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The West Block, Season 8, Episode 37

Watch the full broadcast of The West Block from Sunday, May 19, 2019 with Mercedes Stephenson.

THE WEST BLOCK

Episode 37, Season 8

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Host: Mercedes Stephenson

Guest Interviews: Minister Chrystia Freeland, Premier Dwight Ball,

Kevin Garratt

Location: Ottawa

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: “It’s a good day for steel and aluminum workers right across the country. These tariffs didn’t make a lot of sense, and getting this full lift was really, once again, a Team Canada effort.”

“We will consistently and always stand up for Canadians, particularly these Canadians who’ve been arbitrarily detained. The Chinese government is not following the same kinds of rules and principles that the large majority of democracies follow.

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Reporter: “Can you imagine signing a deal with Huawei with two Canadians just arrested and two more on death row? How do you think that would go over?”

Ralph Goodale, Public Safety Minister: “We’ll weigh very carefully all of the factors.”

Dwight Ball, Premier Newfoundland and Labrador: “Thank you very much.”

“All of us must accept what Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are telling all 40 MHAs tonight. And the message there is, I think they want us to work together.”

Ches Crosbie, P.C. Leader Newfoundland and Labrador: “I am not conceding victory to the Liberals. They will have to struggle for the next months and years to hang onto power.”

Mercedes Stephenson: It’s Sunday, May 19th. I’m Mercedes Stephenson, and this is The West Block.

At long last, good news for Canada: a deal reached late last week puts an end to steel and aluminum tariffs. The nearly year-long dispute between Canada and the United States started when President Trump slapped a 25 per cent tariff on steel and a 10 per cent tariff on aluminum, claiming national security concerns.

Canada struck back, hitting the U.S. with tariffs and also threatening to refuse to ratify the renegotiated NAFTA deal. Was that enough to get Donald Trump to back down?

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Joining me now, from Hamilton, is Chrystia Freeland Minister of Foreign Affairs. Congratulations, Minister.

Minister Chrystia Freeland: Thank you very much, Mercedes. I will say it is a great day for Canada, a great day for Canadian workers, and it’s a great day for the U.S., too. Now we have free trade in steel and aluminum, and that is fantastic.

Mercedes Stephenson: So tell me about how this breakthrough came through because we kept hearing for weeks that it was imminent and it wasn’t happening, and all of a sudden today, here it is.

Minister Chrystia Freeland: Well, it feels a little bit less all of a sudden to me, I will admit. But look, I think that there were two key things in getting here. The most important thing, and this was the case also in the NAFTA negotiation, was a very united, very resolute team Canada approach. Starting with the Prime Minister, including the cabinet, including the caucus, very much including our excellent labour unions, very much including the steel and aluminum companies with whom we spoke a lot and who were great and organized. And all of us just kept on saying in, you know, a firm but polite way that the 232 tariffs had to be lifted, that, you know, they just didn’t belong between two countries, who in addition to being great national security partners, also now have a free trade agreement. And so that clarity and that persistence were essential.

I think another element that was really important was, and this was something that was evident to us for a while, another element that was really important is, as the U.S. moved along in its ratification process for the new NAFTA, and a key moment was Good Friday, when the U.S. ITC published its report on the new NAFTA that kind of set the clock going. So, as they started moving towards the ratification, some of the members of the U.S. Senate and Congress took a very strong position and said we will not ratify the new NAFTA while the 232 tariffs are still in place. And I would single out, specifically Senator Chuck Grassley. He is the chair of the Senate finance committee. I’ve met with him a few times. I met with him on Wednesday, most recently. And Senator Grassley has been fantastic. He published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, I think it was 10 days ago, where he came out very clearly and said the new NAFTA will not pass the Senate while the tariffs are in place. And that was a very powerful message from inside the U.S. helped us tremendously.

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Mercedes Stephenson: How much of a factor do you think the trade war between the U.S. and China have been with maybe making President Trump more amenable to your proposition to get rid of the steel and aluminum tariffs?

Minister Chrystia Freeland: Um, you know, Mercedes, I think that that has to be a question for the President. I am not privy to his internal mental balancing and calculations.

Mercedes Stephenson: But you were speaking of internal calculations in the U.S., of course, now time for your own internal calculations here. You don’t have much time left of the House sitting before we rise and everyone goes home and doesn’t come back until after the election. So what’s your plan going forward to ratify the NAFTA 2.0 USMCA Agreement?

Minister Chrystia Freeland: So, Mercedes, you know, part of getting the 232 tariffs lifted was also saying on behalf of Canada that it would be tremendously difficult for us to pass the new NAFTA here, while the tariffs were still in place and of course, that agreement can only come into force when it’s ratified by all three countries. So that was a form of pressure as well. And to make those statements real, we did not put forward, not move ahead with passage of the new NAFTA in our own House of Commons and that was exactly the right thing to do, it helped us get to today’s great result. Now that that hurdle has been lifted, now that the 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum are lifted, are going to be lifted in two days, we definitely are going to be moving ahead with ratification of the new NAFTA, and that is going to be a great win-win-win for Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.

Mercedes Stephenson: Do you have a timeline for what that ratification looks like?

Minister Chrystia Freeland: We are going to be moving ahead, you know, with all speed and alacrity. And, you know, I have to say, Mercedes, of course, we are very open to and looking forward to having some real debates about this new agreement. But I am very confident that there is broad agreement inside the country that this is a deal which is good for Canada. There is increasing evidence and analysis showing that. In fact, I mentioned the ITC report in the United States on the new NAFTA. It came up with a really interesting finding, which is that the final impact of the new NAFTA when it entered into force would be to increase trade between the U.S. and Canada—U.S. exports to us by $19.1 billion and, that it would increase Canadian exports to the U.S. by exactly $19.1 billion as well. That is not me grading my own homework. That is an independent U.S. body that came to that conclusion. And to me, that is a perfect win-win result, and I think that hat should mean that we are able to move this treaty—move this agreement through to ratification in Canada without any undue delays.

Mercedes Stephenson: One last question as we turn abroad and think of the two Canadians who are being held in China. They’ve now formerly been charged. Do you think that that helps the process along because at least now it’s moving and charges have been laid, or does that raise your level of concern for those—the two Michael’s?

Minister Chrystia Freeland: You know, Mercedes, I can’t say it raises my level of concern because my concern has already been extremely high. This is an issue which is a huge priority for me personally. It’s a huge priority for the Prime Minister. You know, even in the midst of finalizing this agreement on 232, when I met with Ambassador Lighthizer on Wednesday, in-person in Washington, I raised the case of the two Michael’s. When I me with Senator Grassley, I raised the case of the two Michael’s because we want the world to know that this is our priority and we are doing everything that we can. And the Prime Minister raises it every time he speaks to the President. So, you know, Michael Spavor, Michael Kovrig, they are arbitrarily detained. They need to be released and Canada is going to keep on pushing until they are. And one thing that I will say is to thank our allies around the world, including—very much including in the United States, who have been speaking out forcefully and publicly on behalf of the two Michael’s.

Mercedes Stephenson: Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, thank you so much for joining us.

Minister Chrystia Freeland: Thanks a lot, Mercedes. Have a great weekend.

Mercedes Stephenson: Up next, a provincial election in the east leaves a minority government struggling to find unity.

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Mercedes Stephenson: Welcome back. A razor thin win for the Liberals in Newfoundland and Labrador: Premier designate Dwight Ball says the results show the party’s need to work together, but P.C. leader Ches Crosbie says he will not concede victory to the Liberals. And many in the province are still furious that Ball called a snap election the day after he tabled the budget. So, what are the premier designates’ next steps?

Joining me now from St. John’s is Premier designate Dwight Ball. Welcome to the program, Premier.

Premier Dwight Ball: It’s great to be here.

Mercedes Stephenson: Congratulations on your results, but a pretty thin margin there and unusual for Newfoundlanders to elect a minority government. You’ve announced that you want everyone to work together, you’re trying to strike a conciliatory tone, but the Conservatives are refusing to concede. How do you propose working together going forward to have a government that can function for the people of Newfoundland?

Premier Dwight Ball: Yeah, it’s a little unusual for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, but not unusual for Canadians. We have three minority governments within Atlantic Canada right now and in Nova Scotia, a government with a two-seat majority. So for us as a commitment that I made last night, we have a 40-seat legislature and I made a commitment to work with all three political parties and the independents that we had that sit in the legislature as well because we’re all represent—we’re all elected to represent people in Newfoundland and Labrador, and that’s the commitment that I made that we will put them first and we will work collaboratively with all parties and all MHA so as to get the work done on their behalf.

Mercedes Stephenson: But Ches Crosbie does not seem to be open to the possibility of working with you at this point when he’s saying he won’t concede defeat. How do you deal with that going forward?

Premier Dwight Ball: We just went through an election and, you know, we had to listen to the people that actually voted in the election this week. They made it loud and clear that they are asking us to work on their behalf. And in order for us to work on their behalf, we must work together. They gave me—they asked me if I could lead that—lead those discussions and that’s a discussion that I’m more than willing to take on with the leaders and the parties and the independents that are willing to embrace that style of leadership. It’s something that I’ve spent a lifetime. I’ve been building consensus in. For many years in my life, it’s something that I embrace and I take in the message from Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. And I expect all people that are elected, all our elected officials, you know, to our legislature, to actually take that same view. We put the people that elected us. We put their points of view first.

Mercedes Stephenson: You called the election the day after you brought down the budget, that’s a highly unusual move. Do you regret that in retrospect?

Premier Dwight Ball: No, I don’t regret it because what we did is on the election campaign, we learned a lot about our budget and about our plan for the province. Our—this year’s budget was part of the larger plan that we put in place to bring growth and sustainability to Newfoundland and Labrador. That plan is working. Our budget in 2019 was a part of that. We have laws in our province right now that before any election, you must have the most updated and relevant information, financial information before people make a decision. And I thought the appropriate thing to do was to take that budget to the people of our province and that is exactly what we did. And we learned a lot from that campaign. First and foremost, is that they want us as all electoral officials who work together on their behalf.

Mercedes Stephenson: There’s been a lot of concern about the deficit and debt in Newfoundland and criticism of your party, in particular and how you run the economy there. With the Conservatives so close behind you, are you looking at tougher measures to reduce debt and deficit in Newfoundland as a province?

Premier Dwight Ball: There’s been some significant challenges. As a matter of fact, many people that I’ve met and people that have been in, past premiers and people that have been elected in our province for many years and people that have analyzed where we are today have said—they all say, you know, consistently that this is for the first time in our history the unprecedented challenges that we’ve had to deal with, that we’ve been dealing with those in the last three and a half years and it’s next year that Newfoundland and Labrador in 2019, will lead the country in GDP growth. We’re seeing jobs coming to Newfoundland and Labrador. We’re seeing investment coming to our province. Nearly 6,000 jobs have been created last year alone. So the plan is working and I know that with all 40 members of our House of Assembly, working together, you know we can get the job done.

Last night—you know this week, you know, people asked us to actually work together and I humbly accept, you know, what they’ve asked me to do and the change that they’ve asked me to lead, and to get all of this province, all parties in this province working together. It’s a challenge that I embrace and one that I’m looking forward to.

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Mercedes Stephenson: Across the country we’ve been seeing this blue shift. A lot of the provinces are going Conservative, some with majority governments, others with minority governments. You’ve managed to hold on, but do you think that there is a changing tone in the country? Are people fed up?

Premier Dwight Ball: There’s no doubt there is a tone. Politics is very different now than it was even just four years ago. So yes, we accept that. But I also know that this is an evolution of where things are, and governments must also evolve. Leaders must also evolve to the new reality in elected politics. And I embrace those challenges and I embrace the fact that people asked me to lead that change in Newfoundland and Labrador. It’s something that I’m looking forward to and we’ll be reaching out to all parties, all our MHAs, members of our legislature, indeed, members of our community, to actually bring that change to Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mercedes Stephenson: But do you think that people are starting to lean in a more Conservative direction?

Premier Dwight Ball: We’ve seen some of that. We’ve seen some of that, but they expect us to be responsible. They expect us to be accountable. They expect us to do the things, you know, that we say we would do in terms of accountability. But first and foremost, I think what people want us to do is act very respectively and very respectfully and very professionally on their behalf. And that is a commitment that I’ve made to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. You know, this is a very unique group of people that I represent and we like to do things a little differently. But first and foremost, they expect all of us to represent them as best we can, and that is what we were more than willing to do as we embrace the challenges that we currently face within our province.

Mercedes Stephenson: Do you believe that the performance of the federal Liberal government hurt you in the polls and hurt you at the ballot box?

Premier Dwight Ball: You know, we hear challenges, you know, throughout this campaign. Many of them would have been on provincial issues. Some of them would have been on federal issues. Some of them would have been even on, you know, just community issues. So there are all kind of challenges and all kinds of issues that people brought forth during the campaign. My job is to actually take those challenges and actually find solutions to which is unique to, in some cases, certain regions of our province.

Mercedes Stephenson: We have to wrap it up there, but thank you so much for your time today, Premier.

Premier Dwight Ball: It’s my pleasure.

Mercedes Stephenson: Still to come, relations between Canada and China go from bad to worse, as two Canadians are formerly charged with allegedly stealing state secrets in China.

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Mercedes Stephenson: Welcome back. China formerly arrested and charged two Canadians last week, after they were detained last December. The charges against Michael Korvrig and Michael Spavor are espionage and violating China’s national security. Both Canadians were held within days of Huawei’s chief financial officer’s arrest in Vancouver. Since then, relations between the two countries have been on a collision course. What does all of this mean for the fate of those two Canadians, who are behind bars and what might they be experiencing?

Kevin Garratt and his wife Julia lived in China for 30 years. Then suddenly in 2014, without warning, both were arrested.

Julia was detained for six months, but Kevin was held in prison for two years.

Joining me now to talk about that from Toronto is Kevin Garratt. Kevin, welcome to the show.

Kevin Garratt: Thank you, Mercedes.

Mercedes Stephenson: The Chinese government has arrested and charged the two Michaels as we’ve been calling them in the media, after months in detention. What is your take on what that means for them? Is it a step forward because the Chinese are actually formalizing this or does it put them in more jeopardy?

Kevin Garratt: It’s part of the process. They’re not in more jeopardy. They’re in a different location, still being detained, still can’t do anything. But now they should be able to see a lawyer. But for me, I didn’t see a lawyer ‘till almost one year into our ordeal. So, it still might be some time before they can actually get access to a lawyer.

Mercedes Stephenson: What is it like going through this process when you’re arrested out-of-the-blue, detained, you don’t know what the future is. They now have at least been charged, but there’s been so much uncertainty. Describe what your experience was like for us, Kevin.

Kevin Garratt: Well, a lot of fear. I mean, when I made my way or they took me to the prison, it was just I was very fearful because I’d seen a lot of, you know, bad movies about prison and they weren’t encouraging. And when I got to the prison, you don’t know who you’re dealing with, especially if they don’t speak Chinese, which I don’t think Michael Spavor does. He’ll have a very difficult time. You know, I spoke Chinese so I could get by better, but you still don’t understand the whole system, what’s going on there. There’s still so many uncertainties and that’s really the biggest problem is you don’t know what’s going

to happen and you’ll be waiting months and months and months and not knowing anything.

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Mercedes Stephenson: What kind of conditions are people held in? What kind of conditions did you experience when you were in Chinese jails because they’re very different, obviously than our system here in Canada? And I can’t imagine how harsh those conditions must be.

Kevin Garratt: Well, the first six months were residential surveillance and they were in one room: two guards, 24/7, watching you. And the interrogation went on in that room, so I almost never left the room except for the washroom, even ate in the room. When I moved to the detention centre, or what we would call a jail, it was 14 people in my cell. Those numbers changed quite often. I mean, people came and went probably over the 19 months I was in that prison cell. There would have been 80 or 90 people pass through. You never leave the cell except for an embassy visit once a month. The washroom is in your cell. The food comes to the door, not all the time. Food only comes about two thirds of the time and then you have to pay for it. Your shower is a glass enclosed little cubicle, so the cameras can see you. There’s absolutely no privacy and you get very little space to move around. You basically have your little wooden bed that you’re on, a very thin cotton pad and it’s incredibly uncomfortable, and you don’t really know what’s going on with the other people around you. Some would be murderers, some would be petty thieves. There’d be drug addicts, there’d be policemen, there’d be all sorts of people that will pass through that cell and, you know, some of them are just not nice.

Mercedes Stephenson: When you think about the other aspect of this, which is the national security charge and the allegation that the two Michael’s were stealing state secrets. You were accused of something similar.

Kevin Garratt: Yes.

Mercedes Stephenson: What’s the interrogation process like when the Chinese lay those kinds of charges?

Kevin Garratt: Well the interrogation had—they’d basically finished their interrogation. Now if they moved them to a detention centre, most of the interrogation will have been done and they would have been interrogated for—for us, it was up to six hours a day. It could have been day or night. It was three officers sitting across from you at a table, and I’d be sitting in a chair, very, very intimidating because they’re not asking you questions nicely, they’re very harsh at times. They threatened to send me to North Korea. They threatened to execute me. You know, they said I could get seven or eight years in prison. So they use a lot of intimidation tactics to try and make you confess something, even though there was nothing to confess.

Mercedes Stephenson: Did you have the sense that they believed the charges against you or that it was all about intimidation?

Kevin Garratt: It was a lot about intimidation. After, I would say, two to three months, it seems like things changed and it was almost like they were doing their job but they realized I’m not a spy or they certainly acted that way. And I tried to cooperate in every way with them, but they had an agenda and there’s no way I could change that agenda.

Mercedes Stephenson: You had limited consular visits and that has been the case as well for the two Michael’s who are detained.

Kevin Garratt: Yes.

Mercedes Stephenson: How important are those visits, both in terms of potentially getting out and in terms of giving people hope?

Kevin Garratt: They are incredibly, incredibly important. You know, for the first six months, we saw a consular official every two weeks, which was really incredible that we had that privilege. But then the last 19 months, it was once a month like the two Michael’s are having, and they have the ability to bring hope or to bring, you know, despair, because what they say in those 30 minutes that they have will speak hope or not. So, if they can bring messages from their family, that’s incredibly good, incredibly important, but, you know, one thing that one of the consular officials said to me each time she left was, I hope I don’t see you again. And that just spoke to me like I hope so, too, because that just instilled hope n me.

Mercedes Stephenson: What do you think the Canadian government could do, if anything, to try to help the fates of these two detained Canadians? Should they be pushing harder? Should they pull back? As someone who’s been through this, what do you wish the government had been able to do for you?

Kevin Garratt: I hope they keep it in the forefront. At every meeting with Chinese officials, at every opportunity, even internationally, they have to keep it in the forefront. I didn’t know, really, what was going on for those two years. I was told oh, the government’s treating it very important. They’re trying to raise it at the highest levels, but I never really knew what was going on. But I would hope in this case, with the two Michael’s, they are keeping it in the forefront, keeping it in the news and keeping it in front of every Chinese delegation or Chinese official that they meet.

there was nothing to confess.

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Mercedes Stephenson: Did you have the sense that they believed the charges against you or that it was all about intimidation?

Kevin Garratt: It was a lot about intimidation. After, I would say, two to three months, it seems like things changed and it was almost like they were doing their job but they realized I’m not a spy or they certainly acted that way. And I tried to cooperate in every way with them, but they had an agenda and there’s no way I could change that agenda.

Mercedes Stephenson: You had limited consular visits and that has been the case as well for the two Michael’s who are detained.

Kevin Garratt: Yes.

Mercedes Stephenson: How important are those visits, both in terms of potentially getting out and in terms of giving people hope?

Kevin Garratt: They are incredibly, incredibly important. You know, for the first six months, we saw a consular official every two weeks, which was really incredible that we had that privilege. But then the last 19 months, it was once a month like the two Michael’s are having, and they have the ability to bring hope or to bring, you know, despair, because what they say in those 30 minutes that they have will speak hope or not. So, if they can bring messages from their family, that’s incredibly good, incredibly important, but, you know, one thing that one of the consular officials said to me each time she left was, I hope I don’t see you again. And that just spoke to me like I hope so, too, because that just instilled hope n me.

Mercedes Stephenson: What do you think the Canadian government could do, if anything, to try to help the fates of these two detained Canadians? Should they be pushing harder? Should they pull back? As someone who’s been through this, what do you wish the government had been able to do for you?

Kevin Garratt: I hope they keep it in the forefront. At every meeting with Chinese officials, at every opportunity, even internationally, they have to keep it in the forefront. I didn’t know, really, what was going on for those two years. I was told oh, the government’s treating it very important. They’re trying to raise it at the highest levels, but I never really knew what was going on. But I would hope in this case, with the two Michael’s, they are keeping it in the forefront, keeping it in the news and keeping it in front of every Chinese delegation or Chinese official that they meet.

Mercedes Stephenson: Thanks so much, Kevin.

Kevin Garratt: Thank you.

Mercedes Stephenson: That’s our show for today. Thanks for joining us. I’m Mercedes Stephenson, see you next week.

The West Block – Episode 37, Season 8 — Sunday, May 19, 2019

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