October 13, 2013 4:05 pm

Transcript Episode 6 October 13

THE WEST BLOCK

Episode 6, Season 3

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Host: Tom Clark

Guest Interviews: James Moore, Abby Frazier, Aaron Wherry, Laura Stone

Location: Ottawa

**Please check against delivery**

Tom Clark:

Story continues below

On this Thanksgiving Sunday, the government is here to reveal some of the consumer goodies that’ll be in the throne speech in the hopes that it might make you forget about the Senate scandal.

Will this focus on consumers also outflank Justin Trudeau?  Industry Minister James Moore is here.  But will it be enough?  Parliament Hill may have sat empty since June but the Senate scandal roars on.  Two of Ottawa’s top journalists join us.

And did you ever wonder what happened to climate change?  Well a new report says it is just around the corner and things will never be the same again.

I’m Tom Clark and this is The West Block.

First, the government is set to present its new political agenda on Wednesday.  What was wrong with the old one?  Well the Conservatives said the “to do list” was complete and it was time for a new one.  So they closed the House of Commons for an extra month and set about writing a throne speech, but did they make good on the last one?

Here it is, your weekly West Block Primer:

For politicians, promises made to voters are kind of like badges of honour.  The only way to earn them is to keep them.  After promises made in the last throne speech, Harper wasted no time securing some pretty big badges; scrapping the long gun registry, killing the Canadian Wheat Board and passing all those tough on crime bills.  Another badge sewn on tight, the immigration and refugee system reformed as promised.  But those were easier to earn than some others.  The promise to cooperate with the provinces on health care fell short.  The government unilaterally changed that system. And the promise of Senate reform, well we all know that hasn’t happened.  And then there’s the EU free trade deal promised for 2012 but nowhere to be seen and now hanging by a thread.  Ditto, the promised free trade deal with India.  So of all the promises made in the last throne speech, 67 percent have been completed.  The others are still in progress.

Joining me now from Vancouver to talk about the throne speech next week is Industry Minister James Moore.  Mr. Moore thanks very much for being here and Happy Thanksgiving by the way.

James Moore:

And to you too.

Tom Clark:
Minister there’s been a lot of speculation so far about what’s going to be in this speech what the thrust of it is going to be, and what we’re hearing on the street, is that it’s going to be heavy on so called consumerism.  What exactly is that?

James Moore:
The throne speech will focus principally on growing the Canadian economy and making sure that we have jobs created in all parts of the country.

On the consumer part, you know after we’ve lowered taxes to the degree that we have, there are certain things the government can do without engaging in massive new spending programs and government centralized approaches to things that can indeed put more money into consumers’ pockets.  For example, in the throne speech we will be moving forward on roaming.  As you know, we want to have more competition in Canada’s wireless sector.  We think more competition leads to better prices and better services for consumers but we also think that roaming charges are too high in this country.  We know that there’s a new regime coming in place in December for international roaming but domestic roaming as well is something that we want to move on.

On the television side, you know the television industry as well as anybody from your background Tom, but we also think that Canadians shouldn’t be forced to buy bundled channels when they’re not interested in watching all of them.  We want to go to a pick and pay system across this country we’ll be working to make sure that that becomes a reality because we don’t think Canadians should be forced to buy things that they’re not interested in consuming.  So a pick and pay model in television is another example.  We’ll be talking about that in the throne speech and moving forward with that in the months to come.

Tom Clark:

You know a lot of other things have been talked about as well under this general umbrella of consumerism, an airline passenger’s bill of rights for example and lowering those credit card costs.  Are we going to see any of that?

James Moore:

Yeah you know credit card fees for small business, in particular those who operate along the border, those in rural communities, small-medium size businesses they’re getting hit pretty hard with credit card fees. Jim Flaherty is looking at options for us to move forward to protect small business.  But for sure…and on air passengers.  Look you know I don’t think there’s anything more frustrating than when somebody gets up at 6 o’clock in the morning, drives to the airport, parks their car, pays the fees, goes through the gauntlet of security, goes to the gate, gets there and the airline has sold 175 tickets for 165 seat plane and people get bumped to a flight a few hours later or the next day and they miss a wedding or they miss a funeral, or they miss a job opportunity.  That can’t happen anymore and we’re going to move to protect consumers.

Tom Clark:

Okay but on those last two ones, whether it’s an airline passenger bill of rights or containing or controlling the cost of credit card fees to small businesses, this has been presented before.  It was part of the NDP platform in the last election campaign and your government voted against it every time it was brought up, whether it be in the Senate or the House.  What changed your mind?  Why are you now onboard with these ideas that you opposed not too long ago?

James Moore:

Yeah, not quite true.  I mean look the things that we’re looking at are not…

Tom Clark:

Well it’s true.

James Moore:

Well the things that the NDP have proposed are not the things that we agree with.  The degree to which they want to go to over…and there is by the way, there is some grey here in terms of a tipping point of overregulating the Canadian economy.  We don’t want to go there and of course the NDP is all about going there.  So we don’t want to do that.  But certainly, there are specific things that we can do in these specific sectors of the economy that would certainly stand up and protect Canadian consumers better than they’ve been protected thus far.  And the wireless sector obviously more competition roaming fees.  The Opposition has never said anything about that but we’re going to go forward on that.  Unbundling television packages allowing people to pick and pay the content that they want to watch.  The Opposition has never said anything about that but we’re going to move forward on that.  On credit cards, we’ve agreed with some of the criticisms that have been raised by we don’t agree with the NDP’s solutions on these things and we’re going to have our own way of moving forward to protect consumers.

Tom Clark:

You know when you talk about consumerism; I mean it does really kind of sound like you’re talking about the middle class.  Where have we heard that one before?  But seriously, are you worried about the Liberal’s march into areas where they haven’t done well before.  They’re talking about the middle class every chance they get.  Are you hopping on that bandwagon as well?

James Moore:

Well look we’re ahead of them.  The best way to support consumers and the best way to support the middle class is to really empower them and you empower them by lowering taxes.  And of course the Liberals and the NDP have voted against all the tax cut measures that we’ve put forward as a government.  They’ve never argued as we have about more competition in the wireless sector. They’ve never advocated specific policies on roaming or unbundling television packages, giving consumers more choice in the television and wireless marketplace.  We’ve led the way on that.  They’ve never advocated things that we’ve advocated when it comes to a passenger bill of rights, anti-spam legislation, fairness at the pumps, these types of things.  We’ve led the way.

Tom Clark:

Well actually…they have.

James Moore:

So I think they’re the ones who are playing catch up on this I think Tom, to be quite clear.

Tom Clark:

Let’s just look at this from a different altitude here.  You know, when you were last on the Hill, what was consuming everybody’s time and interest at that point was what was happening in the Senate.  Since then there have been more revelations of things going on in the Senate.  The former parliamentary secretary to the prime minister had to resign from your caucus because he’s now facing four charges.  I mean, at a certain point, a reset is interesting but are you worried that people aren’t going to buy into a reset when all these other issues have not yet been resolved?

James Moore:

Well look, we want resolution to the Senate question which is why we’re before the Supreme Court to get a mandate, a clear mandate of how far we can go.  We think the Senate should be elected or abolished.  It’s plain and simple.  Of course we were challenged on that position by the Government of Quebec and some other provinces who said that we don’t have the mandate.  But we of course want to turn the page in the Senate and move forward and have it elected by Canadians so that individual senators are hired and fired by Canadian taxpayers themselves.  They’re the best measure of accountability and if we can’t get that, the Senate should be abolished.  But we’re not going to obsess on that one question to the detriment of all the other responsibilities that we have as a government.  As I said, this is a healthy strong country.  Best job numbers in the G7, lowest taxes in 55 years and we’re creating jobs in every part of the country.  We want to take this country and move it forward, not obsess about the day-to-day soap opera and nonsense of some individual senators.  We want to make sure this country stays prosperous and moving forward.  The throne speech will sit and lay the foundation for how we’re going to do that, to protect consumers and build the economy and we’re going to keep focusing and move forward.  And these distractions will obviously persist to some degree but they’re not going to take away from our obligation to do what’s best for Canada.

Tom Clark:

James Moore, Minister of Industry joining us from Vancouver.  Thanks very much for your time this morning.  I appreciate it and a very Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

James Moore:

Happy Thanksgiving to you as well.

Tom Clark:

Well coming up on the show, if you can’t stand the heat of climate change, you may only have 34 years left to get out of the kitchen.  That’s next.

Break

Tom Clark:

Welcome back to The West Block.  Well we’ve heard a lot about the threat of global warming but we’ve never heard anything as specific as the projections coming out of the University of Hawaii this week.  A group of scientists say that in just 34 years winter as we know it will disappear.  And there will be a new norm when it comes to the weather.  Hotter average temperatures, hotter than anything we’ve seen in the last 150 years.  In fact, the hottest weather we experience today will become the coldest weather in the future.

Well joining me now to talk more about this is the co-author of the report, Abby Frazier, a graduate student at the University of Hawaii, and Abby welcome to the show.  Let me get this straight now, your report essentially says that in about 34 years from now, the hottest year that we have now will be the coldest year then.  To my ears, that sort of sounds like the end of the world.

Abby Frazier:

No, it’s far from the end of the world but we are heading into unprecedented climates.

Tom Clark:

Well, yeah explain that to me because you know the other climate models have suggested that you know it could be a 1.5 to 2 degree centigrade rise in temperature but yours seems to suggest that it’s going to happen a lot faster than anybody thought before and it’s going to be a lot hotter.

Abby Frazier:

Well what we wanted to do with this study is to provide something that was a little more concrete for people, so something like a year is more concrete than one and a half to two degrees warming or avoiding parts per million.  So what we did is we looked at where every location on earth will start…their climate will exceed what they’ve experienced in the last 150 years.

Tom Clark:

And let’s look at that specifically because your report says its first going to start in the tropics but let’s drill down.  Give me one city in the tropics where it’s going to happen first?

Abby Frazier:

Kingston Jamaica is projected by 2023 and there are multiple cities that are expected to experience these climates within the next decade.

Tom Clark:

You know, a lot of people might say well wait a second, is this just a done deal?  I mean have you just removed…this report, has it removed the incentive to do anything about it if it’s going to happen that soon and that dramatically?

Abby Frazier:

Well what we found, we ran two different future scenarios and we found that if we are able to curb our greenhouse gas emissions, we push this date back by about 20 years.  And we think that this is a good opportunity for us to buy ourselves time, for us and for species to potentially adapt, or for technological advances.  So the analogy I like to use is if you are about to get in an accident on the highway, you don’t want to step on the gas, you want to step on the brakes.  It’s better to have an accident at 20 miles an hour than at 80.  And what we need to do now is step on the brakes and try to slow this rapid climate change.

Tom Clark:

There’s been so many reports, so many predictions about climate change, why is this very specific one just coming out now?  Why didn’t we know about this 10 years ago?

Abby Frazier:

Most of the conversation on climate change is focused on absolute changes and looking at the magnitude of climate change.  So it tends to focus on the Arctic and that’s where we expect to see the largest magnitude of climate change but it sort of…the vulnerability of the tropics has been underestimated and I think that’s a really important piece that our study shows.  The data has been there all along, it’s just a matter of looking at it in this way.

Tom Clark:

Abby, something else, you know the picture that you paint is immediate and it sounds very dangerous.  A lot of people who are unconvinced about climate change or the reason for climate change are going to look at this report and say, ah it’s just another bunch of extremists going out there and telling us stuff that isn’t true.  How do you respond to anybody who would say that to you about this report?

Abby Frazier:

All that we did with this study was to let the data speak.  We took all of the available data that was out there.  This is our best knowledge of the climate system today and we just are presenting it in a way that will hopefully help people to understand what’s happening.  So, we really just hope that this study will help raise awareness around the world and hopefully the debate can end and we can focus on action now.

Tom Clark:

And speaking of action now, can we adapt to the reality that’s going to hit us in 10, 20, 30 years from now?

Abby Frazier:

I hope so.  I don’t know specifically.  I’d like to think that we are extremely capable of adapting but it’s going to take action now.  Like I said, we need to step on the brakes so that we’re not tested too soon.  Right now, where we project the earliest climate departures to hit in the tropics, most of those countries have the lowest GDPs in the world and thus the least economic capacity to respond to these changes.  So we really want to buy ourselves time.

Tom Clark:

Abby Frazier from the University of Hawaii in Honolulu, quite a report, you’ve made quite an impression right around the world with this but I thank you very much for your time today.

Abby Frazier:

Thank you so much for having me.

Tom Clark:

Well we asked the Government of Canada to respond to this alarming report, the one says that most of Canada will reach this point in 34 years.  You might be very surprised by what the government says.

In a statement to The West Block, Environment Canada said this:

“Environment Canada is familiar with this study, which is based on credible science using an ensemble of climate models, including Canada’s earth system model…and scientists are confident that the models provide sound quantitative estimates of future climate change, particularly at continental scales and above.”

Well coming up, the Senate, the throne speech, and of course the weather.  We’ll be back after this.

Break

Tom Clark:
Welcome back. Well as you heard at the top of the show, the government is going to use the throne speech this Wednesday to recast itself as the friend of the little guy, by regulating how cable companies sell you channels, how cell phone companies charge for roaming, how airlines book passengers and so on; a lot of regulations.  And it hopes that all of that will take attention off things like Conservatives behaving badly in the Senate.  So will it work?  Well joining me now, Aaron Wherry of Maclean’s Magazine and our very own Laura Stone of Global News.  Welcome to you both.

Let’s just remind ourselves first of all what James Moore had to say on the show.  Here it is:

James Moore:

“We of course want to turn the page in the Senate and move forward and have it elected by Canadians…We’re not going to obsess on that one question to the detriment of all the other responsibilities that we have as a government.”

Tom Clark:

So Aaron, not going to obsess on the Senate, is it going to work?  Is the distraction going to work?

Aaron Wherry:

It’ll help.  Part of what hurt the government I think in the spring was the fact that they had no agenda to sort of say oh well, don’t worry about the Senate, look at this.  And they have some ideas that will get some traction I think in the throne speech but you know Minister Moore referred to it is a soap opera and it is a soap opera, and it’s an entertaining soap opera.  And every time there’s a new court filing, every time there are new breaks, new developments and if there are ever charges, that’s going to take precedence over you know the fact that you can pick and pay your cable channels.  So again, you can start to sort of move the agenda if you’re the government through the fall but the Senate is going to take precedence is going to attract attention and it’s a story that they have really no control over at this point.

Tom Clark:

Yeah, and Laura in a sense it’s even gotten bigger since we were last here back in June.  I mean there’s been additional revelations about Mike Duffy; no charge has been laid but there have been charges laid in the House of Commons against Dean Del Mastro, former parliamentary secretary to the prime minister.  What’s your take on this?

Laura Stone:

Well I think that you know the government’s agenda doesn’t address any of the major problems that they’re having which are problems of accountability.  And I would actually love to see them address the Senate head on.  I want to see them double down and actually say, you know take up Hugh Segal, a Conservative senator’s idea to have a referendum on the Senate, kind of  offload some of the pressure onto the provinces because we know that the Supreme Court is going to be weighing in on this issue.  So why don’t say, have the provinces ask Canadians what they think of the Senate and then maybe they’ll change their tune on what they want to do with it.

Tom Clark:

So we did an interesting thing.  We went back through three throne speeches and did this world cloud.  The biggest words are the ones that occurred more often.  So let’s take a look at this now.  If we start in 2009, what was the government trying to message to us then?  There it is.  There’s the word cloud, look at that, “economy” biggest word used.  This was right after the 2008 collapse.  2010, there’s that word “continue”.  There are families in there but look at this, 2011, “continue” got even bigger.  So it was as if the messaging was remember the economy, well we’re going to continue, we’re going to continue.  So the question now is what is the word cloud going to look like on Thursday morning after the Wednesday speech?

Aaron Wherry:

Yeah, I think it’s going to be this idea of economy and consumers in the middle class and these sorts of ideas.  I don’t think they moved too far off their economic message.  It’s what’s got them this far.  I suspect it’s what they’ll carry for the next two years and into the next election.  What’s interesting is, as you pointed out, these ideas that they’re bringing forward kind of play into the NDP’s territory.  And so puts them in an odd situation of having to sort of want to regulate the economy, want to sort of be an activist government but not go quite as far as the NDP.  But they also have this record of opposing the NDP’s ideas that the NDP can now bring back and say well why didn’t you do it when we proposed it? They’re in a very awkward spot at this point.

Tom Clark:

But is there sort of another side to that because yes they’re now supporting ideas that they voted against before but heading into sort of the pre-election period before 2015, is this in any way going to blunt the attacks of Justin Trudeau and to a degree Tom Mulcair?  In other words, by doing this, does the government take wind out of the opposition sails when it comes to the middle class issues?

Laura Stone:

I think it does to a degree.  I mean is the average person going to know that these were NDP ideas?  Maybe but here’s the government proposing them…

Tom Clark:

The NDP will remind everybody about that.

Laura Stone:

Well exactly and the NDP does have a consumer affairs critic which will I think help them out.  I actually think that this will hurt Justin Trudeau more because he hasn’t proposed his policies yet.  And so if he’s supposed to be…you know the Liberals are supposed to be the party of the middle class, well what are your ideas? Show us something.

Tom Clark:

But none of these ideas that we know so far that are going to be in the throne speech, they may be popular but they’re not what I call transformative.  These are not going to change anybody’s lives.  You may have another five bucks in your pocket but you know none of the parties seem to have come to the table yet with this great transformative notion.

Aaron Wherry:

Yeah, I think it’s tough to do transformative right now.  There’s not a lot of room in the budget.  The economy is still a bit shaky so it’s tough to come out with these big ideas.  It’s tougher even more so for the Conservatives because that’s not how they govern.  That’s not what they’re about.  They’re about shrinking government.  They’re about doing as little as possible to sort of interfere in your life.  So they’ve got to pick these small ideas and yeah, the problem is you can sort of say, oh well, you’re going to be able to pick your cable channels now but if Mike Dufy gets charged tomorrow, nobody cares.  You know that soap opera is now on every channel.

Tom Clark:

Well everybody will be buying the news channels to find out what’s happening in the Senate.

Aaron Wherry:

Yeah, exactly.

Laura Stone:

But I think the power, I mean don’t underestimate the power of having a few extra bucks in your pocket.  We’re so not used to that as Canadians.  So to say, yeah, I think that actually does bother a lot of people that they can’t choose their channels that they have to pay huge roaming fees and whatever.  I actually think that is quite powerful to give people a few extra dollars.

Aaron Wherry:

Yeah, it’s an interesting…it’s such an NDP thing to do.  You know it reads like a Layton campaign.  You know like the NDP for instance is pushing a cap on ATM fees which seems so silly and small and insignificant but it’s the sort of thing where you think about it, every time you take money out of the bank, every time you do something.  So it is…it seems like a very small thing but it has a little bit of significance that makes you think about it every time you do something.

Tom Clark:

I just want to, in the minute we’ve got left, I just want to touch on this climate report that we just heard the author talking about, putting very specific dates.  I mean we’ve got 34 years before there’s no more winter in this country.  And the Government of Canada this morning is telling us that essentially they buy into this.  I mean this is…talk about transformative, it got my attention.

Laura Stone:

It kind of undercuts the whole government’s agenda and the throne speech.  How much are they going to talk about climate change and shouldn’t that be priority?  I think it’s interesting that the government did acknowledge that this was actual science and they stand behind it then they did say you know, but we’re working towards regulation and look at all the great things we’ve done.  But they’ve obviously gotten to the point where they can’t deny it anymore.

Aaron Wherry:

Yeah, they can’t really deny it anymore and they’ve got to actually do something about it.  How about some oil and gas regulations which not only get you into the climate change discussion but maybe get Keystone approved.

Tom Clark:

We’ve been waiting for those for a long, long time.

We’re out of time.  Aaron Wherry, Maclean’s Magazine.  Laura Stone of Global, thanks very much for being here both of you.  I appreciate it.  Happy Thanksgiving.

And of course a Happy Thanksgiving to you as well.

Well stay tuned to Global National with Donna Friesen for the latest on all these stories and others in the week ahead and remember if you have any questions for us, email us at thewestblock@globalnews.ca.We’ll do our best to get the answers for you and put them on the show.

Well that is our show for today.  I’m Tom Clark.  We’ll see you back here next Sunday.  In the meantime, have a great week.

© Shaw Media, 2013

Report an error

Comments

blog comments powered by Disqus Add a Comment