Tory leader talks about racism, free trade with USA and India, and if MP Dianne Watts will join the BC Liberals
On Wednesday of this week, Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer was hosted at a lavish luncheon in Richmond by three different ridings: Richmond Centre, Steveston Richmond East, and Delta. More than 300 attended, rallying their support for their Conservative riding candidates. We had a chance to catch up with Mr. Scheer as he begins his BC tour of the Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley regions, asking him some hard-lined questions about where the Conservatives stand on issues that affect Canadians.
Q: As United States President Donald Trump deals with the aftermath of the Charlottesville, Virginia riots, we as Canadians also face some controversy with racial tensions here, albeit to a much smaller degree than our partners in the USA. What is the Conservative Party’s stance on racism and xenophobia?
A: The Conservative Party has a long and powerful history of being an open, inclusive and tolerant party. We have so many firsts – we have the first Muslim Member of Parliament, the first Senator of Pakistani origin, and we are very proud of that. One of the basic principles of Conservativism is to recognize the fundamental equality of all human beings, and so we strongly condemn what is going on in the United States.
I’m thankful that in Canada we have not seen things escalate to that scale, but that doesn’t mean we can take it for granted. From elected officials to community leaders to parents, we urge everyone to realize that we all have an obligation to make sure that this type of vile behaviour doesn’t grow here.
I will be putting forward our inclusive, positive vision for our party, and one of those key principles is condemning these types of elements, and fighting for equality of all human beings.
Q: Switching gears here, let’s talk about NAFTA. As renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement begins, Canadians are worried about the impact on industry, trade and jobs. Where do the Conservatives stand on this?
A: Well, I am concerned that the Liberal Government doesn’t take these negotiations seriously. There’s so much at stake. 1-in-5 Canadian jobs depends on trade, and when we look at how the Liberals have approached other aspects of trade they have always taken a wait-and-see-approach, and are always playing catch-up.
Softwood lumber is a perfect example. When President Obama was still in the White House, Justin Trudeau had the opportunity to get an extension on the Softwood Lumber Agreement. But he didn’t bring his Natural Resource Minister with him, he brought his in-laws instead. And so, we missed an opportunity to protect Canadian forestry jobs.
Now, we see the same thing happening with NAFTA in general, where Trudeau himself expressed an eagerness to reopen NAFTA even though the status quo was working for Canada. It is unclear what his bargaining position is going to be.
He is also making Canada’s economy less competitive which hurts our leverage. The stronger and more dynamic our economy is, the more leverage Canada would have as Americans would want to have more access to our market, so there’s a few areas of concern there.
Conservatives will always present a united front in the United States, making a case for free and open trade with Canada, but here at home we will always hold the government to account for their failure to treat these negotiations with the seriousness that they deserve.
Q: And we all know Trudeau’s stance on trade with China, but what about trade with India? Can you comment on where you feel that stands right now with the government of Canada?
A: Justin Trudeau seems very focused on obtaining a free trade deal with China, a country that still has a lot of state-owned enterprises, unfair playing field for many businesses and barriers for foreign investment, and he is going so far to appease the Chinese government on issues such as selling high-tech technology before those negotiations even start.
Meanwhile, we have a commonwealth partner in India with a similar system of parliamentary democracy and rule of law with a much more opportunities there for Canada. So, my focus in that region would be to expand our trade negotiations with countries like India, and keep trading with China – China will always be an important trade partner with Canada, and as their economy goes through those reforms, as they become more open and that playing field evens out, our trade with them will obviously expand.
Free and open trade with India is a tremendous opportunity. I come from Saskatchewan, and the amount of exports we send to India is huge! It’s a huge opportunity for Canadians, all across the country.
Q: Let’s bring it back to home here, where it is widely speculated that Conservative MP Dianne Watts may make a move to head the BC Liberal Party. Can you comment if this is true and how it will impact the Conservative Party of Canada?
A: I can’t comment on that as yet.