Stephen Harper to New Pathway: “If Mr. Putin is involved in anything, it’s not good.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and New Pathway Chief Editor Yuri Bilinsky at the roundtable on October 6, 2015

On October 6, 2015, the New Pathway participated in the roundtable which Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper had with ethnic media. At the beginning of the roundtable, Stephen Harper noted that cultural media with their millions of viewers, listeners and readers are not less of a valuable news source in Canada that the mainstream media.

During the roundtable, the New Pathway asked Prime Minister a question about his position on Russia’s involvement in the Syrian conflict and how this involvement is affecting the war in Ukraine. Stephen Harper said that “If Mr. Putin is involved in anything, it’s not good. Let’s just be blunt, nothing Mr. Putin does is good and no reason he does it is good. Mr. Putin is intervening in Syria for one purpose only – to protect his friend, the brutal dictator Assad. Now, we can say ISIS is even worse than Assad, I agree with that. But Vladimir Putin is not there to protect us from terrorism or to protect minorities, only to protect the kind of brutal dictators that he likes and he is friends with. He is bombing even the most moderate of the opposition groups. This government will never cooperate with the Russians in terms of our actions in Syria or anywhere else, they cannot be trusted.”

In his response to our question, Mr. Harper also touched upon the issue of Canada’s global image which is worsening, according to the opposition parties. He said “If you look at the data around the world, Canada remains the most respected country. Our policies are different (from the NDP and the Liberal Party’s policies – NP) where we take stands we believe are principal. The position of the Liberal government on these things was never principled. You have seen last week what Jean Chrétien came out and said about Mr. Putin and about Syria (according to the Globe and Mail, Jean Chrétien said on October 1, “My view is that if Putin wants to help, he should be welcomed” – NP). And you also remember Mr. Chrétien going to visit Mr. Putin in spite of the situation in Ukraine. And he’s been campaigning with Mr. Trudeau throughout this campaign. The policies of the Liberal Party when it came to foreign affairs were never based on principles. They were always based on ‘going along to get along’, trying to be friends with everybody, no matter how bad they were.”

Mr. Harper also answered other questions from the media, in particular, about the key issue in the current election campaign, the Canadian economy. He talked about “a serious choice during a troubled time” – heightened global instability, more problems in Europe with the debt crisis, slowdown in China and the collapse of the oil price. Stephen Harper claimed that, since the global financial crisis, 1.3 million net new jobs have been created in Canada, with most of those jobs being full-time ones and with wage rates going up. Mr. Harper said that the other parties are proposing economic policies “which have failed in Canada and are a failure in some other countries and Canadian provinces today” which would impose “out-of-control spending to be financed through tax increases and permanent deficits”.

Mr. Harper stressed that Canada has managed to balance its budget and promised to continue delivering tax decreases which the country “can afford”, namely, home renovation tax credits, reductions to the taxes people pay for employment insurance, small business tax reductions, enhancements to RESPs, new tax credit for single and widowed seniors. Earlier on the same day, Mr. Harper announced some specific incentives to bring “major auto investments in Canada”. Stephen Harper called all of those tax reductions “affordable forever” because they are “based on balanced budgets”. Mr. Harper believes that, while the Liberal Party is promising to change those tax cuts and other economic measures of the current government, those promises are based on deficits which may mean that in the future the new benefits will be reduced.

Addressing the things that Mr. Harper believed would be of interest to cultural media, he mentioned that one out of five conservative candidates in these elections is a new Canadian. Stephen Harper claimed that his is the first government in 60 years to not have cut immigration during the period of global recession and that the immigration levels actually increased because the government understands that “the immigration is valuable for the economy”. He named Conservative Party “the party of immigrants and immigration” which is “reflected in the Party’s economic policies, policies that help families, policies that respect their values and keep our communities safe. The other guys want to legalize marijuana and prostitution, bring drug injection sites in your neighborhoods. This is not what new Canadians want, we don’t believe that this is what Canadians want, period, but it’s certainly not what new Canadians want.”

Stephen Harper also raised the issue of the C-24 Bill – changes to the citizenship laws which revoke the citizenship of dual citizens who are convicted of offenses like treason and terrorist acts. Mr. Harper believes that these amendments reflect the values of all Canadians, including new Canadians. He said that these kinds of crimes are attacks on the notion of citizenship itself: “People, who want to fundamentally betray and destroy our country, are unworthy of holding citizenship and we think that people of all backgrounds understand that. The Liberals and the NDP are trying to say this is the beginning of repealing of everybody’s citizenship. What a bunch of nonsense. I think people can understand these are unique crimes and circumstances. This Party has sworn about 2.5 million of citizens since we took office, a record number of citizens. C-24 is very clear and it’s very limited in its application.”

The representatives of ethnic media also raised questions about the recently signed tentative Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal. Mr. Harper said that, being in a free trade space with the economies which boast $30 trillion in aggregate GDP and 800 million customers, will give Canada an unparalleled tariff-free access, on top of free access to the EU market. “Among the G7 countries, no other economy has that kind of access which means that there will be no better place to situate an enterprise for a global business than Canada. And exports create the best paying jobs.” Mr. Harper said that the NDP is opposing the agreement “as the NDP has opposed most trading agreements in our history, including the European agreement. Obviously, this agreement wouldn’t go through if there was an NDP government and we think it would be devastating. (According to thestar.com, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair declared on October 5, “I will not be bound by Stephen Harper’s secret deal” – NP) We have an export oriented automobile sector – 85% of its output is exported to the integrated North-American market. Imagine the United States and Mexico being part of the broader trade package that we are not part of. I would note by the way that almost all of the voices across the country are in favor of this. Not just service sectors, the Canadian manufacturers and exporters, raw materials sectors, but agriculture. Almost all of the agriculture sector are supporting, even the dairy farmers of Canada who were expected to be against it. In the automotive, General Motors, the Autoparts Association, a lot of other voices are in favor. The main opposition is UNIFOR, which is frankly, to be blunt, is a protectionist union which has always opposed trade deals and always will. But I do want to put a warning about the Liberal Party as well. Mr. Trudeau is unable to state clearly whether he is for or against it.” (According to thestar.com, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said on October 5, “We will commit that the ratification process for this deal will go through a full responsible and open discussion both in Parliament and with Canadians so that we make the right decision going forward for Canada” – NP) Mr. Harper continued, “Which is worse in terms of running an economy in the 21st century? A guy who may have a different idea, I think it’s a wrong idea, but you know what it is, or a guy who can’t even make up his mind and can’t take a position on a major economic issues of the day? Mr. Trudeau say the Liberal Party has always been for trade. No, they haven’t. They opposed the free trade agreement with the United States and with NAFTA and they’ve taken a wishy-washy position almost on every deal we’ve ever signed. With the European deal and TPP we are going to have free trade access to 51 countries representing 2/3 of the global economy. 99% of that marketplace was open by Conservative governments, the Liberals did 1%.”

As to the concerns that the TPP deal will lower health and safety standards in Canada and will harm the dairy sector, Stephen Harper said that the dairy farmers will only lose 3.25% of the domestic market as a result of the deal and that the government will provide them with a compensation, which made them “more than satisfied. Nothing in the deal stops Canada’s ability to establish our own health and safety standards, as long as we do so in a non-discriminatory manner, based on scientific evidence”.

To the question, what a re-elected conservative government would do to curb an ISIS-style jihadist ideology in Canada and protect Canadians from terrorism, Stephen Harper said that first and foremost Canada is participating in the coalition that is fighting the ISIS which has named Canada among its targets. The government, said Mr. Harper, is making sure that the Canadian law enforcement agencies have all the modern powers to deal with these kinds of threats. He provided an example of the C-51 legislation which “protects our rights and our security. It allows our security and police organizations to share information on security threats. Up until now, they have not had clear legal authority to share information between each other. Other countries have that. We have the ability now for those organizations to go to court and get a warrant if they see a plot coming to fruition. Right now it has to be through a complicated arrangement with other organizations to do that. There is also an ability to take down web-sites that engage in terrorist recruitment. We do have some anti-radicalization programmes in Canada, the Kanishka project for example that came out of the Air India bombing three years ago. We have in Canada more comprehensive relationships between the police and security agencies and vulnerable communities than anywhere in the world.”

Stephen Harper also commented on the issue of Syrian refugees and said that the government is providing $800 million to the Iraq and Syria area and $1.2 billion to “the wider region” to assist the situation on the ground as “the majority of the 15 million of refugees will never leave the region”. Mr. Harper said that Canada has already accepted 23,000 refugees from Iraq and Syria and had 10,000 coming before the election campaign began. At the beginning of the campaign, the government announced another 10,000. Stephen Harper compared those numbers to 10,000 refugees the United States is ready to accept and 120,000 the European Union is ready to take over two years. Mr. Harper also said that the government is making sure that the refugees which Canada is accepting are genuine refugees and that they are screened for health and security.