The West Block, Episode 46, Season 8

The West Block: Jul 21
Watch the full broadcast of The West Block from Sunday, July 21, 2019. Hosted by Eric Sorenson.


Episode 46, Season 8

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Host: Eric Sorensen

Guest Interviews: Professor Barry Kay, Wilfrid Laurier University; Jim Acosta, CNN

Hill Hobbies: Green Party Leader Elizabeth May

Location: Ottawa

Eric Sorensen: On this Sunday, exactly three months till Election Day. The leaders are in full swing, voters are undecided. The polls are shifting. What would the outcome of an election be right now?

Today, a brand new seat projection from Wilfrid Laurier University’s Barry Kay.

Then, “the enemy of the people”: CNN’s Jim Acosta talks to The West Block about his new book and why telling the truth has become a risky business in American politics.

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And our summer series: Hill Hobbies. This week: In the kitchen with Elizabeth May. As the Green Party Leader, it must be food that’s good for you.

It’s Sunday, July 21st. I’m Eric Sorensen, and this is The West Block. And October 21st is not far away, so we begin with a look at Canada’s political landscape. A spate of recent polls: IPSOS, Mainstreet, Nanos, Abacus, have been gathered by the Laurier-Institute, for the study of public opinion and policy, and it projects the seats to be one if an election were held now. And, it’s almost a dead heat, the Conservatives narrowly ahead of the Liberals. The balance of power could be held by the NDP or the Bloc Quebecois, even the Green Party or some combination.

Let’s look at it now by region. First of all, British Columbia is very competitive. Right now, the Conservatives would overtake the Liberals for the most seats. Then the NDP and the Greens with four seats nationally, all would be in British Columbia.

Alberta would be on the verge of a total sweep for the Conservatives.

Across Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the north, the Conservatives also would dominate.

Now, in Ontario, a close national race could be decided here, in multiple Liberal and Conservative battle ground, it’s a close fight.

In Quebec, the Liberals are strong, the NDP, though could lose almost everything it won two elections ago. The BQ will be a factor, and the People’s Party are in for a seat.

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And Atlantic Canada, the Liberals on top, but would give up some of the seats from their clean sweep four years ago. The big picture again, the Liberals and Conservatives, a two-way fight, too close to call.

And joining us now is the man behind that analysis, Barry Kay. And Barry, first of all, that’s not a prediction for October, but the situation as you see it right now. And based on the polls that you’ve been gathering over this whole year, what is the trend you’re seeing?

Professor Barry Kay: Yeah, well those polls are from the first half of July. The trend actually—the trend had been, of course, for the Conservatives after the SNC-Lavalin scandal broke, but little by little, right now it’s a virtual tie: three seat difference. Last month, in June, there was an 18-seat lead for the Conservatives. The month before was even higher. So the momentum, if we can call it that, is in fact, moving back toward the Liberals. And it’s really, really a horse race. I must say a horse race where most people don’t seem to like any of the horses, because in fact, I think that’s why the Bloc is up in Quebec and that’s why the Greens are having historic gains, although they’re not very large, but they’re nonetheless, we’re seeing the Greens with more seats than ever.

Eric Sorensen: Those polls, as you say, there’s quite a range and a mix, but you kind of pulled them altogether to get a good—some nice mean numbers. You have been doing these seat projects for decades. Your accuracy has been born out when you see election night come along. You’re within a few seats, plus or minus. Tell us what you’re seeing right now in Ontario.

Professor Barry Kay: Well, Ontario’s really where the game’s going to be. Not just because it’s the biggest province but because it has the largest number of competitive swing seats, especially in the 905 area around Toronto going through to the Niagara Peninsula. And we’ve started looking at seats in Mississauga and in York Region and in Brampton, even a little bit of Durham. There’s just a mitt full of very close competitive seats. I think during the election, it’s still a couple of months—three months, really, away, but during the election, I think that’s where the leaders are going to spending most of their time because those are the seats that are most likely to change hands one way or the other. If—now right now, it doesn’t look like anybody’s close to a majority and that’s kind of an interesting question as well. But if there’s going to be a shot at a majority or even just the determination of who’s going to come first, it’s disproportionately likely that that’s going to be decided. Not just in Ontario, but in suburban Ontario, around Toronto, to a lesser extent, around Ottawa.

Eric Sorensen: And very briefly, are you seeing the effect of Doug Ford, the Premier of Ontario in these shifting numbers?

Professor Barry Kay: That’s the suspicion. Ford clearly is in decline. He’s gone from 41 per cent support a year to 24 at the moment. How much of that—I certainly understand that the Conservatives are very nervous about it. We see Doug Ford cancelling the Canada Day picnic because he was afraid of being booed just as it happened at the Raptor’s celebration. So there’s a sense of fear on the part of the Conservatives, perhaps I hope on the part of the Liberals that Ford is going to become an issue. Certainly we saw some ads during June that suggested that the Liberals or at least the anti-Conservative people were thinking that Ford was the Achilles heel for the Conservatives and that they’re going to shoot for that. My hunch is we’re going to hear more about Doug Ford, but from the Liberals not the Conservatives.

Eric Sorensen: [Chuckle] Yeah, that’s right. Now British Columbia, there’s a bit of a jumble out there and the Green Party is one of four parties that would expect to win multiple seats.
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Professor Barry Kay: The Greens are doing better than ever. They never had more than one seat federally. Right now we have them at four. We’ve had them at five last month. They’re down a little bit. They’re all on Vancouver Island, so the seats including areas like Esquimalt, Nanaimo, which they’ve already won, those are seats—Victoria—those are all seats that are probably going to go to Greens, as things look at the moment. Greens are getting votes elsewhere as well they haven’t had before. But at the moment, I don’t see them winning any seats east of Vancouver Island. Suburban Vancouver, particularly moving towards the Fraser Valley, a lot of close seats in places like Mission and Port Moody and so forth, that in fact are going to be—Pitt Meadows is another one. Those are all seats that are very competitive. But there’s a lot more seats in Ontario than in B.C., but there’s certainly seats in B.C. and some other suburban areas around the country which I think are very much up for grabs.

Eric Sorensen: And I just want to ask you about the potential for vote spitting on the Progressive side. This could happen anywhere across the country, but in British Columbia, for example, if the Greens are doing a little better and the Liberals, maybe they lose some votes to the Greens, is there a potential here for the Progressives splitting their votes and Conservatives winning some ridings?

Professor Barry Kay: For sure, that’s always a risk, particularly when you’ve got one more Conservative Party that is less committed to the global warming issue. And you’ve got three parties on the other side between the Liberals, the NDP and now the Greens. And indeed, people have to think strategically. Hopefully the website we have at, if people are interested, will in fact, allow people to have a sense of which ridings are most winnable for one party or another. But you’re quite right that the pro-environment vote could be split in three-ways, if in fact people aren’t astute in trying to figure out who the pro-environmental candidate is that’s most likely to win in their particular riding.

Eric Sorensen: Well if it’s jumbled a little bit in British Columbia, it’s even more divided, it seems like in Quebec. What do you make of the situation with all of the parties that are at play in that province?

Professor Barry Kay: The Bloc is coming back. I don’t think it’s because separatism is sort of the word of the day. But—and in fact, even with the similar to the Greens in other parts of the country, I think a lot of people are sort of parking their vote with the Bloc because they’re not happy with any of the other parties. So it’s kind of a none-of-the-above for the Bloc and Quebec and for the Greens and other places, especially—I don’t want to suggest the Greens are only doing better in British Columbia, but British Columbia’s is where they’re poised to win some seats. But a number of people are voting Greens because they’re just not happy with anybody else and that’s certain an underlying concern. Andrew Scheer has not caught on yet, and maybe he will be, but he’s going to be defined by the Liberals as much as the Conservatives from here on in. And people are disenchanted with Trudeau, and quite frankly, Singh hasn’t really cut ice either. So there is no enthusiasm that I’ve seen at the moment for anybody, and some of those people—they’re not all going in other directions—but some of those people are moving out not to third parties but to fourth parties for that very reason.

Eric Sorensen: Well, Barry Kay, the electoral map looks very fluid at this stage, three months exactly before the election. Thank you very much for talking to us.

Professor Barry Kay: Thank you.

Eric Sorensen: Coming up, the danger in telling the truth in President Trump’s Washington. We’ll talk to CNN’s Jim Acosta.

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Jim Acosta: “If I may ask on the Russian investigation. Are you concerned that, that you may have indictments—“

President Donald Trump: “I’m not concerned about anything with the Russian investigation because it’s a hoax.”

Jim Acosta: “That you may have indictments coming down? Are you—“

President Donald Trump: “That’s enough. Put down the mic.”

Jim Acosta: “Mr. President, are you worried about indictments coming down in this investigation?”

President Donald Trump: “I’ll tell you what: CNN should be ashamed of itself having you working for them. You are a rude, terrible person. You shouldn’t be working for CNN. When you report fake news, which CNN does a lot, you are the enemy of the people. Go ahead.

Reporter: “Mr. President—“

Eric Sorensen: According to President Trump, the enemy of the people was in that moment, Jim Acosta, chief Whitehouse correspondent for CNN. Enemy of the people is also the title of his new book: A Dangerous Time to Tell the Truth in America.

And, Jim Acosta joins us now from Washington. Jim thanks for joining us. That exchange we just watched lasted, really, about three minutes. Eight months later, how do you feel about it?

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Jim Acosta, CNN: You know, I feel good about it and if I had to do it all over again, I would still try to get that question asked. You know, one of the things that I try to do in my book is, you know, print some of the transcripts from some of these exchanges with the president so the reader can read for themselves exactly what goes on. You know the president is starting to interrupt you just as soon as you get the first few words out of your mouth, so it is a difficult experience trying to press the president on some of these things and hold his feet to the fire. But, you know, listen, what transpired after that incident, I think, is more important to what I’m trying to write about and what I’m trying to get across to readers as they take a look at this book and that is that the president of the United States is now in the business of demonizing the press, referring to us as the enemy of the people. And Eric, as I lay out in the book, we went through this whole experience where I tried to get my press pass back after it was revoked following that exchange, and during the case that played out in federal court in front of a Trump appointed judge, this White House tried to make the case that they can go up to any reporter and toss them out if they don’t like their coverage. Fortunately, the Trump appointment judge in that case decided on our behalf. But it just goes to show you the stakes here in Washington right now, they are quite high when the president of the United States feels it’s okay to refer to the press as the enemy and fake news.

Eric Sorensen: Well, I mean, clearly as we saw in that exchange, there is a risk to being abused if you’re a journalist challenging the president. But in your book, you’re really saying there’s a danger here. Are you speaking about physical danger or a danger to the democratic institution?

Jim Acosta, CNN: I think, really, both. I mean, as I lay out in the book, you know, I receive about a death threat a week. That has continued. It’s gone on for the last couple of years, but it’s not just me. My fellow reporters who cover the White House, anchors, correspondents here in the U.S., they’ve all been dealing with similar experiences and it’s something that I feel that the public has a right to know about, not only here in the United States but in places like Canada, where people care about democratic freedoms. I think also, when the president of the United States feels it’s okay to refer to the press as the enemy, then yes, something bigger is at stake and that is how the public values the first amendment, values a free press and that has been very much under attack over the last couple of years as we’ve seen, you know, at rally after rally, the president’s hostility and rhetoric towards the media has been absorbed by his supporters and directed back at us in ways that make us feel threatened. And the thing that I’m concerned about, Eric is that we’re going to have a situation in this country where a reporter is hurt or God-forbid, killed. And at that point, the United States of America, as I write in the book, joins a different category of countries around the world, where the press is not safe covering the leader of the free world and we just can’t have a situation like that in this country.

Eric Sorensen: One of the president’s constant themes since the day he started running for president, right up until this past week, is a fear and dislike of immigrants. That’s a personal story for you as well. Your dad came to America from Cuba as a child, as an immigrant. What is your worry in terms of what he is stoking, in a sense, on the issue of immigration?

Jim Acosta, CNN: Well I’m glad you asked. I mean, it is a personal story for me. My father came to this country in 1962, three weeks before the Cuban missile crisis. You know, when he came to this country, John F. Kennedy wasn’t referring to immigrants as rapists and criminals, as Donald Trump has with Mexican immigrants. Just in the last week, as we’ve all seen with these racist tweets that he put out over the weekend and the drama and saga that ensued, he is continuing to demonize immigrants in this country in ways that we just haven’t seen before and it makes it a challenge for the press. It’s very challenging if you’re a reporter in terms of how to cover that. Do you call these tweets racist? We at CNN have made the determination that those tweets were racists and should be deemed as such. But no question about it, you know, I come from an immigrant background. My father, you know, told me about the stories that he dealt with growing up in this country. But, you know, he dealt with warmth and compassion in many cases, talked about the teacher who would pull him out of class every day to help him learn how to read and write, talked about the Presbyterian Church just across the Potomac River in Northern Virginia that provided he [him] and my grandmother with coats and sweaters and so on. And so while I was born in this country, I feel I was very much exposed to an immigrant experience in this United States that is very different than what is happening right now in the U.S., where there are lots of immigrants across this country who are living in fear. And to me, that’s just an un-American type of experience and one that we in the press have to really take a cold hard look at.
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Eric Sorensen: I mean, you know, many in Canada are watching what’s happening down there with a certain level of shock because we wonder is America changing because this president is sitting in the 40s in terms of popularity and within striking distance of a re-election. Is America changing?

Jim Acosta, CNN: Well, as I write in the book, you know, I’m less concerned about what Donald Trump is doing to American than what we’re doing to ourselves. When you have a rally like we saw the other night in North Carolina, where people are chanting, “Send her back” with respect to Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, to some extent, yes, America is changing. But as Winston Churchill used to say, “The United States typically does the right thing after exhausting all over options.” And Eric, as I—you know, I’ve gone to places around the world and talked to people about my book. What I tell people is that please don’t lose faith in the United States of America. The United States is more than one elected leader. And we’re going to have an election in 2020 and we’re going to find out exactly where America turns after that. But to some extent, I think it’s undoubtedly the case that yes, to some extent, America is changing if you have political rallies where that sort of thing is going on. If you have millions of people who are comfortable with the president of the United States referring to the press as the enemy of the people. There are people who are emotionally invested in Donald Trump and he is exploiting that right now. No question about it.

Eric Sorensen: Alright, well Jim Acosta. The book is The Enemy of the People: A Dangerous Time to Tell the Truth in America. Thank you for talking to us about it.

Jim Acosta, CNN: Thank you, Eric. Appreciate the time.

Eric Sorensen: Up next, what’s the recipe for the next election? For Elizabeth May, perhaps a dish of minority government, with a side of Greens.

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Eric Sorensen: Welcome back. Long before politics, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, fell in love with cooking at her parents’ restaurant on Cape Breton Island. On this week’s Hill Hobby, we’re in the kitchen for an east coast dish and some west coast politics.

Elizabeth May, your Hill hobby is cooking.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May: The one thing I really love doing when I get any time off, is having enough time to go out and get really good food, cook and have friends over. Even after cooking for thousands and thousands of tourists, I still love cooking.

Eric Sorensen: So, what are you cooking for us today?

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May: This is one of the recipes I actually used to make onboard on restaurant, and I’d actually go down the wharf sometimes and talk to fishermen and buy their salmon. And they’d say, “You know, it’s getting’ scarce.” So I went home in the winter and I thought, “Gosh, I’ve gotta replace some of my salmon recipes because we’re clearly running out of salmon.” But we’re never gonna run out of cod.

Eric Sorensen: Never, eh?

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May: So, I put more cod dishes on the menu. So I was so thrilled when I found this obscure cookbook of recipes from Portugal and found Cod Portuguese and these amazing flavours.

This is olive oil sautéed eggplant and onions.

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Eric Sorensen: Looks tasty.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May: Yeah. So the next layer is to put this wonderful mixture of brown rice, cumin and capers. And because I couldn’t get sustainable cod anywhere—

Eric Sorensen: Mm-hum.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May: This is sustainable haddock, but it’s close enough. So this cod, which is now haddock, has also been seasoned with a mixture of white—of course, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and paprika. And it’s been rubbed into the flesh of the fish. So, what we’ve got here, which is now a layer of eggplant sautéed in olive oil, a layer of beautiful organic tomatoes—I mean, rather, organic onions sautéed in olive oil. Now on top of the fish, a layer of organic, fresh tomatoes—this is a very juicy dish. Then we add this, which is hot water. It’s—and lemon juice and cloves. Talk about your wonderful flavours going on here. It’s a very flavourful dish. So that is Cod Portuguese. I’ll put it in the oven and show you what it looks like in a minute.

Eric Sorensen: How important to you is it that food is sustainable, that you’re belief, you know, in greenness, it translates to what you don in terms of the food preparation or the food consumption?

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May: It’s being mindful of where the food comes from, what hands prepared it, being grateful for it. Having a sense of gratitude for abundance and knowing that it came from a place where the farmers benefitted, the fish is sustainable is essential.

Eric Sorensen: Nothing here was packaged either and that matters to you.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May: The tomatoes were in that plastic packaging. I hate to admit it. I try very hard to avoid excess packaging. I mean, we can ban single-use plastics, and we should, but we need to get our grocery stores to recognize that not everything needs to be wrapped in plastic. The less, the better and I think they’re getting the message.

Eric Sorensen: Are you finding that the public is finally moving in the direction—like you wrote a book—

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May: I wrote one of the ‘Dummies’ books on global warming.

Eric Sorensen: And that was 11 years ago.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May: Yeah.

Eric Sorensen: The public is catching up?

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May: The public was always there. I think politicians are catching up. Eighty per cent of Canadians, since the early 1990s, in a figure that stayed relatively stable till now, says we need climate action. And you have generation after generation of politician who think oh boy, that’s going to be tough. We could lose some votes, so we better kick that down the road.

Eric Sorensen: But that’s a bit of the issue, because Canadians are a little bit on both sides of it. They say and want the environment to be better and cleaner. They also want the gas not to be any more expensive at the pump.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May: Yeah, but, I mean, we never made public policy decisions on anything else important by saying is everybody really ready yet? I’m kind of glad I didn’t know when I first started working on this issue that in 2019, when I was 65, we’d still be having a conversation about getting started.

Eric Sorensen: Yeah.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May: That’s the tragedy. We’ve lost decades through procrastination. And now the problem is so much worse and the solutions are so much harder.

Eric Sorensen: Yes.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May: And they are going to involve some pain in some areas, but if we don’t act, we never talk about what happens if, okay, so suppose we decide this is all too hard and we kick it down the road to the next generation of politicians. They’ll find themselves in a situation where they’re facing runaway, self-accelerating, unstoppable global warming that threatens the survival of human civilization. And they’ll be looking back and saying, “Why didn’t those idiots in 2019 do the right thing?”

Now my very high-priced sous chef—

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Eric Sorensen: Yes, here we go.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May: Thank you very much—talent galore. Here we go.

Eric Sorensen: Don’t burn your wrists.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May: I won’t, but thank you.

Eric Sorensen: And how long is it going to take for that to cook?

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May: That’s about 30 minutes. It’s a 350 degree oven. It’s going to absolutely delicious. Hey, honey!

[Elizabeth May’s husband enters room]

John Kidder: Hi sweetie. How are you?

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May: [Hugs and kisses] Oh, I’ve missed you.  I missed you. Listen—oh wait, wait, wait. This is Eric Sorensen.
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John Kidder:

Eric Sorensen: John.

John Kidder: It’s a pleasure. Pleasure.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May:  We got married.

Eric Sorensen: No, I was going to ask you about that. How’s married life treating you, so far? Let me ask you that.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May:  It’s gotta be good because he never sees me.

John Kidder: It’s wonderful, especially when I see her.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May: [Chuckles] We’re both running for Parliament at the same time and in different places.

Eric Sorensen: Now let me just ask you first about cooking. Do you cook together at all?

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May: Yeah. The first time we had friends over, and we just had started dating, really. The first thing we ever did together in a kitchen was cook brunch for 20.

Eric Sorensen: Let me ask you each about the political fortunes of the Green Party this time around. In the past, the Green Party has seen its poll numbers go up and then on Election Day, people abandon them and go back to the traditional parties in some way. Do you have reason to believe that will change this time?

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May: Yeah. I think it has already changed. At first we thought okay, it’s weird that Elizabeth May got elected, but that must just be a British Columbia thing. And then Andrew Weaver’s elected. But how did David Coon get elected in Fredericton? And then Peter Bevan-Baker and the P.E.I. Greens formed official opposition and Mike Shriner’s working so hard and earning so much respect at Queen’s Park. And suddenly people are saying well, as soon as Greens are electable, and you vote Green, you can elect a Green MP, that’s what changes because up till now people felt I really want to vote Green, but oh my gosh, I can’t elect a Green.

Eric Sorensen: You’re not worried, then, about the Greens coming up a certain amount, the Liberals coming down a certain amount because some of those voters are with those two parties and the Conservatives will then form a government.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May: With the cards being dealt as they are with five parties, with names on the ballot across Canada, and in Quebec six, it increases the likelihood that this is going to be a minority Parliament. And a minority Parliament, what you want is as many people as possible who are prepared to cooperate, work across party lines and put principle first, which translates into we need a lot of Greens in that Parliament to make sure the Parliament works well.

Eric Sorensen: Alright. We’ve had a lot of cooperation in the kitchen here today. Is this thing ready to come out just about?

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May: Oh, yeah. And it’s in that pan of water so you have to be a little tricky as I get it out.

Eric Sorensen: Okay. Just put it up there.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May: Mm-hum. And then I’ll take it and let’s have a look. Isn’t that gorgeous? Cod Portuguese.

Eric Sorensen: That looks great. And I want to thank you both for talking to us today and Elizabeth for cooking for us.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May: Well thanks, Eric.

Eric Sorensen: That is The West Block for this Sunday. Thank you for sampling the show with us. I’m Eric Sorensen. We’ll see you next time.