View Full Version : Metro’s Q&A with Prime Minister Stephen Harper

09-30-2015, 10:06 AM
Metro’s Q&A with Prime Minister Stephen Harper


Investigations and special features reporter for Metro Toronto, Jessica Smith Cross, sat down with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to ask him about Generation Squeeze, cultural elites and citizenship.

Q: According to Generation Squeeze, Canadians aged 25 to 34 earn, on average, $4,200 less in their full-time jobs than their counterparts did in the late 1970s — and that’s in equivalent dollars. What can the federal government do to help young people be at least as financially successful as their parents’ generation?

A: We’re obviously living in an age of unprecedented global instability. We now have had, what’s it, seven years of ongoing economic and financial crisis across the globe. In that period, Canada has had the best job creation, growth, you name it, across the G7 countries. We believe we have a plan for the next four years to keep moving us forward on that, making sure we continue to reduce taxes for people, we make investments, large scale investments, that we can afford and do so within a balanced budget. And we believe that if we stay on that track the economic prospects in this country are better than anywhere else. Obviously, specific things we’re been doing is to help affordability is to try to cut taxes, particularly for young families. We introduced the Universal Childcare Benefit, cut the goods and services, the federal sales tax two times, and transit, we brought in a series of tax credits to help make life more affordable, including the tax credit for public transit. So we actually give people a break for doing that. We brought in income splitting, not just for seniors, but for families now as well. We’re enhancing our Registered Education Savings Plans, more money directly to parents, lower and middle income parents, to help them afford education, which is obviously a big part of opportunity.

Look, I think so much of it really comes down to growing our economy, creating jobs, protecting us against the threats that are in the global economy and those are the things I think we’ve been doing successfully. The low-tax, balanced-budget plan, that’s the track that I think this country should stay on. Look around the world, I think there are no better economic prospects than in Canada.

Q: I’ve heard people my age talk about their fears that when it comes to refugees Canada has become a meaner country—
Become which, sorry?
A meaner country. I’ve also heard fears that if we let in too many Syrian refugees there’s a real, grave threat that ISIS will enter with them.
Is that a real threat?

A: Two things on that. First of all, Canada, in the last decade, under this government, we have admitted and resettled a quarter of a million refugees, per capita, we are the largest refugee resettlement country in the world. We resettle people from all around the world. In terms of the most recent crisis, obviously that has been in the headlines, in Syria and Iraq, this government has done a number of things on refugees. We’ve increased the numbers that we’re bringing in, we’ve announced reforms of the process that are effective immediately, to speed up the resettlement, but at the same time we’ve also made clear that we’re going to make sure we select people who come, that we select people who are genuinely refugees from the refugees we select. Those who are most vulnerable. We go through the appropriate security and health screenings. There are definitely real security risks. So that’s why we have processes like this. But our response to this has been generous. If you look at our numbers compared to others in the world, our response to this is generous. It’s very responsible. There are some countries, as you know, that have thrown their doors open, didn’t ask any questions, and in the last few weeks now, they’ve been trying to get a handle, trying to shut the doors again, trying to get a handle on screening. So screening is a part of it, but that will never prevent us from assisting vulnerable people. We’ve already brought 23,000 people from the Syrian and Iraq region to Canada. Most from minority ethnic and religious communities who are being directly targeted by ISIS for elimination.

Q: Just to follow-up, is it a realistic fear that ISIS is trying to use the refugee system to come here?

A: It is absolutely the case that organizations like ISIS are planning attacks around the world, and that’s one of the reasons we are there with our allies leading some military action against them. There’s absolutely no doubt that they are planning attacks. There is absolutely no doubt that they will use migrant flows to try to move people. That said, no one should think for a second that most of the people who are coming are not people doing it for their own reasons, either they’re refugees or they’re seeking better economic opportunity or they’re under humanitarian stress. One doesn’t want to give the impression that there are literally millions, I mean there are 15 million displaced people from the Syria and Iraq region. A tiny percentage of those would likely be a potential terrorist, but they do exist.

Q: You came to politics as a reformer. What’s left for you to change now – aside from the Senate, because I think we’re well-versed on your position there – aside from the senate, with four more years of a Conservative majority government, what’s left for you to—

A: I would say our number one priority — and there’s many things we want to do — but our number one priority is the economy. We came through say the biggest global financial crisis in the world, we had, seven years ago, the biggest crisis since the 1930s, the biggest crisis in 80 years. We responded to that by launching an unprecedented stimulus program that we said would stabilize our economy, create a temporary deficit that we would eliminate. And that’s exactly what we’ve done. We’re now out of that phase and notwithstanding the instability all around us, we now want to make sure we secure our economic framework, that we retain our balanced budget, that we make the investments we need to make to really realize the potential and the opportunities of our economy. We’re going to continue to be — if you look at the fall of oil prices, European debt crisis, Asian market crises — we’re going to continue to have crises around the world, but what I want to do is get us on a track where we’re not just responding to crises we’re also making the investments, and doing the things intelligently around our own financial and economic frameworks that will create long-term growth and opportunities for our families.

Q: That brings us to the next question, which is after four years of another Conservative government, will cities have changed? We’ve spoken to Minister Oliver about the money available for transit and infrastructure. How will that change our cities?

A: Well the biggest, one of the biggest single changes we’ve made, has been the level of infrastructure investment we’ve made as a country under our government. If you look at the amount we’re spending this year, compared to the last full year of the previous government we are spending 15 times more. And those numbers are actually going to rise in the future. We are rolling out some $80 billion of infrastructure investments, obviously our own federal infrastructure, and the provincial and municipal infrastructure, over the next decade. Unlike, frankly, virtually, most of the, most developed economies, all of the major developed economies, we actually have our average infrastructure age in Canada, has actually started to come down a little bit. Theirs is actually rising. We have an opportunity here to make these investments, and we are doing so, this is important, we are doing so without borrowing money, without raising people’s taxes. The alternatives the other parties offer, and by the way, the alternatives they offer on everything, are to say we’ll do what the Conservatives do, we’ll just spend, you know, double, triple, tens of billions of dollars more. But frankly, the way they do that is by combinations of raising taxes and running deficits, which means they can’t actually afford it. Which means that any time, they could be doing cutbacks or pulling that back or reversing course. We have set out a course of large-scale, long-term infrastructure investment that will improve life in our cities and we know that it is affordable and sustainable.

Q: Fernando has a question for you now. (Fernando Carneiro) When you were first elected, you were a kick-butt reform guy in the west—

Q: If you had time machine and had the opportunity to go back, what are three pieces of advice you would give your younger self?

A: Hahaha. That’s, look, that’s um, that’s, I can’t ever say I’ve ever thought about it that way. A lot has changed since I first got involved in federal politics. When I first got into federal politics, 30 years ago, it was the first time I worked on Parliament Hill, it was 30 years ago. The idea that we should take dramatic action to reduce our deficit, to eliminate it, was considered a radical idea, even among Conservatives. Today, we’ve established the idea that the government should actually balance the budget over the longer term, we’ve actually done it. Back then, we were obsessed, the country was obsessed. It went on for, if you look at it, it was 20 years, of negotiations over our constitution, arguments over Quebec separation. We had a recession in the ‘90s and we were having arguments over constitutional negotiations. Today, those are not the issues we talk about. Our government is, our government is focused on the things that matter to people. In particular, the economy. Our number one priority, which it always should have been, even in that era. The era is so different now than the era then. But, I guess if I could say one thing. If would look back and say one thing, what’s the one thing you learn?

Q: Three?
A: — It’s that, and especially in the last ten years, you don’t know what’s coming next. Particularly in this age of a global economy. Anything that happens in the world has immediate effects on us. And I’m not just talking about financial crises, refugee crises, the outbreak of a pandemic—

A:—right. Everything in the world can affect us at any moment. The government has to know where it’s going. It has to have its fundamentals down it has to be prepared to adapt. And I think our government has done a good job at adapting, while at the same time, pursuing a clear long-term agenda. I think that’s probably what I would have learned, more than anything, over the past decade as Prime Minister and over my political career. Issues change, circumstances change, yes, you need to have—You need to have a philosophy of government, where you’re leading. We’ve been clear where we’re leading. A government that’s lean, where taxes are low, where we don’t create jobs directly but we work closely with economic actors to make sure we have a good environment to create jobs. So we have a philosophy, but at the same time, so you have to have that, but you have to be prepared to adapt. We’re prepared to adapt. But I would say that in rapidly changing times, if you have no philosophy you will just be anchorless and rudderless. And that’s obviously, nobody looks at Canada and thinks that. You can look at a lot of other countries and think that. But I don’t think people think that about this country. And as I said, I think the framework we have is a solid one, and I think what the other guys are essentially proposing is a let’s, you know, let’s just spend to the maximum, borrow and tax, I think all the data around the world indicates that’s not the way to secure our economic opportunities for the future.

Q: That brings us to our last question. Over these years we’ve heard you make many comments about elites. They don’t seem positive. Whether it’s subsidized cultural elites—
Or the people around Trudeau. What do you think has changed for Canada’s elites over the years you’ve been Prime Minister?

A: Well look, I would just say this, and it does go back, if you look back to my early days, look, it’s not that elite opinion doesn’t matter. It all matters. Expert opinion always counts. But you cannot govern well, and you cannot govern properly, unless you understand the values and realities of ordinary Canadians. And, let me just give a couple of examples that around in the recent debate. You have the other parties opposing, the fact that we now allow the taking way of citizenship from people convicted of terrorist offences. And I listened to the rationales for their positions. And this is kind of elite political correctness on steroids. We can’t have two classes of citizens. What do you mean? We can’t have a class of people who are war criminals and convicted terrorists, as opposed to everyone else? Of course we have classes. Our Canadian citizenship means something, and if someone, as we just had recently, someone is convicted of trying to plan the most horrific terrorist plot in Canada. It’s something that if carried off would have created a 9/11 in downtown Toronto. If we can’t take away the citizenship of that person when we’re perfectly able to do so, why, what is it our country stands for, exactly? This is a case where I think you’ve got elite opinion completely divorced to what ordinary people think and understand. You know. Not only on security matters, but, we are not a country where we want to have in our midst, people who want destroy our friends and neighbours.
Another example, is in some circles, some of our opponents want to, for reasons I thought they were unable to explain, want to stop our participation in the coalition against ISIS. Here’s an organization that controlling vast swaths of Syria and Iraq and has a stated opinion of using that to launch terrorist attacks around the world, including against us. We’ve seen their capacity to do so. There’s some elements of elite opinion who just kind of oppose military intervention, oppose working with our allies, as a matter of principal. How does that help Canadians? Canadians understand that if we don’t put military pressure on this group, they are actually going to plan attacks on us. And they will. And if we’re not there, it’s going to be worse, not better. So, as I say, there’s lots of role, obviously in our government, and our governance, for expert opinion, but kind often, I think that politically correct elite opinion of that nature is something I think most Canadians are very skeptical of. And obviously our government is makes sure that we’re connected with the values and concerns of ordinary Canadians, on our economy, on our security.

Q: Would you – and I know I’m not supposed to do this—
Harper’s staff: We’re past time.

Q: (Harper gestures to go ahead) Would you take away the citizenship of terrorists who only had Canadian citizenship, if you could?

A: Well you can’t do that because you can’t render people stateless.

Q: Would you want to?

A: You can’t render people stateless in international law, but when there’s no necessity, when you don’t need to, when there is no reason to keep citizenship, then there’s every reason why it should be taken away.
Thank you.

09-30-2015, 10:07 AM
I'm thinking we'll be seeing a lot more of this type of interview with different media outlets

Rory McCanuck
09-30-2015, 11:03 AM
He always comes across as just so calm and rational.
I like that, drama doesn't impress me.

09-30-2015, 11:08 AM
Metro is read by "ordinary" Canadians. Hopefully this will be printed in their other locations. Although with the strong HDS here I doubt many in Halifax will read it.

09-30-2015, 11:14 AM
the other two twits will bring enough drama upon themselves with their own incompetence I think thats obvious so far
its great that our PM is level headed ,focused and stable and I think people are starting to notice that

09-30-2015, 05:33 PM
the other two twits will bring enough drama upon themselves with their own incompetence I think thats obvious so far
its great that our PM is level headed ,focused and stable and I think people are starting to notice that

Yes, time seems to be his friend in that regard. The longer this goes on the more people start to realize that they actually have it pretty good and that harper is a lot more prime ministerial than the other two. And his policies are the most defensible.

09-30-2015, 11:32 PM
Yes, time seems to be his friend in that regard. The longer this goes on the more people start to realize that they actually have it pretty good and that harper is a lot more prime ministerial than the other two. And his policies are the most defensible.

yep especially when you add no extra taxes at the end of them and your not lying
the squabbling brats can't touch that its great !
and the more cool and collected he is the more off base they look

09-30-2015, 11:40 PM
Straight answers.