The House

Spy agency broke the law, so who should be held accountable?

This week on The House, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale explains how he plans to respond to this week's scathing court ruling slamming Canada's spy agency. Then, Finance Minister Bill Morneau explains the thinking that went into his fall fiscal update. We also talk to Transport Minister Marc Garneau about the government's plans for the future of transportation in Canada.
Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Ralph Goodale (Michelle Siu/Canadian Press)
Listen to the full episode1:04:17

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale hasn't ruled out firing those responsible at the Canadian Security and Intelligence for illegally keeping potentially revealing electronic data it collected over a 10-year period.

"There are circumstances that would certainly go to that extreme," he told The House.

On Thursday the Federal Court ruled that CSIS illegally kept potentially revealing electronic data, breaching its duty to inform the court, since the information was gathered using judicial warrants.

Because the metadata — which can include information like email addresses and telephone numbers contacted at a specific date or time, but not the content of the messages or calls themselves — was not related to a security threat, it should have been destroyed.

Goodale said he's tasked the Security Intelligence Review Committee, also known as SIRC, to continue to monitor CSIS.

"The first identification here of a problem actually came from SIRC, came from their review process," Goodale said.

"They are the eyes and the ears of the Canadian public. They get full disclosure of all the details. What I am asking them to do is make sure  that the information here, that court has criticized, make sure that that information is properly handled."

He also said the creation of a parliamentary oversight committee could also offer a future safeguard.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale explains how he plans to respond to this week's scathing court ruling slamming Canada's spy agency. 8:45


Even with immediate concerns, Bill Morneau focuses on the future

Finance Minister Bill Morneau appears at Commons committee to discuss the Fall Economic Statement, in Ottawa on Wednesday, November 2, 2016. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Finance Minister Bill Morneau's economic update this week was an exercise in balance, just not balancing the books.

The government's update walked the line between outlining the economy's current struggles with the hope that the government's plans to focus on infrastructure spending and trying to attract foreign investors will eventually change the economy's course.

One way the government is trying to achieve that is through the new Canada Infrastructure Bank, which will oversee at least $15 billion of investments from the public purse and an estimated $20 billion from private investors.

The public money is intended to fund "big transformative project," that wouldn't normally be able to provide a return for private investors, explained Morneau.

"This is an agency, a bank that's going to develop expertise in infrastructure as pension funds look to make investments in Canada they need to know that there's the ability to contract with somebody because these are long term investments," he told The House.

Morneau pointed to the partnership between the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec and the Quebec government to link transit from downtown Montreal with the airport and West Island as an example.

"You can see there's eventually a revenue stream in such a way that a pension fund may be interested," he said.

Legislation for the fund won't be ready until next spring's federal budget, but Morneau said the Liberal government has been "canvassing" international investors since they swept into power.

"There are pension funds around the world who would be delighted to be investing in Canadian projects," the said.

Canadians can expect to pay for infrastructure

"A country like Canada with our stable political system, with our long term expectation of growth is perfectly placed for those opportunities so long as we can find a way to do it."

But part of offering low and stable return rates could come from user fees, like road tolls.

"No matter how we build infrastructure in this country we need to pay for it," he said. "People should expect, in an ongoing basis, we're going to find the most cost effective way to build infrastructure in this country. It's not at all clear there's one particular model of how this will work."

The federal Finance Minister explains the thinking that went into his fall fiscal update. 13:04

Janice MacKinnon's fiscal update review

Governor General David Johnston invests Janice MacKinnon of Saskatoon, Sask., into the Order of Canada during a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 7, 2014. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Former Saskatchewan finance minister Janice MacKinnon says this week's update, and what she believes it shows about the Liberal's attitude towards spending, should worry Canadians.

This week, Morneau revealed the projected deficit for 2016-17 has moved down  from the $29.4 billion forecast in the spring budget, it sits at $25.1 billion. However, the new figure no longer has any kind of a safety cushion built in. Absent that cushion, the deficit has actually grown thanks to some $1.7 billion in new spending since last spring.

"The idea of balancing the budget places some fiscal discipline on the government. Voters can tell when a budget is balanced or not. Voters don't know the difference between a $25 billion deficit and a $29 billion deficit," MacKinnon told The House host Chris Hall.

"It really is taking away from the government the discipline of having to make choices, prioritizing."

It's a concern shared by interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose who said the Liberals' massive spending has created no new jobs and has led to a stalled economy.

"They think this failed plan is somehow working, and they're doubling down on it," she said.

MacKinnon, now a University of Saskatchewan professor, said she likes the idea of the Canada Infrastructure Bank, but added some of the Liberals' policies, like introducing a price on carbon when the U.S. doesn't seem interested and raising income taxes for high earners, are likely to dissuade international investors instead of encouraging them.

"I think it could be an excellent idea if it's managed property," she said.

Former Saskatchewan Finance Minister Janice Mackinnon gives us her review of the Bill Morneau's plan for the economy. 6:44

Tanker ban off B.C. coast coming this year: Garneau

Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau has a lot on his plate as he maps out the future of transportation in Canada. (CBC News)

Transportation Minister Marc Garneau is promising a moratorium on crude oil tanker traffic off British Columbia's north coast by the end of this year, which would coincide with the government's cabinet decision on the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

"That is a promise that we made. It's a mandate item for me and we are going to be delivering on that," Garneau told The House.

Trudeau ordered a moratorium more than a year ago in his mandate letter to Garneau. The directive asks him to work with with the ministers of fisheries and oceans, environment and natural resources.

Environmental groups have suggested a moratorium off the north coast would kill the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, which would carry bitumen from Alberta to Kitimat, B.C. The project is still recovering from a below delivered by the Federal Court of Appeal when it overturned Enbridge's approval because it found Ottawa failed to properly consult the First Nations affected by the pipeline.

However, a moratorium could be part of the plan to help clear the path for the Kinder Morgan project, which could see nearly 900,000 barrels of crude oil a day shipped to Vancouver's harbour in the south.

Trudeau's government needs to render a decision on Kinder Morgan by Dec. 19.

Garneau said he'll also soon have an announcement on improving marine safety.

"We know we need to if we're going to continue having more shipping traffic," he said. "On the west coast we want to involve Aboriginal coastal nations who want to be involved with the whole issue of marine safety. We also need to look at derelict vessels."

Ottawa's Transportation 2030 Plan will shape the future of transportation in this country. The person in charge of delivering on that plan is Transport Minister Marc Garneau. He joins us. 13:13

Post U.S. election 'contortions'

The long race for the White House will finally come to an end next week. (AP / David Goldman / Patrick Semansky)

We took one last look "post-policy" election with NPR's Tamara Keith and The Atlantic's James Fallows.

While there are a number of issues that could affect Canada —  from climate policy to trade deals — Keith said the focus has been on personality.

Keith, who has been travelling with Hillary Clinton, said the former secretary of state's speeches have touched on her proposed platform, the highlight reel focuses on her attacks on Donald Trump.

"I think the Clinton campaign made a calculation that attacking Trump or trying to draw contrast with Trump on policy is like wrestling with jello. It just doesn't work," she said.

Despite the near-daily comparisons to the apocalypse, life will continue after Nov. 8, Fallows said life will continue for the average American Wednesday.

"It's worth remembering the actual day-by-day fabric of American life, even amongst people who disagree politically is nothing like this bitter war to the end that we see in national level politics," he said.

"There is a considerable reserve of recuperative capacity at that operating level of American life."

Where the struggle will linger is within the Republican party.

"That is where the next stage of the contortions will take place."

Tamara Keith, political reporter with N-P-R, and James Fallows, correspondent for The Atlantic magazine, join us to discuss next week's election. 12:13

Spying on journalists a 'violation'

CSIS director Michel Coulombe. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

The issue of surveillance also came up on the In House panel to discuss, following reports police in Quebec spied on six journalists.

On Thursday CSIS director Michel Coulombe said journalists aren't currently being surveilled at the federal level.

"But what about the last five years?" said La Presse reporter Joël-Denis Bellavance, who has also been the subject of an unauthorized surveillance by the RCMP of journalist.

"This isn't just an issue between journalists and police. This is a matter of trust that people have in journalists as well that when they talk to them the police won't be getting at them," added Toronto Star and iPolitics contribuer Susan Delacourt.

"This is a violation of many trust relationships."

Quebec Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux said the province will put together an expert panel and launch an administrative inquiry into the growing scandal over police spying on journalists.

Susan Delacourt and Joel-Denis Bellavance discuss the fall fiscal update, the Conservative leadership race and the latest batch of Senate appointments. 8:54