The House

A test of metal: It's goodbye to steel and aluminum tariffs

This week on The House, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland talks about the new deal to lift steel and aluminum tariffs and Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuff breaks down the final details before the deal came into place. With Bill C-48 in trouble, Senator David Tkachuk walks us through the legislation. Finally, our special strategist panel is back.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces Canada and the U.S. have agreed to remove their steel and aluminum tariffs during a stop on May 17, 2019, at the Stelco plant in Hamilton, Ont. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)
Listen to the full episode49:59

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says the government is going "full steam ahead" with ratifying the new NAFTA now that metal tariffs are out of the way. 

Canada and the U.S. reached an agreement on Friday to remove reciprocal tariffs that have been in place for a year. 

Those dollar-for-dollar taxes on a number of products were the biggest barrier to moving forward with turning the deal into law, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters. 

Trudeau said the new agreement to lift tariffs was "pure good news," when asked if Canada had to make any concessions to the Americans. 

Now it's time to focus on the next steps, Freeland told The House. 

"Our government now intends to move forward with the ratification," she said, though she refused to give an exact date the legislation would be tabled in Parliament. 

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says the government is going "full steam ahead" with ratifying the new NAFTA now that metal tariffs are out of the way. 12:01

The Liberals are working with an ever-shortening timeline, as there is only a month until Parliament is scheduled to break for the summer — so Freeland is calling on members of all stripes to support the deal.

However, that may not be so easy. 

"I don't see this getting through our House of Commons before the election," the NDP's trade critic Tracey Ramsey said, citing the difficult journey that the U.S. legislation must travel as well.

Democrats in the U.S. are hesitant to ratify the deal until there are clearer provisions laid out about how labour and environmental regulations would be enforced. 

"I think it'll be a grave mistake for the Liberals to try to jam this through Canada before we see the improvements that can be made by House Democrats in the States," Ramsey concluded.


Bill C-48 is a constitutional battle, senator says

Conservative Senator David Tkachuk says the unfolding drama around Bill C-48 has evolved beyond being just a resourced-based issue. 

The Trudeau government's controversial oil tanker ban was dealt a severe setback by the Red Chamber's transportation committee this week, when the majority of members recommended Parliament not proceed with the legislation. 

Critics say if passed it would block Prairie oil from getting to international markets, while supporters say it's a necessary step to protect Canada's coastline. 

It's one of the only times the Senate has killed a bill in committee, and Tkachuk says it's "as much a constitutional battle, as well as it is a resource battle."

Transport Minister Marc Garneau has said he's open to amendments on the bill, which will now be sent back to the Senate floor for more debate. 

But amendments alone won't satisfy certain members of the upper chamber. 

"We think this bill is an irrational bill," Tkachuk told The House. 

"We think that [it], coupled with C-69, is a direct attack on the resource industry of Western Canada and I live in Saskatchewan so for me, I don't want to see this bill passed at all." 

This week a Senate committee recommended that the controversial oil tanker ban, Bill C-48, should NOT become law. This decision sends the Bill back to the Senate for debate, and If things are delayed much further, the clock may run out on this Parliament before there's a final decision on C-48. The chair of the Senate's Transportation committee, David Tkachuk, joins Chris Hall to discuss this rare move by the Senate. 7:06

C-69 is the environmental assessment overhaul legislation that has, similar to C-48, angered the prairies.

Those two bills are on a tight timeline to get through Parliament before it rises for the summer and the election kicks off. 

Tkachuk says there's so much legislation left to deal with that it's hard to move things along. 

Ultimately, the timeline doesn't matter if people will suffer, he says, adding he sees an opportunity for the Senate to make what he sees as the right decision on C-48.

Tkachuk says if it doesn't pass, that's fine with him. But as the Conservatives caucus in the Senate starts to flex its muscles on key legislation, it could prove problematic for a government seeking re-election.

"I think it's time for us to step up," Tkachuk said.


The Strategists: Technology and advertising

The leaders of the federal Liberal Party, Conservative Party, New Democratic Party and Green Party. (Canadian Press photos)

As October approaches, the federal parties are refining their plans to win votes. The official campaign period won't kick off until after the summer, but the unofficial race is already on.

The House spoke with Liberal Party national director Jeremy Broadhurst, Conservative campaign chair Hamish Marshall and Green Party deputy leader Jo-Ann Roberts about technology, advertising and some of the other methods they're using ahead of election season.

Jeremy, I want to ask you about the use of social media in this campaign. How will the Liberals use it differently than, say, in 2015?

JB: I think you're always trying to look to have the conversations where the people are. With each passing electoral cycle, more and more people are getting their news, their information, from a source other than television or a traditional media source. You're always just trying to engage. It's grown each time I've been involved with the campaign and it's going to keep on going in this cycle for sure.

Hamish, you were out early when Andrew Scheer texted messages to cell phone holders in four different provinces in advance of the federal carbon tax. What was behind that strategy?

HM: People tend to check their texts perhaps more actively or more urgently than they would check an email message. So we thought we'd reach out to people that way and engage them in a conversation. We had significantly larger numbers than I expected of people who texted back. A large part of connecting with people in politics is having a dialogue understanding what's important to them and explaining our positions back to them on a one-to-one basis.

We reconvene our House strategists panel to look at the maneuvers and machinations behind the scenes as the election campaigns start to ramp up. Joining us this week are Conservative campaign chair Hamish Marshall , the deputy leader of the Green Party Jo-Ann Roberts, and in for the Liberals this week, we have the newly appointed campaign director Jeremy Broadhurst. 11:53

And Jo-Ann, Greens have the same kind of idea about how to reach people that they might not otherwise be able to.

JR:  I think we may have a little more experience because we have not had the big budgets to have what they know as "the big air game" and lots of television advertising. So in 2015, we turned a lot of attention to social media and we'll be building on that in 2019.

Do you see these kinds of new tools as a complement to the usual advertising buys, or instead of?

HM: It's a bit of both. Some people are going to be on television getting their news, their information or their decision-making information, from television. So we're going to be there. We're going to be on social media, we're going to be on their phones in the form of texting.

JB:  I'd say different tools for different jobs as well on this front. Anybody who's worked with me knows that you'll get a response faster from a text than you will from an email. But at the same time, it's a much more invasive technology, right? If you suddenly see phone numbers that you don't recognize, it could annoy as much as it can inform.

How will you be using your leader?

JR: Elizabeth May is a huge asset to the Green Party and we know that she is going to be the leader in this race who has the most experience, has been around the longest. So there is that fine line about not wearing her out, but yes, we'll be strategic. She will do a cross-Canada tour but it'll be a tour in areas where we feel we have strengths.

HM: We're going to go everywhere we think we can pick up votes. [Andrew Scheer] has been in Quebec, he's been in Toronto this past week and he'll be in Atlantic Canada again very soon. He's going around. It's no secret that the prime minister has bigger name recognition than the leader of the Opposition. We've got to work hard to make up for that disadvantage.

JB: The fact is, you have the chance to have a more interactive crowd. You have the chance to use the new technology, even in person, to create a new kind of experience. And that's something that we need to explore to keep people engaged to have those conversations going on.

(Answers have been edited for length and clarity.)

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