Maybe one of the barriers to entry a new EU is that national governments have to have the authority to speak on behalf of their country

– Colin MacDonald

This week Allie, Colin and David talk about CETA, Canada’s refugee policy, and Trudeau getting heckled at a youth labour conference and take a break from talking about American politics.



Will we, won’t we? Earlier this week, there was drama here and across the Atlantic when the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the EU and Canada seemed to fall apart only days before it was supposed to be signed. Wallonia, a region in Belgium, wants safeguards on labour and environmental and consumer standards. They’re also looking for some protection for Walloon farmers in competition with Canadian farmers. Belgium’s federal system requires all six of its regions to be on board to be able to approve the agreement. Considering this deal has been seven years in the making, this was a pretty big deal.

But, everyone has since made up – or at least come to some sort of a consensus. As of Thursday, it appears the deal is back on.


Refugee Policy

This week, the Conservatives put forward a bill to fast-track Yazidi refugees into Canada. MPs voted unanimously to formally declare the persecution of Yazidis by ISIS a genocide and to prioritize Yazidis over the next four months. However, while the government has promised to the fast-tracking, they haven’t given any hard numbers.


Trudeau gets heckled

The Prime Minister attended a youth labour forum this week, but wasn’t met with a warm welcome. A number of delegates turned their backs on Trudeau and refused to engage with him on a number of issues, including global warming and precarious work.

Earlier in the week Finance Minister Bill Morneau stated that short-term contracts and high job turnover rates were the new normal for youth employment. Many of the delegates found these remarks offensive and that Morneau was suggesting it’s something millennials should just learn to deal with. Additionally, many at the forum heckled Trudeau for continuing with a number of initiatives and targets set by the previous government.

Because of all this, Trudeau basically ended up scolding the room. Whether or not the forum will end up tarnishing the Prime Minister’s brand is debatable, though. The attendees of the forum might be more left-leaning than the average Canadian, and not necessarily representative of the youth vote.


Music in this episode:

“Birds of Prey” and “Way” – DarkSunn from Mint EP


Transcript for this week’s episode


Introduction: Political Traction is brought to you by Navigator, Canada’s leading high-stakes public strategy and communications firm.


Intro Music.


Allie McHugh, Host (AM): For this week’s episode of the podcast we are talking with regular panel members, David Woolley and Colin MacDonald, and as always, we are talking about what did and did not get traction out of Ottawa with the Canadian public. However, I’m going to tell you off the bat that one of these issues was the US election, but considering that we’ve spent a lot of time already talking about it, and we are sure to talk about it some more leading up to and after November 8th, we’re not going to spend nearly as much time this episode talking about American politics. So, with that, let’s get to our top issues of the week.




AM: So our top three issues for the week coming out of Ottawa are the CETA deal, which had 39 percent of the Ottawa conversation, Syrian refugees, which were 8 percent of the conversation, and the US election, which was 7 percent of the conversation. So, we’re going to start with the CETA deal. The EU-Canada trade deal was supposed to be signed today I believe, but it kind of collapsed early this week when a region in Belgium had some opposition to the deal going through. Namely they wanted stronger safeguards for environmental concerns and consumer standards, and also some protection against competition with Canadian farmers.


So, as of this morning, which is Thursday, October 27, Belgium is saying that they’ve reached some sort of an agreement, and might be able to get this through Friday night. So, parties still have to sign off on this and actually make this a reality, but it seems like it could be going through this week. This got absolutely no traction in our Canadian conversation but was there anything notable from the House on this topic?


Clips from House of Commons


David Woolley (DW): I mean the biggest thing to come out of the House was this controversy surrounding Chrystia Freeland when she announced in Belgium that the deal had fallen apart. It was sort of widely reported that she was fighting back tears during the press conference, or the announcement, and at one point, I believe it was a Conservative MP said that she might need adult supervision, and sort of criticized her for that display of emotion during a major international agreement process. And that obviously did not go over well with the government or with many members of the House. And as far as I know, I don’t believe anyone has apologized for that or stepped back, but that was the biggest thing.


AM: So this deal has been in the works for 7 years. It didn’t get any traction with the Canadian public. How big of a deal is it if this doesn’t happen on Friday? And do you think anyone will pay attention if it doesn’t happen on Friday?


CM: So I think it’s a big deal if it doesn’t happen on Friday for a couple of reasons. One is, as you said, it’s been negotiated over 7 years between a number of, not only a number of countries and governments, but multiple parties within those countries have had, each of those governments have had in some cases had a couple of different parties in power, and those parties and those governments have agreed that this is a positive, some form of this is a positive for, well entirely for their domestic economies. So obviously it’s a big deal, it’s a deal that’s taken a lot of work. Once you start taking apart parts of a deal, it becomes more difficult for others to resist picking apart at other parts of the deal. So Walloons may entirely succeed at killing this entire thing, we’ll have to see, I also think it’s important in the context of the European Union, and the difficulties the European Union is sort of facing right now — the existential crises that they may or may not be in with you know Brexit and now the ability of one 3 and half million population region of Belgium to essential veto a deal that the rest of the couple hundred million residents of the EU through their governments have consented to. So, I think it causes some real strain on the European Union, and I think it causes some real strain to the continuing sort of spread of free trade and international agreements that sort of for a while now been viewed as being something that we should be aspiring to.


DW: Yeah and this story has been picked up by several anti-EU groups, specifically in the UK. I mean obviously it’s not exploding, it’s not the number one issue, but it has been mentioned by several pro-Brexit journalists and politicians. Basically as an argument for why Brexit was good, saying that it would give the UK the opportunity to ratify this deal on their own if they wanted. But at the same time, it brings into question whether the EU — whether nations within the EU — are provinces in a larger state, or if they are independent nations that have that right to turn down deals that they don’t agree with.


CM: Well and you start to think, okay so should the EU as part of a barrier to entry or as part of a criteria, you know there are certain criterias for entry that the EU places on incoming states, obviously they’d be hard pressed to go back and change the rules for states that already exist. But if the EU is, you know, at a reimagining stage, maybe one of the barriers to entry to a new EU is that you know, federal governments or national governments have to have the authority to be able to speak on behalf of their country in matters like this. Because this will not be the first  — or sorry the last time — now that other regions in the other countries in the EU have seen what the Walloons may or may not have been able to pull off. This will not be the last time this happens. And you know, so the EU now has to think about that for every trade deal going forward — how do they try and get assurance that the national government can speak for their country.


AM: Right, so for people who aren’t familiar with the Walloons, it’s a particular region in Belgium, and for Belgium to sign onto the CETA deal, they need agreement from all six of their regions. So, that is a lot of power given to one region, in one country, in part of the EU, in terms of putting this forward.


CM: Yeah and I guess just to put it in a bit more Canadian context, Canadian provinces were included in the negotiation process of CETA in a way that was, to my understanding, was different and more extensive than they have been included before on certain elements of the deal. And Canadians will know that getting all the provinces to come to an agreement and to ratify and line up behind a deal like this would have been quite difficult. So then to have it [unrecognizable] by Wallonia, by a region in Belgium, is just difficult for the Canadian provinces to be able to digest as well. Because they managed to put some of their concerns and differences aside, or have them worked out at the negotiating table and managed to sign on as a group.


AM: So keeping this within the Canadian context, I mean this is all wrapped up in Brexit and it’s an incredibly complicated as to how this proceeds, and whether or not this deal goes through, etcetera. I don’t think anybody would, I don’t think there’s a ton of potential for this, but do either of you see a scenario in which this deal doesn’t go through, and it reflects poorly on the Canadian government, and people feel like the Canadian government failed somehow within this negotiating process?


DW: I think this deal has received a whole lot less attention among the Canadian public as the Transpacific Partnership has, especially when it comes to protests against it. The NDP have said they’re sort of on the fence, they tend to be — they have reservations similar to what the Walloons had. So I think obviously if it doesn’t go through, the Conservatives are going to attack the Liberals, maybe the NDP will too probably. So far they have stayed relatively silent. But the Conservatives will of course attack the Liberals, but largely I think everyone’s going to forget about it because it hasn’t really been on the radar of average Canadians. I mean we see that with our numbers here, but I think if TPP doesn’t go through, you’ll see a lot of cheering from certain circles, but if CETA doesn’t go through, I don’t think there’s going to be a big populist either celebration or outrage either way.


CM: People will care — I think the thing about people caring more about TPP, we’ve talked about on the show before, or on the podcast before, about how much more people pay attention to American politics than they do to Canadian politics. Bernie Sanders made a big deal about being opposed to the TPP for a lot of his campaign, so it all of a sudden became sexier, and so TPP is what people talk about, they don’t talk about CETA.


AM: That sexy TPP. But since you brought up the TPP, one thing that I do want to talk about is, earlier in the week on Tuesday, Justin Trudeau was at a youth labour rally, and he got heckled a lot from the crowd. Members of the crowd actually turned their backs on him, and kind of refused to engage in any dialogue. And one of the things why this is coming up with the TPP as one of the things they were unhappy about is the Liberal government’s continuing the Conservative Party’s agenda with the TPP. Other issues that they raised were environmental concerns, but also youth employment. Earlier in the week, Bill Morneau made some comments about how we’re just all going to have to get used to the fact that short-term contracts for employment are becoming the norm, so there’s a lot of turnover, and a lot of people are protesting against that. So that got a lot of traction in the Canadian conversation.


Clip from Justin Trudeau at youth labour rally


AM: Do you think that the Liberals are — I mean people have been saying this for months now, that the Liberals are going to experience the end of their honeymoon. But considering how large the youth vote was for them, do you think that this is a bad thing?


CM: So I think we can overestimate the resonance that the youth — quote unquote youth who, you know, cause youth apparently in the CLC extends to 35. As a 35 year old man, I’m not sure there’s a lot of people around this office in their 20s who consider me to be a youth.


DW: You’re 35?!




DW: You look terrible!


CM: Well, I try you know. So I think we can overestimate the resonance of what that particular subset of the population says about the youth vote generally. I think that people who attend a CLC youth worker conference are probably not representative of the general youth population. That may be a good thing or a bad thing, but I just don’t think they are generally representative. I think this has done more damage, personally and with my biases well known, I think this has done more damage to the CLC youth wing than it has done to the Prime Minister. There are a number, any number of groups who would, who are tripping over themselves right trying to line up 30 minutes of time with the Prime Minister to have a fair hearing on their issues and have an open dialogue on their issues. The Prime Minister showed up, to his credit, to have that conversation, sat on stage to have that conversation, and you may have all the issues in the world with him and with his government, but to abdicate that opportunity to air those concerns, and rather just stand there with your back turned and think that somehow you’re making some sort of important statement. You know, to the Prime Minister’s credit, you know, he stayed on stage, he called on them to have a respectful conversation, and to disagree but to do so respectfully and to actually talk about this, and they chose to stand with their backs to him. My favourite thing about this was, and I’ll stop my rant after this was, but in a couple of the photos, there are people with their backs to the Prime Minister, holding their phones up in the air above their heads so they can video the Prime Minister and watch the video of him talking to them, whilst turning their backs to him. Which I think, they just looked silly, they looked ridiculous, and what they did was kind of ridiculous.
AM: Colin’s going to tell people to get off his lawn later tonight.


CM: As a non-youth, part of the role that I have!


AM: And the Prime Minister called them out for it too — like, that’s really what was getting a lot of traction is that the fact that he was like, this reflects poorly on you, it reflects poorly on — you’re being unfair to the people who came here who did want to speak. And it said it was very frustrating that they were not willing to engage and have a dialogue, which was entirely what the point of this rally was, or conference, was for.


CM: Well and are they, I don’t even know enough about this to know, but were they delegates? Were they sent there as a representative of others within their movement, or within their local association or whatever else? And if they were, is that how those people wanted to use their delegate spot, by having someone stand there — it may be, but is that how people wanted their delegate to behave? I don’t know.


AM: Yeah, I’m not sure actually.


DW: Yeah I don’t know. All the media that I’ve read about this has just said that they are members of the youth wing, not that they are appointed or elected in any way within the organization. I think in fairness to the protestors, we are sort of – I agree with Colin that the idea of the youth vote and the idea that a third of a room of CLC members represents a meaningful percentage of youth voters in general is overstated. I’d agree with that point. That said, I think their concerns with the TPP are much more widely shared, but with most issues with trade, it’s a very difficult issue for average Canadians to understand and just to have the time to understand. It’s a massive document, it is on an ongoing process, there are aspects of it which will not be made public even after it is ratified, these are the reasons that they are protesting – I think those are legitimate reasons.


AM: So, to sum up, the commentary on this was also pretty split. Like a lot of people were sharing both of your views online as to whether or not this was a good thing. And also, but I mean, the majority of it was also people using this incident to basically to support their own views that they already had. Like the carbon tax issue got brought in in the comments cause people are upset about the carbon tax, so like it was really because there weren’t a lot of specifics about this, and it was really, much of what both of you were talking about, the results in term of online conversation was really using it to say, ‘This is why Trudeau sucks’ or ‘This is why he’s good.’ Both of those things happened. So we’re going to take a rather hard turn now to our second topic, which as I said, got 8 percent of the Ottawa conversation.


Clip from House of Commons


AM: Basically what happened this week was that Conservatives put forward a bill in the House to fast-track Yazidi refugees to Canada, and it was voted unanimously by all MPs to formally declare ISIS’s persecution of the Yazidis as a genocide. So, David can you fill us in on some more details on what happened in the House.


DW: So, as you said, it was unanimously adopted by the House, but very quickly after which John McCallum said ‘Well we agreed to bring Yazidis here within 120 days, we can’t actually say how many of them we’ll bring here.’ So, I’m going to assume it’s going to be more than one, but he didn’t give a hard number, and he simply said ‘There will be Yazidis coming within 120 days.’ The biggest issue with this is this was a program that was discontinued by the Liberals when they came into power. Trudeau famously said that the fast-tracking of Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims as refugees to Canada was disgusting and that he would not take part in it under his government from Harper’s, and so they cancelled it, and they brought just any refugee from Syria – they were all put into a single pool. So this has been sort of a long slog for the Conservatives to get this put back into place, and to focus on bringing over those who are most at risk while living under ISIS. And specifically the Declaration of Parliament calls for the fast-tracking of Yazidi women and girls.


AM: So, this issue did not get a lot of traction with the Canadian public either. There were some general conversations about refugees going on, but that was more to do with kind of patting ourselves on the back for ‘Yay Canada’ because a national survey was conducted in October and it revealed that Canadians are now friendlier towards immigrants or the idea of immigration since Canada has let such a high number of refugees into the country. Not to get too positive on it, I mean this is a positive story, but the kind of reporting number now is that fewer Canadians now express concern over immigrants not adopting Canadian values, which used to be much higher over half, and now is just over half of Canadians who agree that newcomers are not fitting in. So, the wording on this story is a little bit — you have to read it all the way through to realize that over 50 percent of Canadians are still a little bit cagey about immigration issues. But that is the story that was getting traction amongst Canadians, and not the specifics on the Yazidis.


But, aside from the refugee story, the story that was getting the most attention out of our Canadian conversation was actually about the RCMP officer who shot the Parliament Hill gunman. So, earlier this week it was the 1 year anniversary of the shooting in Ottawa, and that happened on October – or not the 1 year anniversary, sorry the 2 year anniversary – that was on October 22nd. And there was a lot of discussion online about whether or not this event should be commemorated because it was last year but it’s not being this year’s.


CM: I mean I think having a debate about how to acknowledge those types of events is always difficult, right? I don’t think anybody who thinks that we should be holding some form of – whether it be ceremony or tribute or something like that – I can’t hold them, I can’t say that that’s an incorrect position. I think people who take a different view, who say this was something that happened, we commemorated it sort of the 12 months after it happened, and we’re now moving on, I’m not sure that I can take issue with that either. I think what I took from this, the little bit that I read about this, was the attempt to somehow say that those who do want to have a ceremony or some form of tribute are somehow more patriotic or somehow more Canadian than those who for whatever reason have decided not to have a tribute and I think that’s a – well first of all, I disagree with that entirely, I think it reflects poorly on the people who try and make that as the basis of their argument rather than something that somebody that says you know ‘I believe this was a traumatic incident of the country, I believe this was a horrible incident for those who lost loved ones, and I believe that we should be marking that in some way.’ But I don’t think this notion that someone is more or less Canadian, more or less committed to our country and our ideals, and actually more or less sympathetic and empathetic to the families and those who lost loved ones on that day, I think that is, I disagree with that wholeheartedly.


AM: What we saw in the online conversation was that there was much more of a push from the Conservatives to kind of make this a story, and highlight that it wasn’t being commemorated. Do you think they run the danger with Canadian perception that of, that argument that you just said, if they…I mean Remembrance Day is also coming up and there’s always a discussion in Ontario because it is not a holiday in Ontario, it’s just a commemorative day, as to whether or not that should be a thing that happens nationally because some provinces do elect to have it be a holiday.


CM: And, so that’s actually an interesting, so I always take issue with this notion that by not having it as a holiday, we are somehow not commemorating it. I would counter, especially for kids and a lot of this, let’s be honest, a lot of this is trying to make sure that our children and our youth continue to have an understanding of some of the things that have happened previous that allow them to live in the way that they live and have the future prospects that they have. I’ve actually always held the view that it’s better for our children to be in school on that day and have school programming that is geared towards Remembrance Day, have a enforced moment of silence that is school-wide. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, in fact I think it probably does more to advance the cause of Remembrance Day than having it as a holiday where people may or may not find themselves in a position to sit down and watch the CBC or CTV’s coverage of the ceremony, or go to a ceremony themselves in their local community.


DW: Yeah, and the idea that, I mean, I don’t know if there’s any laws in the books that say that employees need to be allowed to go take part in Remembrance ceremonies at local cenotaphs, but I think I’m in agreement with Colin here. If you made it a holiday, I can’t think of a way that would make people commemorate it less than if you just gave people a long weekend or the day off. I mean, no one thinks about Queen Victoria on Victoria Day. Giving people a day off, while I certainly would enjoy more holidays, I think the way we have it set up in Ontario now is a pretty ideal situation.


AM: The NDP actually proposed legislation in 2015 wanting to make this a national holiday, and the Royal Canadian Legion opposed the legislation because they feared that there would be diminishing turn out at commemorations on November 11th. But the issue kind of does always seem to get wrapped up in conversations about Canadian values. I mean, whether or not we, like you said Colin, whether or not we celebrate these things – not celebrate them but mark them officially – does always seem to get wrapped up in a conversation that are related to Canadian values and what Canadian values are.


CM: Well I don’t know that, unfortunately for the Conservatives, it doesn’t sound as though anybody’s talking about their leadership contest, so I don’t know that we’ll talk about the leadership contest in any great measure over the next number of months. But it’s certainly a topic that the Conservative, some of the Conservative leadership candidates, seem to want to get into. We are now back into banning niqabs, thanks to Steven Blaney, successful and as well-received as that was amongst Canadians last time it got brought up by that party. Obviously Kellie Leitch is on the record with her well thought through proposals.


AM: She got a lot of blowback on those ones.


CM: So there is going to be, you know, this will be a topic of conversation that will be examined and sort of put through its paces over the next number of months. You know, eventually Canadians are going to talk about some of this stuff so we will certainly have opportunity on this podcast to talk about it as well.


AM: So our third issue is about the US election but we have spent a lot of time talking about it already. I am sure we will talk about it again next week before the actual election takes place on November 8th. So at that, I’m going to wrap it up and say thank you so much for joining us, both Colin and David.


DW: Thank you for having us.


CM: Thank you.


AM: And we’ll talk to you next week!


Outro Music


AM: That’s our episode for the week, thank you so much for listening. As always, you can find our digital dashboard for download on our website You can follow us on Twitter @tractionfm and you can find us on Facebook at Political Traction. So once again, thanks for listening and talk to you next week.


Outro Music