The House

Tory government would stand against divisive social issues legislation, deputy leader says

This week on The House, deputy Conservative Party leader Lisa Raitt joins us to talk about Andrew Scheer's latest comments on same-sex marriage. A panel of undecided voters is here to talk climate change. And two political strategists walk us through the pros and cons of the parties' election slogans for 2019.
Deputy Conservative Leader Lisa Raitt is standing behind her leader as he faces tough questions about abortion and same-sex marriage. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)
Listen to the full episode49:59

Any attempts by Conservative MPs to bring forward legislation to change Canadian law on abortion or same-sex marriage would be shot down by a Tory government, Deputy Party Leader Lisa Raitt told The House. 

This week, party leader Andrew Scheer answered questions about a 14-year-old House of Commons speech in which he explained his opposition to same-sex marriage. The video was dusted off by the Liberals and tweeted out from a ministerial account.

Conservative MP Alain Reyes subsequently admitted he had accidentally shared incorrect information about the party's stance on the possibility of tabling anti-abortion legislation — saying he believed there was still a ban on backbench MPs tabling such bills, as there was in the Harper years.

"A Conservative government will not re-open these debates. We will oppose measures that re-open these types of questions," Scheer said Thursday in response to questions on abortion and equal marriage.

Speaking to CBC News Friday, Raitt said Scheer meant those words.

"We are not going to be bringing up divisive topics. We don't want that to happen," she said. "And number two, if something like this is brought up it will be voted down by the government."

Raitt said cabinet ministers in a Scheer government would be expected to shut down any such legislation emerging from caucus.

After days of silence amid questions about where he stands on same-sex marriage and abortion rights, Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer this week attempted to clarify -- but was it enough? Conservative MP Lisa Raitt joins Chris Hall to discuss. 8:55

In 2017, when Scheer was seeking the Conservative leadership, he insisted that both backbench MPs and cabinet ministers would be able to vote freely on matters related to abortion and that he would support the "right" of MPs to "speak out and introduce matters that are important to them."

On Thursday afternoon, Scheer was asked whether Conservative backbenchers would be punished by the party whip if they tried to bring forward initiatives related to abortion. Scheer dismissed the question as hypothetical and said that Conservatives "recognize that we will ... oppose measures to open this. I am confident that my party, my caucus understands that."

"Our policy hasn't changed. It's always been the same," Raitt said Friday.

"I sat next to Andrew for the better part of the four years in the House of Commons. Not once have we had a conversation about personal views on these matters because we are all bound to the same policy."

She also accused the Liberals of working to divide Canadians. "(They want to) attack our leader and attack the people within our party and it's not going to work. Canadians know better."

With files from Aaron Wherry


Young voters' message to politicians: No more bickering, we want action on climate

FILE - In this Aug. 14, 2019 file photo, Climate change activist Greta Thunberg waves from the Malizia II boat in Plymouth, England. Thunberg has crossed the Atlantic on a zero-emissions sailboat to attend a conference on global warming. On Wednesday, Aug. 28, before dawn, Thunberg tweeted, "Land!! The lights of Long Island and New York City ahead." (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth) (Kirsty Wigglesworth/The Associated Press)

Three young voters say they want politicians to move past the bickering about climate change and offer plans for urgent action.

Riley Yesno, an Indigenous rights activist,  Elizabeth Gierl, an electrical engineering student at the University of Alberta, and Dominique Souris, co-founder of Youth Climate Lab, all say they're unsure about who they'll vote for in October. 

But they're united on what they're seeking from each of the parties.

"What I want to see is bold plans for ambitious action, but I also want to see candidates facilitate almost a race to the top," Souris said.

"I don't want to talk about carbon tax — carbon tax yes [or] carbon tax no. I want to talk about what are other tools in our tool box that we need to be putting forward."

The environment is shaping up to be a huge ballot box issue for the fall election.

Several pre-election polls suggest climate change is a top issue for voters, especially younger ones. At the same time, many Canadians are still undecided about where to park their vote. Chris Hall speaks with three young women -- all active on environmental issues, all open to being 'swayed' -- about what they're looking for in the campaign. 13:40

The parliamentary budget officer recently reported that the government would have to levy an additional carbon tax worth as much as $50 a tonne on greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) to achieve Canada's emissions reduction targets. 

All three young women said they don't feel politicians understand the sense of urgency they feel about fighting climate change.

"It's really, really stressful and anxiety-inducing for me and for a lot of most other young people," Yesno said.

The women say they're looking for concrete steps toward meeting Canada's emissions reduction commitments, including the targets agreed to in the Paris climate accord meant to keep the planet from warming more than 2 degrees C from pre-industrial levels.

"What's most important to me is to see those Paris goals be met. So it's less about what party is doing it or how they're doing it but making sure that emissions are actually being reduced and that it's taken seriously," Gierl said. 

She has a unique perspective on climate change: Alberta's oil and gas sector is in crisis, putting pressure on her province's economy. She said it's possible to be grateful for the prosperity that industry has created while also looking past fossil fuels.

"They can look at the prosperity we've had in the past and look at the industry and say this is a good thing. There's nothing wrong with this industry in the past, but now that we're looking at trying to decarbonize the world and to try to reduce our GHG emissions, that industry might have to take a smaller role."


'Boil entire campaign down to one sentence and put it on repeat'

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. (Conservative Party/Liberal Party)

Political advertising has been revolutionized in recent election campaigns by the rise of targeted, issue-specific digital ads, says Scott Reid, a former Liberal adviser who now runs his own communications firm.

"There's such a disruptive aspect to the diminution of wide broadcast advertising versus digital ads that really target people based on what they think already," Reid told The House. "And so I think increasingly — and it's somewhat reflected in these slogans — a lot of the tool kit that campaigns deploy now is less about identifying and persuading the undecided voter and more about animating and intensifying your existing vote."

He and Conservative strategist Dennis Matthews discussed the campaign slogans unveiled by the Liberals and Conservatives this week.

The Liberal campaign slogan is "Choose Forward," while the Conservatives have opted for "It's time for you to get ahead."

The NDP is expected to launch a slogan and a TV ad campaign next week. The Greens' slogan is "Not left. Not right. Forward together." The populist People's Party is going with "Strong and free."

Given how much information voters are bombarded with during an election campaign through traditional and digital ads, Matthews said the slogans reflect how important it is for all parties make their messages as simple and direct as possible.

"You've got to boil your entire campaign down to one sentence and put it on repeat, or you're never gonna be able to get that message to sink in to voters," he said.

Campaigns still need them, along with traditional TV spots, even as their messaging shifts to digital ads micro-targeting narrow slivers of the electorate. Former Conservative strategist Dennis Matthews and longtime Liberal strategist Scott Reid share their views on the party messaging ahead of this fall's campaign. 8:14

Online exclusive: What to do about the Amazon rainforest?

Does the world have a duty to protect the Amazon as one of the world's most diverse and important ecosystems?

What more can be done by neighbouring countries to convince Brazil to stop the fires raging there now, and to reverse its president's plans to open the Amazon River basin to development?

Alexandre Antonelli is a Brazilian-born biodiversity professor who's closely following both the politics and the environmental devastation in his home country. He's the director of science at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew in London, England.

The G7 countries have pledged $26.5 million Cdn to help Brazil fight the Amazon wildfires, but experts say that saving the rainforest from an 'ecocide' mandates a stronger international approach. Brazilian-born biodiversity expert Alexandre Antonelli says tactics like halting Mercusor trade talks might be required to get President Jair Bolsanaro's attention. 5:46

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