The West Block, Season 8, Episode 47

The West Block: Jul 28
Watch the full broadcast of The West Block on Sunday, July 28, 2019. Hosted by Eric Sorensen.


Episode 47, Season 8

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Host: Eric Sorensen

Guest Interviews: Minister Ralph Goodale, Richard Ayre

Hill Hobbies: Liberal MP Mona Fortier

Location: Ottawa

Eric Sorensen: On this Sunday, Canada’s intelligence and security: a meeting of the Five Eyes countries is happening in London. And, Canada has a new intelligence watchdog agency. We’ll talk about all of that to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.

Then, he’s brash, bold and bringing Brexit to the world: Boris Johnson takes the reigns as prime minister of Britain. We’ll get the view from over there and what it means back here.

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And getting her just desserts on our summer series: Hill Hobbies. MP Mona Fortier takes the cake.

It’s Sunday, July the 28th. I’m Eric Sorensen, and this is The West Block.

There’s a new watchdog in the nation’s capital. Toshine a light into some of the most secretive places in government, the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency will oversee Canada’s spy and intelligence operations. It will have wide powers and intelligence innovation that Canada’s public safety minister can discuss at the meeting of the Five Eyes Nations happening in London.

Joining us now, is the Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale. A number of issues to talk to you about, Mr. Goodale, first of all, this very weekend, you are going to London to meet with your Five Eyes counterparts there. Tell us a little bit about your priorities.

Minister Ralph Goodale: Well, this is the regular summer meeting of the Five Eyes allies that Canada, the U.S., the U.K., Australia and New Zealand, and we meet regularly to make sure that we are in close collaboration on dealing with the national security and intelligence issues that affect all of us. Cyber-security is a growing concern around the world and that will undoubtedly be a major topic of discussion amongst all of the Five Eyes allies. As well as the use of the internet and the social harms that flow from the illegitimate and sometimes criminal uses of the internet services and platforms. That would include terrorist activity, for example, on the internet, violent extremism. It would include the exploitation of children, human trafficking, and the use of the internet for the very illegitimate interference in the democracies of countries around the world. Those are some of the issues we’ll be dealing with. Many others, but this is a really important forum where we can make sure we’re all cooperating together, to the maximum extent possible.

Eric Sorensen: One of the things you can tell them,and Canadians, is about the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency that has been created. It took two years. The legislation passed just under the wire, really just under the wire before our coming election. Why was that essential?

Minister Ralph Goodale: This is a major overhaul of Canada’s national security and intelligence architecture. We undertook to do this comprehensive review during the last election. There were extensive consultations, both internally and with Canadians externally. It was the most inclusive and extensive consultation on national security issue, ever. That resulted in a major piece of legislation, Bill C-59, the National Security Act, which creates the new National Security and Intelligence Review Agency. It’s important because this is the first time that we will have one national review agency that will have complete jurisdiction over all of the security and intelligence operations of the entire government. We have had siloed review agencies in the past. So we’ve taken away the silos and this new review agency, sometimes called a ‘Super SIRC’, will have complete authority to examine everything, everywhere in the Government of Canada, relating to national security and intelligence, and it’s been very widely heralded as a major innovation in transparency and accountability.

Eric Sorensen: And is part of the reason for reassuring Canadians that you have transparency and accountability for something that can look everywhere, does that speak to why Murray Rankin, a New Democrat was chosen as the Chair?

Minister Ralph Goodale: That is indeed part of the process here. We want to make sure that this agency has independence and credibility, that its non-partisan that it acts always in the Canadian public interest and that Canadians can trust it. So there are four members who used to serve on the former Security and Intelligence Review Committee that was looking exclusively at CSIS. Those four members still have some time left in their terms of office and they will be continuing into the future. But the new review agency has seven members, not four. So we’re adding three more, including Murray Rankin, a distinguished Member of Parliament. He’s had experience in security matters in the past. He has been a member of the National Security and Intelligence Committee of parliamentarians. He is very well-respected, both in Parliament and outside, and he will be the new Chair. We’ve also appointed a very distinguished professor from the University of Ottawa, Craig Forcese, who is acknowledged as one of the world’s leading experts in security law and the rights and freedoms of Canadians under that law. So it’s going to be a very strong agency with very important levels of credibility.

Eric Sorensen: As we say, it’s coming in just before the election. Is there anything that it could be up and running for to look at whether there is interference possibly happening in our election? We’ve heard Robert Mueller south of the border say that interference is happening there as we speak. Any evidence of that here that they will have to look into?

Minister Ralph Goodale: We would be very naïve to think that Canada is somehow exempt from the kind of foreign interference that we see almost everywhere around the world. CSIS and CSE and the other security agencies are watching very carefully. They have a mechanism in place to keep the political parties in Canada informed if there is a threat or a risk that they need to be aware of, and we have a formal procedure in place if there is a major event happening that is undermining, corroding, corrupting our democratic processes directed by foreign influences in capitals abroad with malicious intent. Then there’s a procedure in place for blowing the whistle on that and making that public, if that should become necessary.

Eric Sorensen: I want to ask you about 5G. This is the fifth generation of even faster wireless technology. Huawei 5G is banned in the U.S., New Zealand, Australia. You have a decision to make about 5G here. The expectation was it might be made by this spring. Why the delay and when will there be a decision?

Minister Ralph Goodale: We’re taking this review process very, very seriously. It’s not about a particular company or a particular country. This is a total examination of 5G technology from beginning to end so that we totally understand the science and the technology that’s involved, the security issues that arise and are making the right decisions to ensure that Canadians get all the advantage of this fantastic new technology, but at the same time that our security and public safety are properly protected. That review started some months ago. It is going ahead meticulously. We are consulting, carefully, with our international allies. So we want to talk all of that onboard and make sure that when we make the decisions that are necessary for Canada, that they are the right ones, not just the fast ones.

Eric Sorensen: Ralph Goodale, thank you for talking to us today.

Minister Ralph Goodale: Glad to talk to you, Eric.

Eric Sorensen: Coming up: let them eat cake on our Hill Hobbies. But first, what to make of Boris Johnson?

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Boris Johnson: “The doubters, the doomsters, the gloomsters—they are going to get it wrong, again. The people who bet against Britain are going to lose their shirts because we’re going to restore trust in our democracy, and we’re going to fulfill the repeated promises of Parliament to the people and come out of the EU on October the 31st, no ifs or buts.”

Eric Sorensen: He is bold and brash: Boris Johnson is Britain’s new prime minister. He represents change for the Conservative Party and for the British Parliament. He believes Brexit will happen with a new deal between the U.S. and the EU. So what does this mean for the U.K. and beyond?

Joining us now from London is the former Deputy Chief Executive of BBC News Richard Ayre.

Richard thanks for joining us. Your new prime minister certainly exudes confidence. Does the new deal seem possible, as he says, by October 31st or is he setting everyone up for a blame Europe hard exit?

Richard Ayre: No, Eric, nobody has ever doubted Boris Johnson’s self-confidence, he’s full of it. And his main pitch to the nation in the few days since he became prime minister has been that we should share that confidence in ourselves as a nation. If the slogan hadn’t been taken by somebody else already, I guess it would be: Make Britain Great Again. The problem is that for those that don’t believe in Boris Johnson, they say that faith isn’t enough, that you have to have policies. And at the moment, his only policy that we know of is that Britain will leave the EU by the 31st of October, whether or not it reaches a deal with the EU. How we should reach a deal and what that deal should say is completely unknown to us, and the fear is that it might be unknown to him, too.

Eric Sorensen: In simple terms, I mean, Brexit speaks to creating a border between the EU and the U.K., and yet the only land border that exists is between Ireland and Northern Ireland of all places. Speak to why that is such a hard hurdle to clear.

Richard Ayre: The problem is the EU has insisted that any withdrawal agreement between the U.K. and the EU must include what’s called “the backstop.” In other words, an insurance policy which says that if after many months, maybe even years of trying to reach a trade deal between the EU and the U.K., if those talks fail to achieve a deal, which means there doesn’t need to be a border, then the U.K. will have to remain within the EU customs union, to enable the free movement of goods across the border. At the moment, there’s a complete standoff. Boris Johnson has said very clearly in the last three days: “There will be no agreement while a backstop continues to be part of it.” And the EU has responded by saying, “The backstop absolutely has to be part of a withdrawal agreement.” It’s stalemate. Who knows what’ll happen?

Eric Sorensen: Now Canada’s not a part of that at all, but Canada-U.K. trade could be affected by all of this. There was a trade deal pretty much finalized, but that now seems to be on hold. Is Brexit already having an effect on Canada-U.K. trade?

Richard Ayre: Well, not yet, but actually the effect over the last two years has been positive for both sides because two years’ ago, the EU, including of course, the U.K., reached a deal with Canada for tariff-free or very low tariff trade between our two countries. The problem is that once we leave the European Union, we will not be part of that agreement, which was reached between the EU and Canada. So the U.K. proposed that there should be a continuation of the agreement, bilaterally, between the U.K. and Canada. Sounds sensible, the two countries should continue to charge very low tariffs or no tariffs on one another’s goods. That sounded great, but earlier this year for fear that prices of all imported goods were going to rise when Britain leave the EU, the British government announced that it would charge no tariffs on most goods arriving into this country from any country in the world. So the Canadians said, hang on. Why should we grant special access to Canada’s markets for the U.K., if the U.K. is throwing open its doors and welcoming all countries of the world to import into the U.K. without paying tariffs? So the potential deal between Britain and Canada is now on ice, it may be dead. If it isn’t resurrected, then by the 31st of October, if Boris Johnson keeps his word and Britain leaves the EU, then Canada will be obliged, under World Trade Organization rules, to start charging significant tariffs on a whole range of U.K. goods, including food and drink. And that will inevitably push up prices for Canadian consumers and more to the point, for us, it will hit British exports.

Eric Sorensen: I want to ask you about the relationship between, say, our prime minister and your new prime minister. But first, let me start with Boris Johnson and Donald Trump, and the relationship between the U.K. and the U.S., and what kind of alliance of interests that could emerge from that.

Richard Ayre: Now it’s true, of course that the two men have much in common. They both have this shock of blond hair, much beloved of cartoonists. They both like nothing more than addressing a huge audience and telling the audience whatever it is they want to hear. Both of them have had very colourful private lives and they both say things in public that they later regret and then deny having said them. Perhaps most fundamentally, they both share a passing familiarity with the truth, but there are very, very serious differences between the two. Boris Johnson is actually pretty bright guy. Intellectually, he runs rings around Donald Trump. Johnson speaks fluent French. He speaks fluent Italian. He speaks fluent, would you believe, Latin, surprisingly often using it. Donald Trump’s command of even, Englishraises some doubts. They don’t share a world view. It’s very unlikely that Boris Johnson is going to support America’s approach to Iran, further trying to isolate Iran. Johnson shares the European view that you engage Iran with incentives and with talk, to try to secure their nuclear plans. Boris Johnson is at heart, a Liberal.

Eric Sorensen: Richard, we only have a few seconds and I just want to get you, just in these few seconds, to say whether you think that Prime Minister Trudeau could be out of step with Johnson and Trump because he is so unlike them?

Richard Ayre: No. I think actually, Boris Johnson and Trudeau have much more in common than you might think. They’re both clever. They’re both bright. They’re both basically Liberal, the very opposite of Donald Trump. I think Canadians have almost nothing to fear from an alliance between Trump and Johnson, nothing to fear at all.

Eric Sorensen: Richard Ayre, thank you very much for talking to us from London.

Richard Ayre: You’re welcome.

Eric Sorensen: Coming up, a Hill Hobby where you can make your cake and eat it too. Liberal MP Mona Fortier in this week’s Hill Hobbies.

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Eric Sorensen: Welcome back. Decorating birthday or wedding cakes would be high stress for some, but for Liberal MP Mona Fortier, it’s a cakewalk on this week’s Hill Hobbies.

This is the Bread and Roses Baker in the riding of Ottawa-Vanier, and with us is the MP for Ottawa-Vanier, Mona Fortier. And your Hill Hobby is?

Liberal MP Mona Fortier: Decorating cakes, and it’s a therapy, too because you have to think of beginning to the end. From baking, to decorating, and offering this to someone that is either celebrating a wedding or a birthday or an anniversary. So it’s a gift that I give to my friends and family.

Eric Sorensen: And while this is a very big thing now, you were ahead of your time because you began way back.

Liberal MP Mona Fortier: Yeah, I was 16-years-old, working at Boulangerie d’Orleans, so the Orleans Bakery. And I learnt how to make cakes, and that’s where I had the idea saying, “Hey, this could be really fun to do at home.” And then family, friends started to get married and I said, “Huh. I’m going to offer this as a gift.”

Eric Sorensen: What’s the reaction you get to your creations?

Liberal MP Mona Fortier: The saying, “Oh, that’s exactly what I wanted.”

Eric Sorensen: Really?

Liberal MP Mona Fortier: Yeah, because sometimes they’ll—

Eric Sorensen: They’ve imagined it.

Liberal MP Mona Fortier: Well, sometimes they say I want a bit of this in this book and then I want to add these flowers. And so we do a little drawing, but it’s not done until it’s officially done.

Eric Sorensen: So, get us started then on what you do.

Liberal MP Mona Fortier: Today, we have a marble cake. So I’m going to level this, and this is the good part. We get a snack during the decorating cuz these are the extras. So if at some point you get hungry, you get to have some.

Eric Sorensen: I’ll hold you to that.

Liberal MP Mona Fortier: And this is where I will be icing the cake.

Eric Sorensen: Is there anything special in this icing for decorating purposes?

Liberal MP Mona Fortier: There’s just a lot of sugar and butter.

Eric Sorensen: Okay.

Liberal MP Mona Fortier: It’s just good for the soul, you know?

Eric Sorensen: Here in Ottawa-Vanier, we’re in the east side of Ottawa.

Liberal MP Mona Fortier: Yeah.

Eric Sorensen: For folks who may not know, this is the more Francophone part of Ottawa, the more Francophone part of the province of Ontario. Franco-relations are things that are important to you.

Liberal MP Mona Fortier: Yes, they are. So I was born and raised as a Franco-Ontarian, Franco-Canadian, and I think it’s something that everybody agrees on now in making sure that we all have a role to make sure Canada is strong and both official languages is a great asset for Canadians.

Eric Sorensen: Has it changed, because I think if I go back to when I was a kid, there were the two languages predominantly in the country.

Liberal MP Mona Fortier: Yeah.

Eric Sorensen: Now there are so many languages.

Liberal MP Mona Fortier: So many.

Eric Sorensen: How does that change the perception of language importance in the country?

Liberal MP Mona Fortier: Well I still strongly believe we need to foster both official languages, to respect all the other languages that we have in here, on the streets, in the schools and to make sure that we can build on that. So, if we have very strong official languages, I’m sure that we can bring the country much further. And we know also that we just had a law to support First Nations, Inuit and Métis languages. And hopefully that will also foster a great opportunity for our country.

Eric Sorensen: And a great challenge for those languages where the numbers are so small.

Liberal MP Mona Fortier: So small, yes.

Eric Sorensen: You’re on the platform committee for the Liberal Party going into the election. What can you tell us about what you would want to see on your platform, besides cake?

Liberal MP Mona Fortier: [Laughs] Well, food policy will be one of them. Well, as you know, we—the last platform in 2015, we won on that platform and we’ve been building on it for the past four years. Now we have to continue and continue to push for the middle class. And many Canadians, stakeholders and different—even caucus members, have shared and say we have to continue to push hard for economic opportunities, jobs. And I believe the platform work that we are working on is going to bring the country to another level.
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Eric Sorensen: Have you found, though, that in whatever platform you set out four years ago that the country is shifting in any way? Are there ways in which you think you’ll have to fine-tune a new platform?

Liberal MP Mona Fortier: It’s something that always has to be fine-tuned. The environment has changed economically. Our neighbours from the south have changed a lot. In the world, everything has changed so we have to have policies that we’ll make where Canadians can foster opportunity and also have an opportunity to live better. And that’s the challenge that we have and we are working on that.

Eric Sorensen: So when you were a teenager, this was a very big thing. Did a time come when you realized that maybe politics was going to take over cake decorating?

Liberal MP Mona Fortier: Pretty much at the same time [chuckles].

Eric Sorensen: Is that right?

Liberal MP Mona Fortier: Yeah, cuz I would get involved in community organization and the bakery we were working at had a lot of community—different, you know, dinners and we would cater to them. So I’d go to meet and bring the cakes to the different communities. That’s where I realized I wanted to be around people. And I now believe I’m doing the best job ever, and this is a hobby. We are going to decorate this. So this looks pretty raw right now, right?

Eric Sorensen: This tastes good already, by the way.

Liberal MP Mona Fortier: Yeah? You want more?

Eric Sorensen: No, that’s enough for me. Do you need your daughter to help out with that at all?

Liberal MP Mona Fortier: That would be fun.

Eric Sorensen: All right.

Liberal MP Mona Fortier: So, I kind of have my little helper here. Her name is Isabelle.

Eric Sorensen: Hello Isabelle, nice to see you.

Liberal MP Mona Fortier: So Isabelle and I had an idea to make small like this and we’re gonna put some all around with different colours.

Eric Sorensen: What a great idea. This is lovely. What are you going to do with it?

Liberal MP Mona Fortier: Eat it. We’re gonna eat it [chuckles].
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Eric Sorensen: And that is The West Block for this week. I’m Eric Sorensen. This has been a piece of cake. Thanks for watching.