THE WEST BLOCK
Episode 2, Season 8
Sunday, September 16, 2018
Host: Mercedes Stephenson
Guest Interviews: Premier Doug Ford, Minister Maxime Bernier,
Josh Wingrove, Tonda MacCharles:
On this Sunday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford pulls the nuclear trigger to push forward with his plans to reduce the size of Toronto City Council. We’ll ask the premier why.
Then, former Conservative Party member Maxime Bernier, names his new party and his policy priorities with immigration at the forefront. The Quebec MP is here.
And members of Parliament are back here in Ottawa tomorrow. We’ll unpack the politics of the upcoming political agenda.
It’s Sunday, September 16th. I’m Mercedes Stephenson, and this is The West Block.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford launched a constitutional bombshell last, week when he invoked the notwithstanding clause to force the City of Toronto to reduce the size of city council. This clause is an override power in the Charter. It’s never been used before in Ontario and it’s often regarded as a last resort to give political leaders more leverage over the courts. So why did the Ontario premier do this?
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Joining me now from Queen’s Park is Premier Doug Ford.
Premier, welcome to the program. You’ve had a big week. The nuclear option being used with the notwithstanding clause that is, you know, basically to help provinces protect their turf. You’re using it to reduce the size of city council. Why do this?
Premier Doug Ford: Well, Mercedes, I don’t call it the nuclear option. I call it the will of the people’s option. We were democratically elected by 2.3 million people. We also campaigned on reducing the size and cost of government, and Toronto is one of the main engines that run Ontario, Toronto and the GTA.
We have absolutely gridlock everywhere in this city when it comes to transportation. We had one subway line, Mercedes that has been voted on eight times out in Scarborough. No one can get around in this city. No one can get around the 905. You can leave Etobicoke, it takes me an hour and 15 minutes to get downtown, because nothing can get done.
Good governance in any corporation is seven to nine people on a board. You could have 20 of the smartest people on the board and nothing gets done. They wanted to increase it from 44 to 47. That’s unacceptable.
We have to get housing built. We have a housing crisis that people can’t find housing anywhere. They can’t find rentals and they can’t afford housing in the City of Toronto. The average—
Mercedes Stephenson: But how does cutting the size of city council help that?
Premier Doug Ford: How does that help it? There’s going to be decisions made. I’ve sat down at city council and we’ve debated shark fin soup for 12 hours. You’ve got to be kidding me? For 12 hours. We’ve debated stuff that is absolutely meaningless for two days down at City Hall. Nothing gets done down there.
Let me go back to David Miller. David Miller couldn’t build transit. Rob Ford, my own brother, he could save $1,160,000.00 dollars but he couldn’t get transit built. John Tory, he promised to get transit built but they haven’t been able to get a shovel in the ground. Everything down at City Hall, Mercedes, is defer, defer, defer. We need infrastructure. We need housing. We need transit. Nothing is getting done.
As a province that has promised all three of those areas, we need a partner that we can work with. Not a partner that is totally dysfunctional. And City Hall is the most dysfunctional political arena in the entire country, everyone knows it.
Mercedes Stephenson: So clearly, it’s no secret that you’re not a fan of City Hall, as you’ve mentioned just now. But this was nowhere in your campaign platform. You didn’t appeal it through the courts and your critics are saying that makes it undemocratic and that it’s undermining the rule of law. Why not exercise your other options before the notwithstanding clause?
Premier Doug Ford: Well first of all, it doesn’t undermine the rule of law whatsoever. I campaigned over and over again within even Toronto; spoke to tens of thousands of people in Toronto. They said you have to fix City Hall.
I campaigned on reducing the cost and size of government. And we’re going to reduce the size and cost of government not just in Toronto but across the province and finding efficiencies and driving efficiencies. And people can’t wait years and years and years for transit to be built. We need transit now or we’re going to—
Mercedes Stephenson: But why not appeal this through the courts, Premier?
Premier Doug Ford: I’m sorry?
Mercedes Stephenson: Why not appeal this through the courts?
Premier Doug Ford: Well we are appealing it through the courts, but there’s a timeframe, too. And a lot of the critics will say, well wait four years. What, another four years of dysfunction? Four years of gridlock? Four years of crisis when it comes to housing? Four years of infrastructure crumbling under our feet? We’re trying to get the city moving. We’re saving—we want to save millions and tens and hundreds of millions of dollars. My Opposition, they’re protecting downtown NDP jobs, politician’s jobs. That’s all they’re worried about.
Mercedes Stephenson: I know some Conservatives think that there are judges in Canada who are trying to make law instead of interpret it. They call them activist judges. Is that what you think happened in this case?
Premier Doug Ford: You know, Mercedes, I can’t comment on the judge. My hands are tied. They put a duct tape over my mouth, but I can tell you one thing. There’s a reason why they have an appeals court, because sometimes, and I’m not saying this judge made a mistake, sometimes judges make mistakes. There’s a reason why they have the Superior Court. They make mistakes and things get changed. Thousands of decisions get changed when it goes to the appeal court. And we’ll see what happens there, but let’s make no mistake about it. It’s in the Constitution. We talked to endless constitutional experts, some of the best in the entire country. And by the way, a lot of them don’t agree with our party but this was a no-brainer. I’ve talked to retired judges that have told me straight out; this should have taken 15 minutes. This is a no-brainer.
Mercedes Stephenson: Is it worth potentially provoking what some say could be a constitutional crisis if others start using the notwithstanding clause more frequently in other provinces. Is it worth that over Toronto City Council?
Premier Doug Ford: So if I’m not mistaken, correct me if I’m wrong, Mercedes, it’s been used 18 times or 19 times in our country. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the judges, for the courts, for our judiciary system. I think we have one of the best judiciary systems in the world. But there’s a reason why we have an Appeals Court and we have higher courts, because sometimes judges make mistakes.
Mercedes Stephenson: People see this as a pretty brash move on your part, especially early on in the mandate. Something you’ve never shied away from, but I’m curious to know what you think of this? Your actions are being compared to someone south of the border, President Donald Trump. Are you Canada’s Donald Trump? And what do you think of that comparison?
Premier Doug Ford: Well, I have to laugh every time I hear this because the only people that talk about it are the NDP and the media. When I go out there, and our supporters, the 2.3 million people, and I criss-crossed this province three or four times from end to end, I never heard that. The only people that want to keep talking about it are the media and our Opposition. I can tell you one thing. We’ve been in politics a lot longer than the President of the United States has been. Our family’s been involved for over 30 years, serving the people, giving back to the community and we’re going to keep working hard for the taxpayers, because we ran on one basis, for the people. And when the people can’t get around on transit, can’t get housing, can’t get infrastructure, taxes going up, there’s zero accountability, we’re going to actually hold people accountable. We’re going to hold government’s accountable in all over 460 towns in this province, to make sure they maximize their budgets in the best way they can to respect the taxpayers.
Mercedes Stephenson: Well, that’s all the time we have, Premier Ford. But thank you very much for joining us.
Premier Doug Ford: I appreciate it. Thanks so much, Mercedes.
Mercedes Stephenson: Up next, how the leader of a new federal Conservative Party plans to change the immigration debate and politics on the right.
Mercedes Stephenson: Welcome back. Last month, Quebec MP Maxime Bernier broke with his federal Conservative colleagues because he said the party was too intellectually and morally corrupt to be reformed.
Late last week, Bernier named his new party and vowed he would field candidates from across the country in the election next year.
In a moment, we’ll talk to Maxime Bernier about his party. But first, here is former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney on the divide on the right.
Prime Minister Brian Mulroney: Anytime you split the vote of a Conservative or a Liberal party, or anybody, the NDP, you’re dooming that party to defeat. And what I see happening with Maxime Bernier is not a good idea, I don’t think, in terms of the Conservatives getting elected.
Mercedes Stephenson: Mr. Bernier, first of all, welcome to the show. Congratulations on launching your own party on Friday. You’ve heard what the former prime minister had to say there. Is starting your own party worth the risk of another Liberal majority?
Minister Maxime Bernier: I don’t think so because we want to attract people from other parties also, like the NDP that they don’t believe in corporate welfare. The program of our party is to get rid of that. The Liberals like Paul Martin and Jean Chrétien; they had a balanced budget at that time and a fiscal responsible government. So that’s not what’s happening with the Trudeau government right now. So we can have some of the people and also Conservatives that believe in real Conservative values. So altogether I think would be able to attract a lot of people from different parties and that’s why we’re going to be the alternative of the Trudeau government in a couple of months from now.
Mercedes Stephenson: Now, you have identified yourself as a libertarian in the past. Some say your immigration policies don’t sound too libertarian. Today you’re talking about the NDP. You’re talking about the Conservatives. Some have said you are flirting with the alt-right. Where does your party fit on the political spectrum?
Minister Maxime Bernier: First of all, people who want to vote for us, we’re open to have people that are coming from different parties, first. Second, we believe in a strong Canada, in a united Canada and we believe that our platform is the best platform for this country. So I think that we will be able to attract people from different parties, but also it’s Conservative. You know, when I resigned from the party a couple of weeks ago, I had a lot of people from the party, from the grassroots who are coming with us. So we need to show to the population that we are the alternative.
Mercedes Stephenson: Who are names we might recognize who are coming with you?
Minister Maxime Bernier: It will come in two weeks from now. We just announced the name last week and in two weeks we’re going to have the executive of the party will do that announcement. So we’ll have some people from all across the country that will be a party of this party.
Mercedes Stephenson: Do you seriously believe you can mount 300 plus ridings for the next election, all the infrastructure you need and defeat Justin Trudeau?
Minister Maxime Bernier: Absolutely. I think we can be the alternative. Why? Because the way that we are doing politics. It’s different than the other parties. The organization on the ground, it’s coming from the grassroots. I’ve received more than 5,000 e-mails since I resigned. People who want to be volunteers, people who want to help us to build that party. So we are using a lot of social media to be sure to be in touch with these people. So the way that we’re doing politics, it’s different on the organization but also on the way that we are communicating our message by using a lot of social media: Twitter and Facebook. And so, we’re going to have to build this riding association, I hope, before December and after that, to have candidates.
Mercedes Stephenson: Well speaking of messages, you’ve been severely criticized for some of the messages you’ve put out about diversity and immigration. People are accusing you of giving a voice to xenophobia, antisemitism, white supremacists; they said that you’re feeding a very dangerous fire. What do you say to that?
Mercedes Stephenson: What are those Canadian values because you raise it a lot? Define for me what are Canadian values?
Minister Maxime Bernier: Respect of the rule of law, equality between men and women, respect and tolerance, that’s important. Diversity, it’s part of us also. This country has been built by immigrants and I’m proud of that, coming from different country. So we must continue on that path, but also, I don’t want our country becoming like some countries in Europe, where they have some difficulty to integrate their new immigrants.
Mercedes Stephenson: But is there any evidence that we’re headed in that direction? It’s a very different society here than in Europe.
Minister Maxime Bernier: Absolutely. But that’s why it’s going very well here. I don’t want that in 20 years from now that our country, being like other countries and having the same challenges that these countries are having in Europe. So yes, right now we don’t see a big problem on integration in Canada and that’s great, but I don’t want that in 20 years from now. So let’s have a discussion about the level of immigrants and that must be in line with the economic needs of our country also.
Mercedes Stephenson: But we have a shrinking population, a low birthrate, and an aging population, why restrict immigration? Isn’t that the answer? Isn’t that what most libertarians would tell you the answer is?
Minister Maxime Bernier: Of course it is. Some libertarians will tell me, like you said that we must open our borders for everybody. But we have a system, a point system that is working, but now the Trudeau government, they are changing that. So let’s be open. Let’s ask people who can work here. We need, yes. I’m coming from both and we have a lack of employees in both and so we need more. But yes, but maybe we can change the ratio between economic immigration, reunification of family and refugees. They just had a debate about that. I think it would be great to have a debate in Canada on that and I want to have that debate.
Mercedes Stephenson: There’s an increasing sense of populism in the United States, in Europe and Canada. Are you trying to capitalize on that with this party?
Minister Maxime Bernier: I want to capitalize on the ideas and I’m doing politics differently than other politicians. We have strong ideas for a smaller government and there’s a lot of kind of politicians around the globe and in Europe and in the United States, but me, maybe I’m doing an intelligent populism kind of politics, because it’s based on serious policies. Policies that would be good for this country, based on free trade, based on open for immigration but not mass immigration, based on a smaller government, based on respecting the Constitution. And our policies are based on four principles that I think a lot of people share: individual freedom, personal responsibility, respect and fairness, and that’s why we are able to have a lot of support right now.
Mercedes Stephenson: Well, Mr. Bernier that is where we have to wrap it up. We’ll certainly be keeping an eye on it. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Minister Maxime Bernier: Thank you, I appreciate it.
Mercedes Stephenson: Up next, we’ll unpack the politics of the political agenda ahead this fall, as MPs return to Parliament tomorrow.
Mercedes Stephenson: Welcome back. MPs are back on the Hill tomorrow following the summer break. Lots on the fall agenda, and joining me now to unpack the politics of what lies ahead is Josh Wingrove of Bloomberg News and Tonda MacCharles of the Toronto Star. Thank you very much for joining us. Our first journal panel, so much to talk about.
Josh Wingrove: Good to be here.
Tonda MacCharles: Busy time.
Mercedes Stephenson: Josh, you’ve been covering NAFTA. We were down there together. Another week, no deal, where are we at?
Josh Wingrove: I think this is going to be crunch week in a number of ways. The Mexicans have started pushing back publicly saying we’re ready to proceed without Canada but we’d like Canada to be in there. Now the next deadline is not till the end of the month but they need to generate text of an agreement. The lawyers need to get to work and that takes time. So the thought is that if they can’t get something this week, it’s going to be tough, if possible at all, to get a three-country deal that can be signed by December 1st when the new Mexican president is coming in and doesn’t want anything to do with this. So Canada has a choice. If they are able to strike a deal, things will move forward. And if not, our game of chicken is going to continue and we’ll see what Donald Trump will do.
Mercedes Stephenson: Well Tonda, there is ostensibly this deadline for Congress, but the Canadians are putting out feelers that they might blow past that. Is there—
Tonda MacCharles: Yeah, I don’t think they’re feeling in a particular rush at the moment, actually. I think this is really, like Josh said, a critical juncture. But from the Canadians perspective, you know, I think there’s a bit of testing the wills, right? Are the Americans willing to really push this so that the Canadians can’t sign on and can’t swallow what they’re demanding? So I’m not sure they’re going to meet the September 30th deadline, but I wouldn’t put money on it, because yeah, no things—there are literally phone calls going back and forth, flights going back and forth—
Mercedes Stephenson: Is there an election deadline, though, in Canada. Is there an unofficial deadline at some point where Trudeau needs to have this done?
Mercedes Stephenson: Right. Okay, well tomorrow, we have MPs back here in Ottawa. We’re heading into an election year, maybe even the snap election speculation we get for the fall. But Josh, there’s a tremendous number of things on Justin Trudeau’s plate. He’s got Trans Mountain, carbon tax, federal-provincial relations are in shambles in some places, NAFTA, all of these issues, immigration, what are some of the challenges the government is going to face they have to defend against this fall?
Josh Wingrove: I mean they have struggled to get their bills through the House. I think we’re going to see them focus on the sort of nuts and bolts of that. It doesn’t really make a lot of headlines, but they’re trying to tie things up. Early next year, we’re really going to be fully into campaign season. I think we’ll also see them try to take victory laps, for lack of a better word, on things that they have that they felt that they’ve done a bad job of selling. This is a government that tends to be a little heavy on class valedictorians and not so much on salesmen and saleswomen. So I think that the salesmen and women will be taking over a little bit to trump the things that they have done, we’re already seeing that. And of course, I think hanging over this really all is NAFTA. I don’t think we’re going to see much movement on Trans Mountain. I think that the interest from the private sector has been tepid at best until it’s being built or even running. So I think that one is sort of really on the backburner and really it’ll be a question of Trump and Trudeau trying to position himself either to get a deal with Trump but also to make sure like it doesn’t look like he’s caving to Trump that’s toxic.
Tonda MacCharles: And Josh is right, but also you’re going to see them sharpen an economic message, which is what they need to do before the next election. And already—so this week, they will immediately bring in the legislation, bring forward legislation to implement the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal. We haven’t seen that. They signed that in January.
Mercedes Stephenson: That’s right.
Tonda MacCharles: So they’re going to move it Monday and they’re going to bring it to a debate and start getting that thing through. That’s a signal to Canadians that they’re looking for new markets, new customers and to the U.S. that they’re serious about diversification. And then you’re going to see them, I think, really start to like you said, pump up the things they’ve already done, the benefits that are in people’s pockets. They’re going to deliver more of a pocketbook message.
Mercedes Stephenson: Now, certainly there have been trials and tribulations for the Trudeau government, but the Opposition parties did not have the strongest summer either. The NDP is basically just not on the radar. The Conservatives have split into two parties now with Maxime Bernier threatening to eat away the votes. What are they looking to do this fall, Josh?
Josh Wingrove: Well, I think—I mean, the Tale of Two Stories, I guess.
Mercedes Stephenson: Get their act together?
Josh Wingrove: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, they both are dealing with a split. Right now the NDP face a risk happening federally what happened in Ontario, which is that the Liberals governed for what seemed like forever, essentially by moving to the centre left and increasingly just to the left. For every one vote they lost on the right, they picked up three and it looks like that’s the strategy again. And on the other side, of course, we’ve got this vote split. The nightmare of Stephen Harper and everyone that fought for years to unite the Conservative Party could be realized again. Polls have indicated that Max Bernier is going to take more votes from Andrew Scheer than he is from Justin Trudeau. And so all of this, frankly right now, bodes pretty well for Trudeau. We’ve talked about his problems. They are problems of policy. Electorally, I mean things are looking okay because both his rivals are having trouble getting traction.
Tonda MacCharles: And where they’re having trouble getting traction is going to play to the Liberal’s strength. Quebec is going to be a big player in the next election. And so not just the NDP is struggling there, but the separatist forces are in disarray. So they’re looking to Quebec to build some momentum and to pick up seats where they may lose, say, for example, in B.C. around the pipeline that isn’t getting going.
Mercedes Stephenson: And Maxime Bernier trying to win some of those seats. He told us he thinks he can win government.
Tonda MacCharles: Yeah, except that he’s a bit of a one-trick pony in Quebec, right? The supply management, it doesn’t play in his favour in Quebec and his other messages. He gave you mixed messages on immigration. So I don’t actually see that, you know, he’ll build a lot of traction in Quebec. He could. He could maybe target some particular ridings in a way and have enough support to sort of break up where the Conservatives might gain, but no, I’m not sure he’s going to—he’s not going to be the steamroller in Quebec that he thinks he is.
Josh Wingrove: But we are, I think, going to—I agree with Tonda, spend a lot of next year talking about immigration. That’s why Legault, if he’s elected premier, is going to want to talk about it. Maxime Bernier is taking about it. Doug Ford’s talking a little bit about it.
Tonda MacCharles: So is Trudeau, right? It plays to his strength.
Josh Wingrove: Totally. Yeah, no that’s a fight he’s not going to shy away from.
Tonda MacCharles: Yeah, it’s a big topic. That’s right.
Josh Wingrove: This is going to be a dominant thing.
Mercedes Stephenson: Well, thank you so much for a look at it. We’ll check in with you guys again soon, I’m sure. And thank you for joining us here on the show.
Tonda MacCharles: Thanks for having us.
Josh Wingrove: Thank you.
Mercedes Stephenson: And that’s it for our show today. Thank you very much to you for joining us. I’m Mercedes Stephenson, and I’ll see you here next week on The West Block.