The House

How the SNC-Lavalin affair could affect the Indigenous vote

This week on The House: Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde talks about what Indigenous voters want out of this election. U.K. professor Simon Usherwood walks us through what Prime Minister Boris Johnson could mean for Canada. And what impact might the Mueller hearings have on the upcoming Democratic debates in the U.S.? Author Nancy L. Cohen joins us for her take.
AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde told the assembly he wants to see more Indigenous issues on the election agenda this year. (Logan Perley/CBC)
Listen to the full episode50:32

The SNC-Lavalin affair and Jody Wilson-Raybould's exit from the federal Liberal caucus will factor into the choices Indigenous voters make in the fall election, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said Friday.

Earlier this year, the former minister of justice and attorney general said she was inappropriately pressured by high-level government officials to intervene in the criminal prosecution of the Quebec construction company on corruption charges in order to allow it to avoid trial.

In the aftermath of that allegation, Wilson-Raybould and then-Treasury Board secretary Jane Philpott quit Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's cabinet, top Prime Minister's Office official Gerry Butts resigned and Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick stepped down. The two women were later booted out of the party caucus.

"That's something that comes into play," Bellegarde said in an interview with CBC Radio's The House, responding to questions about whether the government's treatement of Wilson-Raybould — its most prominent Indigenous representative at the time — will have an impact on Indigenous voters.

"The whole issue with SNC-Lavalin is an issue, no question."

The Liberals made significant gains among Indigenous voters in the 2015 federal election. In polling divisions located on First Nations reserves, the party captured 40.5 per cent of the vote — an increase of nearly 28 percentage points over 2011.

Turnout among Indigenous voters increased dramatically in 2015, largely for the Liberal and NDP camps. But a recent CBC poll suggests they're losing faith in the party and the government as a whole. Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde on where he sees that vote heading, and what the parties need to do to woo voters. 9:43

However, a CBC News poll suggests the governing party has lost a chunk of that support.

Many Indigenous leaders and groups commended Trudeau for appointing Wilson-Raybould as attorney general and justice minister in 2015. She was the first Indigenous person to hold that office in Canada.

After the SNC-Lavalin debacle, many of those same groups publicly raised concerns about how she was treated.

Terry Teegee, British Columbia regional chief of the AFN, said the prime minister's decision to kick Wilson-Raybould and Philpott out of caucus showed a "deeply flawed and dishonest intent" behind the Liberals' reconciliation agenda.

Trudeau has said no relationship is more important to him and to Canada than the one with Indigenous peoples.

However, the stigma from the SNC-Lavalin affair appears to be lingering among Indigenous voters.


Biden-Harris rematch expected at this week's Democratic debates

Democratic U.S. 2020 election presidential candidates pose for pictures before the start of the second night of the first Democratic presidential candidates debate in Miami, Florida, U.S., June 27, 2019. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

Twenty candidates are taking the stage over two nights this week for the second debate of candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Keen political observers are looking forward to a rematch between former U.S. vice-president Joe Biden and California Sen. Kamala Harris, said American historian and author Nancy L. Cohen.

Harris was the breakout star of the first debate, challenging frontrunner Biden on his past work with segregationist senators and his opposition to busing — the practice of assigning and transporting students to schools within or outside their local school districts in an effort to reduce racial segregation in schools.

As an African-American, Harris said she was part of the second class to integrate her public school through busing.

Cohen said all eyes will be on Harris and Biden on Wednesday night, when they take the stage alongside eight other candidates.

What a week in Washington. After Robert Mueller's appearances on Capitol Hill, eyes will turn to next week's Democratic debates. We take a look at what to watch for with author and historian Nancy L. Cohen. 6:39

"She has to show that she has range to take on Biden on other issues, that she can deliver that same stand-out performance again," she told The House.

Biden, she said, will be bookended by Harris on one side and by New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker on the other. Booker has attacked Biden's record on criminal justice issues and racial disparities.

"Biden is going to be double-teamed in his debate," she said.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday night, debate watchers will get a chance to see Sen. Elizabeth Warren take on Bernie Sanders, from whom Warren is trying to peel away support.


Canada may push for trade concessions from post-Brexit U.K.

Britain's new Prime Minister Boris Johnson waves from the steps outside 10 Downing Street, London, Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (Frank Augstein/The Associated Press)

Canada may have the upper hand in its future trade negotiations with a post-Brexit U.K., said an expert on U.K.-EU relations.

"I think the U.K. will be looking to preserve as much as it can [and], if possible, to build on it," Simon Usherwood, deputy director of the think-tank The U.K. in a Changing Europe, told The House.

"But, from a Canadian perspective, it was long and hard negotiations with the EU over many years. And now you have the U.K., which is substantial but it's not nearly as substantial as the EU. So I think the Canadian government might well find it wants to push a bit harder on getting concessions that favour Canada at a time when the U.K. needs to have some easy wins and some deals to say, 'Look at how we're moving ahead.'"

Boris Johnson is finally What will his tenure as prime minister of the U.K. mean for Canada -- and the world. Simon Usherwood, deputy director of the "UK in a Changing Europe" thinktank joins us. 8:45

In a tweet congratulating the U.K.'s new prime minister Boris Johnson, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau referenced his desire to "keep the close friendship between Canada and the U.K. strong and to increase trade."

Despite the myriad challenges facing Johnson as he settles into 10 Downing St., Usherwood said he expects Johnson will make his relationship with Canada a priority.

"That's going to be one of the more prominent relationships."


New intelligence oversight group not just a 'rubber stamp,' chair says

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has appointed outgoing Victoria NDP MP Murray Rankin as chair of the new National Security and Intelligence Review Agency. (Mathieu Thériault/CBC)

The new head of Canada's intelligence oversight committee said Canadians can trust the group to not be a "rubber stamp agency."

Prime Minister Trudeau announced Wednesday that outgoing NDP MP Murray Rankin will serve as chair of a new National Security and Intelligence Review Agency, a body that will keep tabs on the country's intelligence services, including the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the Communications Security Establishment (CSE).

"The fact that they've reached out to somebody across the aisle who is not a member of the government of the day, I think, should give Canadians confidence that this is a serious enterprise," Rankin said in an interview with The House. 

The agency — which will complement another, similar entity composed entirely of MPs and senators — will have the authority to review any activity carried out by CSIS, the national intelligence agency, or CSE, which collects foreign signals intelligence, or any other national security or intelligence-related work performed by federal departments and agencies.

But Rankin is urging Canadians not to take the agency at face value. 

"The proof will be in the pudding. Canadians have a right to hold us to account and see whether we do our job as we are expected to."

Rankin is still an MP, but as soon as he steps down from that role in September, he said, the real work will start with the committee.

Canada has a new super watchdog to keep tabs on its intelligence services. The new chair, outgoing NDP MP Murray Rankin joins us. 6:04