We haven’t had a party like the Bloc Quebecois that was expressly talking about provincial rights in parliament for the last six or seven years.

– David Woolley

We are back this week with our regular format and our regular panel. Both Colin MacDonald and David Woolley join Allie to talk about health care transfers, carbon tax, and the presidential debate.

Provincial Health Care Transfers

The provincial and territorial ministers continue to be unhappy with federal health care transfers. In the ongoing debate over funding, most provinces feel like the government should increase funding and leave them alone to decide how is should be spent. Like with most national issues, the arguments revolve around whether provinces are best at deciding how to manage their own policies, or if the federal government should step in and ensure that resources and money are allocated equally across the country.

Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott met with provincial and territorial ministers on Tuesday to continue discussions, but many left the meeting still feeling like the government is imposing.

Carbon Tax

It’s a tax! A tax! The Liberal government is still being criticized by the opposition for what the conservative party is labelling an unnecessary levy. This week, carbon was mentioned with taxes for music lessons and small businesses, furthering the opposition party’s narrative that Trudeau’s liberals love to spend and have lost touch with the average Canadian.

Premiers continue to oppose the tax for various reasons. Both Brad Wall and Rachel Notley have come out against it – although our panel has suspicions that Brad Wall’s opposition might be more ideologically and opportunistic than it is policy-driven. Notley has stated that she won’t support carbon pricing until the federal government has made some headway on pipelines…but there’s no word on how that’s going yet.

The Presidential Debate

The third and final debate has finally come and gone…and while people can be relieved that it’s over, there’s still that whole election thing that has to happen. Trump was uncharacteristically restrained for the first 30 minutes before reverting back to his old self and giving everyone the soundbites they have come to expect – not the least of which was that he won’t respect the democratic process if he doesn’t win.

All of the campaigning and debating seems to have people down in the dumps. Over the past week a number of compilation videos of Barack Obama’s time in office and of Michelle’s most recent speech have floated around the Internet with wistful comments. In light this campaign, many are wishing both of them could stick around for four more years.


Transcript of 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): Welcome to this week’s episode of the podcast after being on break week for last week when we recorded the special episode. We are back with our regularly scheduled program and our regular panel with Colin MacDonald and David Woolley. So without further ado, we will get right into this week’s episode.


We started off before we started recording with a rather heated debate about the presidential debate and I’m sure we’ll get to that later. But, our top three issues for the week are: health care transfers from the federal government to the provincial governments, carbon tax, and of course, the third and final presidential debate. So, we’re going to start with health care transfers.


Clip from parliament


AM: This is carrying on from a couple weeks ago when health care transfers became an issue because the federal government is suggesting that they might cut or amend how much money they’re transferring to provinces for health care costs, and stipulating what these health care transfers should be spent on. And on Tuesday, Health Minister Jane Philpott met with some provincial ministers who are unhappy or wanting to at least discuss this, and it didn’t exactly go very well. Some of her comments were taken rather negatively, such as by Ontario’s Health Minister Eric Hoskins, who felt that by her saying provincial government should spend health care dollars on health was implying that they weren’t doing that already. So this was 28 percent of the Ottawa conversation but given the presidential debate, it didn’t get very much traction with Canadians – it was less than 1 percent, although there was some commentary which we can get into. But we’ll start there so, David was there anything notable from the House or political broadcast coverage on the health care transfers?


DW: Well I mean, as you said, there was this big meeting of the provincial health ministers and Jane Philpott. Besides that, the biggest thing that came out this week, it generated a bit of conversation, was an announcement by Conservative leadership hopeful Maxime Bernier that the federal government should completely end all federal health care transfers to the provinces, and that that would make this into a sort of non-issue in the future since all the provinces would be exclusively dependent on their own taxing ability to fund their health care. So that was the meeting with the provincial ministers and the federal minister and those comments by Bernier were the big occurrences this week for the health care transfers.


AM: Ok, so some of the comments that were made online about this is, ‘Justin Trudeau isn’t respecting provinces by accusing them of squandering away federal health care transfers’ and somebody else commented that Canadian health care isn’t really middle of the road because Canada’s the only universal health care program that doesn’t have universal health care coverage, which I’m not sure if that is 100 percent true or not. But, the point of this anyways is that there were negative comments on that side, and there were also positive comments given what’s going on in the states right now, favourably comparing Canada to the US once again because we do in fact have a national health care plan. So, Canadians seem to be pretty split on this, and I’m not sure if the government would consider this a win or not in terms of making progress to getting people on side for this. What do you guys think?


Colin MacDonald: I think it’s an interesting one in that it touches on a few points of differentiation for the government, and also probably aligns them a bit more with some of the stuff the previous government did in a way that they probably wouldn’t have envisioned. And it starts to lay out a bit…we’re going to talk about the carbon tax or the price on carbon initiative next, but these are two areas that are very contentious, and they were always going to be very contentious in the federal government’s dealing with the provinces. And it’s showing the federal government, as much as they have shown a willingness to meet and convene much more frequently already than the previous government did — they appear to want to and work with the provinces — they also have very strong ideas about where they want these policies areas to go. I think when David mentions the Maxime Bernier’s piece, it’s a perfect example. The sort of Maxime Bernier, small c conservative approach to this in the context of universal health care, which probably is not ideal from his perspective. But it’s that the provinces are responsible for running the health care systems within their own provinces, so yeah the federal government should have no role whatsoever. The money should come into the province, the province should then distribute it amongst its health system the way it wants to, and that federal government should have nothing to say. The federal Liberal government has a very different perspective on that. They feel as though it’s a national program administered and run individually by the provinces, and so the federal government has a responsibility to ensure that it is somewhat similar across from province to province, and that people are being treated in an equitable manner from one province to the next, which is how they interpret the Canada Health Act. And it leads to things like Minister Philpott saying and we’re going to revert to the 3 percent per year escalator, but we’re also going to provide a bunch of money for things like home care and other programs specifically targeted towards those programs in a way that I think small c conservatives would disagree with.


DW: Yeah I mean I think the issue with the health care transfers and the carbon tax issue is we’re seeing this ongoing debate that always occurs in Canada between the push of how much power the federal government should have and how much power the provincial government should have. I feel more because Trudeau has these big national projects that Stephen Harper didn’t have, we didn’t see the same back and forth to the same degree — obviously we did see a certain aspect of it during Harper’s reign, but not about this many issues and these sort of really contentious issues. I think it’s also interesting to note that we haven’t had a party like the Bloc Quebecois that was expressly talking about provincial rights in the parliament for the last six years, seven years now (I mean in a sizeable force). It’s funny that Maxime Bernier, from Quebec, known as a Conservative but still a person who greatly supports giving more power back to provinces and basically making the federal government as small as possible. It’s funny that despite the Bloc’s absence, that sort of voice is still there for provincial power still coming from Quebec.


CM: I mean the provincial governments are under a lot of strain here right? They are at the end of the day the ones who are responsible for delivering the programs and delivering the services. They are the ones who people blame when things are not working well within their province. They are the ones who are spending, you know depending on the province, somewhere between probably 45 and 55 percent of their annual budget on health care provision. But then the federal government also can turn around and say, as they have, ‘Listen, you for the most part as provinces have capped your health care spending growth to somewhere between one a half and two and a half percent. We are offering to escalate your annual funding by 3 percent, which is above what you say you’ve capped your growth at. And, in addition, we’re willing to provide direct funding for direct program delivery that you say is straining your budgets.’ So it’s an interesting fight for them to be having because first of all, there’s a number of the provinces and certainly the federal government that would like to not be having a public spat between each other. And they’re both kind of, in some ways, they’re arguing around the same issue. It’s just how that money is delivered and who gets to direct it.
AM: So let’s talk about these things all together because we’ve already touched on the carbon tax, which was just second – it was 27 percent of the Ottawa conversation in comparison to the 28.


Clip from parliament


AM: So nothing is really new since the last time we talked about carbon tax. There’s still a number of Premiers who are against it – Brad Wall in particular. Premier Notley from Alberta also said that she would oppose the carbon tax until she sees progress on pipeline development. And Canadians on this are still feeling like some provinces are going to be taxed more than others. That idea of everything being equal and the federal government needing to ensure that is coming up again with this. But whenever this stuff comes up, it always seems like the natural thing that happens is that provinces start pitting each other against each other. Like ‘Oh well there are more cities in Ontario so Ontario is more responsible for the carbon.’ Or, ‘They should be paying x amount of dollars versus Alberta.’ or that kind of thing. So, how much is it the federal government’s responsibility to try and manage that perception that provinces are against each other in these things?


CM: So I think the federal government has a responsibility to try and work with the provinces, and try and find consensus in areas where the provinces aren’t either bickering within each other or fighting with the federal government. But at the same time, I don’t think the federal government has a responsibility to be the grand uniter between Premiers and their governments, who all have different motivating factors, who all seem to be driven by different public policy priorities within their jurisdictions. The thing with the price on carbon, whether it be a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade regime is, as we talked about before, about 80 odd percent of the provinces are already within an economy that already has a price on carbon or is in a province that will be instituting a price on carbon in the not-too-distant future. And for the most part, those policies, while people perhaps don’t understand them quite as well as they should, for the most part they are popular in the hypothetical around ‘should we be putting a price on carbon, yes or no.’ And the federal government was never shy about saying this was something they were going to pursue. It’s not like the federal government campaigned saying that they didn’t believe that climate change was an issue that needed to be tackled, and that they thought that the provinces should just do whatever they wanted to do on it. And certainly the environment is something that we all share so it seems to be an area where the federal government has a role to play. But I don’t think, that being said, you are never going to convince certain people that this is a good policy. Or it’s never going to be as popular in some jurisdictions as others. And I don’t discount those concerns — those are some very legitimate concerns. But at the same time it’s not something that should be coming as a great shock to anybody.


AM: So, we talked about this very briefly earlier – that the carbon tax is something that both you and David agree on, which if everyone doesn’t know, Colin and David don’t agree on a ton in terms of politics.


CM: Oh, cmon!


AM: One, you kind of already stated it Colin but David – why do you think the carbon tax is a good idea? And two, do both of you think then that Premiers who have come out against – very vocally such as Brad Wall – who have come out against the carbon tax are really just doing their responsibility as the Premier of their province who has, like you said, specific concerns and issues that are province-specific, or do you feel like they are making a bigger deal about this than they need to?


DW: I think Brad Wall’s actions on this are legitimate in the sense that Saskatchewan is a fundamentally different province than Ontario or BC or Quebec. And I think that’s a truism when you say it, but it is important to recognize that there are issues if you try and create a one size fits all approach across the country. That said, I don’t think Brad Wall actually, and obviously I don’t live inside his mind (as much as I wish I could) but –


CM: That would be freaky.


DW: But I think Brad Wall, his opposition to this is not, while it’s being couched in the terms of opposition to federal overreach into provincial jurisdiction, I think what it really is Brad Wall doesn’t support a carbon tax for whatever reason and he doesn’t want to see a carbon tax put in place in Saskatchewan. And you can get out of that in an easy way by saying ‘Well I think just the provinces should decide their carbon taxes and then at least Saskatchewan won’t be affected by it.’ So I think, for the most part, Notley’s opposition to it is understandable as well from more of a ‘politicking’ point of view, in my mind. But, I would still say ultimately it will be attacks, I can’t imagine it will be attacks that, like so many people are worried about, just forces family farmers to lose their farms because they have cows that are belching out carbon. I have to imagine that everyone in every level of the government doesn’t want that sort of thing to happen and to come from it. Not necessarily that whatever comes out will be a perfect system but I do think, for the most part, the opposition is a little overblown for what ultimately would just be another relatively small tax.


AM: Wait, just one thing before you jump in there, Colin. So, you feel Brad Wall opposes carbon tax across the board on an ideological level more than Notley; is that what you’re saying?


DW: Yes, I think Notley is doing it because she is in a province that relies on a carbon economy, like all our provinces do, but brad wall says he doesn’t like a carbon tax.


AM: Ok, sorry Colin, I cut you off.


Colin: Well I guess a couple things. One would be, if David actually was in Brad Wall’s mind, then he’d be able to tell us if Brad Wall is taking advantage of all this national attention to try and launch his Conservative leadership campaign.


DW: He doesn’t speak French. He’s been practicing his banjo instead; that’s what he said.


CM: Hey, imagine if he banjoed his way through a debate instead of speaking French.


DW: Yeeaahhh. That’s a language we can all speak.


AM: Be a little more entertaining than the presidential debate.


CM: Well yes, be less scary that’s for sure.


DW: Until he starts playing the Deliverance song.


AM: And then he can team up with the green party, independent candidate in the presidential election


DW: Jill Stein?


AM: Jill Stein who used to have a girl group I found out the other night.


DW: Really?


A: Yes


CM: Is girl group the proper terminology?


DW: Girl band?


AM: Girl band?


DW: Boy band?


CM: Yeah boy band, girl group


AM: It kind of sounds like a really bad version of the Indigo Girls. Back to Brad Wall.


CM: Yes, so I think, my sense, being further outside of Brad Wall’s mind than David is, my sense is that Brad Wall is ideologically opposed to putting a price on carbon. My sense is that’s becoming less and less a popular position. But apparently seems to be quite popular within Saskatchewan. And Brad Wall is taking advantage of being umm authoritative, and I say that not authoritative in a Donald Trump kind of way, but authoritative like intelligent and well respected.


DW: He’s most popular premier too in the country.


CM: And yeah, seen as very authoritative small c conservative. So, I think he’s just taking advantage of an opportunity where there’s a clear ideological split with a still relatively new federal government. He has a position of prominence both within conservative circles nationally as well as being a leading member of the premiers group and think he’s taking advantage of that to sort of flex some of his muscle.


AM: So, you think he’s lime-lighting a little bit for the sake of it…


CM: Well he was in Toronto giving an Economic Club speech about his opposition to carbon taxes not too long ago. I get a lot of emails from the various podiums of record, and apologies maybe it wasn’t the Economic Club, but I get a lot of emails from the various podiums of record telling me about who’s coming and what they’re speaking on, and it seemed to me very interesting that all of a sudden Brad Wall was speaking to a downtown Toronto crowd about a national issue.


AM: So, you brought up Donald Trump very briefly there, so we’re going to have to talk about it at some point. Our third topic is the US presidential debate. That was 6% of the Ottawa conversation and that was from our broadcast and political columnist coverage.


Clip from the 3rd Presidential Debate


AM: I’m not gonna lie – I didn’t watch it. I had other things to do and I really didn’t want to sit through it.


CM: Woah. How could you not watch it? They had a strongly worded debate about who was more of a puppet of foreign governments.


AM: Yeah, I saw some of the highlights and lots of quotes of “you are a puppet” and calling Hillary nasty or something…


CM: Nasty woman to be specific


AM: Yeah, it would be that specific. So Colin, you watched it earlier. Some people in the office, I heard some conversations about how this one was a little bit better than the other two debates. What do you think?


CM: It’s just a sign how far our bar has dropped now. The fact that he didn’t start threatening and pointing and gesticulating and making wild accusations until 30 minutes into the debate I guess..


AM: Unprecedented (or unpresidented) reserve…


CM: …meant it was better. First 30 minutes of the debate were interesting in that they were the time period where he attempted to look the most Republican, not necessarily the most Presidential, but most Republican. He took a sort of half pro-life position, that I thought was interesting.


AM: How do you take a half pro-life position?


CM: So the moderator, who by the way, everyone’s been talking about how great the moderator is. I don’t know if its just me but I found it a bit off-putting the moderator from FoxNews giggled and blushed every time Donald Trump complimented him.


AM: Who’s the moderaor?


DW: Chris Wallace


CM: Chris Wallace, yeah.


DW: Mike Wallace’s son.


CM: Oh is that right? Well there you go – pedigree, strong pedigree. He took a bit of a half-life position in that he said, he was asked point blank twice, if he was pro-life and would be appointing, under his watch if Roe V Wade, the American Supreme Court decision on the legality of abortion, if Roe V Wade would be dismissed. He chose at both times to simply say he would be appointing Supreme Court justices who would inevitably would come to the decision that roe v wade would be dismissed. But he didn’t really take a position. Which I’m not necessarily arguing with. I just think it’s interesting he tried to force himself into that box and then couldn’t. And then the initial topic of conversation in the debate, the lead off topic, was around the, was around the context of the Supreme Court discussion. And he just sort of seemed to be hedging a bit in weird ways. And at one point he even started bragging later on how Obama deports people I guess essentially saying he’d have the same immigration policy as Barack Obama which seems to be a massive watering down of his immigration policy. He tried to be a lot of things to a lot of people for the first half hour. But then just melted down into the same old Donald. He was rude and aggressive. He pointed a lot. He interrupted the moderator. When he wasn’t complimenting the moderator, he was interrupting him. If that debate was a good debate, it’s only because our expectations have sunk so low.


AM: Great, so I don’t feel really bad that I missed it then. Looking at the stuff online, I feel like everybody is exhausted from this debate cycle, and nobody, everybody’s glad this is the last one for sure. Surprisingly, although the debate got a lot of coverage on our Twitter panel, there wasn’t a lot outside of that. I mean it’s only the next day, so I guess a lot of the outlets haven’t had time to write how horrible everybody is or whatever.


CM: Oh but wait, we do have to…sorry, I missed a very key point of that debate. It was the point where the Republican nominee for President of the United States declared that he was unsure if whether he would abide by the decision of the electorate; so, that’s a thing to.


DW: Or the more important decision that Hillary wore white after Labour Day.


AM: Was that brought up in the debate?


DW: No but it should have been.


AM: That’s just your opinion?


DW: He should of nailed her on that one.


AM: That nasty woman on wearing white after Labour Day.


CM: You know, Im surprised he didn’t. That’s not offside for him.


AM: Far from offside for him. So the election is coming up, it’s on November 8.


CM: So I think there’s a couple of interesting things that people can watch for between now and November 8. It seems to me there was a very arbitrary decision that was made after the video, now infamous video and audio recording of Donald Trump and Billy Bush where he said…


DW: George W Bush’s nephew.


CM: Look, everyone, just everyone, Mike Wallace’s son, George Bush’s nephew… Who said that you don’t need a hand up out there?


AM: Nepotism – it works.


CM: The Donald got $14 million loan from his father to start his companies, that’s what I’m told. So, there was an arbitrary line that was drawn, at least, at least it seemed arbitrary to me, where he had been, there were a number of Republicans who were willing to stand by him and endorse him and continue to say that people should vote for him while he said awful and terrible things about a bunch of other people. You know, people, immigrants, visible minorities, the disabled, the list goes on and on and on. Women that were very much unattached to certain Republicans. But as soon as it came out that he had made these lewd and horrible comments, and alluded to some really terrible actions about women generally. When all of a sudden it could have been the wife or the sister or the mother of some of these Republicans, or themselves, all of a sudden that was the bridge too far, that was the thing, the straw that broke the camel’s back. So, I guess we’ll see now. He’s categorically denied and claimed that everything was debunked about some of the allegations from the women. Whether people are willing to buy that and be willing to stand by him who knows. There certainly seemed to be after the debate some disorganization and confusion amongst Republicans whether or not they were still supposed to be saying on TV panels that the Republican presidential nominee does or does not believe in the democracy of the United States. So, whether that would be a bridge too far for them. His running mate, Mike Pence, had said that of course Donald Trump would respect the decision of the electorate. So, the Donald appears to be disagreeing with him. At some point, Mike Pence may want to think about his long-term career prospects. I mean I’m not suggesting he’s going to, or maybe I am suggesting…what would happen if he severed off the ticket; I don’t even know. But at some point, he’s going to lose the sheen of being sort of the rational one in the room if he keeps on propping up Donald Trump. I think all of that stuff, if any of those things happen over the next 3 weeks, it would continue to be unprecedented for a presidential campaign at this point in time.


AM: So, in the midst of all this, and bringing up the video and everything that came out afterwards, because Michelle Obama made a speech afterwards that got a lot of attention about the video and about the comments that Donald Trump made. And there’s been a lot of compilations videos that have come out online of Obama’s presidency. How much do you think this is doing to just really cement his legacy as a successful president; how much do you think it’s going to whitewash anything that his opponents felt he did wrong during his administration just by having this campaign and this debate series be the tail-end of his presidency?


DW: Well I think if, and I think I’ve said this before, if I was Barack Obama I would be praying that Donald Trump wins. Because he will never make more money on speaking tours than if he’s touring the country and the world while Donald Trump is President. And just talking about “hey guys, remember how great things were back when I was President”. Ultimately, I mean, I don’t think he gets into the pantheon of greatest presidents in US history. I think he’s a fair to middling president with a couple early on big, Obamacare is his one big achievement. But other than that, I think people are going to remember him positively.


CM: So yeah, we can disagree about where President Obama will fall in the list of presidents; fair enough. I think, one interesting point is that, you know President Obama has had his, as every president does, has had his difficulties over the years at times with his personal approval rating and his approval rating in the job. I think, as a direct result of the campaign that is unfolding around people, certainly the economy is rebounding, things are starting to happen in a positive way for a lot of Americans. But also, when they look at the campaign that is unfolding around them, I saw, I think at end of last week, his approval ratings came out, and he was up at 53 or 54 percent. And if you compare that to the fact that the two people running for president right now both have disapproval ratings north of 65 percent. It’s, you know, there’s people out there who would be quite content, put it this way, if Donald Trump is going to throw out all respect for the American democracy, there are some people who would be quite content for the term limit to be ended, and for Barack Obama to run a quick three-week campaign for four more years.


AM: you can write in your ballot; you can write it another candidate, right? How many people do you think are going to write in either Barack Obama or Michelle Obama?


CM: Michelle will probably get a few write ins. Apparently, there is an effort now to write in Mike Pence, it won’t grab hold, but a couple of Republican congresspeople said that they want to write in Mike Pence. I do wonder though, if Mike Pence continues to back the guy they don’t want to vote for, if he’ll continue to have that respect


DW: Five Thirty Eight did this interesting piece about how Mike Pence could become President himself. This isn’t for 2020, but about how This election could result in Mike Pence becoming President.


AM: How? Is it if Donald Trump gets elected?
DW: No, there’s this independent Conservative candidate, Evan McMullin in Utah, he’s currently second behind Trump there, ahead of Hillary, polling at 26 or 29 percent. He’s polling really well in Utah. Gary Johnson is polling very well in New Mexico, he’s the Libertarian candidate for President and the former Governor of Mexico. He’s in third place but it’s almost a three-way tie between him, Trump, and Clinton. So essentially if Johnson won New Mexico, and Evan McMullin won Utah, and other states broke down red and blue as expected, no one would reach the required number of electoral votes to win the Presidency, at that point the vote for the presidency goes to the delegations in congress, each state delegation, and they vote among the candidates who had electoral votes. If they cannot reach a decision by inauguration day, the Senate votes on one of the top two Vice Presidential candidates and whoever wins becomes the President.


AM: Do you think a better or worse scenario to have that drag out all through January?


C<: I cannot imagine a man who is inciting mass distrust, and building off of angst that already exists in the world about the political establishment, and a man who cannot even handle people saying funny comments about the size of his hands…


DW: Hey! There’s nothing wrong with the size of his hands


CM: He also uses his hands so much when he talks, in the most awkward, and…


DW: He’s from New York! He’s a New York guy!


CM: What is that “L” that he always does? He always holds his hands up in a “stop talking, I’m talking” way, he pushes this “L” out.


AM: Clearly he’s giving them the loser sign.


CM: It’s distracting. Anyway, I can’t imagine I can’t imagine the wrath he would unleash, and the things he would say to get people worked up, in what I guess would have to be the ultimate betrayal, if his Vice President, the man who he lifted from Indiana-based obscurity, the man who was only ever previously known for the fact that he wanted as the man who wanted retail store operators to be able to disqualify lesbians, gays, and other members of the LBTQ community from shopping in their stores, this man, then turned his back on him and took what he considered to be his job? I do not wish for that, personally.


AM: And on that, happy, happy note, we are going to wrap that up. Thank you both for joining us this week.


AM: So, that’s our episode for the week. Thank you so much for tuning in. If you missed last week because you knew that Parliament was on a break, we did record. We had a special episode talking about our special podcasts, so if you missed that you can check that out. And since Parliament was back this week, we have our digital dashboard again available for download, so you can find that at politicaltraction.fm. As always you can find us on Twitter @tractionfm, and you can find us on Facebook at politicaltraction. And if you want to get the dashboard every week, you can give us your email address and it will be delivered straight to your inbox. So thanks again for listening and be sure to tune in again next week.


Outro by Allie