West Block Transcript: Season 6 Episode 1

Episode 1, Season 6
Sunday, September 11, 2016

Host: Tom Clark

Guest Interviews: Kellie Leitch, Richard Fadden, Marc Demers, Don Iveson
Plane Talk: Kevin O’Leary

Location: Ottawa

Tom Clark: Welcome to a new season of The West Block, Canada’s forum for politics and ideas. I’m Tom Clark.

Well, it is going to be a jam-packed season. The Conservatives have got a leadership campaign underway, as do the NDP, and not to mention Canada’s big 150th birthday celebration. So buckle up Canada, it’s going to be one heck of a ride.

It is Sunday, September the 11th and from the nation’s capital, I’m Tom Clark and welcome to The West Block.

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Tom Clark: Well, the race for the Conservative leadership is underway in earnest. Many have already declared. But all eyes are on one who hasn’t, Peter MacKay. Will he or won’t he? According to a new IPSOS Global News poll, he’d do pretty well. If it were up to the Canadian voter, of all the choices for Conservative leader, 26 per cent would vote for MacKay. Not bad in the crowded field. But right on his heels is TV star and investor, Kevin O’Leary with 25 per cent. The rest are all well back. But MacKay has one big edge, 71 per cent of Canadians have a positive view of him. While only 58 per cent think kindly about Kevin O’Leary. The full poll results can be found at

But the person getting the highest attention these days is the last in the poll, Kellie Leitch at 2 per cent for her campaign promise of vetting perspective immigrants to weed out those with what she calls anti-Canadian values.

Joining me now in her home riding of Simcoe-Grey is Kellie Leitch. Ms. Leitch thanks very much for being here.

Kellie Leitch: Thanks for having me, Tom.

Tom Clark: I just want to read to you the things that can deny entry to an immigrant right now under current laws, and they’re as follows: If you’ve committed espionage, terrorism, attempts to overthrow a government, membership in any group that advocates any of these, if you have committed a human rights violation, war crimes, if you’ve been convinced of a crime, if you have ties to organized crime, if you’ve got a health problem or a serious financial problem. What hard evidence do you have Ms. Leitch that this is not enough?

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Kellie Leitch: Well Tom, for me, what I’m doing right now is I’m out introducing myself to our Conservative Party membership and to the Canadian public. And for me, that’s about talking about a unified Canadian identity and what values we have. For me, those values are the quality of opportunity. I want every person in this person in this country to know that when they strive, they’re going to be able to achieve, particularly our young people. Hard work, we know everyone goes out and works hard every day so they can be providing for their own families and then generous to others.

Tom Clark: Forgive me for interrupting, Ms. Leitch.

Kellie Leitch: Generosity, but and Tom—

Tom Clark: Yeah, forgive me for interrupting, but I did ask specifically about the current laws and how they’re not enough.

Kellie Leitch: And I will—and Tom, I’m happy to answer that. But as I say, for me, this is about a unified Canadian identity: Quality of opportunity, hard work, generosity, tolerance and freedom. And so right now, you’re right. We screen for a number of different things. We screen for security reasons. We screen for health reasons. We screen for income. And for me then, it’s not such a stretch then to ask people if they believe in the equality of women. Do they think that there should be equal rights for individuals that have a different sexual orientation than themselves? And so as I said, I’m focused on a unified Canadian identity, the things that I believe in, and I want Canadians to know what those are. But hand in glove with that, I want to have a conversation with Canadians about what they believe that Canadian identity is. And for me, a big part of that is tolerance and knowing that there is equality of women, equality of sexual orientations and respect for religion.

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Tom Clark: Okay, there is a whole series of questions about how practical that is to ask questions and who you’d have to train and how much that would cost. But let me deal with the broader subject. You know your government in the last election campaign tried identity politics. You did it with the niqab. You were the co-author of the barbaric cultural practices hotline. Identity politics didn’t work so well for you last time. What makes you think that identity politics is going to work for you this time?

Kellie Leitch: Well Tom, this isn’t about identity politics. And I understand the compulsion to go there, to have that conversation but that’s not what I’m talking about. What I’m talking about is a unified Canadian identity.

Tom Clark: But, you know I’m wondering because you know, listen, let’s face it, you’re in a leadership campaign. You’re trying to get votes for your campaign. But there is a poll out this morning that shows that of all the declared and undeclared leadership candidates, you’re down to 2 per cent in terms of how Canadians would vote for a Conservative leader. Does that concern you, 2 per cent? That’s almost off the screen.

Kellie Leitch: Well Tom, I haven’t seen that poll and I don’t react to polls. For myself, what I’m doing, as I mentioned earlier, is introducing myself to our party membership and quite frankly, also to Canadians. And it’s about them understanding what I believe in.

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Tom Clark: Ms. Leitch, unfortunately we have to leave it there, but I appreciate your time this morning. Thanks so much.

Kellie Leitch: Thanks very much Tom, I appreciate it.

Tom Clark: So something that the other leadership hopefuls have been doing this summer is beating a path to a cottage in Muskoka. That’s north of Toronto. It’s the cottage of Kevin O’Leary, the TV host. And as we’ve seen in this morning’s poll, a person who is a virtual tie for the top spot in the leadership race. So a few days ago, I too made the trek up north and took O’Leary up for a little Plane Talk. Here are just a few moments from that flight.

Kevin O’Leary: Beautiful.

Tom Clark: Kevin O’Leary, welcome to Plane Talk.

Kevin O’Leary: Thank you very much. It’s great to be here.

Tom Clark: Good to have you here in this beautiful part of the country.

Kevin O’Leary: Yes, absolutely.

Tom Clark: Now over here, we’ll come around at your cottage. This has sort of become the Mecca for Conservative politicians.

Kevin O’Leary: Well this summer it’s been a great place to have meetings. Nothing more fun than sitting on the dock with your toes in the water and talking Canadian politics.

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Tom Clark: [Laughs] What’s your take on the Conservative Party?

Kevin O’Leary: You know it’s a party that has to reconstitute itself. And what I’m learning as I meet the candidates that have declared and not declared. They all understand that. Some of the older hacks in there don’t get it, but the brand is broken and the fact is, if they want to win, if the Conservative Party ever wants a majority mandate again, it’s going to have to be a much broader encompassing platform. And that means change.

Tom Clark: Why don’t you become part of the crop of leadership?

Kevin O’Leary: My optionality now is, I either run for the head of the Conservative Party and make my changes as a Conservative opposition leader, and hopefully then the prime minister, or I back somebody that I believe has the motivation and the same values I have. Those are my two options, which is why it brings us back to your first question when asked well what are we doing up here this summer? I’m working with every single, pretty well all of them now, sitting down saying tell me what your platform’s going to be? Tell me what your plans are? Can we work together? Does it make sense? Some of them I met already, it doesn’t make sense. Others, I’m really intrigued with. And in a couple of months when we find out what the actual platform looks like and how many are really going to go for it, I’ll make my decision to. I’d go forward because I can’t find anybody I can back or do I back somebody. It’s that simple.

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Tom Clark: Under what circumstances do you lie?

Kevin O’Leary: I don’t lie. Let me tell you something about lying. It goes for marriage. It goes for politics. It goes for business. When people trust you and you lie, the first time, you lose 50 per cent of your credibility in perpetuity and you will never get it back.

Tom Clark: If there was one thing about yourself that you could change, what would that be?

Kevin O’Leary: Nothing, I like myself a lot. And I’m basically the componentry of my past. If I changed anything, I wouldn’t be who I am. You’ve got to be confident in who you are.

Tom Clark: You play guitar. You play lead guitar, do you sing?

Kevin O’Leary: No, I’m a terrible singer. I try, but I’m best at backup. You don’t want to isolate my track by itself, that’s for sure. You know you’ve got to know what you’re good at. I can play good rhythm. I can play good lead. I like to fool around with the guys. We’ve played a lot of guitar, particularly down at the dock and sometimes two in the morning. The neighbours love it, believe me.

Tom Clark: You know Donald Trump personally.

Kevin O’Leary: Yes, I do.

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Tom Clark: What do you think of him?

Kevin O’Leary: The funny thing about him and particularly the way I’ll put this to you is I know his kids and I know his family. And they’re hard-working. They’re not entitled. They go to work every single day and they, in most cases, work for him. How can a man raise such a great family and be as crazy as people think he is? And that’s the disconnect I’ve got.

Tom Clark: Kevin O’Leary, it’s been fun having you up on Plane Talk.

Kevin O’Leary: Thank you.

Tom Clark: Coming up, it’s been 15 years since 9-11. Are Canada’s security laws working or do they need reform?


Tom Clark: Welcome back. When Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau voted for a sweeping new security bill called C-51, he promised to change it if he was elected. Well, he was elected but only now is he getting around to C-51 and only to mount public consultations. The government wants to hear what Canadians want changed in the bill, even though it promised eight specific changes during the campaign. So, is C-51 broken and what, if anything, should change? I’m joined by Richard Fadden, who had a long and illustrious career in this country, was among other things, the director of CSIS and Canada’s national security advisor. Good to have you here.

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Richard Fadden: Thank you.

Tom Clark: I just want to ask you before we start. We just had Kellie Leitch in the program talking about the need to screen potential immigrants for anti-Canadian values. From a security point of view, from everything you know about the security of the country, is that something we should be doing?

Richard Fadden: I don’t think that’s a black and white sort of question that you can answer that way. First of all, you have to define Canadian values. I don’t think it’s clear and beyond debate what they are. Secondly, anybody who intends us harm is going to answer in a way that makes us entirely comfortable.

Tom Clark: In other words, they’re just going to lie.

Richard Fadden: Yeah.

Tom Clark: Yeah.

Richard Fadden: I mean is it a bad thing to ask them to reinforce the fact that when you come here you have to change your way of thinking sometimes? I don’t think so. But from a security perspective you want information, intelligence and corroborating evidence. I’m not sure that being asked a question like that will give you a great deal.

Tom Clark: Let’s move onto C-51, the real part of security in this country. Very specifically, one of the things that C-51 did was it gave the intelligence agency the power to disrupt in order to prevent bad things from happening. CSIS has already said that they’ve employed this, a number of times since it was allowed under C-51. Is it important for agencies to move from a pure intelligence function to one where you’re actively in the field doing stuff?

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Richard Fadden: I think it is because the way that the bad guys have evolved over time, they are much more secretive. They’re able to hide what they want to do. And if you don’t catch them early in the game, sometimes you can’t catch them. And also, if you catch them early enough in the game, you can actually and sometimes talk people from going down the wrong path. You know I think that the obvious example is CSIS coming across a couple of young people who either want to do something stupid here or want to get on a plane via Turkey and go to Syria. Well you prevent them from going by talking to their parents or their Imam, which is disruption in terms of the law. I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. Why should CSIS do this as opposed to the Mounties? I think both can do it, but they have different cultures and Parliament created them as separate agencies because of that. And I also think CSIS is involved much, much earlier. So if you can nip something in the bud early, I think you should do it. You can do this in the abstract. There’s the law. There are ministerial policies and there are operational policies. Individual agents of CSIS should not be able to go out and simply disrupt things. But within all of this framework, I think it’s a very desirable thing for CSIS to be able to do and I would note that all of our close allies allow this to one degree or other.

Tom Clark: Should we bring everything back inside the charter again?

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Richard Fadden: Again, not a black and white issue. I think you have to go back to the charter itself, which contains the provisions which allows for activities that would be offensive to the charter if they’re reasonable and necessary in a democratic society. The law presumes that any legislation is constitutional. So it seems to me that allowing for this in strange circumstances, dangerous circumstances where you have to go to the minister first and then to a judge, there’s a lot of protection here. People are reading this as if CSIS is going to go out and start violating all of our most fundamental freedoms. I don’t think that’s the case. But sometimes you have to move against an individual when you don’t have reasonable and probable cause. That’s one of our rights under the charter. Not the exact wording. I think they should have that possibility. I also think within that legal framework, you have to have some review by the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) and if the government pursues its idea of a parliamentary review, you need to have them be able to look at it. But with all those protections, I think it’s nice to have it as a last ditch tool to use. We have to remember, we have all these tools to prevent real harm to Canadians. We don’t have these there simply to prevent economic harm or slightly complicating people’s lives. So it’s a tool in the toolbox.

Tom Clark: Overall, when you take a look at C-51 and the controversy that it created. From where you sit, does it need an overhaul or would you keep it whole as is?

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Richard Fadden: I would leave it as it is. But as a Canadian, I’m glad the government’s carrying through on its promise to review things. It’s been in effect for a while now, so parliamentarians and others will be able to see the good, the bad and the ugly. I think the provision that is almost the most important is the one which allows for sharing of information within the government. I know this worries people a lot and I understand why. But when I was director of CSIS, the thing that worried me more than anything, was that if something went wrong and there was a terrorist act that was successful, and we subsequently found out that another department had the information and didn’t share it. That’s not an artificial concern, it’s real. And I think the law contains restrictions and provisions for review that protect unnecessary sharing. But for that one, I think it’s absolutely essential.

Tom Clark: Dick Fadden, always great talking to you. Thanks very much for being here this morning.

Richard Fadden: My pleasure.

Tom Clark: Thank you. And coming up next: The political problems facing the future of pipelines in Canada.

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Tom Clark: We’re back and it’s back, the never-ending debate on pipelines in this country. Now, big decisions, political decisions have to be made very soon that will inevitably infuriate some, perhaps many. Let’s talk about the Energy East pipeline first. Joining me now, from just outside of Montreal, is Laval Mayor Marc Demers and in Edmonton, Mayor Don Iveson. And welcome to you both. Mayor Demers, let me start with you. You’ve heard, so far, all the arguments from the mayors, especially like Mayor Iveson about why there should be a pipeline, the Energy East pipeline. Have you heard nothing yet that this has convinced you that this is a worthwhile national project?

Marc Demers: Well first of all, we have met with TransCanada after having different studies made by our cities and different experts outside of our cities. And the answers we got from TransCanada people didn’t convince us. If the same situation, which happened in Saskatchewan, Prince Albert what happened in the Montreal area is 4 million people without water for weeks. And just in the City of Laval, if this happened, it’s 400,000 people without water. And since every day we have fires, I mean we cannot go without water, and we have major hospitals, so I cannot take such a risk. And every time we talk about that risk, TransCanada was talking about what they have put up as different systems and we were talking about the accidents, which occur. And some studies, which were made, say that 80 per cent of the accidents which happen were found by citizens or by people just walking by, so only 12 per cent were detected by the system put in place.

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Tom Clark: Let me jump in there. I want to go to Don Iveson in Edmonton. The arguments that have been made, largely by proponents in Western Canada, it was for the economic necessity of getting bitumen oil, Alberta oil to tidewater. But with what we’ve just heard from Mayor Demers is something entirely different. Is there anything that you could say right now that would convince him otherwise that this isn’t the environmental threat or worry that he thinks it might be?

Don Iveson: Well I would say that the question is really one of risk management and emergency preparedness. And we deal with this on the Prairies all the time. You know there are upwards of 900,000 barrels of crude oil a day on a busy day, passing through our city by rail. And millions of barrels of oil and gas equivalent that move freely through the pipeline system safely to refineries and to ports all around this country today. And so this infrastructure is in place and it’s not without its challenges. But given a choice in Western Canada, particularly after the disaster that we saw in Lac-Mégantic, from a risk management point of view, I would much sooner have pipelines through my community than rail. The challenge is without the pipeline capacity that leaves more and more product moving by rail throughout the country and more and more oil being imported from other countries into Eastern Canada rather than Canadian oil creating Canadian jobs for Canadian consumers. And so yes, there’s an economic dimension to this, but there’s also a risk management dimension and we would pick pipelines over rail any day.

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Tom Clark: Well Mayor Demers what about that because we did have the example of Lac-Mégantic and you worry about a pipeline leak that would pollute your water. But what about a major disaster like Mégantic because that really is the other way of doing it, isn’t it?

Marc Demers: Well what was told to me by the TransCanada authority says the pipeline will add to what they’re exporting right now will not reduce the transport by rail. So it’s an additional risk. It will not bring down any other risks, so that’s one of the reasons that we don’t feel comfortable with it. And the other part of it is what happened in Saskatchewan because of the size of the pipeline. We figured it would take about 80 seconds to have the same quality of oil in our rivers. And the rivers, the way they are made, the water goes all at the same place. So if anything happens within one of the 800 streams or rivers that the pipeline will be passing through, they will all end up in the St. Lawrence River passing to our water supplies. And if our water supplies are attacked, all three of them are attacked.

Tom Clark: How do you, if you’re talking two different languages, what is that connector? Or is there a connector? Is it possible that you’ll never be able to convince Quebec that they should be in on this? What do you think?

Don Iveson: Well I think the challenge is if the bar is set at zero tolerance or zero risk, then we wouldn’t build anymore railroads. We wouldn’t build any more roads. We wouldn’t build any other industrial facilities either. And so I’m for one, grateful that it’s not up to local leaders because those risks are very, very real in our communities and need to be managed, need to be mitigated. And it’s for us to be champions for appropriate risk management and emergency preparedness. And so I think that dialogue is completely understood and completely respectful. But at the end of the day, someone will have to make a decision here. And I’m grateful that we have a National Energy Board who the new government has reconstituted with additional environmental oversight obligations in order to ensure that any recommendation that they make ultimately to cabinet is robust and evidence-based because I think there will always be risks with any sort of infrastructure project, whether it’s a pipeline or other project. And those need to be understood and the mitigation plans need to be clearly outlined. That’s why approval with conditions means that Canadian energy infrastructure is, at this point, some of the best in the world with the regulatory mechanisms that are in place. And so I’m confident that those mechanisms are robust and that the federal cabinet will ultimately have good science-based evidence to base their decision on at the conclusion of this process.

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Tom Clark: Mayor Demers and Mayor Iveson, I thank you very much. We’ve just scratched the surface, but this pretty robust discussion going on in this country and I thank you for advancing both your points of view.

Don Iveson: Thank you.

Marc Demers: Thank you very much for having us.

Tom Clark: Well that’s our show. I’m Tom Clark. Have a great ahead. We’ll see you back here next Sunday.


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