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Transcript Episode 17 Dec. 29

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The West Block: Dec 29 – Dec 29, 2013

THE WEST BLOCK

Episode 17, Season 3

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Host: Tom Clark

Guest Interviews: Justin Trudeau, Marie Vastel, Mark Kennedy, Amy Minsky, Brad Lavigne

Location: Ottawa

Tom Clark:

On this Sunday morning, just days from wrapping up 2013, a look into the future.  Taking leadership of the Liberal Party last April, Justin Trudeau is attracting a lot of attention and a lot of money for the party.  He joins us.

So, what will we be talking about in three months, we gaze into our crystal ball with some bright young minds covering Parliament Hill.

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And then later, how did Jack Layton create the orange wave that brought the NDP to official Opposition?  Well he wasn’t alone.  We talk to the man behind the campaign.

It is Sunday, December 29th, I’m Tom Clark and you are in The West Block.

Well the lifeblood of politics is money, pure and simple and while it is strictly controlled and limited in Canada, raising money is as important as getting votes.  The Conservatives are the big dogs, raising more than any other party but things are beginning to change.  Here it is, your weekly West Block Primer:

“It’s what you can buy with what you’ve got, that’s what counts”.

The Conservative Party knows that better than anyone else.  Like Scrooge McDuck, they’ve been swimming in millions of dollars of donations for years, while the Liberal Party has resembled a different fictional character.

“Please sir, I want some more”.

Let’s take a look at the numbers, starting in the second quarter of last year, that’s April to June.  The Conservatives were outdoing the Liberals in both total contributions and the number of Canadians who were giving.  And they’ve been doing that since 2006.  But exactly one year later, the trend started to change.  Justin Trudeau was elected leader of the Liberal Party in April 2013 and immediately you see a difference.  In the second quarter, that’s April to June of this year, for the first time in a decade, more Canadians gave to the Liberals than to the Conservatives, although, the Conservatives took in way more money.  And the same is true in the third quarter, that’s July to September of this year.  Fourth quarter numbers, well they’re not available yet but after beating the Conservatives in numbers of donors in the last two quarters, this quarter they’re aiming to beat them in real money as well.

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Tom Clark:

Well joining me now, the man behind the money, Justin Trudeau.  Justin good to have you in the studio.

Justin Trudeau:

Great to be back Tom.

Tom Clark:

Money, it is the lifeblood of politics.  The aim of the Liberal Party is to not only have more Canadians donate than the Conservatives, but to raise more actual money.  Are you going to make it?

Justin Trudeau:

I think we’re doing very well.  I think one of the things that is exciting about looking at the numbers around the money and the donors coming in is that it’s indicating that people are interested in donating and being part of a political process at a time that has been tremendously cynical for lots of people.  So, the fact that we’re reaching out for small donations from a large number of people as well as creating a real culture around volunteerism, and that’s perhaps what we’ll be talking about next year at this time; the fact that the Liberal Party is really, really growing its volunteer base, as much as we’re growing our fundraising base.

Tom Clark:

Let me ask you something because a lot of the criticism and it’s not new, about you, is that there haven’t been a lot of policies on the table, but I’m wondering right now from a strategic point of view, is it more important to have policies out there or is it for you, more important to simply not to be Stephen Harper?

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Justin Trudeau:

I think it’s not enough to just offer a different government from Stephen Harper in the next election.  We have to offer a better government and obviously that involves a lot of strong policy positions that we’ve already taken on various issues and that I’ll be continuing to take.  But the tone is also very important.  The approach to politics, the way we’re including people in the process.  We’re building the policy platform around what Canadians, what experts, what people are giving us in terms of feedback.  We’re leaving room for Canadians in politics in a way that this current government has simply not.

Tom Clark:

Can I just sort of do a lightening round with you on just (Justin Trudeau – sure) a couple of major policy items that Canadians are thinking about right now?  Pensions, CPP, government has said they’re not going to increase CPP either in terms of the payout or the contribution, you?

Justin Trudeau:

The Liberal Party proposed a voluntary supplementary CPP in the last election that we think is going to be a real solution.  We’re looking at that.  We’re looking at other ways of doing it because people are not saving enough for their retirement.  We know that.  We need to provide them both a combination of incentives and firmer encouragements to be able to put aside for their retirement but the reality is Canadians are out of money.  We’re sitting at $28,000 dollars of average household non-mortgage debt.  So you tell someone, oh we’re going to take a little more off your paycheque.  They’re really worried about that.

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Tom Clark:

I just want one other one:  a lot of former generals are saying that the $2 billion dollar cut to the Armed Forces that are going to hit training and operations is devastating for the Armed Forces.  Would you agree with that?

Justin Trudeau:

I absolutely would.  I have a tremendous respect for Mr. Hilliard and also General Leslie as well is a part of my advisory board and team and he’s been very, very explicit that there are ways to save money by cutting down on the consultants that this government overuses but there is actually unspent money that was supposed to be in the Defence department budget that they just haven’t actually used to train, to be supporting of our troops.  So, there’s a lot to change in this government’s single-minded approach to wrapping themselves in a flag and hiding behind the troops but not actually giving the Canadian Forces the support that it needs.

Tom Clark:

I want to get to a broader question of your view of politics.  You’ve said over and over again that you’re not going to go negative, that you’re going to remain sunny like Wilfrid Laurier and so on, but is there a certain naiveté to that?  You saw what happened to Dion, you saw what happened to Ignatieff.  Isn’t politics at its core a combat of ideas?

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Justin Trudeau:

I’d say its core dialogue of ideas of a contrast of ideas.  It doesn’t have to be about combat because all 308 Members of Parliament who serve their constituencies in this place are there to try and figure out how to make the big picture work best together.  And we can have disagreements across party lines and across regions but we’re in it to try and serve Canadians the best way we can.  And the best ideas, the best solutions often come through compromise in different points of views to find that middle ground that will work best for everyone.  That’s the idea of politics.  That unfortunately is what we’ve gone so far away from with the partisanship, with the negativity, with the way politics is more about sounds bytes than service these days.

Tom Clark:

Okay, but sound bites, are you telling me that you’re not going to take advantage of the quote from James Moore when he says why should I have to feed my neighbours kid?  I mean that would seem to be a silver platter one for you.

Justin Trudeau:

Ah sure, and I was out in BC this week at a soup kitchen but I didn’t go after James for that.  I simply said, look, it’s Christmas time, he’s apologized for his insensitive comments and we move on.  It doesn’t need to be about always beating up on each other because if you do that, Canadians just continue to tune out and the only way I think we’re going to be able to be capable as a country to face and solve the challenges we’re facing is if we focus on the things that bind us together rather than things that differentiate us.  And yes, it’s a complete change from the way politics has been done in the past, but I’ve seen it across the country getting residents, people who are tired of the attacks and the negativity and wanting to see a much more idealistic, you can call it naïve if you like.  I’m calling it pretty darn effective from where I’m sitting.  We’ve had a great 2013.  We’ve got a lot of work to do in 2014, but it’s going well.

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Tom Clark:

Justin Trudeau, thank you very much for dropping in, happy New Year to your family as well.

Justin Trudeau:

I appreciate Tom – same to you.

Tom Clark:

Well up next, the Senate scandal dominated political news for 2013, what will we be talking about next year?  Stay tuned.

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Tom Clark:

Welcome back.  Well there is no question that the Senate scandal dominated the political news in this country this year, but as we big goodbye to 2013, the question is what are we going to be talking about next year.  And let’s narrow it down; what are we going to be talking in three months from now?  Joining me to help divine that, Marie Vastel of Le Devoir joins us.  Mark Kennedy, the bureau chief for Post Media here in Ottawa and Amy Minsky from Globalnews.ca and our very own producer here on The West Block.  Welcome to you all.

Marie let me start with you; three months from now, what are we going to be sitting around this table talking about?

Marie Vastel:

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I think we’ll still be talking about the Senate.  I think everyone agrees on that one and not only about the scandal.  I think the Senate is going to be in the news for multiple reasons.  Of course the RCMP is going to keep on with their inquiries so we’ll see whether other affidavits be tabled in court, will other pieces of information come out, will Mr. Duffy decide to speak, will Mr. Wright decide to speak?  I think that for sure will be in the news but also, let’s not forget the Supreme Court will eventually have its ruling, maybe not in three months, but in 2014 on the reform of the Senate; can it go ahead with the provinces, all of them, the majority of them or not.  And some have suggested at the past Conservative convention that maybe the solution is to have a referendum on this issue and kind of have people talking, get people engaged and then go in an election.  And you have another message on your election campaign.  So that’ll be interesting to see as well.  And then of course the Auditor General’s report; other names will come out, other people in trouble.  Will they get sanctioned?  That’ll be interesting.

Tom Clark:

Okay, so Marie says it’s going to be all about the Senate.  At what point does everybody get sick and tired about talking about the Senate Mark or do they?

Mark Kennedy:

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You know what, they won’t but there will be substantive issues coming our way, and one of them that I can talk about, my little crystal balls tells me: pipelines.  There are two major decisions; well one actually has just been made in the latter part of 2013.  We will learn at some point in the early part of 2014 what’s happening on Keystone XL.  Will Barack Obama give it his blessing?  Even if he doesn’t, Stephen Harper is going to be out there pitching and promoting that this this one day become a reality.  The other big, big issue is Northern Gateway.  We now have the ruling from the NEB.  The government has got 180 days to make its own decision on this.  I don’t think it’s…I have no doubt that this government, this government especially is going to give that proposal the green light.  That will open up massive, massive debates, national debates, environmental debates, debates about the role of Canada’s First Nations in this country.  Just wait for it.  It’s going to be a big debate starting in the spring.

Marie Vastel:
And another one…no but also Enbridge has another project which is being studied by the NEB is the inversion of the 9B line through Quebec going to the east, so that’ll be another one absolutely.

Tom Clark:

So, it seems to me Amy that coming up, starting in 2014, this is really the kickoff to the 2015 election campaign; nobody’s going to hold back.  So if you take a look at the Senate, especially if you take a look at pipelines, are these going to be defining issues leading up to the 2015 election?

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Amy Minsky:

Well what’s interesting is that even with the Senate, with the Auditor General and we still don’t know if any of this is going to lead to charges, if it does, that’s going to be going into 2015 even, right?

Tom Clark:

You’re talking about the court cases, I mean if there are charges and so on, yeah.

Amy Minsky:

With Wright and Duffy, yeah.  So you can even play this back at the end of next year, if you want.

Mark Kennedy:

You know the other big issue that is going to be out there because the Supreme Court of Canada had made it an issue at the latter part of 2013 is the issue of prostitution.  Parliament is going to have to decide, this government is going to have to decide whether it brings forward a new law to deal with that.  And that will bring forward extremely crucial and critical and very emotional societal debates about what the role of the state is, whether these people need to be protected or whether communities need to be protected.  And it I think will prompt a real divide in Parliament.

Amy Minsky:

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And it will be interesting because the parties are going to have to take on a position that they will use as part of their planks in 2015.  And I guess one of the big, big questions around 2015 is, is Stephen Harper going to be leading the Conservatives into that…

Tom Clark:

Well he says he is.

Amy Minsky:

He said last week in the interviews that no doubt, but I mean he’s not an easy man to predict, right?

Tom Clark:

But that leads in to let’s start talking about the…we talked about the what’s, let’s talk about the who’s right now.  And the who’s in three months from now and then onwards into 2014, 2015.  Who is going to be the central figure in political life that we’re going to be talking about in three months from now.

Marie Vastel:

Well I agree with Amy.  I mean Mr. Harper is saying he’s staying put but at the same time he doesn’t control everything that’s going to happen in the next year.  Going back to the Senate scandal, the more people get involved, the more people may get brought into this, the more information may come out, the more it may seem to indicate that he might have known or might have known parts of it.  We already hear of people kind of grumbling in the backbenches, right?  And getting a little impatient and thinking are we really going to win an election if this is hanging over our heads?  And I think that will be interesting to see in the next months.  I don’t think we’re done wondering if Mr. Harper can stay on board or not.  We’ve seen Jason Kenney, which is one I would watch, come out…he already took stands in private and in caucus but now he’s doing it in front of TV cameras, contradicting the prime minister very, very clearly.

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Amy Minsky:

With Nigel Wright, with Rob Ford…

Marie Vastel:

Exactly, with Rob Ford so I would keep an eye on him for sure.

Mark Kennedy:
Yeah but you know, I know the rumours are going to continue and we’ll be at the centre of that and people in the Tory backrooms and going in at coffee shops are going to be continuing to ask the question, is he going to run again or not?  My personal view is he’s going to run again because I think there are a million reasons why he would have a lot of personal difficulty walking away from the challenge of a fourth mandate.  And one of those reasons is that he would have a lot of difficulty with the thought that he is running away from facing off against Justin Trudeau.  Justin Trudeau is the son of the man he came into politics to fight in the first place.

Marie Vastel:

But unless you feel that you’re going to lose, are you going to go into another election coming out being the Conservatives who brought back the Conservative majority.  He did good things this year that we unfortunately didn’t talk about.  Do you really want to then leave as the guy who actually loses to Justin Trudeau?  That will come into play I think…

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Mark Kennedy:

Of course it’s a risk he’s going to take but he also has a high opinion of himself and his own abilities to win, so watch for that.

Marie Vastel:

Yeah, it’s pride or …

Amy Minsky:

And it’s not impossible because you have…I mean they’re going down in the polls, no question but we’re very far ahead of the election at this point, so you don’t want to put too much stock in the polls.  But you have Justin Trudeau’s inexperience, you have the new ridings that are coming in and possibly a division of the left vote, which even though it’s looking like they’re in minority territory, if that at this point the Conservatives, it’s really not impossible for them…

Tom Clark:

Okay, I just want to…

Mark Kennedy:

If Stephen Harper goes, he has to tell us by July 1st.   Okay, that’s what I’m saying.

Marie Vastel:

No, end of 2014.

Mark Kennedy:

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Oh no, no, no, no.

Tom Clark:

You know what, I’ve only literally got 30 seconds left but I’m fascinated that the name Tom Mulcair has not come up in this discussion about three months from now.  Why is that?

Amy Minsky:

He has been doing a great job in the House of Commons in Question Period in holding Stephen Harper’s feet to the fire.  He’s been doing a great job.  I don’t know how much that’s resonating outside of the Hill.

Marie Vastel:
I don’t think it is that’s the problem.

Amy Minsky:

He has to, if he wants to be part of that conversation, he’s going to have to convince everybody, all Canadians that he’s more than just a great leader of the Opposition and he’s more than just a great leader of a large Quebec caucus.  He has to look outside.

Mark Kennedy:

He’s got…you know what he has to do, to put it simply?  He’s got to get sexy and he’s got to spark a fire.

Marie Vastel:

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Well he needs to do the ground game that Justin Trudeau is very good at doing.

Tom Clark:

I’ve got to stop you there.  Marie Vastel of Le Devoir, Mark Kennedy, Postmedia and Amy Minsky of The West Block.  Thank you all very much for being here; great discussion guys.

Well coming up, it was a ground breaking campaign for the NDP; the orange wave sweeping the party to popularity like never before.  We talk to one of the men working behind the scenes.  That’s coming up next.

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Jack Layton:

“Canadians have asked New Democrats to take on more responsibility in Parliament.  For the first time in our history, they have asked us to serve as Canada’s official Opposition”.

Tom Clark:

That is of course, the late Jack Layton.  The orange wave that he rode to official Opposition status was years in the making, crafted in fact before he ran for leader.  He devised that strategy with a select few, and one of them joins me now.  Brad Lavigne was the national campaign director for Jack Layton and he’s just published a book about that historic victory called, “Building the Orange Wave”.  Brad welcome, good to have you on the show.

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Brad Lavigne:

Good to be here thank you.

Tom Clark:

How much of that orange wave was squarely on Jack Layton’s shoulders?  I mean how much of it was a personal phenomenon as opposed to a political phenomena?

Brad Lavigne:

I think it was a combo, a combination.  I know that people throughout Canada loved the messenger but they also loved the message.  He was certainly a big part of not only its creation but its delivery.  And that message I think that he brought, particularly in the 2011 election campaign is, I think there’s a lot of resilience out there for that message.  They loved the messenger but they also loved the message.

Tom Clark:

You know, one of the key elements of the orange wave, and you and I were talking about it long before you wrote this book, and that was the sense that it was time to replace the Liberal Party, to get the Liberal Party off the political stage.  And in that regard, you were in complete agreement with the Conservative Party.  So both parties had this goal, get rid of the Liberals.  You take a look at the polls today, you take a look at the fundraising, and the Liberals are out fundraising the NDP.  The Liberals are number one in all the national polls.  What happened?

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Brad Lavigne:

Well you know one of the other things that we saw throughout the 10 years of building the orange wave was Liberal resurgence, honeymoons and new leaders.  And I remember a time when Paul Martin was elected leader.  Liberals were dominating and they were going to wipe us off in a big juggernaut and of course we know what happened there; same with Mr. Dion, same with Mr. Ignatieff.  All of these kinds of leaders had honeymoon periods and a resurgence.  I think that what Tom Mulcair and the team need to look at for 2015, the next election campaign is the long game.  Not concerning themselves with the short-term polls because we’ve seen those before only to fall later, but the long-term, and that is getting ready for the 2015 election.  Canadians are going to ask themselves during that election, do we want someone to be a prime minister at an entry-level job or do we want somebody with the strength and experience of Tom Mulcair.  And I think those tough decisions will be made at the time the election comes.  Campaigns matter Tom.  As the 2011 campaign, I think easily defines, so too will the 2015 campaign.

Tom Clark:

Are you already running your lines with me about the campaign, about…

Brad Lavigne:

Trying them out…

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Tom Clark:

Yeah, trying them out…

Brad Lavigne:

(Laughing) We’re not quite there yet.

Tom Clark:

The orange wave in large measure was really something that happened in Quebec.  There were games for the NDP and the rest of Canada but it was primarily in Quebec.  Prior to that, the NDP really had no history of politics in Quebec, so when it changed that quickly, that dramatically, you became in effect a Quebec party.  What did that do to the NDP?

Brad Lavigne:

Well it certainly made it a truly federal party with roots now being planted in every corner of the country.  It certainly changed you know the outlook of it but it was a change that was identified by Jack Layton and the team around him before he decided to run for leader.  You can’t be a truly national party unless you’ve got a presence in the province of Quebec.  We had some tough discussions with our folks back in those early days whether we should be investing in Quebec, whether we should be organizing Quebec, whether we should be giving time to build there, and it certainly paid off.  We knew that, if Quebecers could turn the page on the old debates, that is, this old separatist, federalist, national question.  If they thought you know, what do I want out of Ottawa?  Do I want more doctors and nurses?  Do I want a better life for me and my family, stronger economy in making life more affordable?  If those were the ballot questions for Quebecers they would come to the NDP.  And I think once that page gets turned, they were more open to the message that the NDP was offering.

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Tom Clark:

You know we’re talking a lot about personalities and waves and so on, and in the minute that I’ve got left, policies matter too and I’m wondering that what the orange wave didn’t change all that much and perhaps not as much as you wanted it to, was were some of the policies of the NDP’s, some that still don’t resonate with a large group of Canadians.  How do you measure out…how do you strike that balance between personality and policies?  And in the end, are policies the greatest obstacle that you’ve got?

Brad Lavigne:

No, I think that that was one of the things that Jack Layton wanted to do, is again, turn the page for the party on the big social programs; social welfare system that we set up after the Second World War, predominantly driven by the NDP and its predecessor organizations even though we weren’t in power.  But Jack brought a pragmatism where we could make Ottawa relevant in the lives of everyday Canadians again with the kinds of policies that were sound, affordable, and I think that Tom Mulcair can pick from them.

Tom Clark:

Brad Lavigne, author of, “Building the Orange Wave”.  Terrific book, thanks very much for being here Brad and Happy New Year to you.

Brad Lavigne:

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Happy New Year to you.

Tom Clark:

Well as we wrap another year here on The West Block, I just want to take a moment to thank the people who get us to air every single week.  Here in Ottawa:  our executive producer Jennifer Madigan, producer Marieke Walsh, our online reporter and producer Amy Minsky; and behind the cameras: Jamie Butler and Barry Acton.  And last but certainly not least, our amazing graphic artist, Kevin O’Neill.  Our crew in Ottawa:  Liz Ciesluk, Phil Brower, Tricia May, Brian Morris, Ian Murphy, Mike Miller and Zack Fortin.  And our crew out in Vancouver:  Kris McDermott and Emma Gittens, Lisa VanderMey, Andrew Snalam and Greg Anderson.  Thank you to you all.

And thank you very much for joining us this year.  Have a great and Happy New Year.  I’m Tom Clark.

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