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West Block Transcript: Season 6 Episode 2

Tom Clark, Chief Political Correspondent for Global News and Host of The West Block. Global News

THE WEST BLOCK
Episode 2, Season 6
Sunday, September 18, 2016

Host: Tom Clark

Guest Interviews: Bono, Peter MacKay
Unpacking the Politics: Susan Delacourt, Bob Fife

Location: Ottawa

Tom Clark: On this Sunday, an exclusive interview with Bono: Is Canada the cure for some of the world’s most pressing problems?

And, he may not be running for leader but Peter MacKay shares his ideas of what the Conservative Party should stand for.

Then, MPs return to Ottawa tomorrow, and our journalist panel is here to unpack the politics of the new session.

It is Sunday, September the 18th and from the nation’s capital, I’m Tom Clark. And you are in The West Block.

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Tom Clark: He is a rock star who uses his fame to speak out about injustice. And this week, Bono was here in Canada to raise money and awareness for the fight against AIDS and other deadly global diseases. He sat down with me for an exclusive interview about Canada’s role in the world. Here’s that discussion:

Bono, great to sit down with you, thank you very much for your time. You know what Justin Trudeau has been saying is that Canada is back when it comes to the global conversation. Are you seeing that?

Bono: You know it does seem that Canada has a very unique position in the international community right now, a position that’s perhaps more valuable than any time in its history. Now that’s partially because at the moment, following I guess globalization, you’ve had this phenomenon of localization. People forgetting about their international obligations, people suspicious of multilateral organizations, Canada has always been multilateral in its thinking. It’s always thought laterally and communally, a community of nations. And I was reading Lester Pearson writing during the Blitz in London about this destruction that he was witnessing, just could not continue and how Canada would have to pledge itself to making sure it didn’t happen again. So the seeds were there. It’s in the very DNA, I think of Canadian people. I couldn’t believe Minister McCallum talking about the refugee crisis saying Canadians are actually saying to him, look give us more. Can you assimilate more refugees, properly assimilate I will say. There were more demands in Canada and I just thought where does that happen in the world? I’m not sure you Canadians really understand how you are seen in the world. And particularly now, when you have this kind of political mayhem across the world with Brexit and whatever’s happening south of the border, my God.

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Tom Clark: [Laughing] You don’t even want to go there.

Bono: No, I don’t want to go there. Who wants to go there? I wanted to go to America but I mightn’t after that.

Tom Clark: You know you’ve spent so much of your time dealing with the rich and powerful, dealing with billionaires, dealing with presidents and potentates and so on. Have you developed over that time, when it comes to fundraising–?

Bono: A bit of potentate is in myself.

Tom Clark: [Laughs] Well—
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Bono: There’s a bit of potentate in all of us.

Tom Clark: In all of us, yes exactly. Some of us hide it better than others.

Bono: Yes.

Tom Clark: But have you been able to—when you eyeball a leader, have you developed that sense yet whether he or she is going to come through for you because they’re all going to say yes to you. But have you developed sort of an inner sense when you look at these guys and sort of say who are you?

Bono: Well sometimes you can get it wrong and I have to accept that. I haven’t had that feeling with the prime minister. I think the shock for myself and the people in the ONE Campaign. You know we have 200,000 activists here in Canada and they’re like saying our prime minister’s become an activist because normally I’m on the phone calling leaders ahead of these things. He’s been on the phone before me. And so that’s different. I can definitely tell you this. He is the most aggressive host we’ve ever had of a replenishment for the Global Fund.

Tom Clark: I want to talk for a second about Africa and about what has been a huge passion for you. And the problem in the public conversation, when you deal with Africa, people conjure up an image. They say corruption. It’s a black hole. You’re putting money; it goes into the pockets of dictators and other assorted creeps in Africa, the culture which tends to be anti-woman in many, many countries and so on. How do you deal with that?

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Bono: We have to accept that corruption is killing more kids than any disease, including TB, AIDS or malaria. It’s really the truth. And in ONE, we have fought against corruption with a transparency agenda. You know there is a vaccine for corruption. We call it transparency and open government.

Tom Clark: You’ve said in the past that poverty is anti-woman.

Bono: Poverty is sexist.

Tom Clark: Sexist, I think is the line that you used.

Bono: That’s how I phrase it. I’m a songwriter.

Tom Clark: It’s an interesting concept. Why is it sexist?

Bono: The facts really are obvious. There are some shocking ones. I think the maternal health, 1 in 50 women in the poor world, in the developing countries dies in childbirth; 1 in 5,000 here. I think that speaks for itself. How about this on AIDS, because we’re at a Global Replenishment Conference, the number one cause of death for women in their prime in the world, the whole world is HIV AIDS. Not cancer, not any of the obvious, AIDS. Women are carrying it.

Tom Clark: What was that moment when you finally said, yeah, I’m an Irish rocker but I’m also now fully engaged in this topic? Was there one moment that led you to this?

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Bono: It’s funny because you and I have been speaking about our experiences in Ethiopia which we share because you were one of the first reporters in. I think maybe one of the first two into Ethiopia and the famine in 1984. And those pictures, I think you brought to 60-Minutes, were pictures that the world had not witnessed. Maybe in Biafra, in the 70’s we’d seen those emaciated kids, but there was something transformative happened then. We just got angry. We got mad. The world got mad. And musicians are good at turning it up to eleven. Do you know what I mean? And it was an Irish man, Bob Geldof, got organized and we raised money to fight that famine. And my life as an activist probably began there.

Tom Clark: The world is really seeing the refugee problem through the eyes of Syria and Libya and of course what’s happening in Europe. It’s much bigger than that. As we know, it seems like humanity is on the move everywhere. What do we do about it?

Bono: “Think very differently” to quote that Apple ad. You know the one that Einstein’s sticking the thing out – think different? There is some movement in the world. Clever people, Chancellor Merkel, African leaders, President Buhari are trying to rethink the phenomenon for what’s happening in North Africa and into the Levent, in the Sahal, in the Maghreb because you see this phenomenon. You see three extremes: Extreme poverty, extreme climate and extreme ideology. That unholy trinity is causing a lot of trouble. It might be very, very smart to gather around that problem before it explodes and before it bursts into flames. Just to be there to say to those people who are fighting to make a living in dirt, we’re with you. Canada’s got every country in the world here. If you can discern, and you have, that the right response is to understand the outside world and be at the service of something bigger than yourself, then I think you’re being a true Canadian.

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Tom Clark: I’m beginning to see why world leaders get convinced when they sit down with you.

Bono: There is the matter of the pill I put in your drink. So you start to feel yourself go [slurring] mmmmyes.
Tom Clark: Well, I’d like to thank all of you for the– [laughs]

Bono: Exactly. Alright, thanks Tom.

And coming up next, in an exclusive television interview, Peter MacKay weighs in on the Canadian values debate.

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[Break]

He was the frontrunner for the Conservative leadership, but last week, Peter MacKay announced that his name will not be on the ballot. Still, he has the ear of the party and some strong opinions on where it should go.

Joining me now from Toronto is Peter MacKay. Mr. MacKay, good to have you back on the show again. It was a pretty big deal when you decided that you weren’t going to run, so honestly tell me, how red hot has your phone been from other candidates calling to seek your support?

Peter MacKay: As far as the phone lighting up upon making the announcement—look I’d be lying if I didn’t say that there were some expressions of disappointment. But also, I think it has opened up a tremendous opportunity for other leadership candidates now to declare themselves, to make their decision based on their best information. And I’ve indicated to any and all that I’ll be prepared to talk to them and share my experience, my deliberations, and having done this once before in 2002, although things have changed dramatically, I’m always happy to be there. Look, I’m a Conservative first and foremost who will always be interested and involved in the party at some level.

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Tom Clark: You know a lot of the talk about you has been that you are the last of the Progressive Conservatives. Are you still a Progressive Conservative?

Peter MacKay: Well look, I think there’s always been this attempt to sort of buttonhole people or pigeonhole them in characterizing them as progressive or red Tories versus blue Tories. Look, it depends on the issue. On defence issues, justice issues, I think it’s pretty clear that I would be more to the right than some, on economic issues, similarly. But look, there always has to be a compassionate side within the Conservative Party that’s in line and in keeping with Canadians. Canadian values about taking care of people in need, ensuring that we’re helping not only individuals and groups, but even regions of the country that are in need. Right now, for example, it’s western Canada that needs attention. So, I don’t know that those labels are necessarily accurate or even helpful. But I guess given my roots, where I come from, the fact that I was the last leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, some people have used that moniker.

Tom Clark: Okay, so you’re out of the race, but where do you want to see the party to go? And let me be very specific. Does the next leader, in your opinion, have to be fluently bilingual?

Peter MacKay: Well, let me answer the first part of that question. Where do I want to see the party go? Back to government because what we have been seeing quite frankly is ungoverning. That is the unwinding, the undoing of some pretty substantive policy whether it was First Nation transparency, whether it has been pension reform, a lot of criminal justice legislation that I say in full disclosure was very associated with even some defence policy. I’m concerned about that level of dismantling. Not so much for legacy purposes but I think substantive policy direction that we had brought about with significant effort that was good for the country. So where do I see the party going and where do I see the next leader positioning us? It’s perhaps not simply reviving some of those issues but putting the emphasis on substance, having real debate on these issues that is going to help people in practical pragmatic ways. And by that, I mean focusing on the economy.

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Tom Clark: Well as you know, a lot of the talk so far in this leadership race has been about values. Kellie Leitch talking about screening for anti-Canadian values, Lisa Raitt suggesting politicians shouldn’t go to mosques because of the separation of men and women. Do you think talking about those sorts of things is helpful to this campaign?

Peter MacKay: Well look, I think firstly it’s a penetrating statement of the obvious to call those sensitive issues and issues that if not properly articulated, which is sometimes difficult to do in a seven second soundbite, you can find yourself in a real swamp of alligators and a lot of blowback, and it’s problematic. So you have to be thoughtful in the way you express those ideas. Having the debate and having a rigorous debate is positive. It is helpful as long as it’s inclusive and you’re not making statements or being offensive or exclusionary in that debate. But I tend to believe that what we really need to try to do is bring the focus back to the issues that affect people’s backyards and back pockets and those are on the economy. It’s not as sexy perhaps and may not get the controversy and the headlines, but tax policy really at the end of the day matters to people when they see the tax-free savings. When they see things like income splitting, universal child care benefits; those things being taken away. I would argue strenuously that the next income tax cycle and the one following that is going to be much more impactful on people as I suspect that some of the decisions that are being taken on files like natural resources, specifically pipelines in terms of the impact on the economy. That’s when it’s going to dawn on people that frankly, having your picture taken with a panda, or a rock star, or whipping your shirt off, is not really doing it for Canadians.

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Tom Clark: Peter MacKay awfully good talking to you again. Thanks very much.

Peter MacKay: Thank you, Tom always a pleasure to talk to you.

Tom Clark: Well still to come, what will be the top of the agenda when the House returns this week? We unpack the politics right after this.

[Break]

Tom Clark: We’re back, and the MPs will be back tomorrow. So what will the fall hold for the government and the Opposition parties in particular? Here to unpack the politics: Author and columnist Susan Delacourt, and our old friend, the bureau chief of The Globe and Mail, Bob Fife. Good to have you here.

Let’s start with that other leadership race, the NDP leadership race. Not many people are talking about it because frankly, nobody’s running for the job. It seems that they don’t want—how serious a problem is this for them, Susan?

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Susan Delacourt: Well, some might make the argument that the NDP already does have a leader and his name is Justin Trudeau that since the election, it has been true that some of the people most satisfied with the current government are people who voted New Democrat. And I think what the government has done has basically occupied that huge middle of the road, and you’re seeing this elsewhere in the Conservative leadership race too. Peter MacKay would have been on the red side of that. That basically the government is occupying the moderate ends also of the Conservative and the New Democrats, which is making it more necessary for these parties, not just to choose a leader, but to choose what they’re all about too.

Tom Clark: And that brings up an interesting point, Bob, because I guess the single endurable truth about politics is that victory is always found in the centre and the centre shifts every now and again.

Bob Fife: Well, but the problem with the New Democrats, every time they’ve gone to the centre, they ended up losing, and federally that being the case. And I think the next leader, despite all the great hopes they’re going to have to have, they’re going to have to stick to the left and have policies and hopefully Mr. Trudeau won’t steal them from them. One of the reasons why you’re not seeing any leadership candidates out right now, Tom, I mean I think you’re going to see Peter Julian, you’re going to see Charlie Angus and Niki Ashton who are MPs running, but it’s a year away and it costs a lot of money. So I don’t think you’re going to see anybody declare until March.

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Tom Clark: Okay, but you know it wasn’t that long ago that the conversation around this town and in certain parts of the country was you know, for the Liberals to survive, they’re going to have to merge with the NDP. Those were the days when the NDP looked as if they were going to form government. And I can’t help but marvel at the fact that now, perhaps for the NDP to survive, they may have to consider merging with the Liberals.

Bob Fife: Never happen. Never happen.

Tom Clark: [Laughs] It won’t happen.

Bob Fife: It won’t happen because there are too many blue Liberals. And the blue Liberals would not agree to that. They are two distinct parties and they have different values and different approaches of things. That just wouldn’t happen.

Tom Clark: But I guess the question though, Susan, and goes back to your original point, is that if the new leader of the NDP is actually Justin Trudeau. Is there an existential threat for the NDP? Does this country really need a second party of the centre left?

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Susan Delacourt: You know it’s going to be interesting and it’s an issue nobody’s talking about or paying much attention to right now. But we’ve got an electoral reform process going on all this fall. Very intense scheduled, supposed to report on December 1st. The whole way that parties are organized may be affected by the new way we vote in the next election, if we indeed do get democratic reform.

Tom Clark: So in other words, traditional parties as they’re constituted now may not be the most effective vehicle to win powers of.

Susan Delacourt: That’s exactly right. If there’s a ranked ballot it changes the way you go about things.

Bob Fife: But one thing, Tom, the Liberals always used to run from the left, govern from the centre. This guy’s not doing that. He ran from the left. He’s governed from the left and he isn’t giving the NDP much of the slices of pie.

Susan Delacourt: No.

Tom Clark: And by doing that though, he has amassed an enormous amount of political capital. As he walks into the House of Commons this week, there are a couple of things on his plate that is at that point now where he has to start spending his political capital? And if so, how is that going to change the game?

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Bob Fife: And he has no choice but to spend his political capital because the clock is ticking. He’s got to get a credible environmental deal with the provinces in early November. There’s a big decision on December 19th on the Trans-Mountain pipeline. Those are big decisions coming down. He’s got to make decisions, for example, on Bombardier, which is popular in Quebec but not popular elsewhere around the country. He’s even got to make a decision at some point on a fighter jet. All of these decisions are coming down the pipeline. Most of them will be in the fall and it’s not going to make some people happy.

Tom Clark: Susan, you know the inner circle of Justin Trudeau perhaps as well, if not better than anybody in this town. Bob brings up the question of pipelines. Certainly climate change and weather, Ottawa is going to force the provinces to accept new standards or simply live with the old Harper standards. It seems to me that where that political capital is going to be spent is going to be for the very people who supported Justin Trudeau, especially on the environmental side who looks at this point maybe disappointed by what’s coming down.

Susan Delacourt: Yeah, I think there’s something, not just symbolically interesting but interesting in itself in the fact that the first week the House is back where is Trudeau going? New York, that he has spent an awful lot of time. He is working on the international stage, something you usually see prime ministers doing in the latter part of their time in power. But Trudeau, I think has decided I’m going to build my political capital on the world stage to build it here at home, to bolster it here. So, I think that he is going to have to use some capital, but it already looks like he’s got his sight set on more than domestic considerations here.

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Bob Fife: Well we’ve got the peacekeeping thing, for example, Tom.

Susan Delacourt: Yeah.

Tom Clark: Right.

Bob Fife: It looks like we’re going to go to Mali. That is fraught with difficulties. There have been 106 peacekeepers killed in that country. We’re going to go there and whereby they’d have some Canadians killed. And we’re already involved in Iraq and Syria, so all of this stuff begins to wear away and he’s been very fortunate after the Harper years to have such a huge honeymoon. And his numbers are still staggering when you think about it, but he hasn’t really had to make any tough decisions to annoy or get angry the block of voters who have been supporting him. And when he starts to make these decisions whether it’s on environment or pipelines or Bombardier or whatnot, you’re going to start to see his capital erode.

Tom Clark: And very quickly, Susan, does this give an opening to the opposition parties at a time when both opposition parties have got this internecine warfare going their leadership or has he got a clear path to run?

Susan Delacourt: I think, as Bob has been saying, one of the big reasons he’s in a honeymoon right now is that he doesn’t have any leaders in the other parties. So I think that’s going to carry on for a few more months at least. And I think in the meantime, he’s going to start spending that capital in ways, but it’s not clear that what support he loses where it’s going to go because there’s no place to go.

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Bob Fife: It could carry on for years because the people who are up and running for both those parties, particularly the Conservatives are very weak.

Tom Clark: Susan and Bob thank you very much for being here. I just want to note one thing. You know we were looking at the renovations of the West Block and in one of the great political ironies of all time, in the new House of Commons; it’s going to have a glass ceiling.

[Group laughter]

Susan Delacourt, Bob Fife thanks very much for being here, I appreciate your time.
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