The West Block – Episode 26, Season 12 – National


Episode 26, Season 12

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Host: Mercedes Stephenson



Kirsten Hillman, Canadian Ambassador to america

Kevin Web page, Former Parliamentary Funds Officer and Institute of Fiscal Research and Democracy

Lisa Raitt, International Funding Banking, CIBC and Former Conservative Cupboard Minister



Ottawa, ON


Mercedes Stephenson: Simply how robust is Canada’s relationship with america? This week, we’ll have a firsthand look.

I’m Mercedes Stephenson. Welcome to The (*12*) Block.

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U.S. President Joe Biden heads to Ottawa for an official go to. What’s on the agenda for the White Home and may the Prime Minister ship? A candid dialog with Canada’s ambassador to america.


And may the U.S. avert one other banking disaster? Ought to Canadians be involved?

U.S. President Joe Biden begins an official go to to Canada this week. The President and First Woman Jill Biden arrive in Ottawa on Thursday. On Friday, he’ll be the primary president since Barack Obama, to handle Parliament.

The relationship between presidents and Canadian prime ministers is all the time a lot scrutinized, particularly it appears on this facet of the border how a lot face time you get with the U.S. chief really issues.

President Biden and Prime Minister Trudeau have met many occasions earlier than however there may be an urgency to this assembly. With rising army calls for, tensions with China and Russia on the rise, and with our two economies so intently linked, there’s so much at stake.

To speak about this go to and Canada’s priorities, I’m joined by Canadian ambassador to america, Kirsten Hillman. Thanks a lot for becoming a member of us as we speak, it’s so good to see you right here in Ottawa.

Kirsten Hillman, Canadian Ambassador to america: It’s nice to be right here, Mercedes, so thanks a lot for having me.

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Mercedes Stephenson: Canada and america have the closest relationship for Canada’s perspective that issues and positively the Biden presidency has been extra predictable than the Trump presidency, but it surely additionally hasn’t all the time been nice for Canada, from deciding to not construct the Keystone XL pipeline however approving one from Alaska, to a few of the purchase American provisions that we’ve seen handed, to the stress for extra defence spending and it looks as if generally an unwillingness to behave on unlawful border crossings. What are the objectives and the technique for Canada heading into this assembly?

Kirsten Hillman, Canadian Ambassador to america: Thanks for that. You recognize, I believe that having been in Washington beneath the earlier administration and now in Washington beneath this administration, I must say that the connection—that is to your first level—is definitely very, very robust in a relationship of this magnitude, proper? Two billion {dollars} a day—over $2 billion a day in commerce, a 6 thousand kilometre border. It’s inevitable that we’re going to have issues which might be difficult between us. However the huge, overwhelming majority of what we do collectively is deeply aligned, particularly between the Trudeau authorities and the Biden administration. They’ve a deep coverage alignment. So, I assume on the highest degree what this journey shall be about and what I actually hope we come away with may be very clear discussions and concrete plans about make one another stronger. About how each of our nations on this time, which you mentioned in your intro, you already know very difficult. What we do collectively to make each of our home economies and societies stronger and safer, and safer and higher, however what we additionally do collectively on the worldwide stage.

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Mercedes Stephenson: One of many large considerations for lots of oldsters is the Roxham Highway crossing in Quebec, on this unlawful border crossing that individuals have been strolling throughout. I regarded up the numbers simply earlier than we did this interview: 40 thousand individuals got here from the U.S. into Canada throughout these irregular border crossings. The Canadian authorities is conscious that this can be a downside, however they would wish the U.S. onboard to vary the Secure Third Nation Settlement that regulates this. Is your sense from being in Washington that that’s one thing that President Biden shall be open to?

Kirsten Hillman, Canadian Ambassador to america: So I believe the very first thing to say is that migration in our hemisphere is a large precedence for the Biden administration however for our hemisphere. I imply it’s—it’s a tragic state of affairs that’s occurring south of the American border. They’d 2 million irregular migrants hit their southern border final yr. These are individuals which might be fleeing determined and really, very tough circumstances. So it’s clear that our leaders will discuss hemispheric migration. They are going to discuss concerning the root causes of the migration. They are going to discuss these individuals which might be in peril and whose lives are in danger after which they are going to discuss concerning the implications of that for our borders, for the U.S. southern border, and naturally, for the Canada-U.S. border and the Roxham Highway state of affairs, in addition to different crossings the place individuals come. So, it is going to be positively a part of the dialogue between the Prime Minister and the President.

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Mercedes Stephenson: Talking of our hemisphere, the U.S. has made it very clear they want Canada to guide a mission to attempt to assist stabilize Haiti. Our Chief of the Defence Workers Common Wayne Eyre has mentioned that that may be very tough in an interview given the challenges that we face by way of staffing. However we’re listening to the People say out of the White Home that Canada’s signalling curiosity on this. Is that correct? Are we signalling curiosity in main this Haiti mission, and as your understanding as ambassador that we’ve got capability to take action?

Kirsten Hillman, Canadian Ambassador to america: So we discuss with the People concerning the state of affairs in Haiti, if not day-after-day, a number of occasions every week. And never simply the People, you already know, our companions within the hemisphere and different worldwide organizations and actors which might be deeply involved and mobilized to try to assist the individuals of Haiti. And I believe that the essential factor to say right here is that there are numerous completely different actions that we’re taking along with the U.S. and others. So we’re what are all of the issues that we will do. We’ve—Canada’s been very aggressive in imposing sanctions on these which might be funding the gang exercise. We’ve got introduced a whole lot of humanitarian support. The U.S. is doing so now. And we discuss to the Haitians individuals about what they suppose are the options which might be going to work for them. And so at this level what we’re specializing in is, and that is due to what the Haitians are telling us, is that what they really want is for his or her police providers to be correctly skilled to take care of the safety state of affairs. That’s the place we’re focusing. That’s what we’re speaking to the U.S. about and different companions within the area who would assist us in that.

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Mercedes Stephenson: So perhaps the RCMP is a chance there?

Kirsten Hillman, Canadian Ambassador to america: It is perhaps. I—you already know—I’m Canada’s ambassador to america. I can’t converse to the

Mercedes Stephenson: You don’t get to… [Cross talk]  

Kirsten Hillman, Canadian Ambassador to america: …RCMPs capability or goodness gracious actually not the army’s capability or different people who find themselves the consultants in that. However what I can say is that we’re very—we’ve got—we talked to the People on a regular basis about—like as I mentioned, a number of occasions every week about what is going on in Haiti. What we’re seeing on the bottom. What we’re listening to from the individuals on the bottom. What they suppose is working. The place they suppose they want further help in order that we take the steps that make a distinction in that nation and that we don’t attempt to, you already know, impose on them one thing that they’re saying this isn’t one thing that’s going to be manageable for us to—to take care of.  

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Mercedes Stephenson: There’s a priority about how the U.S. perceives Canada in relation to defence spending and the Armed Forces, and we’ve heard it from, as we’ve simply mentioned, our personal high common. However there are some very critical points and considerations there. We noticed the Chinese language spy balloons. We’ve heard considerations concerning the Arctic. We’re listening to considerations about our capability to deploy and lead missions all over the world. After I talked to a whole lot of American sources, they inform me they’re not very pleased with Canada’s defence spending. Are you involved about that? And the way a lot stress do you get from the American facet about how a lot cash we’re placing into defence and safety?

Kirsten Hillman, Canadian Ambassador to america: So I might say that I’ve a special impression than perhaps what you’re listening to. I—as I say—I’ve been in D.C. for the reason that final administration and into this one, and there’s no doubt that the U.S. will all the time be trying to Canada and different allies to do as a lot as they will. And that they’re, you already know, desirous to ensure that we contribute in a manner that’s as efficient as potential. However I do—I’ve seen that as we’ve got made our bulletins with respect to the investments in NORAD modernization, the acquisition of the F-35s. The proven fact that we are actually beneath a, you already know, beginning—or in the midst of one other defence coverage evaluation and searching for their, you already know, searching for to seek the advice of with them and discuss to them about that evaluation. I—it’s modified the tone from the place I sit in Washington to a fairly essential diploma. I believe Minister Anand has an excellent relationship with Secretary Austin, a really open relationship. So I discover that there’s a actual sense of collaboration. Do they need us to do extra? At all times. At all times. However not simply us, proper? However in addition they actually respect that we’re going to make the alternatives that make sense for us. I believe that the Arctic is a extremely essential contribution that we will make to the continental defence, you already know, that different companions are much less capable of make. So I believe focusing in on that as we’re doing makes a whole lot of sense and is deeply appreciated by the People.

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Mercedes Stephenson: Proper, and principally ours and clearly a whole lot of concern about who’s up there after we noticed the balloons and tales [00:08:47]. We simply have time for one final query, however I need to discuss concerning the economic system to you since you talked about $2 billion commerce. I imply this can be a big, big connection for Canada and the Biden administration, whereas they’re very pleasant and public with Canada and in personal, they’re making selections which might be greatest for the U.S. and a few of that has included issues just like the Inflation Discount Act and incentives on electrical autos an all types of inexperienced know-how that actually deprioritizes Canadian corporations and so they’re saying we simply can’t compete. On the similar time, we see the Prime Minister out doing excursions of electrical battery services saying we’re going to turn into a worldwide chief. Is your sense that there are inroads that may be made to reassure Canadian companies of their entry or to get some sort of an exemption from the America solely stuff for Canada?

Kirsten Hillman, Canadian Ambassador to america: Proper. So the Inflation Discount Act is a large spending invoice designed to incentivize, as you say, electrification, electrical autos, battery manufacturing. In addition they have a invoice on vital mineral exploitation that may incentivize that. And lots of of these options of these items of laws really acknowledged the Canada-U.S. partnership. So, in relationship to the IRA, the Inflation Discount Act, the North American auto ecosystem is particularly carved into that invoice, so Canadian batteries which might be produced in Canada are eligible for the incentives beneath that invoice. Canadian vital minerals, batteries produced with Canadian vital minerals are eligible for the tax incentives beneath that invoice. Autos which might be manufactured in Canada are eligible for American tax credit beneath that invoice. So that may be a large aggressive benefit for us, frankly. And I believe it’s a recognition of type of the Canada-U.S.-Mexico auto ecosystem that’s been so efficient for our three nations because it tasks itself into the long run, proper, with the electrification of autos. And it’s going to be a North American electrification precedence. There are different areas the place they’re additionally searching for to draw funding, however as are we and we’ve got been for a very long time. We’ve been really working on this house of incentivizing these transitions in Canada by way of completely different authorities insurance policies for six or seven years. So at some—in some degree, the U.S. is simply getting into this subject. We are going to compete. We are going to compete properly. I see it within the U.S., our price proposition is powerful. Individuals, sources, expertise, insurance policies, coverage stability, all of these items actually matter and a few of these bulletins, you already know, the Volkswagen announcement would present. So is there competitors? Sure, but it surely’s sort of competitors, I believe, that’s going to make us each higher. It’s going to incentivize perhaps as a lot manufacturing as quick as potential, as a result of for all these applied sciences, demand goes to outstrip provide for a very long time to return. So, I believe one in all our large messages to the People subsequent week goes to be that is good, however let’s be certain that we’re doing it in a manner that strikes us each ahead as a lot as potential, as quick as potential and is in an effort of type of a zero sum sport the place we try to outcompete one another.

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Mercedes Stephenson: Ambassador Hillman, thanks a lot for being right here and naturally, we’ll see you in just some days at your first go to.

Kirsten Hillman, Canadian Ambassador to america: We’ll see you in just a few days. Thanks.

Mercedes Stephenson: Thanks a lot.

Up subsequent, are we headed for one more monetary disaster after a turbulent week in international banking?


Mercedes Stephenson: You’re not alone for those who’ve had flashbacks to the 2008 monetary disaster final week, after it regarded just like the collapse of Silicon Valley Financial institution was spreading, till Washington stepped in.

Janet Yellen, U.S. Treasury Secretary: “I needed to ensure that the issues at Silicon Valley Financial institution and Signature Financial institution didn’t undermine confidence within the soundness of banks across the nation.”

Mercedes Stephenson: The banking turmoil solely provides to the financial uncertainty brought on by inflation, rising meals and gasoline costs, and excessive charges of curiosity. It’s towards this backdrop that Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland is about to introduce her federal funds on March twenty eighth.

Right here now to debate that is Kevin Web page, former parliamentary funds officer and head of the Institute for Fiscal Research and Democracy; and Lisa Raitt, former Conservative cupboard minister and vice-chair of International Funding Banking at CIBC.

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I’ve had so many questions on this that I’m curious to place to each of you. Canadians have been actually involved. Individuals keep in mind when large American monetary establishments went down earlier than. They’re curious. Might this unfold to Canadian banks? Let’s begin with you, Kevin.

Kevin Web page, Former Parliamentary Funds Officer and Institute of Fiscal Research and Democracy: Sure, I believe it’s proper for individuals to be involved. I believe it’s—some individuals—some particular person described it as a sluggish transferring disaster and so we positively—it’s not only one financial institution, it’s greater than. It’s just a few banks in america. It’s a comparatively giant financial institution in Europe. So I believe when, you already know, as those who use banks that put their cash there, you already know they make investments by way of banks, it’s nervous. Like there’s no science proper now that there’s any actual monetary stress that—within the Canadian banking system, however I believe this can be a international subject and a method or one other, I believe we are going to, you already know, we’ll really feel it.

Mercedes Stephenson: Lisa, what’s your sense of the broader financial state of affairs we’re in as a result of I do know that Canadian banks are regulated otherwise than American banks, however clearly, what occurs in america nonetheless has an impact right here and there’s a whole lot of monetary stressors for individuals proper now.

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Lisa Raitt, International Funding Banking, CIBC and Former Conservative Cupboard Minister: Yeah, for positive Canadian banks have a special regulatory regime. However extra importantly, the large banks are actually various of their holdings. So the sort of factor that occurred at Silicon Valley Financial institution was that you just had a really robust focus of a sure kind of funding or investor within the financial institution. So when there have been difficulties within the tech sector, for instance, that was felt, clearly, very a lot.

Within the case of Canadian banks, there’s nice diversification by way of investments and by way of what deposits are. So I might say that the Canadian financial institution holder might be very assured and it may be very calm by way of how our banks are going to go. However I’ll let you know that one factor that stunned me essentially the most about what went down with respect to Silicon Valley Financial institution, is how fast it occurred. I imply individuals have been emailing one another. There have been tweets that have been flying throughout. Individuals have been on TikTok, speaking about what was occurring and that actually brought on a run on the financial institution. And social media as a way to speak in a really fast method, positively had an influence right here, whereas, you already know, previously a financial institution run may presumably take quite a lot of hours, couple of days, perhaps some weeks. On this case, it was nearly instantaneous. That’s one thing that we’ve got to look at by way of regulation and by way of what occurs in our banking sector.

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Mercedes Stephenson: That’s a extremely fascinating level, Lisa and it looks like all the things has simply been on hyper cycle, nearly these days for information, for the economic system, for all the things. And a whole lot of of us are actually feeling that stress, Kevin. You recognize, you’ve obtained rising meals costs, rising gasoline costs. Loads of of us, who’re on a variable mortgage as an alternative of a set mortgage, might be paying a whole bunch extra a month that they only don’t have the cash for. Do you suppose there’s a chance that we’re heading in direction of vital mortgage defaults or a recession in Canada?

Kevin Web page, Former Parliamentary Funds Officer and Institute of Fiscal Research and Democracy: Yeah. I believe we’re headed for a big financial slowdown. I believe it stays to be seen whether or not it is going to be a comfortable touchdown, one thing that, you already know, that appears progress is comparatively flat. Some upward tick within the unemployment fee or one thing that’s a tough touchdown that we skilled in, say, 2008-09. So, I believe that’s an open query and I believe there’s no information proper now for those who have been take a look at both credit score or mortgage, you already know, credit score delinquencies or mortgages in arrears. That information appears nice proper now. The labour market appears robust, however I believe there’s only a sense that we’re getting near this precipice, the place one thing’s going to interrupt.

Mercedes Stephenson: Yeah, I believe that’s that sensitivity, particularly after COVID, of like when is the following factor going to occur? The place is the following cliff? Lisa, the federal government is clearly going to attempt to discover methods to make this higher. That’s what governments do. I do know you’re Conservative. They’re Liberal. Completely different views on how to do this. However you’ve been within the funds planning course of, by way of conferences—you already know what occurs in cupboard. What is going to the federal government be as they take into account what must be on this funds?

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Lisa Raitt, International Funding Banking, CIBC and Former Conservative Cupboard Minister: Effectively, initially, any authorities a funds can also be contemplating it within the better context of when is the following election? And what do they should do to make sure that they nonetheless have the help of the voters? And I do know it appears crass, Mercedes, however it’s a related calculation that occurs throughout funds time. Is that this one thing that our base will like? Is that this one thing that Canadians will like? There’s no query Canadians are hurting. They’re very involved about what’s occurring in the price of on a regular basis issues, and positively they’re involved about their mortgages. So there could also be some reduction, however I don’t know what the federal government goes to do. The issue with sending extra cheques out and rising the sum of money in individuals’s pockets, in fact, is that they’re capable of spend extra. They’re capable of purchase extra. And that truly does add to the potential of inflation sticking round for some time.

In america, regardless of what’s happening, the large debate is going on whether or not or not they’re going to extend rates of interest once more as a result of their inflation is just too excessive and so they suppose excessive inflation in the long run is a nasty factor. Equally, the federal government placing more cash into the system, might be seen as a unfavorable factor with respect to inflation and it’s not going to unravel the long run subject that we’ve got with respect to the economic system being nonetheless extremely popular.

Mercedes Stephenson: Kevin, you, for a few years, gave us the true value of issues. That’s why we’ve got the parliamentary funds officer versus what governments inform us they’re going to value. What are your considerations concerning the funds developing and what would you wish to see the federal government do or what recommendation would you give them?

Kevin Web page, Former Parliamentary Funds Officer and Institute of Fiscal Research and Democracy: Yeah, I believe—I imply nice recommendation from Lisa that like inflation stays the primary type of macro-financial subject. It’s—it creates a whole lot of instability like general and I believe—so I believe it’s essential that the funds—like our fiscal coverage be in keeping with financial coverage that they work—they’re coherent. They’re working collectively to scale back the speed of inflation, setting a decrease inflation expectations. Like I believe—like, you already know, along with that, I believe that mainly means the federal government’s obtained to carry its deficit monitor, which is mainly a downward trajectory within the dimension of those deficits. And if they may try this, that—I believe that may be coherent coverage. However I believe we all know that there—you already know we’re going to see numbers on the well being care deal. There’s some pressures on numerous fronts to assist weak individuals, perhaps, you already know, an extension to the GST credit score. I believe, you already know, the NDP are fairly new democratic events placing stress on them to do extra stuff on dental are. Yeah, and I believe there’s a way that, you already know, after the U.S. Anti-Inflation Safety Act the place they’re, you already know, you may see the U.S. is making a big transfer to attempt to increase their competitiveness of the inexperienced trade, like we’re going to should maintain tempo on a whole lot of fronts. I believe the important thing, although, is to do this in a manner that doesn’t add a whole lot of the inflationary stress that Lisa talked to. So if it’s capital associated, that’s nice. But when it’s like a whole lot of, you already know cash that’s going to enter the system by way of transfers that’ll be consumed, that might maintain inflationary pressures up. So, yeah, it’s an advanced funds atmosphere.

Mercedes Stephenson: How lifelike do you suppose it’s that we’ll see a balanced funds developing? As a result of that was one of many issues we heard them discuss for the primary time within the fall, however now we do have all these unknowns, together with Russia, Ukraine, the battle, altering international atmosphere. Is {that a} ship that has type of sailed on the possibility of a balanced funds being a spotlight right here?

Kevin Web page, Former Parliamentary Funds Officer and Institute of Fiscal Research and Democracy: No, I believe by way of like a fiscal planning framework to have a medium to work together that does get us again to steadiness. Once more, if you concentrate on it, you already know, the economic system, at the very least, you already know, is rising. It’s most likely working near trim. There’s a whole lot of what individuals name extra demand pressures. The labour market appears to be comparatively tight. Unemployment fee’s sitting at 5 per cent. So I believe, actually, on this atmosphere, you already know, if we get a comfortable touchdown, I believe attaining a balanced funds over the following three, 4 years is doable. However will this authorities—have they got, you already know, sort of the political urge for food going into an election in a few years? Once more, Lisa talked about that. I believe they’ll need to spend. And so—however I believe attending to medium time period steadiness is certainly achievable.

Mercedes Stephenson: Lisa, we simply have just a few moments, however remaining phrases to you.

Lisa Raitt, International Funding Banking, CIBC and Former Conservative Cupboard Minister: I’m going to say that I believe it’s essential to take care of what is going on within the now, but it surely’s equally essential to consider what the long run appears like. Kevin brings up the Inflation Discount Act, which is an anti-aggressive act for positive, vis-à-vis Canada and america. And the federal government goes to should take a extremely good take a look at issues that we will do in Canada which might be wanted on the world stage that ought to have help and funding, and together with giving encouragement to the enterprise sector to speculate. And that’s the best way to maintain the economic system stepping into the fitting route over not simply the brief-time period, however the medium to lengthy. And I’m wanting ahead to seeing a few of these, I hope, within the funds developing in a pair weeks.

Mercedes Stephenson: Nice. We’ll be holding an in depth eye on it. Thanks each for sharing your time and experience with us.

Kevin Web page, Former Parliamentary Funds Officer and Institute of Fiscal Research and Democracy: Thanks.

Mercedes Stephenson: Up subsequent, taking inventory of the controversy over Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s alternative for particular rapporteur on international interference.


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Mercedes Stephenson: Now for one very last thing. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed former Governor Common David Johnston as particular rapporteur, to research international interference. The subject has been a political firestorm for the federal government. Johnston was appointed GG by Stephen Harper, however he’s additionally an in depth good friend of the Trudeau household, which has led critics to query whether or not he’s the fitting particular person for the job.

Final week, the Prime Minister criticized the Opposition for elevating these questions.

Justin Trudeau: “Ramping up the toxicity and partisanship to the purpose the place it doesn’t matter what the substance is, it simply issues what facet you’re on.”

Mercedes Stephenson: Maybe the controversy ought to be much less about who’s main the evaluation and extra about what the precise mandate shall be. Will it’s to research what Mr. Trudeau and his authorities knew? Will it’s restricted to solely China? What about solely federal elections? After which in fact, there’s the important thing determination Mr. Johnston has to make about whether or not to suggest a public inquiry.

We’ll be holding an in depth eye on all of it. However that’s our present for as we speak. I’ll see you again right here subsequent Sunday. Thanks for hanging out with us.

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