June 30, 2019 11:30 am

The West Block, Season 8, Episode 43

Watch the full broadcast of The West Block from Sunday, June 30, 2019 with Mercedes Stephenson.

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THE WEST BLOCK

Episode 43, Season 8

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Host: Mercedes Stephenson

Guest Interviews: Ian Anderson, Ambassador Andriy Shevchenko

Hill Hobbies: Minister Kirsty Duncan

Location: Ottawa

Story continues below

Mercedes Stephenson: On this Sunday, the Trans Mountain pipeline has the green light to put shovels in the ground, but opponents are vowing to fight on and block TMX from going forward. How is Trans Mountain going to navigate the challenges ahead? We’ll ask its CEO and President Ian Anderson.

Plus, Ukraine: Canada is hosting Ukrainian leaders this week to talk about democratic reform and Russian aggression. What does Ukraine want from Canada? That country’s ambassador is here.

And then it’s Hill Hobbies, another in our occasional series and a glimpse into what MPs get into when they’re not on Parliament Hill. This week: highland dancing with Science and Sports Minister Kirsty Duncan.

It’s Sunday, June 30th. I’m Mercedes Stephenson, and this is The West Block.

A summer of protests, that’s what many are expecting out West as pipeline opponents try and block the Trans Mountain expansion. While some First Nations communities along the pipeline want to buy into the project, others are planning to battle construction in the courts, as the B.C. government is doing so, too. Ottawa has not committed to when shovels will be in the ground, but cabinet ministers are hinting they expect it to be later this year. What’s the likelihood of that actually happening? And how is Trans Mountain planning to proceed in the face of so much opposition?

Joining me now from Calgary is Trans Mountain President and CEO Ian Anderson. Welcome to the show, Mr. Anderson.

Ian Anderson: Thanks for having me.

Mercedes Stephenson: Obviously big news for you moving forward with this project, a lot of moving parts. Some of the first ones are the most basic ones: getting those permits to be able to build. Where are you at in terms of getting the permits that you need to start putting shovels in the ground?

Ian Anderson: The first step will be to reengage with the National Energy Board (NEB). They came out with a process letter this past week that will really lay out the next steps we need to undertake to in effect get us back to where we were last August and bring forward all the decisions that the National Energy Board had made up to that point in time. That will give us the clearance through them to get started, and that’ll have us, you know, ready to commence work in the same places that we were working last August. Then we’re going to have some other steps to take with the provinces: Alberta and British Columbia finalizing other permits for other sections of the work that were in process last year and have continued, really, throughout this period of delay and we’re ready to recommence that process within weeks.

Mercedes Stephenson: How long do you expect it will take to get those initial permits approved so you can actually start the construction again?

Ian Anderson: The process right now isn’t specific to timeframe. If we look at what the NEB has laid out, my judgement is it should take some weeks, perhaps 4-6 weeks to get to that point in time where we can start back working in the field. So, optimistically, I would say early September. It could slide to middle of September, but again, we don’t know exactly what the process is going to entail. We don’t know what other points of view are that we brought into consideration. But I’m planning for a September restart of construction activity.

Mercedes Stephenson: In terms of overall cost, we were looking about $7.4 billion, I believe, to build that pipeline. You’d mentioned that you expect there to be cost overruns. How much more do you think the pipeline is going to cost at this point?

Ian Anderson: Yeah, we haven’t landed on that finally. We’ve run some various scenarios, obviously, and I wouldn’t refer to them as overruns at this point. The $7.4 was a number that was developed back at the late-2016, early-’17 so it’s about two and a half years old. Lots have happened in the marketplace since then. Obviously, we’ve had, you know, inflationary effects, but also delay costs money. We’ve been undertaking work and spending money for the last two years on various engineering and permitting and legal and regulatory aspects, so it will cost more than the $7.4. Once we have a firm idea of the schedule that will flow from the conclusion of this National Energy Board process, we’ll be in a better position to talk more openly and publicly about what we think the current estimate’s going to be.

Mercedes Stephenson: Are any of the court challenges that are currently in process or ones you expect could be launched, things that could impact the construction schedule for the pipeline and delay it further?

Ian Anderson: The only court action that’s currently outstanding is when where B.C. is challenging their reference case that they filed with the B.C. courts about a year ago and they’re taking that to the Supreme Court, and we’ll see where that goes. I don’t think it’ll have any direct effect on construction or us getting started or proceeding through the course of construction. Parties have, you know, timeframes by which to file judicial reviews on the approvals that we now have in hand. That time will come sometime in July. We’ll get a sense there of who’s going to continue to try and legally challenge the project, and from there, you know, we’ll be able to gauge just how significant a threat or a risk that is. I don’t see anything right now that is going to inhibit our commencement of construction or construction through, you know, the coming weeks and months.

Mercedes Stephenson: Speaking of threats and obstacles, there’s been a lot of discussion of protests, of potential civil disobedience, even some groups calling for an attack on the pipelines, infrastructure. What are you doing to deal with those potential challenges and threats both to your infrastructure and to your workers?

Ian Anderson: Well, that’s my highest priority. My highest priority is the safety of the communities and the workers and the infrastructure that’s in place to make sure the environment isn’t harmed. We have very solid comprehensive security plans and programs in place. We’ve been, you know, aware of the activity that’s been—that you referred to. We’ll be prepared to protect our facilities. We’ll be prepared to ensure the workers are kept safe. We’re really focused now on getting back to work, creating some momentum behind that work, creating some positive, you know, returns for, you know, the workers that are going to be building this and we’re not spending a ton of time thinking about protest activities. People have the right to express their views publicly and we expect them to. Our job is to make sure things are safe and we’ve got plans in place to ensure that’s the case.

Mercedes Stephenson: We had B.C. Green leader Andrew Weaver on the show last week. He said that he does not believe there is a demand for the kind of oil that will be put through Trans Mountain that only one tanker has left for China this year. How do you respond to those allegations that by the time the pipeline is built, there simply won’t be a market for the product that’s in it?

Ian Anderson: Well, I think the best judge of that are our shippers and our producers who have committed to support this expansion for the next 20 years. So they’ve committed long-term contracts to move their product to market. We know that the market is going to fluctuate day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month. That’s natural market dynamics that are going to pull those barrels in different directions at different points of time. We know that South East Asia is well-suited for Canadian heavy oil. We know that our shippers are developing those markets and have been over some time, but until they have the capacity to tide water, they can’t truly develop those markets to the fullest extent. So our shippers believe in this asset. They believe in this project. They’ve committed for 20 years to this project and I think that’s the best gauge of its economic viability that you’ve got sophisticated companies believing that this project is something that’s necessary for their future production, and I think that’s the truest test.

Mercedes Stephenson: Mr. Anderson, thank you for joining us today.

Ian Anderson: You’re most welcome.

Mercedes Stephenson: Coming up next, the Ukrainian president will be in Toronto this week for meetings on democratic reform and Russian aggression. What will his ask be from Canada?

[Break]

Mercedes Stephenson: Welcome back. Ukrainian leaders, foreign ministers and parliamentarians from around the world, will meet in Toronto this week to discuss democratic reform in Ukraine and how to deal with increased Russian aggression.

Just over two months ago, Ukrainians elected a political novice as president, who vowed to reboot peace talks with his Russian counterparts. Those tensions in Crimea continue, as the country heads into parliamentary elections next month.

What does Ukraine want from Canada, when it comes to reform and dealing with Russia?

Joining me now is Ukraine’s Ambassador to Canada Andriy Shevchenko. Thank you so much for joining us, ambassador.

Ambassador Andriy Shevchenko: Thanks for having me, Mercedes.

Mercedes Stephenson: A busy week ahead with the planned conference here in Canada about Ukraine. Can you give us an update on what the situation is on the ground right now in Crimea, in Russia, with Ukraine?

Ambassador Andriy Shevchenko: Well, Ukraine is a country which now fights two major battles. First is the battle to preserve its independence and sovereignty. And second, it’s our struggle to modernize our country. And we have to handle those both priorities and we are very lucky to have Canada as a major supporter in both those battles.

Mercedes Stephenson: To what degree do you still see actual conflict and combat on the ground?

Ambassador Andriy Shevchenko: It has now become a frozen country. It means that every day, even as we speak, we keep losing our people, both military and civilians. It means that more than 10,000 Ukrainians were killed in this war, and it means that this war will not stop until we see we’re a strong and consolidated position, solidarity of democracies.

Mercedes Stephenson: Have you seen any progress in terms of getting Crimea back?

Ambassador Andriy Shevchenko: Well, I think we can see the West strong and consolidated, and I think this is the best sign that we will be able to solve the situation in the future. But again, our quickest priority is to make sure that the fighting is stopped and the ceasefire is reinforced. That is not in sight.

Mercedes Stephenson: What’s the most effective way to do that?

Ambassador Andriy Shevchenko: It’s solidarity of western democracies. I think Russia understands that the only way for it to succeed it to make sure that the West is not united and they want to play with differences.

Mercedes Stephenson: Canada has just renewed their mission in recent months to Ukraine, it’s a military mission. What kind of a difference is that making in terms of Ukraine’s ability to defend itself?

Ambassador Andriy Shevchenko: Tremendous. First, obviously, it’s a very demonstrative gesture of support, but also it’s a very practical support. It means that less Ukrainian men and women in uniform die in the east of the country. It also means, Mercedes, a lot of experience for the Canadian army because it’s a two-way street. I had the privilege to accompany Prime Minister Trudeau during his visit to Ukraine and I was very excited to hear the stories of Canadian soldiers and officers what they had learned from the Ukrainians. We have this very, very pricy and very important experience of fighting the Russian army. We want to share it with our friends.

Mercedes Stephenson: Canada had been asked by Ukraine to send weapons, had agreed to send non-lethal military equipment like boots, uniforms and sleeping bags. Are military weapons something you would still like to see the Canadian government deliver?

Ambassador Andriy Shevchenko: Well, first of all, I think it’s very important that the Canadian government has included Ukraine into the automatic firearms country control list. That’s something which allows us to go into direct negotiations with Canadian businesses and it’s something that helps us to build the Ukrainian army stronger. And I think we’ll see a lot of this cooperation in the future. Unfortunately, in our part of the world, we require a lot of weapons and a lot of other things, tools, to make sure that we can defend ourselves and our partners can do as well.

Mercedes Stephenson: What is the perspective in Ukraine on Russia right now, because obviously, there has been aggression? There’s been a pushback by Western countries. Do you think that they’re chastened? Do you think that they are staying out of other countries? Or do you think that Russian aggression is still at the same level it was before?

Ambassador Andriy Shevchenko: I think Russia, today, under Putin, is an out-dated empire. It’s a very suicidal attempt to recreate an empire in the 21st century. I strongly believe this will lead into nowhere. I’m absolutely sure that together with our western friends, we will be able to restore international law, and it means that we will be able to uphold the Ukrainian territory integrity and sovereignty. But again, it’s not going to come from the blue. It’s not going to happen by itself. We need to work on it together.

Mercedes Stephenson: When you talk about working together, I think of the conference that’s happening this week. What are you looking for to come out of this conference in Canada?

Ambassador Andriy Shevchenko: It’s a huge event for Ukraine and it’s—I believe it’s a big event for Canada. So what we’re talking about is this annual conference of more than 30 countries which come together and coordinate the effort to support Ukraine. Canada is picking up this torch from the U.K. and Denmark, which used to host this conference before. And it means that we can actually coordinate better how we can modernize Ukraine and how to make sure that Ukraine can contribute into a better world. The way Canada supports Ukraine and does it, is technical support to Ukraine is efficient, smart, value-based, and I think it’s very important to coordinate with our other partners.

Mercedes Stephenson: You have a new president and you have parliamentary elections coming up. One of the big concerns has been democratic accountability, reform and corruption. What’s being done to address those issues?

Ambassador Andriy Shevchenko: Well I think one of the biggest responses to that is the recent presidential election, which was done in a very transparent and democratic way. And now we witness in the very peaceful and smooth transition of power, it’s something which most of Canadians take for granted, but it’s not something that we take for granted in our part of the world. We were also very happy to see the Canadian Election Observation Mission at the parliamentary election. I think it was a very smart move to do so because that helps Canada to learn also how we fight for interference into the election.

Mercedes Stephenson: Something we’re expecting in the coming election. What advice do you have for the Canadian government having dealt with this firsthand?

Ambassador Andriy Shevchenko: Well, you need to be practical and you do not have to wait when this major interference comes into your backyard. We saw several major avenues for interference into the elections that we are talking about digital election infrastructure. We are talking about media environment and also political finances. I think there is a chance we might see a little piece of [00:15:51] in Canada and in other western democracies. So that’s why we feel it’s very important for us to share our experience how we fight this interference with the Canadians.

Mercedes Stephenson: Ambassador, thank you very much for your time.

Ambassador Andriy Shevchenko: Thank you, Mercedes.

Mercedes Stephenson: Up next: Hill Hobbies. I put on a pair of ghillies to learn a few Highland steps with federal cabinet minister Kirsty Duncan.

[Break]

Mercedes Stephenson: Welcome back. This week, we bring you another in our occasional series we call Hill Hobbies. What do MPs like to do when they’re not here in Parliament Hill? Well, this week, I learned how to highland dance with the help of the Bytown Highland Dancers and Science and Sports Minister Kirsty Duncan.

Thank you so much for coming, Minister.

Minister Kirsty Duncan: Thank you so much for doing this and for loving highland.

Mercedes Stephenson: Well, we’re very excited to learn the moves. I have to tell you, I’ve never done this.

Minister Kirsty Duncan: Okay, so I’m going to show you the first step of the Highland fling. It’s what we would teach, you know, I get them as young as three.

Mercedes Stephenson: That’s about my level right now.

Minister Kirsty Duncan: And so point behind, point behind, front and hop behind.

Mercedes Stephenson: And hop behind.

Minister Kirsty Duncan: Point behind, front behind. That was great. That is the—that is the basic movement for the first step of the Highland fling.

Mercedes Stephenson: Minister, you’ve danced for a long time and you’re very, very good at it. Tell me about your connection to highland dancing and what has it meant in your life?

Minister Kirsty Duncan: Highland dancing was literally my whole life. My mother’s a neat lady, she’s Polish, Ukrainian, fell in love with bagpipes when she was five and learned to play them. And my birth announcement, what they put in the paper was “Sound the pipes.” Mom went back to playing the week after I was born. Started ballet when I was three, highland when I was four and competed lots, and got my teachers when I was 16 and I’ve been teaching since I was 16. One of the highlights was I danced for the 48th Highlanders, one of our Scottish regiments for 25 years. In fact, until I came to Parliament.

Mercedes Stephenson: How competitive were you as a highland dancer?

Minister Kirsty Duncan: I love to compete. Highland, sport, I was a gymnast.

Mercedes Stephenson: Politics.

Minister Kirsty Duncan: I love to compete.

Mercedes Stephenson: What lessons do you think you learned in highland dancing that apply now, for your life in politics and as a minister?

Minister Kirsty Duncan: Practice, practice, practice. Determination: how to dig deep on the hard days. Highland dancing is like sport, it teaches life. It teaches you to set goals and to achieve them. It teaches you there are challenges. I call them speed bumps. You’ve got to find a way over them or around them. And it teaches you impossible is a dare, and to dream your greatest dreams.

Mercedes Stephenson: You are the minister of both science and sport. How difficult is it for you to juggle two totally different portfolios? There’s not a lot of ministers who have two full-time portfolios.

Minister Kirsty Duncan: As I said, I’m a scientist. I love serving the research community. My goal was to return science and research to their rightful place, to put our researchers and students at the centre of everything we do, because they make the discoveries and the innovations that make Canada a better place. And on the sport side, I’ve been an athlete, coach and judge all my life. And when I came into this role, everyone said, “What are you going to do?” And week one on the job, I said, “We’re going to protect our children and we’re going to protect our athletes.” And we’ve spent the past year making sport safer.

Mercedes Stephenson: And that’s something I want to talk to you about because it wasn’t in your mandate letter, but you obviously know a lot about sport from having been there. And we look at things like sexual abuse in sport or concussions. There’s a lot of very serious issues in what, I think a lot of people might assume is just a fun portfolio. How much of your time do you dedicate to that? And what kind of a difference do you want to make on those files?

Minister Kirsty Duncan: We know what happens in sport, so the changes we’ve brought in. Last June, I announced tough new measures for our national sport organizations. And if they don’t put them in place, we’ll withhold funding. Then in February, we signed the Red Deer Declaration. For the first time in Canadian history, all ministers have made a commitment to ending abuse in sport. I’ve put in place a confidential toll-free help line, so any athlete that’s in difficulty can phone and find out where to go next, whether it’s to the police or child protection services. And I’ve been clear that that’s for witnesses too. Everyone has a duty to care. If you see something, if you see abuse, discrimination, harassment, maltreatment, report it.

Mercedes Stephenson: On concussions, it’s been a topic of increasing research and of concern for children and adults. Some professional sports associations still seem to be resisting accepting an association between their sport, physical contact, physical fights in it and the effects of concussion on the brain. Do you think that those organizations are doing enough to protect athletes against the potential risk?

Minister Kirsty Duncan: This is the most important organ in the body. If it doesn’t work properly, you can’t think. You can’t talk, you can’t walk, potentially. It matters. You can’t write poetry. We have to keep that brain healthy, and particularly in young people who are developing. So what we’ve done is we’ve put in place new concussion guidelines and we’ve worked with the Minister of Health to do that. And those are now being adopted, the guidelines, by our national sport organizations.

Mercedes Stephenson: Minister, thank you so much for your time today.

Minister Kirsty Duncan: It has been a pleasure and I loved being able to watch you dance.

[Mercedes highland dancing]

Mercedes Stephenson: That’s our show for today. For the extended interview with Ian Anderson, the president and CEO of Trans Mountain, please go to our website: www.thewestbock.ca.

Thank you all for joining us and Happy Canada Day, tomorrow. I’m Mercedes Stephenson. Have a great week.

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