June 21, 2015 1:21 pm
Updated: June 21, 2015 1:27 pm

Transcript Season 4 Episode 41

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WATCH: Full broadcast of The West Block with Tom Clark, aired Sunday, June 21, 2015.

Host: Tom Clark

Guest Interviews: Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, senior Ottawa correspondent with The Canadian Press Joan Bryden, Ottawa Citizen parliamentary bureau chief Mark Kennedy, NDP MP Pat Martin

Location: Ottawa

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On this Sunday, Justin Trudeau unveils a sweeping proposal to reform our democratic system. We ask him to explain his focus and his poor performance recently in the polls.

 

Plus, another prominent cabinet minister announces he is not running for re-election. What does James Moore’s departure mean for Stephen Harper? We’ll unpack the politics of that.

 

Plus, “Plane Talk” with the eloquent and colourful NDP MP, Pat Martin.

 

It is Sunday, June the 21st and from the nation’s capital, I’m Tom Clark. And you are in The West Block.

 

Well last week, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau joined the NDP’s call to get rid of our current electoral system. He promises, if elected, this will be the last election held under our winner take all system that is blamed by many for distorting the result of national votes. Before we delve into this, here it is your West Block Primer:

 

Here’s how it works right now: in each riding, voters put an “x” beside the candidate that they want to elect and the one with the most votes, wins. It’s called first-past-the-post. But there are alternatives. One option: voters would mark an “x” for their favourite candidate, just like they do now, but then they would also mark a second ballot for one of the parties. Those results would then allow the parties to send even more MPs of their choice, to the House, depending on how much of the vote they got. The NDP are supporting a similar version of this but it’s only one of many alternatives. There is the option for instance, of marking your ballot with your first, second and third choice or just voting for the party itself instead of a candidate. The Liberals and NDP say that if either one of them is elected, this will be the last first-pass-the-post election.

 

And joining me now is the leader of the Liberal party, Justin Trudeau. Mr. Trudeau thanks very much for being here.

 

Justin Trudeau:

Always a pleasure, Tom.

 

Tom Clark:

I can’t remember a party ever coming out with such a far reaching or radical proposal on democratic reform, but because it is so far reaching, why wouldn’t you put this to a referendum?

 

Justin Trudeau:

Well, I think the first thing we have to understand is the reason we have to bring in so many broad changes on so many different levels is because for 10 years, Mr. Harper has basically broken Ottawa and the way it functions. This is the most secretive, non-transparent, unaccountable government we’ve ever had and the desire to actually open things up and change things around across the board is really important, not to just restore people’s confidence but to actually deliver better government and better service to Canadians.

 

Tom Clark:

But my point is this, that you promised to bring in a new system within 18 months, but why not put it to the people?

 

Justin Trudeau:

Well I think putting it to the people is very important, that’s why we’ve promised to engage with experts, with massive consultations of Canadians to involve all parties in a discussion and a debate around it because the one thing you want to remove from discussions like this is the idea of political advantage. Any party that proposes a single solution is going to be probably justifiably looked at with a little bit of suspicion by Canadians who are saying well you’re picking the option that will suit your party and its particular nature. And that’s why calling on experts and independent study as a top level go to, rather than falling into too much partisan back and forth and even contesting, is our preferred option.

 

Tom Clark:

Well, have you got any reason to believe that Canadians are any more willing to accept this type of democratic reform when it was rejected in Ontario and it was rejected in British Columbia?

 

Justin Trudeau:

Well, I think one of the things that I’ve heard across the country is how frustrated Canadians are with how Ottawa, specifically this Harper government, is behaving, but also, how cynical people are having to be about politics. We’re not a cynical country of cynical people. We tend to believe the best, be open, compassionate, willing to work together and we have a government that does exactly the opposite. So, to say that, you know, something has to change, we have to start valuing Canadians voices again. We have to start valuing Canadians votes again, is a message that is getting an awful lot of resonance right across the country.

 

Tom Clark:

I want to go to another aspect of your democratic reform package that you’ve promised to bring in if you form government and that is the idea that in future, all Supreme Court justices must be bilingual. So, let me sketch out this scenario for you: let’s say that there is the brightest legal mind in the country and she happens to live in Newfoundland, but she doesn’t speak French. So are you telling me that she would be rejected to sit on the Supreme Court simply because she doesn’t speak French?

 

Justin Trudeau:

It’s not just a question of symbolism of being a bilingual country and expecting that our prime minister and our most important adjudicators and judges be bilingual. It’s more than that. Imagine a situation in which those nine judges are in their chambers discussing a case as regularly happens, the fact is that if all of them are to be able to understand each other in their desired mother tongue, they have to be able to follow along that conversation without having to have the inference of translation and all that. I understand deeply how much when you’re in a room where everyone speaks English but nobody or only a few people speak French, how the French speakers end up having to use their second language and can be at a disadvantage. And we want to make sure that the message of Canada being a country in which French and English are truly the official equal languages that anyone can be reassured that all the arguments will be properly understood by everyone on the Supreme Court.

 

Tom Clark:

I have to ask you about the polls because for so long you were riding so high in the polls and now you have dropped down precipitously at the same time that NDP leader Tom Mulcair is surging ahead. What do you think’s going on? Why is Mr. Mulcair doing so well and you so poorly?

 

Justin Trudeau:

You know what, as I said many times when the polls were saying something different, I don’t pay a lot of attention to polls or put much stake in them. And I think we’ve seen enough election results over the recent years across this country to know that they have to be taken with a healthy degree of skepticism. What I see is a desire for change that’s manifesting itself right across the country, an openness to not voting the way they used to. We certainly saw that in Alberta and other places where people are tired of being taken for granted and a genuine interest in who’s got the best team, the best plan, the best vision for going forward. And I’m very, very excited about this election campaign where we’ll be demonstrating the extraordinary team of candidates that we’re putting forward, the responsible plan for real change, for bringing back fairness to Canada, to growing our economy in ways that benefit everyone. These are the things that Canadians are looking for and I’m excited to be sharing that with people throughout the coming months.

 

Tom Clark:

But it just doesn’t seem to resonating.

 

Justin Trudeau:

You know what; we’re at point where Canadians, as I said, are cynical about politics and not paying an awful lot of attention to what’s going on in the federal scene right now. People are getting ready for the end of school, for beginning on summer vacations, for going off with the family. It’s only around Labour Day that people are actually going to start saying, okay we’ve got a decision to make in a couple of months about what our future’s going to look like, let’s pay a lot of attention to what the different proposals are, who the different leaders are and what they’re going to be bringing to Canada.

 

Tom Clark:

Justin Trudeau, Leader of the Liberal Party. Thanks very much for being here today. Appreciate your time.

 

Justin Trudeau:

Always a pleasure, Tom.

 

Tom Clark:

Well coming up next, we will unpack the politics and look at the performance of all three party leaders.

 

And then later, “Plane Talk” with the NDP’s Pat Martin gets a little colourful. Why the veteran MP shoots from the hip so often.

 

Break

 

Tom Clark:

Welcome back. Well the week went out with a bang. Not only did the House rise on Friday but so did Industry Minister James Moore, who to everyone’s surprise, announced that he is not going to be running for re-election. Helping me to unpack the politics of all of this: Joan Bryden Senior Correspondent for Canadian Press here in Ottawa and Mark Kennedy, Parliamentary Bureau Chief of the Ottawa Citizen.

 

So, the word around Ottawa on Friday afternoon was wow, James Moore. This is big, right?

 

Joan Bryden:

Yes, absolutely. I mean Harper is becoming more and more isolated. The prime minister has—from his senior ministers on his front bench—he’s lost Jim Flaherty, John Baird, Peter MacKay, Shelly Glover—

 

Tom Clark:

Christian Paradis.

 

Joan Bryden:

Christian Paradis—all planning not to run again. His front bench is looking very weak and the moment and probably the only strong one left is Jason Kenney.

 

Tom Clark:

When you get to the point where you’ve got what was considered to be at least maybe the future of the Conservative Party, James Moore, the political minister for British Columbia, announcing presumably after Stephen Harper had asked all his cabinet ministers who’s going to stick around and there was no indication that he was told that James Moore was going. But even politically, because James Moore has been around since 2000, so he’s been in that caucus and eventually in that cabinet for a very long time. Coming as it does, four months before the election it raises all sorts of questions, doesn’t it?

 

Mark Kennedy:

Listen, this is very damaging, not just for the Conservative Party but for Stephen Harper as well because you’re right, Tom, Harper would have said to those people surrounding him, listen give me a commitment, are you with me or not? And various people presumably would have said yes. And then on the last day of Parliament, to announce this, he in many eyes was seen as the future of the party. A young talented, bilingual minister from the West Coast who is deemed to be on the centre left part of that party. He could have been the next leader. Maybe still thinks he is going to be the next leader. Maybe that’s why he’s doing it. But the point is what does it mean for Stephen Harper? I remember you and I, sitting here a while back after Peter MacKay stepped aside, and I said to you, you know Harper increasingly looks lonely. He looks like a lonely man. The people who should be surrounding him as a team are moving away. Now what are Canadians going to think of that? It could be very damaging.

 

Tom Clark:

Yeah, it’s almost 30 Conservative MPs and ministers who are now saying that they’re not going to run in the next election. I want to take a look at one other aspect of what’s going to happen over the next four months as everybody tries to get into position for the starting line on this and I want to lay the table with Tom Mulcair, NDP leader for a moment. He was speaking last week at the Economic Club of Canada and he was talking about one of his key policies, which was the day care policy. Take a listen to what he had to say:

 

Tom Mulcair: “Our plan, over the next 10 years, will deliver one million $15 a day child care spaces across Canada.” [Applause]

 

Tom Clark:

So the only problem with that is he said its 10 years. In fact, his policy says it’s eight years. He also got wrong something else. He forgot what the corporate tax rate was. He said the OECD average is about 18 or 19 or G7 is 18 or 19 per cent and Canada’s somewhere around 12 or 13 per cent. Well that was wrong as well. And, when he was on this program last week he seemed to maybe not completely understand what the amending formula for the Constitution as it affects the Senate. So, all of this together, is this a fatal mistake for Tom Mulcair? Or is this, not fatal, is it a serious mistake for him?

 

Mark Kennedy:

It’s huge. Listen, as we get into this campaign, Canadians are basically looking at who is the best alternative to Stephen Harper? It’s a battle about who is the agent of change and right now, as we see the polls up for the NDP, they’re kicking the tar, something they’ve never done before and they’ll have to decide do I put money out? Do I spend money on voting for the NDP? And if Canadians are of the view that this man is nothing but a lot of hot air, making promises that don’t mean anything and he doesn’t look like a prime minister, he needs to look like a safe alternative as opposed to Justin Trudeau. The NDP is trying to convince voters that he is not the safe alternative and Mulcair is. If he makes mistakes like this on a repeated basis, it’s major, major, major bad news for him.

 

Joan Bryden:

Well particularly when it’s on economic issues and when you’re trying to make the argument in front of the Economic Club of Canada, you know, we would be prudent guardians of the public purse. That is perceived as sort of the NDP Achilles heel and they’ve been trying very hard to make that case. So when you go out and one of your central promises, you’re unclear as to what the timeframe is over which you are going to spend all that money to get national day care and you start getting wrong the corporate tax, which they’ve promised to hike to pay for a lot of their expensive promises like day care, that’s problematic in terms of how you would manage the country’s treasury.

 

Tom Clark:

And the discrepancy of what he thought the corporate tax rate was, and what it really is, is almost $5 billion dollars. This is not small change we’re talking about.

 

Joan Bryden:

It could be even bigger because he keeps kind of moving the yardsticks a little bit. I mean he started off last fall talking about they would raise corporate taxes, bringing it more in line, staying under the OECD average. It turns out, we’re already above the OECD average and then he shifted to sort of the G7 average. And then on Wednesday, he was talking about the American – keeping it below the combined American corporate tax rate, which is the highest of all the OECD countries which would give him huge room to raise taxes. But yeah—

 

Tom Clark:

Well it does bring up then the other corner of this, and that is that if Tom Mulcair stumbles it all and one assumes that the surge that we’ve seen for the NDP, while it’s been very real in the last month or so or maybe even longer than that, four months is still a very long time and maybe that surge doesn’t last all the way through. There are some polls out last week that were suggesting that maybe it’s come down a little bit, but how much of then, if we’re looking at Stephen Harper and what’s happening around him. If we’re looking at Tom Mulcair, making maybe some sloppy mistakes in his own policies, does Justin Trudeau really get the benefit of any of all of this?

 

Mark Kennedy:

Trudeau has to count on the platform promises he came out with last week actually sticking. And that isn’t—not so much, and he’s calling it real change. It’s not so much about how he would spend their money but how a Liberal party under Justin Trudeau would govern, whether it would be more ethical governance, whether it would be more accountable and transparent governance, a different way of governing. He thinks that people are now tired of Harper. He thinks that people are cynical of politics because of Harper. He wants to restore public faith in the system and if he can do that, hope is a very strong determining factor in an election campaign, if he can get people to hope again in politics, he might get votes coming their way.

 

Joan Bryden:

Yeah, I actually thought it was interesting, he mentioned a couple of times generational, even making the point well it’s not just real change but generational change. So, it is a lot about style and, you know, I’m the younger, fresher new hope compared to these two older guys who, you know, are the cynical, closed—

 

Tom Clark:

Does it have the same traction though, Joan as sending cheques in the mail to people?

 

Joan Bryden:

No, but they’re doing that too, as you know.

 

Tom Clark:

They’re promising to do that. They can’t actually send the cheques yet.

 

Joan Bryden:

Yeah, that’s true. They’re promising to do that too. And maybe not and we’ve had examples. When Michael Ignatieff tried to run on democratic reform it didn’t do him much good. But I think some of this is appealing to the New Democrat or the switch voters between the New Democrats and the Liberals and that progressive left vote really likes this notion of proportional representation, for instance. So it’s trying to reach out a bit to that, but I think it’s also just as Mark says, I mean this is more about style and the style of government that he would bring which is different than what these other two guys would do.

 

Tom Clark:

And what’s amazing is, we’ve had a long conversation about federal politics and didn’t even once mention the Senate. But – well that’s for next week. Joan Bryden of Canadian Press and Mark Kennedy of the Ottawa Citizen, thanks very much for being here. I appreciate your time.

 

Well coming up next, “Plane Talk” with the NDPs Pat Martin about an underwear outburst and what he’d like to do after politics.

 

Break

 

Tom Clark:

Welcome back. Pat Martin has been a Member of Parliament since 1997, known for his sometimes colourful use of the English language and shooting from the lip. He agreed to join us for a little bit of “Plane Talk”. Take a look:

 

And here we go [plane takes off]. Well there we are we’re off the water.

 

Pat Martin:

Beauty.

 

Tom Clark:

Well Pat Martin, welcome to “Plane Talk”.

 

Pat Martin:

Tom, it’s a pleasure to be here.

 

Tom Clark:

Nice to have you here. Now as you know, on “Plane Talk” we ask some personal questions.

 

Pat Martin:

Fair enough.

 

Tom Clark:

Getting to know you.

 

Pat Martin:

Nothing’s off limits.

 

Tom Clark:

Sure.

 

Pat Martin:

[Laughing] You go.

 

Tom Clark:

All right then. You’ve been known to use some pretty colourful language in the House of Commons over the years.

 

Pat Martin:

[Laughs] “Folklore has it that the Canadian beaver will bite off its own testicles when it’s threatened and offer them up to its tormentors.”

 

Well, I’m a construction worker by trade, Tom. We call it industrial language is the polite way to put it. [Laughs] I think there’s an appetite though for people in public life to say what they’re really thinking. I, you know, I’ve got some beef act that people don’t mind it when I speak my mind.

 

“I can blame it on a sale that was on down at the Hudson’s Bay. [Audience laughter] They had men’s underwear on for half price [laughter] and I bought a bunch that clearly too small for me. I find it difficult to sit for any length of time, Mr. Speaker, so I apologize if it was necessary for me to leave my seat briefly but I did not mean to forfeit my right to vote.”

 

Tom Clark:

How’s your underwear?

 

Pat Martin:

Oh.

 

Tom Clark:

I mean am I okay with this?

 

Pat Martin:

Hey, thank you for asking. No, I think I’ll be able to – if it’s only a one hour flight, I should be able to stay still.

 

Tom Clark:

What is it about words because you’re a craftsman, some would say that you go over the top at times, but in a House that is not known for eloquence, you tend to string some words together that captures everybody’s attention.

 

Pat Martin:

Well, I’ve been known to stray from the talking points but I actually find it very difficult to recite somebody else’s thoughts and ideas. As a stutterer as a kid until my, you know, teens and early 20s even, I found it really almost impossible to read somebody else’s text or script or to say what I’m told to say because that’s what creates the anxiety. So any stutterer or former stutterer will tell you, you’ve got to get really creative to be able to survive and you’ve got to anticipate the words that you’re going to hit on and find alternatives really fast, okay? Rolling thesaurus going on in your head and it sometimes leads to unusual sentence structure or, I don’t know, I think that’s part of why I kind of – like I haven’t got any choice but to do it the way I do, really, Tom.

 

Tom Clark:

Why did you get involved in public life?

 

Pat Martin:

I was very active with my party and, you know, not to be any kind of self-deprecation or anything but we really couldn’t find a candidate in 1997. I was on the candidate search committee and we must have asked 40 people, without exaggeration, and nobody would take it.

 

Tom Clark:

So basically, what happened was, you asked for volunteers and everybody took one step back.

 

Pat Martin:

[Laughs] Yeah, more or less—well kind of. Yeah, I think you would ask a lot of your sitting MPs, it’s getting harder and harder. The candidate search committee for all the parties is having a more difficult time to find people that run for public life.

 

Tom Clark:

Why do you think that is?

 

Pat Martin:

Well let’s face it, people aren’t exactly kind to their elected representatives and not to cast any aspersions to the media or anything, but it ain’t no beach party to be the punching bag for every journalist and that kind of fuels the cynicism.

 

Tom Clark:

Politics isn’t forever. When it’s all over for you, whenever that day is, what do you want to do next?

 

Pat Martin:

I love doing interior renovations. I thought I might just hang out my shingle and do a little bit of that in my latter years, but I’d also like to do some overseas development aid kind of work.

 

Tom Clark:

Have you ever flown a plane before?

 

Pat Martin:

I have not.

 

Tom Clark:

Well, so to come with me on a turn, you’ll see that it’s very small inputs and then to go up, you just pull back on the stick.

 

Pat Martin:

I thought so. I guess I knew that.

 

Tom Clark:

And to go down, you go—

 

Pat Martin:

Woe ho ho, do you ever.

 

Tom Clark:

So, now that you’ve had an extensive instruction on how to fly a plane—

 

Pat Martin:

I don’t think so.

 

Tom Clark:

Your aircraft.

 

Pat Martin:

Am I in control or you Tom?

 

Tom Clark:

Well, yes.

 

Pat Martin:

Good grief. [Laughs] Let’s go somewhere. Okay. Right, we’re going to Cuba.

 

Tom Clark:

[Laughs]

 

Pat Martin:

I shouldn’t joke like that after Bill C-51 should I?

 

Woe ho, ho, ho. Hey, woe, woe. It is—it’s smooth. It’s like driving a Lincoln Mark IV or something, eh?

 

Tom Clark:

Have you ever driven a Lincoln Mark IV?

 

Pat Martin:

No, that’s a teamster vehicle. I’m a carpenter.

 

Tom Clark:

[Laughs]

 

Pat Martin:

[Laughs] We drive Chevy’s. Just as smooth as—

 

Tom Clark:

Pat Martin it’s been a real pleasure having you up.

 

Pat Martin:

Tom, it’s been a treat. Thank you for this.

 

Tom Clark:

Well that is our show for today. Thank you very much for being with us. And to all the dad’s all over Canada, it’s your day, enjoy it. We’ll see you back here next Sunday for another edition of The West Block. Have a great week.

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