The House

Nation-building in the North

This week on The House, Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq joins us to discuss the North's priorities for the upcoming election. We get a NAFTA update from experts on both sides of the border. And Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale talks about what the Five Eyes nations accomplished at their meeting this week.

This week: Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq, Ralph Goodale and two views on NAFTA

Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq says southern Canada needs to focus on nation-building with the North. (Travis Burke/CBC)
Listen to the full episode48:25

Whoever forms government in October needs to take commitments to Canada's North seriously — not throw money at the problems, says Nunavut's premier.

"We have to be more physically connected to southern Canada to get the services that everyone else takes for granted," Premier Joe Savikataaq told The House

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in Iqaluit with the premier this week announcing an agreement on housing for the province. While the premier was grateful for movement on that file, he says there's other problems that are going ignored.

Climate change, mental health and addiction treatment and infrastructure problems are all threatening the Inuit way of life, Savikataaq warned. 

And sometimes, the North isn't treated like a full part of Canada. 

"Canada has to do some nation-building within Nunavut to bring us, to bring our standard of living, closer in line with southern Canada."

The premier agrees progress has been made in recent years, but he's counting on the winner on Oct. 21 to continue the momentum. 

"We're all Canadians, we're proud Canadians, but the federal government's got to do some nation-building and catch up with our infrastructure needs."

After the Prime Minister's swing through Nunavut this week, we ask Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq what voters there want as they face both a housing crisis and the impact of climate change. 7:53

U.S. needs to answer questions on Huawei, Goodale says

Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Ralph Goodale speaks at press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa in May. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says if the Americans are impatient with Canada's approach to Huawei, they should start answering the government's questions about why Washington decided to ban the company from new networks. 

At a meeting of the Five Eyes nations in London this week, the minister defended Canada's decision to wait to make a decision on the Chinese tech giant's access to 5G networks.

"I explained to all of the countries exactly where Canada is in the decision-making process and each one of the Five Eyes countries is at a different stage in making this decision," he told The House. 

Goodale said earlier this week there would be no final outcome on Huawei until after the election, even though the U.S. is urging the other countries to ban the company from its networks.

Canada needs more information from the United States about the nature of the potential security threat the U.S. believes the company poses, he told The Canadian Press.

He told The House his response to the Americans about why it's taking Canada so long would be "Please answer my question ahead and then we'll go from there."

The minister said he had conversations with his American colleagues at the meeting and "fully" expects them to be in touch about Huawei in the coming days. 

For Canada's part, Goodale says they won't act until they have more information. 

"This is massive new technology with huge potential and it's incumbent on all of us to get it right."

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says he left this week's meeting of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance in London with lessons about defending Canada's election from meddling. 8:37

Take a 'chill pill' despite NAFTA anxiety, labour president suggests

U.S. President Donald Trump, centre, and Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto show off signatures while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau applauds at the USMCA signing ceremony in Buenos Aires, Argentina last November. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Canadians can afford to wait on the U.S. to move forward on ratifying the new NAFTA deal, known here as CUSMA, says one labour boss. 

The Democrats in the House of Representatives left the chamber this summer without the trade deal finalized, causing some anxiety north of the border.

"I know there's a lot of worries and concern about what this may represent with the delay but we're not in control of the American agenda and we should basically take a chill pill and relax and let them do their thing," Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuff told The House.

He says with the deal agreed to and the tariffs gone, the trajectory is still positive. 

The U.S. Congress begins its summer break without ratifying the new NAFTA agreement but Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuff says Canadians can relax. 5:08

But fighting between the Democrats and the White House threatens to push ratification to the end of the year, interfering with election cycles in both Canada and the U.S.

Mexico has already ratified the terms agreed to in the fall, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said this week that Canada would follow the U.S. lead in terms of a timeline. 

And with those conditions, there's not much to do but "sit back and wait," Yussuff said. 

"We're not in control of the United States and we are never going to be in control of what they're going to do." 

Despite the uncertainty, there's still a chance for the new NAFTA to come into effect before the Canadian election.

Maryscott Greenwood, CEO of the Canada-U.S. Business Council, says if conditions are right the deal could be done in a timely way — and if that doesn't happen, governments in both countries will run into election roadblocks that will stall the trade agreement.

"If we don't do it this fall we're going to miss the window for a couple of years," she said.

The U.S. Congress begins its summer break without ratifying the new NAFTA agreement. Canada-U.S. Business Council CEO Maryscott Greenwood says she's hopeful a deal can be reached before election derail NAFTA. 7:52

Liberals' attempt at reconciliation not enough, says First Nations candidate

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, right, and Chief Rudy Turtle of the Grassy Narrows First Nation listen to questions during a press conference announcing his candidacy for the NDP in Kenora, Ont. (Canadian Press/Justin Tang)

Justin Trudeau's Liberal government has "done the best they could," but it's not enough to win over a Northern Ontario First Nations leader who this week announced his intention to run for the NDP.

Chief Rudy Turtle of the Grassy Narrows First Nation declared his candidacy on Monday on the front lawn of Parliament Hill alongside NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who joined him for campaign-style events in his Kenora riding a few days later. The seat is currently held by Liberal Bob Nault.

Turtle's community, located about 100 kilometres northeast of Kenora, continues to grapple with mercury contamination. For half a century after the former owners of a mill in Dryden dumped 10 tonnes of mercury into the river system, the people of Grassy Narrows have suffered the effects of mercury poisoning.

When Trudeau swept to power in 2015, Turtle believed his community's concerns would finally be dealt with. But there is still no agreement with Ottawa to deal with long-term health needs of the community and no on-reserve health centre dedicated to dealing with the effects of mercury poisoning.

NDP candidate and Grassy Narrows Chief Rudy Turtle describes his plans to boost turnout in October. 4:11

Turtle told The House he chose the NDP because of his frustration with the Liberals.

"They've done the best they could, but things just need to be done faster, better, and I think the money some First Nations are requesting should be honoured because they know what's best for their own communities," he said.

"They've tried, but it's not good enough."

Turtle says he is looking forward to knocking on doors and meeting voters in the coming months in what he already knows will be a gruelling campaign.

"I've been told what to expect, I've been told that it's going to be hard work and long hours, but I'm ready for it," he said.

Politicians aren't the only ones focused on getting more Indigenous voters out to the polls.

A group called Winnipeg Indigenous Rock the Vote has been leading these efforts on municipal, provincial and federal campaigns since 2014.

Three ingredients are key to the group's success, according to organizer Lisa Forbes.

It begins with a groundswell of interest among voters, which is often boosted when there is an Indigenous candidate on the ballot.

But most importantly, she told The House, is being non-partisan.

"(People) don't want to be told who to vote for," she said.

"They like information. They like to be welcomed and told that what they have to say is important, their participation is important."

Forbes said Winnipeg Indigenous Rock the Vote will shift its attention to the federal election once Manitobans have voted in the Sept. 10 provincial election.

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