by Phạm Vũ Lửa Hạ
The Honourable Andrew Scheer, Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, Leader of the Official Opposition at the House of Commons, attended the Tết Festival 2019 on January 19 and well-wished the Vietnamese community in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). The Vietnamese weekly Thời Mới-Canada had the honour to have an exclusive interview with Mr. Scheer.
In the conversation, Mr. Scheer, 40, who at the age of 32 became the youngest Speaker of the House in Canada’s history, shared his views on some of the pressing problems facing the country and their plans if the Conservatives win the October 2019 federal elections.
Thời Mới: Canada will accept about one million immigrants in the next three years, or about one per cent of its population each year. What would be a Conservative government’s immigration plan? And what would be the right mix among economic, family reunion, and refugee categories?
Andrew Scheer: It’s the Conservative Party’s view that immigration should be based on Canada’s needs. We’d like to have a feasible immigration plan that addresses Canada’s labour force problems, with an aging population.
It’s Trudeau failure to fix the problem at our borders. Canadians are very welcoming, we welcome people from all across the world, of all different backgrounds when the process is followed, when people follow the rules, go through the proper screening so that we can make sure that the security issue is addressed, and that there’s fairness.
When people are allowed to come in and jump the queue and skip the line, and come into Canada illegally, that erodes the confidence that people have. I have spoken to many people who are waiting to bring over a loved one, who want to be reunited with their brothers and sisters, or who themselves have to wait 5, 6, 7 years, and they see people being allowed to come in without waiting just because of Justin Trudeau’s inability to fix the problem. That creates frustration and an erosion of confidence.
In addition to our overall plan, we want to put more emphasis on private sponsorships for refugees. They get much better results when there’s a group of people, whether it’s a church, a community organization or a family who are welcoming them, helping them integrate, helping them get services. So we will put a greater focus on enhancing the private sponsorship aspect of the refugee system.
Thời Mới: The next question’s related to the Canada-China relations. Basically, you see that they have escalated a lot. And I remember a few months back, Senator Ngo Thanh Hai wrote a very informative op-ed on how to deal with the China situation. But right now, it’s really tense, and they try to step up. What would you do in that case to defuse the situation? And an appendix to that, would you allow Huawei 5G in our network or not?
Those are very important questions. First of all, I’ll address the Huawei question. We believe that Huawei should not be allowed to participate in the 5G spectrum. Our major security partners have already come to the conclusion that there’s too great of a risk to have a company with that kind of state ownership around and relationship between the Communist government of China and the company. So, I have been very clear we will follow the same course of action as our major security partners and make that decision on Huawei.
On the relationship with China, I think it’s very clear at this point that it’s a question of lack of leadership on Justin Trudeau’s part. He still hasn’t phoned the president of China, he seems to be unwilling to do that. It’s unclear why.
But you know, when you look back, I think it’s the fact that the Chinese government doesn’t have the respect of our Prime Minister. The Prime Minister went to China, trying to get a free trade deal, and he was rebuffed. And I think they saw everything from the trip to India to how Donald Trump was able to force a large number of concessions onto Canada that Justin Trudeau was forced to accept.
So I think we’re at a point now it’s unclear how this current Prime Minister could go forward. So this is the type of thing that changing first the people involved could have a better outcome. And that’s why I believe in October 2019 I’ll be able to have a reset on our relationship with China: standing up for our sovereignty, our independent court system, our independent police investigations, but at the same time dealing with China at a level where they would respect Canada’s position.
Thời Mới: Thank you. Another very pressing question right now is the pipeline situation. Canadian oil is selling at a great discount to world oil, at times one third of the world oil price. That’s because we don’t have enough pipeline capacity. Would you care to share your view and plan on that?
Andrew Scheer: Yes, yes! Well, you often hear me say that Justin Trudeau has failed on many different files. He failed to balance the budget, he failed to fix the problem at the border, failed to get a better deal for Canada out of NAFTA.
But on this file, I think he’s actually succeeding because his goal is to shut down the energy sector. And so I believe that he’s made a determined decision not to allow new pipelines to be built so that the energy sector in Canada dies a slow death. Unfortunately, many families are suffering because of that. And when Trudeau goes around the world and laments the fact he can’t phase Canada out of the energy sector, I believe he’s speaking the truth. I was in Alberta just before Christmas, there are families suffering a great deal, and the Conservatives believe that all they want is to get back to work.
I have a comprehensive plan to get pipelines built. That includes getting the Indigenous consultation done right and properly, enacting legislation to protect federal jurisdiction, to fast-track all court questions, all legal jurisdictional questions fast-tracked right to the Supreme Court early on in the process so that there’s certainty and clarity around the project.
This is not just a Western Canadian issue; all of Canada suffers when we can’t get our energy to market. The federal government loses billions of dollars a year when there’s this type of discount, and that money could be going into better services in every province across the country. There are many people in Ontario who have jobs because the energy sector purchases equipment from them, parts from them; people travel from other provinces to work for periods of time.
It’s an economic engine that right now is suffering because of Justin Trudeau. So my plan would get those pipelines built, open up new markets, get a better price for our energy.
Thời Mới: Usually I skip when I hear radio political advertisements. But one of your ads sticks with me, I really like it, and I listen to it again and again because of the message of ‘legacy’. I like the ‘legacy’ radio message because of its family values, which the question is about. Life is very harsh for millennials right now; the young generation has lots of concerns in terms of housing or job security. What would you think your government do, or what woould your legacy be in that sense?
Andrew Scheer: It’s a key focus of ours, because you’re absolutely right. I did not inherit anything, I did not inherit a family fortune. Justin Trudeau did, so he has a different experience than mine. He never had to worry about saving up for a down payment on a home.
I had to work to pay my tuition. And what my parents taught me … because my parents came from very humble [background] … my mother grew up in Mississauga when Cawthra Road was a dirt road, nine children, blue-collar job.
And what I realize from my grandparents and from my mom is that the traditional model in Canada that parents make sacrifices for themselves so they give their kids the best possible opportunity and every generation benefits and gets better and progresses. So my mom was able to go to post-secondary because her parents made sacrifices. I was able to go to post-secondary and get an even better job than my parents had.
And this idea that life will continue to get better generation after generation … that is at risk right now, because the current generation between, say, 18 to 30 … there’s this anxiety about ‘Will I be able to afford to buy a home?’, ‘Will I have to switch jobs 5 or 6 times in my life?’, and there’s a great deal of … there’s a sense that their parents will a better quality of life than they’re going to have. And there’s a frustration around that.
So our entire policy will be geared towards helping that generation get the same Canadian experience, the same Canadian quality of life that their parents had. We’re going to talk about making sure there’s the ability to own a home, greater job security, costs of living going down so that people can save more so that if they do have to change jobs, they’ll able to save money to help smooth out that transition period. So, we’re speaking in a great way … with many different policies we’re going to address that very problem, because I think that we’re at risk right now due to Justin Trudeau’s policies of losing that ability for the current generation to have it even better than the previous generation.
Thời Mới: Let’s continue with that ‘legacy’ question. It’s more a question of my son’s generation. He told me the other day that at his high school most of his peers are more interested or appealed by the valued touted the Liberals or the NDP, because the Conservative Party is not doing a very good job in terms of attracting the younger people to their values. What do you think is the plan to attract more young Canadians to the Conservative Party and their values?
Andrew Scheer: There’s always been that traditional difference between Conservatives and Liberals when people are young. As people get more independent in their lives, they get a job, they own a home, they start paying taxes, we see people come later to the Conservative Party, or at least Conservative values.
But I do believe that there’s a backlash against some of the messages that the Liberals are putting out. On a particular topic, the Liberals and the NDP don’t like to have real debates. They try to shut people down who disagree with them, and they use very intolerant language, very divisive language when someone has a different opinion.
And so my policy of protecting free speech on campus is very popular with young people, because young people aren’t defended by having debates … if they disagree, they enjoy having arguments. And if I believe something that’s different from you, or if you believe something different from me, it doesn’t make you a hateful person, it doesn’t make me a hateful person.
And what I’ve noticed is that a lot of young people roll their eyes when NDP or Liberal politicians use this kind of hateful labels. When one of our Members of Parliament was questioning the government on the costs, just the financial costs of the illegal border-crossing, the Liberal [Immigration] Minister said that we’re un-Canadian. Well, that’s a very insulting attack for a legitimate question about the cost of something. And when young people hear that, they say ‘That’s not a real answer.’ They roll their eyes and they start to see the hypocrisy and the phoniness of the Liberals on many of these issues.
We have a lot of work to do. I’m not suggesting that it’s going to be easy but there are some areas where we can say to the young generation, say, ‘These deficits today, you’ll have to pay back,’ or ‘The tax hikes today mean you’ll have fewer opportunities,’ and ‘We are the only party that’s actually willing to engage in debates, and the debates without demonizing and attacking other people.’ So, we’re seeing more and more young people come to our party events because of those types of messages.
Thời Mới: Thank you very much.
Andrew Scheer: Thank you.