THE WEST BLOCK
Episode 45, Season 8
Sunday, July 14, 2019
Host: Eric Sorensen
Guest Interviews: Liberal MP John McKay, Susan Delacourt, David Akin
Hill Hobbies: Conservative MP Scott Davidson and Alex Nuttall
Eric Sorensen: On this Sunday, MPs hold an emergency meeting tomorrow, here in Ottawa, over the Desjardins data breach, affecting nearly 3 million Canadians and businesses. We’ll ask public safety committee chair John McKay, what are Ottawa’s next steps?
Then, it’s barbeque time for MPs, but this summer, federal parties are grilling each other. Just 99 days to election, and our panel weighs in on a campaign that is heating up.
Plus, our summer series: Hill Hobbies. This week we test the waters of Lake Simcoe with Conservative MP Scott Davidson and Alex Nuttall.
It’s Sunday, July the 14th. I’m Eric Sorensen, and this is The West Block.
Well, close to 3 million Canadians and businesses had their social insurance numbers and other personal data, stolen last month in one of the largest security breaches Canada has seen. The federal privacy commission and its Quebec equivalent are investigating the breach with Montreal based Desjardins.
Tomorrow, MPs on the public safety committee come back to Ottawa for an emergency meeting to find out how it happened and what Ottawa should do about it.
Joining us now from Toronto is the chair of that committee, Liberal John McKay. Mr. McKay, welcome. You’re coming back here in the middle of July, why the urgency?
Liberal MP John McKay: Well, this is a significant issue to literally millions of people: 2.7 million people in Quebec, primarily, have had their data compromised and that data is now out in the how shall we say—cyber sphere—and from some media reports is now on the dark web. So this is a very significant issue and I think it’s absolutely appropriate that parliamentarians return and make at least some effort to understand the issue and hear the concerns and possibly what can be done about it.
Eric Sorensen: You know it’s important not just to Desjardins members but all Canadians. As you say, all of our data is out in cyber space, what specifically do you think your committee and the government must and can do to address these kinds of breaches?
Liberal MP John McKay: Well, I would like to hear the evidence first and then make the recommendations afterwards. But we did spend six months as a committee on this very issue, namely cyber security and financial relationships. And what you get to learn after six months of doing this is that that this is extraordinarily complicated, and what you also get to learn is that this is moving at a lightening pace. So, I take some comfort in the fact that under C-59, the government has set up an entity called Cyber Security or Cyber Security Task Force and it is to do the interface between industry, financial services and the Government of Canada because no entity, no matter how large, whether it’s a Royal Bank, or TD, or any organization you care to mention, can do its own cyber security on its own. So, this is, if you will, almost a classic example, a working example of whether the various interfaces that have been set up under C-59 can be stood up and can work.
Eric Sorensen: Can you reassure the Desjardins members that if their information is used in some fraudulent way there will be assistance for them?
Liberal MP John McKay: I think there will be assistance for them. I don’t know the form of assistance. I think the first line is Desjardins and what they can do for their own members. But, even the resources, the formidable resources of Desjardins and of the regulators will be taxed, and I think this is where the interface between all levels of regulators and governments needs to come into play hopefully through the Cyber Centre and get to the bottom of the issue. On the face of it, it’s a rogue employee, however, there may well be further implications beyond it simply being a rogue employee, especially now that according to media reports it’s out—in affect the information’s been sold and it is now in the dark web.
Eric Sorensen: You need to hear from Desjardins officials, of course. Also intelligence officials and other security officials, I think you need to hear from. Is there any sense at this stage whether this data has been used for elicit purposes, yet?
Liberal MP John McKay: Only on the basis of media reports and that’s—that’s at this stage kind of premature speculation. However, we do, as part of our witness list on Monday, have the RCMP and the Cyber Security Centre coming before us to talk about what they can talk about in the public domain, shall we say, along with Desjardins and along with other entities from the federal government. So this is, if you will, a preliminary meeting. Where it goes from there, I would be in the realm of speculation to say.
Eric Sorensen: The suggestion’s been made that perhaps the Desjardins members should be issued new social insurance numbers. We think of those numbers as being ours for life. It shows how serious this is. Andrew Scheer has said maybe that should be looked at. Is that something to be considered?
Liberal MP John McKay: It may be something to be considered, but it also may be a response which is not well considered. I don’t know what the officials will say, but I think what—part of what they might say is the solution that’s being proposed will actually create more problems than solve the current problem. In addition, it is a very formidable undertaking to replace the SIN numbers of upwards possibly of 2.9 million people.
Eric Sorensen: Alright. John McKay thanks for talking to us, today.
Liberal MP John McKay: Thank you, Eric.
Eric Sorensen: And up next, as the summer barbeque circuit heats up for party leaders and MPs, we’ll take the political temperature of an election campaign that unofficially is already warming up.
Eric Sorensen: Welcome back. Party leaders are hitting the barbeque circuit: testing their messages, bringing on new candidates for the election in October. And under the summer sun and before the heat of the official campaign, how are they doing?
Joining us now are two senior political watchers: Susan Delacourt, bureau chief for the Toronto Star and our own chief political correspondent David Akin. Thanks to you both for being here. Ninety-nine days till Election Day.
David Akin: Ninety-nine.
Eric Sorensen: You can sing along. But the horse race is on. They’re not galloping, but the horse race is on. The polls show it’s very tight in a couple of spots, but right at the top, roughly 35-35, give or take for the Liberals and the Conservatives. Susan, what do you make of a race where 35 could actually be a winning number this time around?
Susan Delacourt: It’s very different. I keep comparing it to four years ago, you know, and I think it’s a good comparison to make because we thought at the outset of the election one thing was going to happen that the NDP was going to be actually either government or official opposition again and they were third. So, I—and Liberals entered that election distant, distant third. Now they’re the government. So, that tells me that people are, I think, retreating back into wait and see mode. I think when you saw the heat of Parliament when—it’s been a bad, bad winter for Trudeau and his team. You saw that reflected in the polls, but I think as attention is sort of gone out to the larger country and people are chilling out and enjoying summer. I think you’re seeing the race evening up a bit. Certainly you see it, the Liberals mark this weekend a 100-day countdown. They actually made it official. They did a bunch of events on Saturday to mark that and you see the different tone in Trudeau. You see him, he’s definitely moving into campaign mode. He seemed a little off his game in May and June, but I think you see that the campaign in all but officially has started.
Eric Sorensen: It seems different to me, though, from four years ago, David, because back then, you had people wondering are we really going to elect an NDP leader? Are we really going to elect a brand new Liberal leader? Now it’s a little more settled it looks like. It looks like the Liberal with the leader that the Canadians now know against the traditional alternative, the Conservatives.
David Akin: Yeah. I think that is one of the key differences is I think the next prime minister is going to be from the blue team or the red team. I don’t think anybody think the guy running the orange team has any hope being the prime minister. I think we’re probably on the same page there. But, I think also what is a likely outcome, and again, campaigns matter. They sure did in 2015 and many others we’ve covered, is a minority government is quite a possibility. And so all the leaders are going, I think, have to respond to that. And one of the leaders who we’re going to be paying a lot more attention more attention to is Elizabeth May and the Green Party, and Elizabeth is in southern Ontario next week campaigning in Barrie, I think, Guelph. Places where Greens have shown some strength, and there is a reasonable possibility that the Greens could come back with enough seats, more than two that they now have, you know, maybe eight, nine, 12 would be official party status, that they could make a difference in a minority parliament. So, I mean, for those of us in our business, this is going to be a fun summer because there’s all sorts of possibilities, and Canadians have a lot more choice and are willing to make choices. I think that’s interesting too. Canadians are telling pollsters, I’m willing to do something I’ve never done before. I might vote for the Green or the People’s Party of Canada. Remember Max Bernier. So it’s going to be a neat summer.
Eric Sorensen: And yet, you could have then, Progressives split three, four different ways, Susan. I remember 20 years ago, everyday there was a headline in the Globe or the National Post about gotta Unite the Right, gotta Unite the Right.
Susan Delacourt: Right. Yes, yeah.
Eric Sorensen: And now you’ve got this split amongst Progressives and they could deliver a Conservative government again, in the mid-30s.
Susan Delacourt: I’ve been talking to strategists from those parties, all of them. And they say that they’re mindful of the fact that vote splits could elect Conservatives in ridings. That’s a very hard thing to go and knock on somebody’s door and say let me explain the math to you. If you vote this way, this could happen. I think although Canadians, I think, are capable of strategic voting, and I do think there are going to be ridings in Canada where that split among the votes is going to change some things. I forget. There were a lot of narrow margins in the 2015 campaign too. It’s a very hard thing for Canadians themselves to get their mind—wrap their minds around too.
David Akin: And yet, that’s when I think the great virtues for the Liberals to get Steven Guilbeault and folks in English Canada are going to hear more about this guy. French Canada knows him pretty well. He’s been an environmental activist most of his career. He’s definitely put him in the star candidate category for Montreal for the Liberals to get and he’s dead set against pipelines. And yet there he is, last week he was standing there with Justin Trudeau, hands up we’re going to fight. And Guilbeault’s line is: listen folks, we’re about to lose all the gains we’ve made. That’s why he’s signing up for the Liberals and not with New Democrats, not with Greens. He’s saying folks, we gotta sign up with these or we’ll lose all the gains we made on what’s most important to him, on the climate change file.
Eric Sorensen: In a nutshell, David, what baggage are the Liberals carrying this time that they sure didn’t have four years ago?
David Akin: Well, it’s things they promised four years ago and didn’t do would be the first thing and that’s electoral reform, when we talk about the Progressives, that’s the number one and the thing. Their work on climate change in terms of hitting actual targets, they’ve talked it all up and of course they want it. They believe in it. They think it’s the number one issue, but there’s a lot of Progressives that say you really didn’t do that well. You’ve just finally got to a carbon tax. It’s going to take a while. So those are—the baggage there is, I think, on the Progressive side that—and the SNC-Lavalin thing, really disappointed the Progressive side. Those would be the three big bags they’re carrying.
Susan Delacourt: It’s measuring Justin Trudeau against the Justin Trudeau he was in 2015. I think he knows that. I went to a teacher’s conference that he spoke at this week in Ottawa, where he was talking a bit about this. But remember, in 2015, he was the youngest of the party leaders and he had youth and optimism. He’s going to be, except for Elizabeth May, he’s going to be the oldest. Andrew Scheer and Jagmeet Singh are just turning 40, and Justin Trudeau is closer to 50. So, a lot of the Justin Trudeau that people were electing in 2015 is not the Justin Trudeau he is now: guy with experience. People are going to have to measure that up. Did he become cynical in power? What did he do with all those sunny ways and the optimism?
Eric Sorensen: We’re accustomed to having a third party being the NDP for decades now, David. Are we possibly seeing, just in a nutshell, could they be disappearing almost in this election?
David Akin: There have been, I think—I’m trying to think. I know Frank Graves at EKOS, has measured the Greens in third on a national horse race poll. Most other pollsters still have the Greens in fourth place. But the fact that we’re talking about this, again, I think is giving voter’s permission to consider the idea of voting Green. They’re the Official Opposition in P.E.I. They hold the balance of power in B.C. They’ve got seats in the New Brunswick legislature and the Ontario legislature, and they just won that by-election federally in Nanaimo. That is called momentum for people to think about Green. And I think that Jagmeet Singh, in the last week, what’s he been talking about? Climate policy, I think they’re very keenly aware that the NDP are keenly aware that they’re vulnerable to losing some of their voters to the Greens.
Eric Sorensen: And final though to you, Susan. We had the premiers meeting this past week. Not so long ago, we had Rachel Notley, Kathleen Wynne, Christy Clark, representing premiers for the majority of the population in Canada and now I want to show you the picture of the premiers meeting this past week. And when you look at that, what’s wrong with that picture?
Susan Delacourt: Well, there’s been a lot of talk about this. I recommended, I think I might have even recommended it on this show once before. There’s an excellent podcast about this called No Second Chances. It’s about how women are not—women can get elected but not re-elected. As first minister in Canada, there’s never been a case of a woman elected before. We were talking about 2015. Rachel Notley was head of the premiers back then. It’s—I don’t think the job is over yet of getting women safely into power. They still have to be twice as good.
Eric Sorensen: Well, we have an election this fall. We’ll see if there are strides forward or backsliding as early as this October. David, Susan, thanks very much for talking to us.
David Akin: Thanks, Eric.
Eric Sorensen: Up next, we get onboard with two MPs for our summer series: Hill Hobbies.
Eric Sorensen: Welcome back. When Conservative MP Scott Davidson is not on Parliament Hill, his go-to place is his landing boat on Lake Simcoe. We caught up with him and fellow MP Alex Nuttall, to find out why this Hill hobby is more than just a hobby.
MP Scott Davidson: Eric.
Eric Sorensen: Scott.
MP Scott Davidson: How are ya?
Eric Sorensen: Good to see ya. How are you Alex?
MP Alex Nuttall: Welcome to Lake Simcoe.
Eric Sorensen: Such a pleasure to be here, and with two MPs. And you’re both from this area, but on opposite sides of the lake?
MP Scott Davidson: Yeah. This is the riding in York-Simcoe, which is the best riding. Sorry to cut you off, but—
MP Alex Nuttall: I was going to say the good side of the lake’s just over there.
Eric Sorensen: And you’re both avid boaters.
MP Scott Davidson: That’s right.
MP Alex Nuttall: Well, I’m turning into an avid boater. I haven’t been a boater for about 10 years, so it’s Scotty showing me the way, again.
Eric Sorensen: Tell us just about this beast that we’re on.
MP Scott Davidson: It’s almost a landing craft. These are probably some of the toughest boats built in the world, and we’re going to be going over to Chippewas Georgina Island First Nations today, and obviously, an island. I’m an avid fisherman, boater and I love to snowmobile, four-wheel, and often times—and hunt as well, and often times we’ll put a four-wheeler on the front of this, if we have to go to different locations on the lake, and now I can actually take it with me. No, it’s great. We’re going to have fun today and get out on the lake.
MP Alex Nuttall: And you couldn’t ask for better weather. Lake’s calm and the sun’s out.
Eric Sorensen: Yeah, no, this is a good assignment.
MP Scott Davidson: That’s it. This is the jewel of York—Simcoe.
Eric Sorensen: Scott, let’s start with you. You live here. This is your place. You wanted to talk to us on a boat and take a ride out here. Why was that the kind of thing you wanted to kind of talk about?
MP Scott Davidson: I wanted to kind of give you a flavour of the riding and how important Lake Simcoe is to the riding, and actually to Alex’s riding as well. This is the jewel of our community. I’m an outdoors person. I spent my whole life on the lake, so I thought it was an important thing for you to see.
Eric Sorensen: What are your youngest memories, I guess, of being on a boat?
MP Scott Davidson: I’m going to say as long back as I can remember: driving a Tim boat with my uncle for the first time to my dad taking me to an old marina, which thankfully I ended up owning for a number of years: Bonnie Boats at Jacksons Point, and actually running a boat, probably when I was five or six.
Eric Sorensen: What’s important about the lake?
MP Scott Davidson: The most important thing is a lot of people earn their money off the lake, number one. For tourism dollars, it’s very important to York—Simcoe. As well, there’s over half a million people that it provides drinking water to. So it’s very important that we keep the lake clean. And as you know, I was recently elected in the by-election here, and that was one of the most important things that I wanted to see in our environmental policy. And I worked hard to get it, and thanks to Alex for helping. You’ll see it’s in our environmental policy as a pledge to bring back the Lake Simcoe Clean-up Fund.
Eric Sorensen: You’re a little bit newer to, I guess, boating, but still a few years. But you’re living in this area now, how are you struck by the significance of sort of just living in the lake area?
MP Alex Nuttall: It’s beautiful. The quality of life here is unmatched. You know, your proximity to Toronto, your proximity to, you know, agriculture and the snow hills in the winter, and all the things that you can do in this area, I mean, it’s just incredible.
Eric Sorensen: So where do you fellas come down, then, on a question like climate change and the policies that is necessary to preserve something like this?
MP Scott Davidson: Well, I think this spoke to the Lake Simcoe Clean-up Fund that the previous Conservative government had out that unfortunately the Liberals cancelled, its boots on the ground climate change policy. There were over 200 groups that benefitted from that fund. There were over 72,000 trees done. There was fish stocking that was done. There was invasive species, and we’ve really brought the lake back, but there’s so much more work to be done. And that’s why it’s important to have boots on the ground environmental policy, as well as the national policy as well.
MP Alex Nuttall: The reality is the dollars were spent, they were spent wisely. For every one dollar that was spent by the federal government, there was another four dollars added from private sector, from municipal, provincial and county governments.
Eric Sorensen: Alex, you’re finishing a rather brief career in Parliament, so let me just first as you why. Why are you getting out so soon?
MP Alex Nuttall: You know there’s lots of time to have a career in politics.
Eric Sorensen: Okay.
MP Alex Nuttall: And there’s not lots of time to spend time with my kids.
Eric Sorensen: Family is important to you as well, and living in this area, and your wife is First Nations and we’re in a First Nations land here on this island.
MP Scott Davidson: That’s right.
Eric Sorensen: Speak to sort of the issues that are important for her and for them.
MP Scott Davidson: There’s transportation issues that they face over here. So health care is always an issue. So there’s always federal programs that are needed to help out all First Nations not just this one. As well, this island’s been on a boiled water advisory for a number of years, which to me, you know, had to change. And luckily now, the federal government has stepped up and helped them with a new water plant. Unfortunately, the funding for that is only doing half of the island.
Eric Sorensen: You have five ridings around the lake.
MP Scott Davidson: That’s right.
Eric Sorensen: The last election was a swing election towards the Liberals, and yet all five ridings remain Conservative. What is it about the area that kind of has a Conservative bend?
MP Scott Davidson: We’re a collection of hard-working people, hard-working farmers, very much rural, and I think a lot of people always have the notion when you talk to them at the doors, York—Simcoe hasn’t got their fair share of federal infrastructure dollars, right? We have internet issues, which I’m sure you do as well and I think we need more federal dollars spent up on rural ridings for things like that. I think we have to look at them as highways now: rural internet, much like you’ve got Bell telephone and hydro. People are entitled to high speed internet.
Eric Sorensen: So Alex, as conservative as this area is, you’ve gone to Ottawa, you’ve spent some time there. You’ve come away with a kind of a balanced view of how you see politics and partisanship.
MP Alex Nuttall: I went to Ottawa, probably the most partisan you could get and I’m walking away far less partisan. As a Conservative, I have a set of beliefs. So do the other parties. So do the people in the other parties, and they care about their ridings. There’s definitely some key differences, but there’s a lot we agree on and we just never get the opportunity to talk about that.
Eric Sorensen: So just take me back onto the boat for a second. You’ve grown up with it, so what is it that I guess, it means to you just to be out on the water?
MP Scott Davidson: It’s a breath of fresh air. You know what? It’s a nice time to just get out in the boat, especially with family, friends like Alex, and just a time to, you know, clean your head and just a time to think. It gives you freedom. And I love this lake. I’ve been on it my whole life and it’ll always be dear to my heart.
Eric Sorensen: Scott, Alex, thanks very much for talking to us.
MP Scott Davidson: It was a pleasure having you and we’d love to have you back again.
Eric Sorensen: That’s our show for this week. From Lake Simcoe, for The West Block, I’m Eric Sorensen. Thanks for tuning in.
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