The House

Catherine McKenna on her green blueprint and dealing with Trump

This week on The House, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna joins us to talk about next month's first ministers meeting on climate change and how to work with incoming U.S. president Donald Trump. Then, following weeks of silence between Ottawa and the provinces over health care negotiations, Newfoundland and Labrador health minister John Haggie warns that "the window of possibility (for a new health accord) is closing."
Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna addresses a news conference at the Nova Scotia Community College in Dartmouth, N.S. The federal government is speeding up the plan to phase out coal-fired electricity by 2030. Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick still burn coal to generate power. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

While Donald Trump now says he's keeping "an open mind" on climate change, Canada is forging ahead with its plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In an interview with The House, Canada's Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, downplayed concerns that a Trump presidency will negatively impact Canada-U.S. co-operation on the environment.

"You saw positive comments from Donald Trump," McKenna said, noting that Trump has committed to taking another look at the Paris agreement.

"He said he just wanted to make sure that policies were competitive, didn't impact on the U.S. competitiveness. I think about that all the time with the policies that we are looking at," McKenna told The House.

"It's about competitiveness. It's about creating jobs. It's about making investments to grow the economy...I know those are what the next administration is looking for."

New health accord before 2017? 'The window of possibility is closing'

Newfoundland and Labrador Health Minister John Haggie says "the window of possibility is closing" on a new Health Accord before the end of the year. (CBC)

The talks between the provinces and the federal government on a new health accord have "gone silent," according to Newfoundland and Labrador's health minister, casting doubt there will be a signed agreement by year's end.

"Quite frankly the people around the table with me from the other provinces and territories are just as bemused as I am in the fact that they would have expected some more to and fro," Dr. John Haggie told The House this week.

The Canada Health Transfer (CHT), the funnel the federal government uses to give provincial and territorial governments health care funding, is set to decrease from six per cent to a minimum annual rise of three per cent next year, causing provincial palpitations.

Health Minister Jane Philpott has said she would like a new deal in place by the end of 2016, but with one page left on the calendar time is a factor. 

The health ministers last met with their federal counterpart in October and since then, "it's been deafening silence," said Haggie.

"The window of possibility is closing quite rapidly. Unless action and dialogue starts almost immediately, I would find it very difficult to actually achieve any kind of substantive agreement for the year's end," he said.

Electoral reform referendum not out of the picture 

Minister of Democratic Institutions Maryam Monsef (right) speaks to reporters during a press conference as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions Mark Holland looks on, on Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016 in Ottawa. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef says her government won't close the door on holding a referendum on choosing a new electoral system, she just really would prefer not to.

NDP members of the special House of Commons committee on electoral reform say they are open to supporting a referendum on the issue.

The Conservatives and Bloc Quebecois have demanded that a referendum be held before any changes are made and Green MP Elizabeth May, also on committee, has told The House that she is willing to support a referendum, despite her own reservations.

"If we were to close the door on an idea because I don't like something there really isn't much difference between us and the previous Conservative government, is there?" Monsef told host Chris Hall.

She argued historically people have failed to vote on referendums. Even a recent plebiscite on electoral reform on Prince Edward Island only yielded a 36.5 per cent turnout.

"That's not OK to me," Monsef said, but added she's asked the committee to report on the best way to gage support on reform and will listen to their recommendations.

The Liberals' cash-for-access headache

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau answers a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, November 22, 2016. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Justin Trudeau may be on the road again this week, but he cannot escape questions about his links to the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation and his participation in party fundraisers.

While the prime minister has previously faced questions about his cabinet ministers headlining fundraisers, data produced by the Liberal Party and supplied to CBC News this week shows that Trudeau himself has also been a mainstay at 19 party events.

Many of the events had a ticket price of $1,500 a person.

Trudeau was also asked this week about his ties to a foundation set up in his father's name — an organization that receied some $200,000 in donations from a wealthy Chinese businessman shortly after the prime minister attended a fundraising dinner with the prime minister.

Harold Jansen, who co-edited the book Money, Politics, and Democracy: Canada's Party Finance Reforms, told The House that continuing to allow ministers to attend these fundraisers could put a dent in the Liberals' political capital.

"They will pay a political cost for this...[The prime minister] is on defence. He's not able to advance his agenda, but he has to explain away something that, at a minimum, looks bad."

Jansen suggested it could help to lower the donation to a political party to a cap of $100, like in Quebec.

"It really isn't worth the prime minister or finance minister's cabinet ministers' time to go have dinner with 100 people, each of whom donated $100. Probably not," he said.

The problem with a lower cap, Jane concedes, is it's harder for parties to raise funds and "we want to make sure parties and candidates have enough access to money raised legally and transparently because otherwise we're going to find other ways to do it."

On the In House panel, John Geddes of Maclean's agreed lowering the cap for donations could deter high-ranking members from attending events, but introducing a third party to review political fundraiser could really change the way the public views cash for access.

"It's a rule book with no referee. They need to move these rules over into the Conflict of Interest Act so they can be enforced by an arm's length adjudicator," he said.

Laura Stone, a reporter with the Globe and Mail, said the cash-for-access issue is unlikely to fade unless the Liberals show they are willing to make changes.

"It is starting to chip away at that ethical shield the Liberals had going into this and I don't know when this is going to stop unless something is changed with these fundraisers," she said.