The West Block – Episode 18, Season 8
THE WEST BLOCK
Episode 18, Season 8
Sunday, January 6, 2019
Host: Mercedes Stephenson
Guest Interviews: Regional Chief Terry Teegee, Goldy Hyder, Anthony Scaramucci,
Susan Delacourt, Bob Fife
Protestor: “Trudeau is selling my future, my children’s future.”
Protestor: “I’m all for the pipeline. It’s gotta be made.”
Protestor: “I want to ask you, when are you going to give us our rights back?”
Scott Brison, Treasury Board President: “My decision to not seek re-election is a family decision.”
NBC News reporter: “Among those working without pay, the very secret service agents protecting the president.”
President Donald Trump: “The government shut down because Democrats will not fund the border security.”
Chuck Schumer, U.S. Senate Minority Leader: “He asked, “Will you agree to my wall?” She said, “No.” Again, we saw a temper tantrum.”
Mercedes Stephenson: It’s Sunday, January 13th. I’m Mercedes Stephenson, and this is The West Block.
Protests on both sides of the pipeline debate took place across the country this week. In northern B.C., the RCMP arrested Indigenous protesters who were blocking construction on a major natural gas pipeline. The dispute embodies the tension between government promises of reconciliation and the demands of economic development. Terry Teegee is the regional chief of the Assembly for First Nations in British Columbia.
Regional Chief Terry Teegee: The term reconciliation is being watered down and rather, I think we should talk about the truth. And consultation is a very important part, as stated in the Delgamuukw stay away case, and also the Haida court cases. But right now, we’re really, on the Indigenous side, we’re really looking at free, prior and informed consent, as it relates to United Nations Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous People. So I think, you know, we’re beyond consultation and I think what needs to happen here is an acknowledgement of another governance system that needs to be respected and also followed by third parties such as TransCanada and also the two levels of government: provincial and federal governments.
Mercedes Stephenson: You can watch the full interview with the B.C. regional chief on our website: http://www.thewestblock.ca. So, what does all this mean for pipelines and investment in Canada?
Joining me now is Goldy Hyder, president and chief executive of the Business Council of Canada. Goldy, what is your takeaway from the situation in northern B.C. and what it means for Canadian industry?
Goldy Hyder: Well, it’s really difficult to believe that of all the pipelines that have been put through the process that this is the one that seems to be running into difficulty. This is a natural gas pipeline. There is about $600 million of commitment being made to Indigenous communities for jobs and education and so forth. This one has the social license, if you will, from all the Indigenous communities that are the route of that pipeline. It is a pipeline that is endorsed by the Liberal government and a provincial NDP government. So with that kind of consensus doesn’t create a positive outcome for a pipeline that’s worth $40 billion worth of foreign investment, a consortium of global entities, both public and private. The question is, if you can’t get that one built, how can you get anything built? And that’s a big concern for Canadians and it should be.
Mercedes Stephenson: And when companies look at that, what does that mean in terms of their willingness to invest in the oil sands, to invest in pipelines or for foreign companies and countries, to invest in Canada?
Goldy Hyder: Well look, obviously, we have our stuff in the ground so there’ll always be a demand for that product but the truth is, other people also have it. Just take a look at the investment climate in the United States. You know, as they become more and more self-sufficient in terms of energy, they’re doing it by having Canadian pipelines that are hopefully going to be running through the United States as one vehicle out, but that means we become more reliant on them. They built 10 pipelines during President Obama’s term. Not even the most recent term. So on the one hand, you know, you have a negative investment climate in the United States that says you can come here and get your projects done. And on the other hand in Canada, we’ve been log jammed and I recognize that the government has made an attempt to try and unleash this or unlock this log jam but it’s not worked. And we really, and I think now more than ever, need leadership to be asserted and we have to get to the issues that resolve the First Nations questions because what we’re seeing right now is the nations, no one speaks for all of them so we have to deal with each one and that is an environment which how does business function? You have to have a unanimous consent from everyone? That’s hardly functional in democracy, let alone anywhere else.
Mercedes Stephenson: Do you think that this is the nail in the coffin for the oil sands in trying to get oil to tidewater?
Goldy Hyder: Well it doesn’t help. This is a scenario in which the more we have indications of pipelines that aren’t being constructed, the less likely that investment comes into the country and frankly, it weakens the opportunity for Canadian companies to become more global influencers in terms of how to do this responsibly, which is, I think, the loss for the world.
Mercedes Stephenson: What do say to Indigenous communities who say this is our land? It’s not about business. It’s not about foreign investment. It’s about spirituality and it’s about our identity.
Goldy Hyder: Well of course, you respect that. I mean, I think that the reality is that we’ve found a way to do this over the last 150 years. It’s not like there hasn’t been any construction of infrastructure projects in Canada.
Mercedes Stephenson: But they would say that that was against their will.
Goldy Hyder: Well, but now you look at it and you actually have consensus on the route of the pipeline of all these Indigenous communities and I sometimes feel that there may be a generational divide taking place. A number of Indigenous communities are supportive. They recognize the efforts that companies and governments are making, to ensure that what is a pipe going through a ground, where not, you know, we’re not clearing out the entire park or clearing out an entire community. It’s a pipe going through the ground. There’s millions of miles of pipe underneath us now. So we’ve done it before and we can do it again. And I think there’s an issue there that needs to be resolved about how to bring the Indigenous community into the tent, if you will, and to be able to move forward on how to do this kind of responsible development. It has been done before. I think it can be done again, but it requires some real leadership.
Mercedes Stephenson: Given what’s happened this week, do you believe the Trans Mountain pipeline will ever be built?
Goldy Hyder: Well look, it’s hard to say anything with any certainty these days. If I were a betting man, I’d say not any time soon. And it’s not for the lack of effort. I recognize that a government purchased the pipeline. I recognize that the court decision and it kind of sort of put a bit of a delay in that process. But the question is what happens if what we’re seeing now happened all over again at the TMX site? Are people going to be arrested and cleared? Is the army going to be sent? And no one believe that any of that’s actually going to happen, so how will it get constructed? I really believe you have to have a way forward, where leadership is asserted, where people get together and deal with the issues and draw a line in the sand that says we’ve done this before and we’re going to do it now. This pipeline is going to get built.
Mercedes Stephenson: At some point, you move forward no matter what.
Goldy Hyder: Yes. At some point, this pipeline gets built because it’s in the national interest for it to do so.
Mercedes Stephenson: Goldy, thank you very much for your time.
Goldy Hyder: Thank you, Mercedes.
Mercedes Stephenson: Up next, the U.S. government shut down over the battle of a border wall. What will Trump do next? A former senior White House insider joins us after the break.
Mercedes Stephenson: Welcome back. For the last three weeks, about 800,000 federal workers in the U.S. have been caught in the American government shut down, part of the battle over funding for President Trump’s border wall. The president visited the U.S.-Mexico border late last week and said that if the Democrats didn’t agree to give him $5.7 billion that he wants to build that wall, he would declare a national emergency to force construction to start. So, how far is the president willing to go for his agenda?
Joining me now from Los Angeles, is someone who knows the president well and served briefly as his director of communications at the White House, Anthony Scaramucci. Thank you very much for joining me, sir.
I want to start with all of this talk about the wall. Why is the president so obsessed with this?
Anthony Scaramucci: Well good morning, Mercedes. I think the president is obsessed with it because it was a cornerstone to his campaign in 2016 and so he’s locked into his base right now and he wants to deliver this for his base. And so when he’s looking at the numbers: $5.7 billion off of $4 trillion, it doesn’t seem like a significant sum of money. So what’s happening right now is this thing has become way more symbolic in terms of a fight between the Democrats and the Republicans or Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, Speaker of the House Pelosi and President Trump. And so, you know, I don’t know where it’s going, but I can tell you this. If the president was a private citizen and he was back at the Trump organization, he’d be looking at what’s going on in Washington and be scratching his head and saying, geez, why can’t these guys forge a compromise and figure a way out of this thing. You’ve got 800,000 workers locked up. You’ve got a sclerosis that will affect the economy. It’s also affecting markets and so it just seems like this is an ego grudge that they have to figure out a way to put aside.
Mercedes Stephenson: Well the Democrats are accusing him of having a presidential temper tantrum. Do you think that’s accurate?
Anthony Scaramucci: Yeah, probably not. I mean, in all the time that I’ve seen the president, he doesn’t—he’s not prone to “temper tantrum”. He obviously has these flare-ups on Twitter and he’s got these rhetorical flourishes that he uses on Twitter. But I’ve known the guy for 20 years. I have never seen him super angry. When he does get angry, it’s usually very passive-aggressive. So I would be very surprised if he had a temper tantrum. He tried to—I think he called out Speaker Pelosi on Twitter this past week saying, you know, that was nonsense. But I do know that he’s known to walk out of a situation if he doesn’t think he can get what he wants from a negotiating point of view. I think he once said, I think it was in the Art of Deal and I heard him repeat it on the campaign, if you’re not ready to walk from a situation, you either want it too much and you’ve already lost the negotiation or you’re in a bad position vis-à-vis the other person. And so he’s always been a person in a position anchored to the idea of walking. So, I’m not surprised that he’s where he is right now, but I just think it’s really bad for the country. They have to get together, forge a compromise. Each side has to lose a little bit of face and we’ve got to get the government back open.
Mercedes Stephenson: What do you think of all this discussion about declaring a national emergency? Would that be an abuse of power?
Anthony Scaramucci: Well it wouldn’t necessarily be an abuse of power, but I think it would be very bad precedent for the president, because what would stop a democratic president, say, four or eight years from now saying okay, we’re going to ban all assault rifles in the United States because of “national emergency” or a “national crisis”. You know, what I think is unfair to the president, though, is that the Democrats have this talking point out there that the border crisis is manufactured. I think that’s also unfair. If you do have an issue on the border, you can talk to the border control agents. You can talk to guys in ICE and they will tell you that we do have a problem and then areas of the border where a fence and/or wall has been put into place, you have seen a reduction of migration and you’ve seen a reduction in drug trafficking. So, the president’s right on this. The Democrats used to be for this sort of stuff. President Obama was for this. He deported over 2 million people from the United States during the eight years of his presidency. But what’s happened now is that these guys obviously don’t like each other and they score talking points and they score fundraising from going against each other this hard. But it’s having a deleterious effect now on the government. It’s having a deleterious effect on the stock market, and at some point, this sort of behaviour will switch economic psychology and it’ll cause an economic slowdown as well. So, I hope these guys get it together shortly. This is the longest government shut down, I think, in history now. And I think it’s—every second that goes by, it’s a second too long.
Mercedes Stephenson: When it comes to the president’s tweets, he has sometimes tweeted things that are untrue. He’s contradicted himself, like on who is going to pay for the wall. Describe for me, the atmosphere in the White House when it comes to his Twitter feed and being his director of communications, trying to anticipate what’s going to come out of there. What is his strategy?
Anthony Scaramucci: Well, you know, I never got overly concerned about the Twitter feed. You know, we were on the campaign with him. The president as a candidate had this opinion that h needed Twitter to hop over the mainstream media to direct message to his supporters and to the 63 million people that had voted for him. So, you’re not going to change him on Twitter. What I did find, during the campaign, and I was obviously in the White House for a very short period of time, but my observation of the president since he started this in June of 2015, is that when he feels well defended or he feels like there’s a ton of advocacy out there on his behalf, he dials back what I would call the non-strategic tweeting. When he feels he’s out there as a lone wolf or a lone operator or he’s not getting the support or surrogacy in the media, he has a tendency to be a lot more aggressive on Twitter. But if you are his communications director today, like Bill Shine is or somebody from the past, we would all say the same thing: you’re not going to change his Twitter habits. He’s 72 years old. He really believes that Twitter helped him win the presidency and so what you need to do, though, is to fortify him better with more social and media advocates which will cause him to dial some of that stuff back.
Mercedes Stephenson: Mr. Scaramucci, you know the president well, as you pointed out. You worked in the White House, what is his opinion of Justin Trudeau? And what advice would you have for the government here to try to get those steel and aluminum tariffs removed?
Anthony Scaramucci: Well listen, I mean, I think he has a lot of respect for Prime Minister Trudeau. I know that they’ve had some rough conversations and he’s probably tweeted at the prime minister more than once and certainly one more than necessary, but I think he does respect him. He respects him as the leader of Canada and he also respects him for fighting and advocating on behalf of Canada. I think when you look at the new deal, I guess we’re calling it now the USMCA, I think Prime Minister Trudeau did a very good job, as well as Chrystia Freeland, in terms of protecting Canadian interests in that deal. At the end of the day, the president got a lot of things that he thought he needed for American manufacturing workers. But a lot of the industries that the prime minister wanted protected in Canada still have that protection So, I think the president likes him and I think he expressed that in the signing ceremony with the president of Mexico and the prime minister. So, I don’t think it’s anything personal there. They’re just on opposite sides at times of a negotiation. As it relates to the steel tariffs, it’s a separate issue.
Mercedes Stephenson: Well, Mr. Scaramucci, that’s all the time we have for today. But thank you so much for joining us.
Anthony Scaramucci: Okay, good morning. Thanks again.
Mercedes Stephenson: Up next, it’s cabinet shuffle day in Ottawa, tomorrow. We’ll unpack the politics of who’s in and who’s out.
Mercedes Stephenson: Welcome back. Late last week, Treasury Board President Scott Brison surprised many with a social media video announcing he was resigning from cabinet and would not seek re-election in the fall. Brison was one of this government’s most senior and experienced ministers, and just hours later, the government confirmed a cabinet shuffle will be happening tomorrow.
Joining me now to unpack the politics of this cabinet shuffle and this week’s political headlines, Toronto Star bureau chief Susan Delacourt, and the Globe and Mail’s bureau chief Bob Fife.
What are you guys expecting in the big shuffle? I know it’s everyone’s favourite parlour game to guess and it’s very risky to guess, but what do you anticipate tomorrow?
Susan Delacourt: I’m anticipating a smallish, maybe very small but not more than two, less than six. So I’m not going to even guess here which ones are moving, because I suspect that people are being told up until the last minute. That does happen. We’re notoriously wrong on these things as well, but I think this was the prime minister’s last chance to put a new face on his government, to fix a few problems before the election and so, I would expect this is a fine-tuning one, more than a tweak.
Mercedes Stephenson: Bob is there anyone who stands out, who has to be moved, to you?
Bob Fife: Well first of all, I was actually surprised that they are going to do more than Mr. Bryson, because last summer, they did a tweak. More than a tweak, which everybody assumed was going to be the cabinet they were going to go into the election campaign with. So having said that, I’m not going to make any predictions either, but I do think there’s a couple of people that might be moved and for very good reasons. Last summer, they moved Amarjeet Sohi from infrastructure into natural resources. And as you know, that’s a fire burning out in Alberta and Saskatchewan on this issue. And he has performed very, very weakly on that file. And if this is going to be an election issue and you’re going to be going up likely against Premier Jason Kenney, you need to get somebody a lot—a better performer and somebody who can articulate the Liberal’s stand in terms of pipelines than, I think, Mr. Sohi. So, that’s a weakness, I think. And also, you know, Catherine McKenna, I think, as the environment minister, grates a lot of people the wrong way. Now, apparently, she’s not going to be moved but that’s somebody that probably should be moved.
Susan Delacourt: People have been saying that the difference between last fall’s economic statement and the budget is that the fall’s economic statement was for business and that the budget is going to be for individual Canadians. And I think you can almost see last year’s shuffle and this shuffle in those terms, too. I think last year’s shuffle was all about putting a business-like face on the government. You know, Bill Blair has got this under control. I admit that so he didn’t work out the way they wanted, but I think this one is going to be very lefty or progressive. Putting the progressive face on this government and I think it’s they need people to deliver messages on Pharmacare, possibly a national basic income, but I think this is all about putting your communicators and your strong cabinet performers in jobs to convey the progressive Liberal side, because that’s the battle they want to fight in the next election.
Mercedes Stephenson: Now the prime minister also announced three by-elections at long last. The NDP has been chomping at the bit, although, a lot on the line here for Jagmeet Singh. What are you expecting in those by-elections, Bob?
Bob Fife: Well, I think he has a good chance of winning, even though the polls, apparently showing him not. I mean the NDP are putting a lot of resources into that and they’re having a lot of members of Parliament going there. All their resources are going to that and I think he has a good chance of winning. But clearly, if he does not win it, I don’t think he can survive as leader. There are too many knives out for him. I mean, they’re barely on life support right now and if he can’t win that, going into the election campaign could be far more than disastrous for them and I think there’ll be pressure to get him to resign.
Susan Delacourt: I thought it was interesting this week that Tom Mulcair said, on another network, that he would have to resign if he didn’t win. And Mr. Mulcair knows whereof he speaks. I think he would still be leader if it were not for a, certain intolerance in the NDP for people who can’t win or put them ahead. So I think Mulcair knows exactly who would be going out to seek Mr. Singh’s defeat if he doesn’t prove to be a winnable commodity in the by-elections. I actually do, though, I think he might win. I think—
Mercedes Stephenson: Are they really an indicator? We always talk about them in Ottawa. Oh, by-elections are a barometer. Are these three a good example of barometer by-elections? Or are there clear winners already?
Bob Fife: Yeah, I don’t think that we should read too much into by-elections either, but in this particular case, you have to read something into it because the leader is on the line here and his performance is not very good. You’re seeing all kinds of New Democratic MPs, who are retiring, including people who have been newly elected. They see the writing on the wall. So, if he can’t win this, there’s no way he can survive.
Susan Delacourt: That’s right.
Mercedes Stephenson: And that Justin Trudeau is out across the country. He likes to do these town halls. They’re always a little bit risky because you get the people that resonate: the veteran who lost his legs in Afghanistan, the woman who was in tears about her hydro bill in Ontario. But they must think it’s resonating an opportunity for him, Susan, because he’s launching a whole new tour.
Susan Delacourt: Yeah, he does them for positive and negative reasons. The negative reason is he does not like the politics here. He has never liked the politics here. He doesn’t believe that he won the last election on the strength of the chattering classes in Ottawa. As we all know, although he was raised in this environment, he is not very fond of it. So any chance he gets to get out of the bubble is good for him and I do think that brings out the teacher in him, the dad in him. I think he’s very confident in his ability to manage crowds and I think it gives him a taste of what he’s going to get during the election. So I think he likes it.
Mercedes Stephenson: Bob?
Bob Fife: Well first of all, I think he’s far over exposed. He’s out almost every week, chattering away. And I wonder if that is a good thing, because you can get—if you don’t have anything substantive to say after a while, people start turning off. But, on the town hall one, I think he hit a homerun this week when he was asked about why are you letting Muslims into the country? And he articulated what this country is all about is that we’re based on immigrants and that they come into this country and they make a tremendous contribution. And I thought that was a really—that was one time when your—it really paid to see him do a town hall meeting. So hats off to him for that.
Mercedes Stephenson: Well, we just have a couple of seconds left but I want to get each of your thoughts very quickly. Who is in the strongest position right now as we head into 2019?
Susan Delacourt: Of the leaders?
Mercedes Stephenson: Mm-hum.
Susan Delacourt: I think the prime minister. The incumbent is always in the strongest position.
Mercedes Stephenson: Okay. Bob?
Bob Fife: Yeah, I think the Liberals are going to win, unless the NDP can improve their numbers.
Mercedes Stephenson: A majority or minority?
Bob Fife: Probably a reduced majority. But I mean elections matter. But the fact of the matter is that if the NDP continue to be weak, that doesn’t bode very well for the Conservatives because they need the stronger NDP to come up the middle.
Mercedes Stephenson: Okay. And the Conservatives not on the radar right now. Thank you very much to our journos for joining us.
Susan Delacourt: Thanks for having us.
Bob Fife: Thank you.
Mercedes Stephenson: That’s our show for today. Thank you for joining us, too, from home. I’m Mercedes Stephenson, and we’ll see you next week.
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