem and the other side is concerned about your behaviour, you sit down and talk. I didn’t see that. Probably, and I am very hopeful that my successor with have this opportunity for dialogue and to the extent possible, my leadership and foreign affairs in Russia would welcome Canada’s serious participation in problem solution about Ukraine.

 

Tom Clark:

You called the stance of the Canadian government now more propaganda than policy.

 

Georgiy Mamedov:

Yes.

 

Tom Clark:

And I’m wondering in the little time we have left if there’s one piece of advice you would give to the Canadian government as you walk out the door, how to re-engage in this process?

 

Georgiy Mamedov:

Just start talking. It’s very simple.

 

Tom Clark:

Pick up the phone.

 

Georgiy Mamedov:

I was always around and I felt awkward when some of your colleagues asked me, when was the last time you talked to foreign affairs about Ukraine? I said you know, last time I talked about Ukraine when you asked me this question you know a couple of weeks ago. I think it’s an aberration and the sooner we bridge this diplomatic gap the better.

 

Tom Clark:
Ambassador Mamedov, it’s been awfully good having you on the show many times in the past number of years. Thank you very much and have a safe travel home.

 

Georgiy Mamedov:

Thank you Tom, and I hope that we will stay in touch and if one day you will decide to take an interview with me and my four grandchildren in the country house near Moscow, don’t hesitate and fly to Moscow. We won’t bite you. Take care.

 

Tom Clark:

Thank you very much Ambassador.

 

Well Georgiy Mamedov isn’t the only one going home this week.  All 308 MPs have fled Parliament Hill for their home ridings and the beginning of the BBQ circuit in preparation for the next session of Parliament which begins September 15th.

 

Well joining me right now to take a look at what’s ahead, Mark Kennedy, the Parliament Hill bureau chief for the Ottawa Citizen.

 

If we say that the starting line for the 2015 election campaign is September 15th.  The finishing line, we’re not quite sure when that date is going to be.  What do the leaders have to do to get from the starting line to the finishing line in first place?

 

Mark Kennedy:

Well I think we all have to stand back and realize if any of us rule out any of those three leaders, we all make a mistake.  We minimize their possibilities at our peril.  What all voters also have to realize is starting September 15th, Parliament is no longer a place where legislation will be passed in terms of governance.  We are now into a pre-campaign mode.  For the time in our history, the campaign countdown clock has begun, and think about it that way…So do you want to go through them one by one?  Let’s start with Stephen Harper.

 

Tom Clark:

Stephen Harper.

 

Mark Kennedy:

Stephen Harper, he will be heading into that campaign asking for a fourth mandate.  That is never done in this country.

 

Tom Clark:

It’s extraordinary.  I mean you gotta be Mackenzie King to ask for that.

 

Mark Kennedy:

Precisely so usually people realized that there’s no possibility of you getting elected so they don’t even try.  So Stephen Harper’s challenge is to remind people that those who voted for him before have another reason to do so again.  But what usually happens is people tire of their government.  It’s the natural order of things.  There will be people who are tired of him.  He has to go to them in the next year.  Starting this summer, frankly and into the fall, to remind them why they voted for him in the first place, why they trusted him in the first place.  And the economy and his performance on the world stage I think will be the messages he brings forward.

 

Tom Clark:

Tom Mulcair will tell you that even though he’s third in the polls, if you take a look at the results of the 2011 election, he’s very close in a whole lot of ridings that he says are just going to fall his way.

 

Mark Kennedy:

Well that’s what he says but I mean the polls nationally also tell us that they’re well behind and the polls also tell us that Canadians on the left side of the spectrum are turning to Justin Trudeau.  I interviewed Tom Mulcair a while back. He is quite open in admitting the thing that is holding them back is the legacy of someone who held power at Queens Park in Toronto back in the 1980’s, Bob Rae.  He has to get people to forget those five years and he has to tell them that they have governed well in other provinces, such as Saskatchewan and until that happens, there will be Canadians who understandably,on many accounts, are nervous about the idea of putting NDP into power.

 

Tom Clark:

Justin Trudeau riding first in the polls and has not dropped out of first place ever since they started polling him.  He’s gotta be the odds on favourite at this point, what do you think?

 

Mark Kennedy:

It’s remarkable.  I don’t want to make a prediction because I will be wrong, absolutely.  But listen, he’s the one to beat.  Since the moment he came into office, people, Canadians I think are looking at him as a breath of fresh air.  They like, obviously his personality, his temperament, his tenor.  What he has to worry about, what the Liberals have to worry about and what the Tories are counting on is him making mistakes, over and over and over.

 

Tom Clark:

Mark Kennedy, get some sleep it’s going to be a hell of a session starting September 15th.  Thanks very much.

 

Mark Kennedy:

Thank you.

 

Tom Clark:

Well that’s our final show for this political season.  Thanks very much for being here each and every Sunday.  I’m Tom Clark.  See you back here in September and have a great summer.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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