The West Block, Season 8, Episode 42

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Watch the full broadcast of The West Block from Sunday, June 23, 2019 with Mercedes Stephenson – Jun 23, 2019


Episode 42, Season 8

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Host: Mercedes Stephenson

Guest Interviews: Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer,

B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver,

Susan Delacourt, David Akin

Location: Ottawa

President Donald Trump: “Well, I don’t know that he’s trying to meet. Are you trying to get a meeting? Anything I can do to help Canada, I will be doing.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: “Canada is not going to get involved in the ratification process that the American Congress needs to go through.”

Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer: “This plan is the most comprehensive environmental platform ever put forward by a political party in Canada.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: “We’ve spent the last four years doing more for our environment than any other government in Canada’s history.’”

Protestors: [00:00:35] 
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B.C. Premier John Horgan: “We’ve stood principally to protect those things that matter to not just British Columbians but in fact, all Canadians.”

House Speaker Geoff Regan: “The House is now adjourned.”

Mercedes Stephenson: It’s Sunday, June 23rd. I’m Mercedes Stephenson, and this is The West Block.

Energy and the environment dominated headlines this week. The House of Commons declared a climate emergency and the controversial tanker ban bill for B.C.’s coast passed. Plus, cabinet approved the Trans Mountain pipeline. Not to be outdone, the Conservatives debuted their long-awaited environment plan, which would end the carbon tax and make large emitters pay. Will it be enough to win over Canadians in the fall election?

Joining me now is Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer. Thank you for coming on the show, Mr. Scheer.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer: Thanks for having me.

Mercedes Stephenson: This is a 60-page plan, lots of information about policies but not a lot of math. There’s no targets in this plan. There’s no costing in this plan. Why the Conservatives who are so focused on the economy and numbers would put out a plan like this is raising questions. How do you respond to the criticism that you haven’t established targets or a cost?

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer: Well, I just completely reject those accusations. This is the components in here that speak to things like tax credits for home renovations to help people make investments in their own home, whether it’s high-efficiency furnaces or insulations, that’s costed. The accelerated capital cost allowance to incentivise investments in green technology and lowering reductions is costed as well. And the modeling is based on the Parliamentary Budget Officer, indicating that this approach, this focus on technological innovation can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 100 megatons. So this is based on that modeling provided by the Parliamentary Budget Officer. And I would compare this to the Liberal platform in 2015, which was one page with no modeling and no costing at all, just proposing a carbon tax.

Mercedes Stephenson: But how do you reject that argument when there is no target in here and there is no cost. Do you have a target of how many megatons a year you’d be looking at to reduce CO2 emissions? What would that be?

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer: What we’ve said about our targets is that this plan gives us—it gives Canada the best shot at reaching those Paris targets.

Mercedes Stephenson: Is that a hard commitment to the Paris targets?

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer: That is what this entire plan is focused on, absolutely.

Mercedes Stephenson: That you will commit to meeting the Paris targets, not try to meet them.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer: Well, on that point, it’s very important to recognize that we have a model for the Liberal carbon tax. It’s failing. It’s not going to meet Paris. Every analysis has shown that we’re falling further and further behind. We’re actually getting further away from those targets under the Liberal plan. So the choice for Canadians is a plan that is proven not to work, or a fresh new approach, which is focused on investing in technology, taking the climate fight global, not being restricted just on what we do here.

Mercedes Stephenson: So is that a hard commitment, though, to the Paris targets?

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer: That is exactly—those targets are—those are the targets the Conservatives signed on to. That is what this plan is based on: a goal moving us towards reaching those targets.

Mercedes Stephenson: How do you know, though, if you haven’t released what those targets are, or how much your plan is going to reduce it by? How do you know you’re going to be able to meet those targets?

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer: Because it’s already been shown to work. The advancements in technology that have taken place, for example, in the energy sector, have seen a 30 per cent reduction in the intensity of emissions released by the energy sector. That’s happened without an accelerator, without government incentives, without a regime that ensures that companies that exceed those emission camps are investing in new R&D and new processes in development. That’s happening without the green patent credit that we are going to implement, which will act as a magnet for entrepreneurs and innovators from all around the world to come and bring their expertise here to Canada, which will unleash a technological revolution.

Mercedes Stephenson: It is your plan. It is your proposal: 100-megatons, you need to drop a lot more than that to meet your Paris targets. The carbon tax, a number of economists, and including prominent Conservatives like Preston Manning, have said it’s the most economically efficient way to get there. If we’re falling behind with it and you’re going to pull it, and you’re only talking about 100 megatons, you’re not getting anywhere close to those Paris targets, according to the experts.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer: Yeah, but you know, for people who keep saying that about the carbon tax, you know, it’s like in theory, but every time it’s been tried, it doesn’t work. It hasn’t worked in British Columbia. Emissions went up and it stopped being revenue neutral. It’s not currently working in Canada at the federal level. So, you know, for—

Mercedes Stephenson: Well, it’s just been implemented. It’d be awfully hard to evaluate it at the federal level right now.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer: But the analysis is—even in these early stages, people are already recognizing that it’s not its targets.

Mercedes Stephenson: But economists say it’s about changing behaviour. How are you changing behaviour with this plan?

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer: Well, I’m glad you asked. There is a component in here called the Green Renovation Tax Credit, which will incentivise and facilitate Canadians to be able to switch to higher efficiency furnaces, to improve their insulation, to improve their windows. Those are things that we know that buildings in Canada account for 12 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.

Mercedes Stephenson: Well, and the Harper government ran something very similar, but they ran it as an economic stimulus program because it was so expensive.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer: No. Well, it accomplishes two things. It does absolutely lead to economic growth. It also leads to greenhouse gas emissions. It was a very popular type of program, but this program will be more comprehensive and will allow for greater flexibility for Canadians. It’s also over a two-year timeframe because this is such an urgent issue that we want people to take advantage of this early on.

Mercedes Stephenson: To go back to your big emitters cap, because that seems to be the big focus on how you’re reducing actual emissions, we don’t know how much it would reduce it by. When you look at the provinces, Ontario and Alberta looking at those caps, would your cap replace the provincial cap that’s in place?

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer: Well obviously there would be an equivalency evaluation and this cap on large emitters will be accompanied by a certification on what types of investments would quality for the Green Innovation Fund as well as an enforcement and compliance regime. The nice thing about this plan—

Mercedes Stephenson: Who, by the way, will be doing that enforcement and compliance? Do you have a board? Are there people appointed? How do you know, or is this a self-reporting technique?

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer: No, there are agencies within government at Environment Canada that make sure that companies live up to their obligations on a whole number of environmental fronts as well as CRA has a function to make sure that in order to qualify for certain types of programs that the standards are met—

Mercedes Stephenson: So your plan—

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer: —which will reduce those emissions.

Mercedes Stephenson: Your plan doesn’t estimate how much this is going to cost taxpayers’. There’s no number on that.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer: Well as I mentioned, the components around the tax credit side and the green patent tax credit, which will allow for a much lower tax rate for revenues that are collected on new developments of technology that is costed. That is around $2.5 billion that will be left in the economy, that will be left in the private sector so that there can be increased competition and companies around the world recognizing that if they develop a new product that helps lower emissions in one jurisdiction, or Canada, they get a better rate in Canada, they’ll come and make those investments in Canada.

Mercedes Stephenson: Are you worried that putting this much of the weight on the big emitters could undermine Canada’s international competitiveness because there are companies operating in other countries that don’t have those kinds of emissions standards.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer: And that is a great point and that is a key pillar of this plan and that is what we’re calling taking the climate fight global. There are companies that do have operations in Canada and in countries like China without those standards. At the end of the day if there are increased CO2 emissions in other countries, we don’t do the world any favours. Molecules of CO2 don’t have passports. They don’t worry about borders, so let’s realize that if we bring in a carbon tax and we chase away jobs and investment, only to see that pop up in other countries.

Mercedes Stephenson: Andrew Scheer, thank you very much for joining us.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer: Thank you very much.

Mercedes Stephenson: Up next, the government is moving forward with the Trans Mountain expansion project. How will pipeline opponents in British Columbia fight back?

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Mercedes Stephenson: Welcome back. The Trans Mountain pipeline has the green light. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that shovels will be in the ground this year, but he wouldn’t commit to a date for that. While some popped the champagne, others are up in arms, including B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver, who holds the balance of power in that province.

Mr. Weaver, welcome to the show. Thank you for joining us.

B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver: Thank you for having me on.

Mercedes Stephenson: The federal government approved the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project this week. You’ve said that you would use every available tool to stop the pipeline. So, what’s your next step to try to prevent shovels from going in the ground?

B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver: We continue to support the B.C. NDP in their move to bring the test case to the Supreme Court of Canada. Sadly, that could have happened right away if the federal government had actually done what the British Columbia government had hoped they would, is go right away to the Supreme Court instead of this initial case. So we support that. We know that there are Indigenous communities that are going to continue to fight and as there are other issues that have been brought to our attention, the main concern here we have, of course, is that the interests of British Columbians are protected.

Mercedes Stephenson: In terms of Premier Horgan, he said that Ottawa appears to be going ahead with this. The B.C. Court of Appeals has said that the federal government has jurisdiction. I know they’re still court cases, but if the premier is willing to allow this pipeline to be ultimately built, are you willing to pull your support from him over that issue?

B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver: So, the premier has been very clear. He will continue to stand up for British Columbians coastal interests. We continue to support in that regard. We’re on the same page, we collectively believe that it is not in British Columbia’s interests to take all the risks and frankly, we believe it is not in Canada’s interest to be investing multiple billions of dollars on the technology of the last century trying to produce a pipeline to deliver a substance to a market that doesn’t exist. We know that market doesn’t exist because right now, this year, there has only been one tanker, only one tanker that has left the Westridge Terminal for Asia. And this is supposed to have one a day and we’ve had one so far this year.

Mercedes Stephenson: There are people who oppose the project, and they say they’re planning civil disobedience like chaining themselves to fences and pipelines. Do you endorse that as a way to stop the pipeline?

B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver: As a political party, you will not see me standing up and condoning, nor participating in civil disobedience. I don’t believe as a law maker, it behoves me as such a person to actually break said law. However, I understand that in times of strife, people find different ways of expressing themselves. I’m very worried about how this is going to end up. I am very worried because people have not been heard, because the rhetoric that has been sold to Canadians is a rhetoric that doesn’t hold up to scrutiny and people are not stupid. You know had we had a fair and open and honest discussion that the reason why this pipeline is being built is solely because we’re worried about Alberta and we’re trying to appease Albertans and the politics in Alberta, maybe that’s one thing. But to be told there’s this great market for it, to be told that we need it to invest in clean energy, to be told that somehow this is good for the Canadian economy, it’s all nonsense.

Mercedes Stephenson: Well, there have been some groups online discussing destroying infrastructure, actually attacking the pipeline, taking this to the level of damaging that infrastructure and even possibly violence. Is that something that you’re concerned about? And what would you say to people who are considering taking those actions?

B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver: Well I understand why people are frustrated. Oh, I very much understand. I’m frustrated. I don’t condone the actions that might occur, but, you know, it’s not as if people have not been warning that the people are frustrated out in this province. I think in the short-term, and you can see that from the recent EKOS polls, when you see that the federal Green Party in British Columbia is now polling above the federal Liberals at almost twice what the federal NDP are polling in this province of British Columbia. That really is a testament to how concerned people are here about the nonsense that we’ve been sold as a bill of goods in this province.

Mercedes Stephenson: The most recent poll showed that 60 per cent of British Columbians support Trans Mountain.

B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver: So, a lot of the—it depends on the question. If you ask the question where is the support for Trans Mountain? You will find in British Columbia that it is less of a concern for people in the interior of British Columbia. I say that generally. Obviously, the [00:13:19 Kamloops] nations are very concerned. You come to the City of Vancouver, that we’re a city that’s trying to brand itself as the greenest city in the world by 2020, and you try to turn it into one of the largest exporters of heavy oil in a precarious kind of coastal environment, where they have to go through the ironworkers’ bridge every day and the entire harbour must shut down as these tankers leave and enter, you know, here’s profound concern there. So if the Liberals think they’re going to win seats on Vancouver Island or in greater Vancouver, you know, they’ve got something coming to them. I would suspect, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they were wiped out of metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island.
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Mercedes Stephenson: What do you say to people who say the federal government has to balance jobs in Alberta and the environment in B.C.? Eighty thousand jobs lost, Alberta saying they’re dying because they can’t get the energy out and that the federal government is trying to strike a balance here.

B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver: It’s not about balancing. Look, I would suggest that Mr. Trudeau needs to go back and read the Lorax. It’s a very simple kid’s book that talks about balancing in the environment and economy. It’s not as simple as that. Mr. Trudeau has—you balance the environment and the economy by recognizing that you don’t have a strong economy without a strong environment. Mr. Kenney, continuing to think that somehow building a pipeline is going to create a market. It’s outrageous. I mean, what free market exists, where you build something and it will come. Nobody does that.

Mercedes Stephenson: We have to wrap it up there, Mr. Weaver. Thank you very much for joining us.

B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver: What a pleasure being on your show. Thank you.

Mercedes Stephenson: Up next, the House rose late last week. We’ll unpack the politics as MPs gear up for the barbeque circuit and the upcoming election.

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Mercedes Stephenson: Welcome back. A politics packed week from Justin Trudeau’s visit with Donald Trump in Washington to MPs heading back home for the summer, and a stunning cabinet shuffle in Ontario as the Ford government tries to reset the agenda, lots to talk about.

Joining me now for that is Toronto Star Bureau Chief Susan Delacourt and of course, our own Chief Political Correspondent David Akin.

So, it’s hard to do better than Donald Trump saying he is willing to do anything for Canada. He will represent us strongly in the meeting that he has with the president of China. There was no Twitter eruption after we left. Is this a win, Susan?

Susan Delacourt: Yeah. Definitely, I think. I was watching various people who know more about Canada-U.S. relations than I do, yesterday saying this is proof that, you know, another leader might have taken last June’s outburst to be a sign of permanent bad relations. Certainly if you’d asked me a year ago if Trump and Trudeau would have been having that encounter they had yesterday, and while Trudeau didn’t look comfortable, I think you do have to give him points for not overreacting last summer when he could of, and big points to—it’s not mentioned very often—to David McNaughton, the ambassador down there who does seem to have been managing this back to a place where you can get the President of the United States talking about somebody other than himself and saying that he was willing to do things for his friend, Justin Trudeau. So, there are a lot of leaders in the world who would like Trump to do that, I think. But I do think that was a win yesterday.

Mercedes Stephenson: A huge amount of work, as Susan says, that’s gone on behind the scenes at all levels of the embassy. I was talking to some people who work there and the scramble to try to get this all ready, even though something like this, doesn’t happen overnight. At the end of the day, though, we have Donald Trump onside for China. That could be very helpful. But when it comes to NAFTA, it’s not up to him. What kind of progress has there been on the congressional front?

David Akin: Right, and for me that was, I think, the more important for the Canadian economy, part of the trip. We know that Trump is onboard with NAFTA, CUSMA, USMCA—whatever you want to call it. But that meeting with Pelosi, I was really sort of watching to see how that was going and it still seems like, you know, Nancy Pelosi’s going to do what the Democrats want to do and she’s really not responding to many foreign leaders. I mean, she still has problems with the new NAFTA and Democrats are going to have to work that through. So, we’ll see. There’s going to have to be more work by Ambassador MacNaughton. I’m sure he knows that, and everybody else, to sort of push that through.

The other interesting thing as well that I’m watching with the Trudeau-Trump relationship is Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron, the President of France and other progressive G20 leaders have been sort of working together behind the scenes in advance of next week’s G20 meeting, to Trump-proof next years’ G7, and G20 next year is in Saudi Arabia. So in an election in the United States, the G20 goes to the Saudis, the G7 comes to America and a lot of the progressive work and work to sort of hem in China, which is going to be a big focus next week, you know, Trudeau is playing a very interesting game. He needs Trump onboard, but we don’t want Trump being too much taking the lead. Other nations have to. I think that’s going to be a really fascinating thing to watch next week.

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Mercedes Stephenson: Well, and in this case, he has to rely on Donald Trump to deliver the message, but he has his own agenda, too, and that’s the trade war that he has with China. How top of agenda do you really think Canada is going to be in that meeting for Donald Trump?

Susan Delacourt: I have heard that Trump and Trump, this new warmth between them is because Trump feels some sympathy or a, solidarity with Trudeau on China is driving us crazy. They are the—we are the China is driving us crazy club. And I think it’s sincere, in as much as Trump can be sincere that he does have some sympathy for Canada in this. Whether—Donald Trump will always do what’s best for Donald Trump, but I—I’ll maybe live to regret to this, but I take him as at his word and I actually—we’ve been hearing that Trump—Trump and Trudeau have been talking a lot on the phone lately.

Mercedes Stephenson: Lots of calls, yeah.

Susan Delacourt: They’ve been going back and forth, and I’m told the alliance is China. So it wouldn’t surprise me if he does.

David Akin: And this is one of those issues, China, that is proving to Trump perhaps, the value of a multilateral approach, because Trump at the other G20s, I’ve been to there and he’s off in one corner. He doesn’t care about it. He doesn’t—well you saw the G7, he doesn’t want to be part of the team. He wants to go his own way. But now, next week, he’s going to find out that everybody is onside with him about China and look how the team can work here, Donald. I think that’s going to be a learning instance for him, I hope.

Mercedes Stephenson: When it comes to teamwork, most Canadian MPs onside, even if they criticized that CUSMA deal, USMCA, NAFTA 2.0. Possible we’ll see MPs come back this summer to ratify that. We don’t know yet, but formerly, the legislature is wrapped up. We theoretically won’t see them again until after the election, whoever is re-elected and might be in charge in that government. Justin Trudeau came in with a big legislative agenda. How did he do in terms of making progress on that, Susan? What did he deliver? And what didn’t come through?

Susan Delacourt: I would say what didn’t come through—I’ll start on a sort of a down note—is what didn’t come through was the hope, the promise, the sunny ways. I think they got hit by the election of Donald Trump and it seemed to knock them off their sunny ways path. Ever since Trump was elected, and then you could almost do it year-by-year, there was Trump’s election: knocked them off course. Then Trudeau’s own self-inflicted wound: the India trip, and then the SNC-Lavalin thing. Those three things knocked this government from proactive to defensive and made them do much of their stuff, measuring how well they were doing by how well they were reacting to various unexpected incidents. So, I would say what they didn’t do is deliver in a big way and to accompany all those that grand promise they came in with four years ago.

David Akin: I’ll do the what did they…? One of the big things that they delivered on that they campaigned on was legalizing cannabis. I mean that really is a big change.

Mercedes Stephenson: That’s a big one.

David Akin: And that’s a big one.

Susan Delacourt: The Canada Child Benefit they—

David Akin: Canada Child Benefit, absolutely.

Susan Delacourt: Lifting people out of poverty.

David Akin: A couple of things that they can go look at what we did and we’ve seen them, particularly the Canada Child Benefit. And yes, there are a lot more Canadians with jobs than there were four years ago. So those are things that they’re highlighting and going to. But what you touched on about tone and sunny ways. Electoral reform, absolutely, was a big promise. It was unequivocal, unambiguous promise and a complete and utter failure. And that goes with that we’re going to do politics differently, and I know Nate Erskine-Smith, for example, was on a podcast I was recently listening to, saying this whole idea of the centres not going to have control, but we haven’t done that yet. The centres got a ton of control and that’s an issue.

Mercedes Stephenson: Speaking of control or lack thereof, Doug Ford’s office—

David Akin: Yeah.

Mercedes Stephenson: Which has been in a bit of chaos this week. Finance minister shuffled out after a year, almost unheard of, to no portfolio. A chief of staff, embattled, not well liked, news that he appointed one of his son’s friends and his cousin’s—his wife’s cousin—sorry—to roles with major salaries overseas, struggling to try to reassert control. Does this hurt or help the Liberals heading into the election?

Susan Delacourt: I was asking my Queen’s Park colleague the end of this week how many rings are in that circus because every day is a new Doug Ford

eruption. And certainly, it’s making Liberals happy. I’m told MPs have been going door-to-door. Liberal MPs in the past month, say that one month told me it’s coming up at seven out of 10 doors that Doug Ford is the best friend that the federal Liberals have now up to the election.

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Mercedes Stephenson: And speaking of the Ford legacy, we have just a few seconds left, but Renata Ford, Rob Ford’s widow now running for the People’s Party of Canada.

David Akin: Yeah, this is just—this is the 3-ring circus or 4-ring circus. Renata Ford, don’t forget is in the middle of a big family feud with Doug Ford and its Doug Ford’s riding that Renata Ford is going to run in federally. So it’s a big soap opera. This is Bernier’s party, the People’s Party of Canada. Folks, it’ll be funny for a few minutes, but the Liberal incumbent there is the science minster Kirsty Duncan. She’s going to win that riding and hold me to it in six months’ from now.

Mercedes Stephenson: Well we’re certainly going to keep a close eye on it. Thank you both for joining us and we’ll see you again soon.

David Akin: Thanks.

Mercedes Stephenson: That’s our show for today. For the extended interviews with Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver, please go to our website: Have a great day.