The House

New Conservative leader Andrew Scheer gears up for the fall

This week on The House, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer joins us to talk taxes, John A. Macdonald, and border crossings. We also talk to Quebec's Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil about how the province is handling the recent spike in the number of asylum seekers.
Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer speaks during an interview in his office on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, August 24, 2017. (Patrick Doyle/Canadian Press)

With summer coming to an end, MPs are slowly getting ready to return to Ottawa.

For new Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, the fall will provide an opportunity to continue to put his stamp on the party he started leading just a few months ago.

Holding the government to account in the House of Commons will be part of that, and Scheer says Liberals' tax plan and their handling of the asylum seekers situation will fuel a lot of his questions.

"Canadians are seeing after eight months of this crisis ramping up, you know, tent cities, refugees camps on the border, strains now being felt on social services, and now the government is just trying to manage the situation," Scheer told The House.

More than 6,000 people have crossed illegally into Quebec from New York since July, most of them Haitians prompted to flee by news the U.S. government is considering lifting temporary protected status for Haitian nationals.

"Where's the plan to stop the (border) crossings?"

Scheer is suggesting the two main entry points now being used — the one at Lacolle, Que., and the other in Emerson, Man. — be declared formal points of entry. 

This week, Justin Trudeau defended his government's handling of the situation.

"We will continue to defend the integrity of our immigration system, and remain careful stewards of an extraordinarily precious asset in the 21st century world, which is to have a population positively inclined towards immigrants, towards refugees, understanding that being welcoming and open is a source of strength," he said.

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer joins us to talk taxes, John A. Macdonald, and border crossings.

Sir John. A's legacy

A motion by the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario has sparked debate over whether the name of Canada's first prime minister should be removed from schools, buildings and bridges around the country. (Edward Gooch/Getty Images)

One of the Indigenous MPs who called for the renaming of Ottawa's Langevin Block because of its namesake's role in the creation of residential schools, says he feels differently about stripping Canada's first prime minister's name off of public schools.

This week, the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario kicked off a national debate when delegates revealed they passed a motion that called on school districts to "examine and rename schools and buildings named after Sir John A. Macdonald."

Robert-Falcon Ouellette, was part of a pack of federal Indigenous politicians who called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to rename the office of the Prime Minister's Office. (

This would be done, the motion said, "in recognition of his central role as the architect of genocide against Indigenous peoples."

"When we start effacing completely that history and not recognizing it then people can forget very readily what occurred. And so for me it's always important to have that anchor," Liberal MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette told The House.

"Everyone has warts. That's what makes us human beings." 

Macdonald is praised for rousing support for Confederation, making it happen and then keeping the country together, but his legacy is also blemished by his support of residential schools, the Indian Act, and the hanging of Louis Riel.

Ouellette, originally from the Red Pheasant First Nation in Saskatchewan, said keeping Macdonald's names on schools allows teachers to reflect on the complexity of his character in Canadian history.

One of the Indigenous MPs who called for the renaming of Ottawa’s Langevin Block because of its namesake’s role in the creation of residential schools, says he feels differently about stripping Canada’s first prime minister’s name off of public schools.

Asylum seeker influx puts burden on Quebec's school system

Kathleen Weil's was Minister of Justice from 2008 to 2010, as well as Minister of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusiveness since April, 2014. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Quebec's Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil says one of the most straining challenges going forward with the influx of asylum seekers in her province will be the large volume of school-aged children.

"Under international obligations, if you will, and conventions, children have a right to schooling. Every ministry of education has an obligation to find innovative ways and be creative to ensure these kids get some form of education," she said.

Trudeau says steps to tackle spike in asylum-seekers yielding 'positive results.'

The minister said about a third of the asylum seekers in Quebec are children under 18. And the majority of that third are under 11, Weil added.

Many of them don't have a permanent address yet because it's harder to find spots for families to stay. She said without a residence it's difficult to match children with schools.

While both her government and the federal Liberals have improvised services at the border, the pace at which people are crossing has been a challenge.

"Which creates this pressure on our temporary housing. The YMCA is the first organization in charge of taking care of the asylum seekers and they contacted us."

Quebec's Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil says the sheer pace of asylum seekers crossing into her province has been a challenge.

Mexican ambassador on Chapter 19

In this April 21, 2008 file photo, national flags of the United States, Canada, and Mexico fly in New Orleans. Canada, the United States, and Mexico have entered a confidentiality agreement to protect each other's offers during NAFTA negotiations, with a list of rules designed to prevent leaks during the talks. (Judi Bottoni/The Associated Press)

Canada has a friend in Mexico when it comes to defending Chapter 19, the third-party arbitration system to judge whether punitive duties are being applied unfairly, during the current NAFTA renegotiations.

U.S. critics have long been critical of Chapter 19 for its perceived violation of national sovereignty, its alleged unconstitutionality and for being unfavourable, from Washington's perspective, on softwood lumber rulings.

"For us it's a very important topic. Actually it's one of the main objectives we are seeking in the negotiations to add certainty to trade and investments," Mexican Ambassador to Canada Dionisio Pérez Jácome told The House.

"Certainty means more predictability." 

Last month, Mexico's Congress backed a non-binding motion on urging the government to reject the U.S.'s proposal to scrap the dispute settlement mechanism.​ 

With round 2 of the NAFTA negotiations set to take place in Mexico in a few days, we talk to Dionisio Pérez Jácome, he Mexican ambassador to Canada, about how round 1 went, what's on the agenda for round 2.

Premiers, governors head to P.E.I. 

Premier Wade MacLauchlan is hosing the 41st meeting of Eastern premiers and New England governors on the Island this weekend. (Steve Bruce/CBC)
  As Mexico, Canada and the U.S. prepare for the second round of NAFTA talks, some of Canada's premiers and the New England governors will be plugging away making their own trade deals over the coming days. 

For the first time in its 41 years of existence, the Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers has invited companies from both sides of the borders to the gathering.

  "This is where businesses sit down in kind of a dating context," said P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlan, who is hosting this year's conference in Charlottetown. 

"We expect there to be some significant results out of that," MacLauchlan told The House.

"I've spoken directly to the six New England governors leading up to this. I can confirm all six are traders." 

    The conference starts Sunday and will also include a talk about opioid abuse in both the U.S. and Canada.   
The PEI Premier talks about hosting the Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers this week.