November 4, 2018 1:30 pm
Updated: November 4, 2018 11:24 pm

The West Block, Season 8, Episode 9

Watch the full broadcast of The West Block from Sunday, November 4, 2018 with Mercedes Stephenson.

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THE WEST BLOCK
Episode 9, Season 8
Sunday, November 4, 2018

Host: Mercedes Stephenson

Guest Interviews: Corey Lewandowski, Max Boot, Scott Smith

Location: Ottawa

On this Sunday, the midterm elections loom large as America gets ready to vote in just two days. President Trump is out on the campaign trail. We’ll ask his former campaign manager about Trump’s campaign strategy.

Story continues below

Then, both Republicans and Democrats are calling this the midterm election of our lifetime. Why?

Plus, the privacy commissioner is investigating Statistics Canada for collecting your personal financial information. The move is costing Canadians more than just privacy, as the business community speaks out.

It’s Sunday, November 4th. I’m Mercedes Stephenson, and this is The West Block.

On Tuesday, Americans will head to the polls to vote in what is being called the most important midterm election of our lifetime. Both Democrats and Republicans say the stakes have never been higher.

President Trump is out stumping for the Republicans this weekend, talking about nationalism and immigration. But his critics say he’s using racially charged rhetoric to stoke fear and loathing on the campaign trail.

In just a moment, we’ll talk to a strategist whose on the with the president. But first, here is what Trump said, last week:

President Donald Trump: “These are tough people. These are not angels. These are not little angels. These are tough people and we’re not letting them into our country. They’re not coming in illegally.”

Joining me now from Washington is Corey Lewandowski, former campaign manager for President Donald Trump. Corey, you’re back out on the campaign trail with President Donald Trump. What is your campaign strategy now to try and get the Republicans elected across the country?

Corey Lewandowski: Well, the strategy this president has employed is to remind the people who are going to the ballot on Tuesday what has been accomplished in the first two years of his administration. And you’ve seen this week, historic job numbers coming out. More Americans are working today than ever have in the history of our country. The unemployment rate for African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Asian Americans are at record lows and the opportunity to continue that path of economic security is what the president and the vice president are reminding the people is on the ballot.

Mercedes Stephenson: Now you’re talking about the economy, but it seems that the president is talking about immigration and the caravan and making some very racially charged comments. Why is the president focusing so heavily on immigration and doing so with this kind of tone?

Corey Lewandowski: Well, because the issue of national security is a critical one to every American, and I believe it’s the president’s job, his foremost job, to make sure that all people of our country are safe from enemies both foreign and domestic. And there is no country in the world that would allow a caravan of thousands of people to simply come across their borders unstopped, unsolicited. So this president has gone out and said he will not allow that. We are a nation of laws and if we want to change our laws so that we have an immigration system based on how Canada does or Australia does, which is a merit-based system, then that’s a discussion we can have. But by no means are we a nation that simply allows people to come in unchecked, unsolicited, without following the protocols. And if these people who are coming here are coming to seek political asylum, they’ve had the opportunity to seek that asylum in the country of Mexico who’s offered them political asylum but they haven’t wanted that. So what this president has said, and what he has done, is draw a line in the sand.

Mercedes Stephenson: But that line in the sand is 10-15 thousand troops on the border. And now the president’s saying on Thursday that he would have the military open fire on those migrants if they were to start throwing rocks. That seems like an extraordinary thing for a president to say. He’s characterizing this as an invasion but it’s not a military invasion. These are migrants walking up from Mexico.

Corey Lewandowski: Well, can you imagine for one second if any other country in the world had this going on? We have armed guards that protect and support the border between our two great countries. You don’t just get to cross into Canada or to come into the United States illegally. And we have the longest friendliest border in the world, so what makes this any different? What gives these people the right to come into our country unsolicited? Regardless of if they’re from Honduras or anywhere else. There is a process to become an asylum seeker into the United States. We take in over a million immigrants a year. More than any other country in the world, and to allow individuals who decide at their own discretion when they want to just come into the country would never be tolerated in any other country.

Mercedes Stephenson: Here in Canada, we’ve had 36,000 people walk illegally across the border from the United States to Canada over the last two years and the Trump administration has done nothing to stop that.

Corey Lewandowski: So we have to control this. We have to seal our borders. We have to make sure that we know who’s coming in and then we give people the right through a due process to come to the country legally. Why would that be so controversial? I don’t understand the issue of immigration as a controversy because no other country in the world would allow it. Canada would never allow 100,000, 10,000 or 5,000 people to simply come into their country illegally without knowing who those people are. Your immigration system—

Mercedes Stephenson: But thousands have come across in the last two years.

Corey Lewandowski: If Justin Trudeau knew that there was a caravan coming from Montana into Canada, what would he do? He would alert the Canadian Mounties. He would make sure that they were stopped at the border, particularly if you had no indication of who those individuals were, what their criminal histories were or why they were coming. And so we have seen now—unequivocally has been reported—individuals who are coming into this country as part of this caravan are not the best and brightest. Some are seeking asylum. Some are using men and some are using women and children as a ploy to get in and some are criminals. We know that. They’ve admitted so on television. Why should the United States allow those people into the country unvetted, unsolicited?

Mercedes Stephenson: I think people understand that you want to vet who is coming into the country, but it’s the president’s tone using words like nationalism and globalism.

Corey Lewandowski: Well look, the word globalism is not—

Mercedes Stephenson: It is associated with that term.

Corey Lewandowski: I’ve never heard that term being a xenophobic word. You know, this president, last week we had a disgusting massacre take place in Pittsburgh, where some deranged lunatic went and killed a number of Jewish people while they were at worship and do you know what the president did? The president, who by the way has a Jewish son-in-law, a Jewish daughter and Jewish grandchildren, he went to that location and he was accused of being anti-Jewish if you can believe this. This president’s done more for the Jewish than any other president in history but he doesn’t get credit for it. So he’s not anti-Semitic.

Look, the mainstream media wants to disparage this president for treating everyone the same. Being a globalist means you’re not putting American first. Justin Trudeau doesn’t put other countries first, he puts Canada first and that’s the difference. This president is putting America first for a change. That means that’s not anything other than being proud of your country and being there to represent the people who elected you to do it.

Now, I know other countries don’t like it. It’s not America alone, it’s called America first. Just like every other world leader puts their country first, except we’re criticized for it because for too long, we’ve been taken advantage of and we’ve been unfortunately had bad trade deals and this president said no more. And it’s time for other countries to step up because the United States can no longer be the policeman of the world.

Mercedes Stephenson: Doesn’t it behove the president and the office of the president of the United States to be above where others are in terms of tone and rhetoric, to unite people and not to make it more divided?

Corey Lewandowski: The president did exactly that when he went to Pittsburgh last week to honour and respect the Jewish individuals who were killed at synagogue. And do you know what the media did? They criticized him for going, said he wasn’t welcome and that’s shameful.

Look, the media has a significant role in the tenure and tone of what takes place. If you look at CNN and other major networks who say that the biggest plight to our society are white men. That’s what Don Lemon’s statement was. I mean that’s a disgusting thing to say and there’s been no recourse. And unfortunately, there is no pushback on it because it’s okay to do it when you’re on the left, but if you’re a Conservative it’s a bad thing.

Mercedes Stephenson: If you see white nationalist groups picking up on the words, why not denounce that?

Corey Lewandowski: What nationalist groups are you talking about?

Mercedes Stephenson: The KKK for example. Why not say to these groups: there is no space for you here.

Corey Lewandowski: I know you’re aware of how many times the president has denounced the Ku Klux Klan on numerous occasions. I don’t know what online groups are doing or who’s following them. I think it’s very clear the president wants nothing to do with that.

Mercedes Stephenson: The president condones body slamming of reporters, overall, in terms of the broader tone, particularly when it comes to the press. Do you think the press is the enemy of the people?

Corey Lewandowski: Look, I’m very concerned about some of the ways the media operates, to be very clear. But you know what? The American people are smart and they see right through the lies and the propaganda of the media and that’s why the mainstream media now has about a 15 per cent approval rating because they’ve gone from reporting the news to making the news. And those people aren’t elected but they’re trying to set a tenure and tone to insight chaos in this country and come Tuesday, election day, the American people are going to support the Republicans and the Trump-Pence agenda to keep our country economically secure, nationally secure and militarily secure because that’s what this agenda has been able to achieve over the last two years.

Mercedes Stephenson: Thank you for joining us.

Corey Lewandowski: Thank you.

Mercedes Stephenson: Coming up, one former Republican is urging all Americans to vote against the GOP this Tuesday.

[Break]

Mercedes Stephenson: Sick and tired, that’s how former high profile Republican Max Boot says he feels about the Trump administration. And he’s urging all Americans to vote against Republicans in this week’s midterm election.

It wasn’t always this way. For most of his life, Mr. Boot was part of the party faithful. But all that changed when Donald Trump became the president. Boot explains why in his new book, The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right.

Max Boot joins me now from New York. Mr. Boot, why are you encouraging Americans to vote against the Republicans?

Max Boot: Because I am so disgusted by what Donald Trump is doing. I mean, you see how in the closing days of the campaign, he is running the most openly racist and xenophobic campaign we have seen in many decades in America. He is vilifying immigrants. He is spreading anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. He is a disgrace to America and frankly, Republicans, my former party, are no better because they have embraced Donald Trump. There is no difference now between Donald Trump and the Republican Party. In fact, many Republican candidates are imitating Trump’s immigrant bashing and appeals to conspiracy mongering, hatred and bigotry and that is not something that should be rewarded at the ballot box. And that’s why I urge American voters to vote out Republicans, every single one because none of them in Congress can be trusted to stand up to Donald Trump.

Mercedes Stephenson: You talk about the concerns about conspiracy theory, some of the language we’ve heard which reflects what you hear in white nationalist literature, anti-Semitic, the pipe bombings that we’ve seen or attempted pipe bombs that were sent out, the shooting at the synagogue. What kind of environment is the Republican campaign, and in particular, Trump’s campaign, contributing to politically in the U.S.?

Max Boot: Trump and the Republicans are creating a climate of fear and hatred, which I think is radicalizing people. It’s leading a lot of otherwise mainstream Republicans to become conspiracy mongers and to propagate anti-Semitic, racist and xenophobic sentiments. And at the very extreme end of the spectrum with people who may be already mentally unbalanced like the mil bomber or like the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter, it can drive them over the edge into violence. And the really alarming thing here is that Donald Trump doesn’t seem to care about this at all because he refuses to back down. He was asked to tone down his rhetoric and he said no, I’m going to tone it up. And that’s exactly accurate. He has not stopped vilifying Democrats on harsh terms. He has not stopped spreading crackpot conspiracy theories about the central American caravan. He has not stopped attacking George Soros, so he is continuing to foam at this climate of hatred in which we’ve already seen these horrifying incidents of right wing terrorism.

Mercedes Stephenson: Now, I talked to Corey Lewandowski just before you on the program, Mr. Boot, and the Republicans are saying oh, we don’t know what you’re talking about with this Soros language and globalist language. That’s not code word for anything in white nationalist movements that we’re aware of, but we don’t know about these groups you’re talking about. Do they know what they’re doing and what vote they’re courting? And if so, why are they doing that?

Max Boot: Well, of course they know exactly what they are doing. I mean, I can’t believe that Corey Lewandowski is as stupid as he sounds. I mean, he knows exactly what is going on, on the kind of base prejudices that Republicans are appealing to. I mean the Trump campaign just released an ad highlighting this cop killing illegal immigrant named Luis Bracamontes, which has been compared to the 1988 Willie Horton ad, but in fact, it’s much worse. I mean, it’s a pack of lies where they blame Democrats for letting this cop killer into the country when in fact, he came to the U.S. under President Bush and he was arrested and released by Sheriff Joe Arpaio who supports Donald Trump down in Arizona. They are just lying relentlessly, spreading conspiracy theories, spreading hatred. And the reason they’re doing it, obviously, is because they don’t think that Donald Trump has a positive agenda to run on. They don’t think that voters are going to respond to the tax cuts or the conservative justices and so they’re fear mongering hoping to rile up the base by pretending that there is this invasion of illegal immigrants going on, which is just simply false because actually, illegal immigration to America has fallen by 80 per cent since the year 2000.

Mercedes Stephenson: And Lewandowski says look, no country in the world would allow people to just walk across their borders. This is all about security. You are a security expert. You used to write a lot about Iraq and Afghanistan. What do you make of 10 to 15 thousand troops being placed on the border to deal with a caravan that is weeks away?

Max Boot: This is a shocking attempt to politicize the U.S. military. There is no threat on the U.S. border that justifies the deployment of these troops. There’s very little they can do anyway because they don’t have the legal right to arrest anybody but they’re utterly unnecessary because again, this caravan is not a security threat. It’s a few thousand people, many of them women and children who are desperate refugees seeking a better life. There is no evidence for the lies that people like Corey Lewandoski and Donald Trump are spreading about how this caravan is supposedly full of criminals and terrorists. They’re just making that up, just as they’re making up this claim that George Soros is somehow funding it. I mean this is part of their fear mongering and, you know what they’re doing—what Donald Trump is doing, misusing his powers as commander-in-chief to employ the military for these politics purposes is a shocking dereliction of duty.

Mercedes Stephenson: Well, and he came out on Thursday and said that they would order the military to open fire if these migrants started to throw rocks. What went through your head when you heard that?

Max Boot: Two words went through my head and those two words are war crime, because this would be in violation of the laws of warfare if this were to actually happen. Now, I don’t think this will actually happen because I suspect what will happen is that all of the officers involved, all the lieutenants and platoon leaders involved will get their troops around and say do not listen to the commander-in-chief. We are not shooting anybody unless we ourselves are shot at because we are not going to commit war crimes out here, because the U.S. military is an outstanding institution that understands the importance of adhering to international law, but Donald Trump does not understand that and he is a disgrace. But the commander-in-chief is issuing an illegal order. That should be a cause for some alarm.

Mercedes Stephenson: Max, you know they like to blame the media. They say they’re going to win anyhow. If the Republicans do win on Tuesday, what will happen in America?

Max Boot: I think it’ll be a very dark day for America because you are seeing how they’re campaigning. They’re demonizing the most powerless people in our society. They are vilifying immigrants. They are fear mongering about Latinos. They are spreading anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. They’re misusing the military. It’s a disgrace what Republicans are doing to win. And if those tactics pay off, they will see winning as the ultimate justification because whenever Donald Trump is confronted by any of the horrendous things that he says or does, his response is invariably well it worked. And in his mind, anything that works is justified. So if this kind of fear and loathing campaign is rewarded at the ballot box, you’re going to see this times ten in 2020 and I think this will also give Trump the green light to further assault our institutions in the way that he is undermining the apolitical nature of the military right now. He’s probably going to wind up cleaning out the justice department to stop the investigation of him. I think it would be a nightmare for America if under the current circumstances; Republicans retain control of both houses.

Mercedes Stephenson: Mr. Boot, thank you so much for joining us today.

Max Boot: Thank you.

Mercedes Stephenson: Great. Thank you so much.

Max Boot: Thank you.

Mercedes Stephenson: Up next, why is the business community upset that Statistics Canada is collecting Canadians personal financial information?

[Break]

Mercedes Stephenson: Welcome back. Last week, Global News broke the story that Statistics Canada was collecting the personal financial information about hundreds of thousands of Canadians across this country without their knowledge or consent.

The privacy commissioner has now launched an investigation and the business community is warning that the collection of this data may force banks to break private sector laws and could have an impact on small businesses.

Joining me now for more on that is Scott Smith, the data and privacy expert with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

Scott, what is it about Statistics Canada gathering this information that is objectionable from a business perspective?

Scott Smith: Well, I’m not surprised individuals have a lot of consternation about the collection of their banking data. Banking data is second only to health data in terms of the sensitivity. But from the business perspective, we’re more concerned about the precedent that this sets. There is a distinction between private sector laws and what the public sector is required to do when it’s collecting, using and disclosing personal information. And what Stats Canada is doing is basically amplifying that distinction and we’re concerned that that has unintended consequences.

Mercedes Stephenson: So basically the private sector is getting a pass to do something that—pardon me—the public sector is getting a pass to do something that the private sector would not be allowed to do.

Scott Smith: Yeah, I would say that’s true and they may have perfectly legitimate reasons for doing that. Our concern is more around the issue of the general data protection regulation in Europe, which has been in the news for the last 18 months or so which was just implemented in May, has an extra jurisdictional application. So Canadian businesses that want to do business in Europe or with European citizens, have to comply with that law, particularly now that CETA is in place and we have a very good working relationship with the Europeans. We’re concerned about adequacy. And adequacy simply means that the legislation in Canada is substantially similar to that in Europe. The problem is our public sector privacy law is not substantially similar and by amplifying this element of the distinction, it may threaten that future relationship.

Mercedes Stephenson: So, if I have this straight then, basically what’s happening is that we have to comply with a certain, I’d assume, high standard of privacy in order to do deals with Europe and that what Statistics Canada is doing wouldn’t meet those standards so it could actually jeopardize that trade relationship.

Scott Smith: I think it could. I think, you know, our private sector regulations are fairly robust. They are principle-based. They are technology neutral and they have stood the test of time for the last 12-13 years. Our private sector laws—public sector laws have not been updated since 1983. And what would have been fine in 1983 for collecting information on files and filing cabinets is no longer relevant in the digital age.

Mercedes Stephenson: Is it time to update the law?

Scott Smith: I think it’s absolutely time to update the law. I think the government has an obligation to do what they preach in terms of expectations from the private sector and be transparent in the information that they want to collect, be judicious in how much information they collect, and they should be obligated to have some form of consent.

Mercedes Stephenson: I find it fascinating that this could actually affect trade. It could affect some of these small businesses abilities to get a deal or sign a deal because now they’re going to say: sorry, you don’t measure up, Government of Canada.

Scott Smith: Well, I think that’s true and I think it’s also true that there is no quid pro quo here. That as an individual you sign up for a social media site or you sign up for—or you’re querying a search engine. There’s a value exchange there. Yes, you are giving out personal information in exchange for a product or service. In this case, Stats Can is asking for information from the banks that they have spent money procuring and in storing, archiving and protecting over decades and there is nothing coming back to the banks for that. And Stats Can actually when they collect this information, they collate and they analyze and then they turn around and sell it back to the public sector—sorry to the private sector.

Mercedes Stephenson: So they’re selling your information.

Scott Smith: Well, they are selling aggregated information. They’re not selling the personal information. Let me be clear about that. They are selling the aggregated information but they are selling it without any value exchange back to the banks for the information that they have collected.

Mercedes Stephenson: How do the banks feel about that?

Scott Smith: I’d have to let the banks answer for themselves on that, but I would say that the Stats Can has put the banks in a very uncomfortable situation.

Mercedes Stephenson: Just lastly, you work with sensitive information all the time. How sensitive would people’s banking information be considered in the private sector when you’re dealing with that data and protecting it?

Scott Smith: As I said, it’s second only to health care information. Your banking information means your credit rating. It means all the transactions that you’ve had. So, you know, who you bought things from, where you bought them, when you bought them, how much money you spent compared to how much money you have in your account. It’s incredibly invasive.

Mercedes Stephenson: Well, so Statistics Canada potentially jeopardizing some business deals and along the way, selling your information. It’s quite a story and we appreciate you sitting down with us today and sharing the perspective of the business community.

Scott Smith: Thanks very much, Mercedes.

Mercedes Stephenson: That is our show for today. Thanks for joining us. I’m Mercedes Stephenson. See you next week.

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