The West Block Transcript: Season 6, Episode 8

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

Episode 8, Season 6
Sunday, October 30, 2016

Host: Tom Clark

Guest Interviews: Tom, Mulcair, Alexander Betts
Plane Talk: Paul Martin

Location: Ottawa

On this Sunday, Finance Minister Bill Morneau will reveal the state of the nation’s books later this week in a midterm economic update. NDP Leader Tom Mulcair joins me to talk about the health of the economy and of his own party.

Then, what’s the connection between human migration and the rise of right wing politicians? Renowned scholar and Oxford Fellow, Alexander Betts explains.

And, the first former prime minister to brave the skies for Plane Talk: Paul Martin takes off “on a wing and a prayer.”

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It is Sunday, October the 30th and from the nation’s capital, I’m Tom Clark. And you are in The West Block.

Well it’s that time of year again. Finance Minister Bill Morneau will update Canadians on the state of this country’s coffers. A big part of that future will be the Canada-European free trade deal that was finally approved on Friday. And it’s also sure to include a growing deficit which is exactly what the Liberals promised during the last election campaign.

Joining me now from Montreal is the Leader of the NDP, Tom Mulcair. Mr. Mulcair awfully good to have you here again.

Tom Mulcair: Hi, Tom.

Tom Clark: You know, on this show last week the Governor of the Bank of Canada, Stephen Poloz, was on and he was saying that now in fact is a very good time for the government to go even further into deficit and debt as long as that spending is going to be targeted for infrastructure. Do you agree with the governor of the bank?

Tom Mulcair: Well we’re going to have more information this week aren’t we, when we get an economic update and then we’ll be able to judge where we are. We remember that during the election campaign, Mr. Trudeau said that he would run a moderate deficit, maximum $10 billion and that was going to produce a lot of stimulus in the economy. They went to $30 billion when they announced their budget and we’ve yet to see the results of that. A lot of people are losing their jobs across the country, Tom, and as Governor Poloz correctly pointed out, there are storm clouds on the horizon so we’re going to see whether or not it actually plays out in terms of more stimulus spending producing the result they’re hoping for, but we’re starting to decode in some of the answers we get in the House that Mr. Trudeau’s very worried about the state of the deficit that he’s already announced and I don’t think he’s going to be able to hold to the $30 billion. I think we’re heading for something closer to $40 right now and Canadians are going to be rightfully worried about that as well.

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Tom Clark: But on a larger scale, as a matter of principle again, and that’s what the governor of the bank was saying, that in principle this is a good move. We should not be worried in this country about going into deficit even more than we are right now, but that’s according to the governor of the bank. But in principle—because in the last campaign of course everybody remembers you campaigned on having a balanced budget—the governor is now saying we should go deeper into deficit. Where do you find yourself now on that scale?

Tom Mulcair: Well back in 2009, the NDP had its big convention in Halifax, resolved that we would always run on principle, on balanced budgets because the view in the NDP is if we’re going to bring in the type of social program that we wanted to bring in like quality affordable child care, like pharma care, these are big items that we wanted to bring in. We were saying how we were going to get the money. We were going to increase the taxes on Canada’s larger corporations. We thought that that was long overdue because the Liberals and Conservatives had reduced their taxes by $60 billion and we had nothing to show for it so we’re going to start bringing their taxes back up to pay for these big programs. But you know the history of these programs is that if you can’t pay for them, they’re not sustainable. And the only way to do that is to make sure you’ve got very good public administration. Whether that means when you’re in a certain point of an economic cycle, you do run deficits to make sure that you can stimulate a bit and bring it back up which is what Governor Poloz is hinting at. That’ll have to be determined when you look at the results. The results after $30 billion of deficit spending so far with the Liberals are not there. There are a lot of people who are losing their jobs. The economy is very soft and Governor Poloz is trying to communicate that clearly to the government. He’s suggesting more stimulus spending. We’ll find out whether or not that’s what they do and whether it works.

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Tom Clark: I want to move from policy to politics for a minute because we’ve been through the by-election in Medicine Hat and I want to talk to you about your results there. You polled less than 1 per cent, even a fringe party finished ahead of you. Does it call into question the fact that the NDP calls itself a national political party but you’re polling less than 1 per cent in a riding in this country—I mean that seems extraordinary?

Tom Mulcair: Don’t forget, Tom no one expected the NDP in Medicine Hat to do very well. Even though they’re in opposition, the Conservatives got over 70 per cent of the vote.

Tom Clark: No, but in the last election though, you polled over 10 per cent in that riding and you’re down to less than 1 per cent right now.

Tom Mulcair: And you can be sure that once things get settled for us that we’ll be back into a territory that reflects that. As you know, we’re in a state of flux right now. We’ve started a leadership race. I’ve said that I’m not going to be standing in that, very proud to continue and to terminate my mandate as the party leader. And we’re in a building process, we’re not hiding from that but you know what—there are 44 strong NDP MPs in the House of Commons, 16 of whom are new MPS. That shows there’s still a lot of vitality. And you know when you look at the big issues like the environment, Mr. Trudeau still has Stephen Harper’s plan on the environment. When you look at health care, Stephen Harper’s cuts are Justin Trudeau’s cuts to health care. So on a lot of issues, Canadians are starting to say ‘Hold on, let’s get past the image and let’s start looking at what the Trudeau Liberals are actually doing.’ And Canadians who are expecting us to have less involvement in the war in Iraq now realize that we’re on the front line. People who don’t think we should be selling weapons to Saudi Arabia because it’s a gruesome brutal regime realize that Mr. Trudeau has signed the export permits to sell that type of weapon to Saudi Arabia. So on a lot of issues, both internally and externally, Canadians are starting to take stock of Mr. Trudeau’s government and what they’re actually doing beyond the image that they very ably project of themselves.

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Tom Clark: You know I’ve only got a few seconds left but I want to say this—I mean you’ve still obviously got the fire in your belly. We’ve just heard you talking about these issues, but you can’t help but have an enormous amount of sympathy for somebody like yourself who’s in the position that you’re in having been rejected by your party but still getting up and doing the work every single day. Have you decided what you’re going to do after there’s a new leader of your party?

Tom Mulcair: Well you know, you’re right, I was elected by the whole party and at an event in Edmonton there were delegates there who decided that they wanted to hold a leadership review. I’ve got a lot of options, Tom. As you know I’m an attorney with a lot of experience. I was also someone who taught in university and I’ve got a very long track record as a public administrator. I’m going to look at all those options, but in the meantime I’m going to take great pleasure and it’s going to be an honour for me to lead those 44 MPs every day when we stand up in the House of Commons when we look at big issues like what’s happening to First Nations children. We know a lot of Canadians realize there’s a better deal for them and they’re expecting us to carry through that fight. We’re the only ones standing up to him on these big issues.

Tom Clark: [Laughs] Alright, you’re still going at it. Good for you. Tom Mulcair thanks very much for joining us, I appreciate your time today.
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Tom Mulcair: Thank you, Tom all the best. Bye-bye.

Tom Clark: Well still to come, Plane Talk with former Prime Minister Paul Martin on why he’s become a champion of Aboriginal education.

But first, how the world’s migrant crisis is changing politics everywhere.


Tom Clark: Welcome back. Well by Tuesday of this coming week, the government will announce new refugee levels for next year. And given the battle of Mosul and the continuing carnage in Syria, the number of people seeking a new life in the west will only grow and with it, more pressure on western governments and their societies. Now, one consequence of that already has been the rise of nationalist right wing movements. Are we in for more of that? Well I recently sat down with Alexander Betts, an internationally acclaimed scholar on forced migration and international relations. Here’s that interview:

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Alexander Betts very good to have you here. Thanks so much for taking the time. Let’s start off with this. Are we at the precipice of a moment in human history where migration is going to overwhelm almost anything else that we do for the foreseeable future?

Alexander Betts: Well we have more displaced people around the world than any time since the Second World War, 65 million, and year on year it’s increasing. It’s increasing because of two main drivers: Increased a state of fragility in countries like Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia, failing and collapsing so people want to leave, but secondly because of increased opportunities for mobility. There’s more opportunity technologically and in terms of geography for people to travel than there’s ever been. We also need to keep this in context. Overall, the number of migrants around the world is increasing. In 1970, it was about 70 million. Today it’s about 230 million. But as a proportion of overall global population the increase is actually very slight. What’s changing is the reasons why people are moving. More people are moving because of desperation.

Tom Clark: You’ve been very critical of the European Union and the way that it’s handled specifically the Syrian and North African migration. If what they have been doing is not right what should they be doing?

Alexander Betts: Last year Europe received an unprecedented number; a million refugees came to Europe. That’s a large number but it should have been manageable. It’s a Europe of 28 EU member states, but they didn’t cooperate with one another. Governments competed. They pushed the responsibility to other governments and so Germany ended up taking a huge number. This time last year in September, Angela Merkel said “Wir schaffen das. We will manage. We will cope.” And yet a year later she’s apologized for opening the door to huge numbers of Syrians. Politics in Europe have shifted to the right. We’ve seen the rise of the far Right AfD in Germany, Brexit in the U.K., a fascist contender for the presidency in Austria in ways that replicate dynamics we see in the United States and elsewhere around the world.

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Tom Clark: So if in fact the migration is producing sort of the mirror image of itself in a new type of politics that drove all those things that you were talking about and of course the Donald Trump phenomenon in the United States everything would be part of that basket. How do you then reconcile these two things, because it seems unlikely that the migration is going to stop. Does it simply become more violent? Does it become more confrontational? What happens?

Alexander Betts: The fault line of contemporary politics is increasingly about globalization and how you reconcile transnational flows with democracy. It’s used like free trade and open borders, terrorism and immigration, a dominating U.S. politics, the dominating politics across Europe, and they’re a real challenge. Politicians have to address alienation and fear domestically, fear of immigration but they also have to keep their countries open to an inevitable globalization and that’s a hard thing to do. One way of doing that is to separate refuge, the people leaving as refugees from persecution and conflict from that otherwise very complex and messy basket. We need to ensure that those people fleeing persecution, fleeing war have sanctuary. But there’s a difference between honey pots fleeing for opportunity versus safe havens, the places you should have sanctuary.

Tom Clark: What do you say to those people who say that the best way to deal with the refugee or the migrant crisis is to take care of the problems that are occurring in Afghanistan and in Syria and Northern Africa to make it less likely that people will want to flee? Or conversely to have them decide that they’re going to return to their home countries. Is that a real option do you think or not?

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Alexander Betts: Of course the ideal solution is to end wars around the world and bring democracy to authoritarian regimes, but that’s hard and we’re not very good at it. The Syrian conflict is ongoing despite our best efforts. Afghanistan and Iraq remain unstable, so in the absence of those solutions to address root causes, we have to inevitably expect people to cross borders as a last resort and we need to provide sanctuary and safety to them. But the balance has to be struck between addressing the root causes and trying to ensure that all refugees eventually go home.

Tom Clark: I just want to go back to the political dimension of this because you were saying earlier on that the role or the job of the politician right now is to explain to the populous the necessity of welcoming in migrants. The other side of that coin, and I guess it plays to the nativist side of those who oppose it, say well sure but then it is going to change my country forever. In 10, 15, 20 years from now, I’m not going to recognize the place. I’m not going to recognize my neighbours. I’m not going to recognize my culture. Is it inevitable that countries are going through a historic moment of not just refugee change but cultural change as well?

Alexander Betts: Globalization is redefining cultures and societies and it inevitably will not just through immigration but through things like the Internet. We’ve seen mass migrations since the end of the 19th century. The United States, Canada or Australia is built on immigration, so we can’t pretend there was a moment in which history and culture was static. But I think politicians have to be brave in articulating to their publics what’s going on at a global level, what these trends are, why they’re challenging, ensuring that those that feel left behind share in the benefits and are not excluded and alienated.

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Tom Clark: And what are the consequences if that doesn’t happen? If that mood is not diffused and you do have governments in power who are nativist who are saying we’re going to shut our borders, we’re not going to allow these people in. What happens?

Alexander Betts: We’re seeing a very dangerous polarization in politics between the far Right and the far Left and it’s important that we redefine a middle ground, a centre ground to Liberal politics which ensures we can balance the fears and concerns of people at home but also the inevitabilities of globalization. And politicians are struggling to narrate globalization to their publics. They have to do that. But the consequences of failure are potentially dire. We could end up with the election of extreme far Right parties. We could end up with the collapse of tolerance for minority rights. We could end up with politicians like Donald Trump in the United States. We could end up with far Right politicians across Europe. And the last time we were there was the 1930s in Europe.

Tom Clark: Alexander Betts very good talking to you. Thank you so much for your time.

Alexander Betts: Thank you.

Tom Clark: And coming up next: Paul Martin with some Plane Talk about the global forces influencing the U.S. election.

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Tom Clark: And we’re back. Well he was an MP for 20 years, a minister of finance for nearly a decade and of course, Paul Martin was this country’s 21st prime minister. His accomplishments are many: balanced budgets, averting financial crises but Paul Martin has some unfinished business when it comes to politics. He joined me for some Plane Talk. Here it is?

Well Paul Martin, welcome to Plane Talk.

Paul Martin: It’s great to be here.

Tom Clark: I wanted to start with this. What is the single most thing that you miss about being prime minister?

Paul Martin: Well Tom Clark doesn’t talk to me as much as he used to.

Tom Clark: [Laughs] Surely you can’t miss that?

Paul Martin: Yeah, I do. And the other thing what happens because I’m not sure if I was still prime minister I’d be in this plane with you. So now, Tom Clark’s got total control over me.

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Tom Clark: [Laughs] So in other words, things are going from bad to worse in your life.
Paul Martin: Oh my God. Oh well, I’m discovering prayers I never knew. [Laughs]

Tom Clark: When you look back on your time as prime minister, if you had to say one thing that you regretted that you didn’t get done what would that be?

Paul Martin: Well, I think that I would phrase it a little differently. I would say if there was one thing I got done that unfortunately didn’t carry through in my next government and that’s the Kelowna Accord.

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Tom Clark: Right.

Paul Martin: I think that essentially dealing with the fundamental social issues, education, health care, and filling in those gaps for the indigenous Canadians, I think is absolutely crucial and the Kelowna Accord did it.

Tom Clark: When did that happen to you? What was that spark that happened in your thinking because growing up in Windsor that wouldn’t necessarily have been top of mind to you?

Paul Martin: No you’re absolutely right, Tom. In fact, I had never met anybody who was indigenous when I was growing up in Windsor. But one summer, I got a job as a deck hand on the tug barges that really carry all the cargo on the Mackenzie River. And all of the young guys—and they’re all guys that I worked with as deck hands—were either Dene, that’s First Nations, Inuit or Métis. And we became really good friends and I didn’t realize that they had been to residential school. I didn’t find that out until much, much later. But I now understand the wistfulness with which they spoke.

Tom Clark: What’s the one thing that you took away from your political life in terms of politics itself? Was there one thing that you learned after it was over that you didn’t know going in?

Paul Martin: Well, it confirmed something. You know my father who had obviously had a tremendous political career once said to me when I was talking about—this was during the Civil Rights marches in the United States and I walked in them because coming from Windsor that’s what happened. And I remember talking to him about these issues and he said to me because I had no interest in politics. He says ‘You could do more in politics in public life in five minutes than you can do in five months somewhere else.’ And I must say that after looking back my whole life that’s absolutely true.

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Tom Clark: When you’re sitting back now, do you find yourself yelling at the TV set every now and again when you’re seeing how politics is being either portrayed or being practiced by certain politicians? Maybe you sit there sometimes and want to throw your slipper at the TV?

Paul Martin: Only when I watch the U.S. presidential debates.

Tom Clark: [Laughs] Thinking of the U.S. presidential debates, what’s your take on what’s happening south of the border?

Paul Martin: I think it’s a phenomenon that has occurred and it isn’t only happening in the United States. It’s happening throughout Europe. I’ve just come back from Germany and it’s the same thing there. You know the 2008 recession demonstrated that because of aging populations, because of new technologies, a lot of people who otherwise would have had an easy time getting jobs are not having them and they’re feeling left out. And the problem is the government hasn’t really stepped in with the social programs that’ll take care of that. The social programs that essentially would give you the skills to compete in the newer economy and I think that what’s happening is all of a sudden it’s caught up on government.

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Tom Clark: You at one point wanted to fly. You in fact, if I’m right about this, you got your pilot’s license.

Paul Martin: Well what happened was yes, when I graduated from university, I decided I wanted to fly. At that time it took 35 hours. I don’t how much it is today.

Tom Clark: A little longer.

Paul Martin: Okay, so I did, I got the 35 hours. I flew but after I got my license I was broke, I didn’t have any money. I had spent it all trying to get my pilot’s license. And between you and me, I probably as a former minister of finance shouldn’t admit this, but I wasn’t very good at navigation in the math.

Tom Clark: The math—oh good, now we find out. [Laughs]
Paul Martin: [Laughs]
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Tom Clark: When you were prime minister what was the thing you did to relax?

Paul Martin: Well, probably the initial idea of playing golf was I would do that to relax. But you’ve seen me play golf.

Tom Clark: I’ve seen you play golf, that’s not relaxing. [Laughs]

Paul Martin: Yeah, so I think I would put the question the other way around. When you play golf what was the thing that you did to relax? And I said I went back to the office.

Tom Clark: [Laughs] Paul Martin thanks very much. This has been great fun.
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Paul Martin: Listen Tom, it’s been wonderful. I have really enjoyed it. So I always think it’s really good being interviewed by Tom Clark. But I may now say I’ll never do it again unless you bring me up in a plane.

Tom Clark: [Laughs] That was Paul Martin.

Well just before we go, amid all the noise and the static and the frankly awful moments of the election campaign going on south of the border, we have found one very bright light. It’s about a race that hardly anybody is following. It’s for treasurer of Travis County in Texas, and it’s probably the best political ad that we have ever seen. So without further ado, take a look.

Political Ad:

Gerald: We’ve got room to put 2,700 people in our jail and it costs us about $103.00 a day.

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Gerald’s wife: Gerald really doesn’t have any hobbies.

Gerald: Last year’s tax rate was $24,169.00. This year we could take that down to $3,838.00… [Continues talking]

Female: So is he always like that?

Gerald’s wife: Yeah, all the time.

Gerald: …Which means that the $3,838.00 is probably going to go somewhere between $3,838.00 and $4,100.69.

Gerald’s wife: Most people leave their work at the office.

Gerald: We got three light rail cars. You can put 60 people on each car, so even if you add two cars you’re talking about maybe 300 people that are affected. There are a million people in this community. I mean that is .01 to the 8th power. If you round it off, it’s zero.

Gerald’s wife: All he wants to do is fix things.

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Gerald: So I’ve got this 18-wheeler that’s parked in this neighbourhood spewing fumes all over the place. But quite frankly, it’s not a code violation.

You know I think I like helping around the house here.

Gerald’s wife: Please re-elect Gerald. Please.

Tom Clark: Well that’s our show for today. Next week, we’ll be in Washington, D.C. for a special U.S. Election edition of The West Block. Thanks for being here. I’m Tom Clark. See you next week.

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