Niagara-West MP Dean Allison talks Russia, NAFTA, Trudeau, his take on the living wage, and the coming crash
BY SAMUEL PICCOLO
The first time I met Dean Allison, we were both sweating profusely. One day in June 2016, when I was a tour guide on Parliament Hill stationed outside Centre Block, I was steaming away in one of the few parts of Canada more humid than Niagara. I saw Allison wandering alone in the afternoon sun, pacing around the front steps of the building, looking down to the lawn in search of a group from the A.K. Wigg school that he was supposed to meet.
Thinking that I could save him some time—the school had called our desk to say that they would be a bit late—I hailed him over and explained what had happened.
However partisan we tour guides may have been before starting the job, we soon learned to classify Members of Parliament not by party but by temperament. Allison immediately seemed to fall into the “nice” category. We chatted pleasantly for a few minutes before the students eventually arrived.
I ran into him again not long afterwards when we were both stuck in a Centre Block foyer on the day of then-President Barack Obama’s visit, trying to catch a glimpse of the man. Allison was giddy with excitement, and for a moment it was as if he too were a young student just happy to bear witness to such an important day.
Obama passed and Allison was ushered into the House of Commons with the rest of the MPs, Senators, and Premiers, while I and others of my low rank retreated to the basement, where a television had been set up for us to follow the proceedings.
From speaking to others in Ottawa, it’s clear that the perception of Allison as a “regular guy” is one that follows him when he leaves the riding.
Nevertheless, he is still an MP—a position possessed of power and influence. In the back-benches for many years, it was perhaps easier for him to maintain the persona of “Just Dean,” sitting on committees and speaking infrequently in the house, while the Conservative government grew increasingly unpopular. It’s much easier to be normal when you’re normally not noticed.
Last week, I met with Allison on one of the first crisp mornings of autumn. I nearly didn’t recognize him, at first, dressed inconspicuously as he was in a black pullover and ball cap. The Blue Jays’ season had just officially ended, and he said that he finally felt safe displaying a Red Sox logo. On Lincoln’s main street, which was closed down for Canada 150 celebrations, several people stopped Allison and asked him questions. We entered his office, which was empty and silent, and sat in the sizeable boardroom.
Allison was recently made shadow minister for International Trade, and thus is no longer in the back-benches. But he suggested when we spoke that he wouldn’t have to change his style all that much. While harshly critical of the Liberals’ new tax plan, he was happy to provide reasonable praise for the government’s handling of NAFTA negotiations. He rebuked the degree to which politics has become personal, and while his own party bears considerable responsibility for this (“Just Visiting” and “Nice Hair” come to mind), it seems at least plausible that Allison will use his heightened profile to encourage civility on all sides of the House.
Allison is clearly committed to dialogue, and is seemingly free of dogmatic ideology. But dialogue must lead somewhere to be worthwhile, and the absence of ideology is only commendable if its space is occupied by something other than myopic self-interest. As Allison has risen to prominence in the Conservative caucus, he has largely been able to get by by just being Dean. We will soon see how much more he has to offer.
Piccolo: You’re the third in what we should call our “Conversations with Conservatives” series—we’re going to find some Liberals, don’t worry—as so far I’ve spoken to Sam Oosterhoff and Tim Hudak. And I have to say, when I’ve talked to people about these prospective interviews, you’ve been the least controversial of them all.
Allison: [Laughs] Is that a good thing or bad thing? I’m not quite sure.
Well, I don’t know. People have strong opinions about Sam, and strong opinions about Tim. There have always seemed to me to be two sorts of politicians: Politicians, and regular guys who happen to work in politics. And it seems as though most people consider you to be the latter. Are you cognizant of that perception of you? And why do you think that is?
One of the things that I fight really hard for is to be a regular guy. I think there’s enough perception of ‘Ooh, the guy’s elected, he’s way up there.’ I’m the same as everyone else. I owned a business for a number of years, and my employees always had access to me. I always told them to try and fix their problems on their own, but if you have an issue, call me, anytime for any reason. So anytime that you step out and say that you’re better—I’m not saying that people always do—but I think that sometimes people can’t help themselves. Some of the politicians on the Hill have attitude, they say “Guess what? I’m elected, I’m important.” I just say “I’ve got the best job on earth.” I’m very fortunate to be able to represent people, and I want to be as approachable as possible. Because chances are, if I’m not approachable, people aren’t going to come. My reputation is important to me. Some of the MPs—on all sides, Liberal, Conservative, NDP—are hyper-partisan. When they’re done politics, they’re sort of these partisan hacks. I was a business guy before, and quite frankly, I want to have a good reputation. I mean, I still get fired-up. I’m super fired-up about the tax issue right now, but I try not to make it personal. And I realize at the end of the day I don’t mind working with Liberals or the NDP if they’ve got great ideas. I’m always cognizant of, as International Development Critic, the fact that there are a lot of organizations out there that didn’t like some of our policies. I still met with them, because I figured that we need to listen and have a dialogue. And the reality is, if we don’t have a dialogue, we’ll never move forward on any issues. A lot the things that happen are around compromise. One of the things now on the tax issue that is so divisive is that the Liberals haven’t shown that they’re willing to listen. They say that they’re consulting, but they did it in the middle of the summer. People feel like it’s a done deal. Whereas if they had said that, “We have to take care of some things, but we’re not sure exactly where we want to go.” It’s been a communication nightmare. So I go back to “I want to be approachable, I want to have conversations.”
I’m glad you mentioned that partisanship, because I have to imagine that it’s been an adjustment moving to the front of the bench. It’s more of a select team, you have to be on-message a little bit more. Is there a level of partisanship that comes along that you were uncomfortable with at first?
No. I always try and keep things from the personal. We debate tons and tons of things. As a small business guy, the tax thing really drives me nuts. It sticks in my craw like nothing else, because entrepreneurs should be encouraged to start businesses, and this to me seems as though we’re trying to stifle them. So, I’ve chatted in the house before, but now I’m up for questions more often. Now it’s about finding my style. “How am I going to ask the question? What is it going to be about?” Yeah, we’re going to hold the government to account, but what’s my style going to be? We were in government for ten years. I didn’t ask any questions—it’s only the ministers answering questions! I want to try and keep it factual, I don’t want it to be personal, I want it to be about what’s best for the country. I’d like to think that if the Liberals are doing a good job on a particular issue—on trade, for example—I’m a big enough man to say, “I like what they’re doing there. They’re on the right track.” But conversely, if they’re not doing the right thing, I can hold them to account. As opposed to always just complaining. I think that’s the wrong way to do it. It can’t be bad all of the time.
I think that’s what frustrates a lot of people—
It turns them off of politics.
When Stephen Harper was Prime Minister, he could’ve cured cancer and the opposition would still have been lighting in to him. And likewise, people perceive that if Justin Trudeau had cured cancer, Conservatives would still be on him about something else.
That’s the balance we need to look at. I was at a symposium on corporate-social responsibility on human rights in other countries. Normally not our group. These are people that give us a hard time. I actually co-sponsored the event with Amnesty International. The first two speakers got up and said that while our conservative government would not be known for this sort of thing, we did a lot of things for corporate-social responsibility. And trying to move the bar, and trying to move the dialogue. It was interesting to hear from an unbiased third-party, and it goes back to the point, we were doing some good things at the time, and people were saying: “Not enough. Not far enough.” It’s great to hear from a third-party, even if they might be saying “you could’ve done more or done it faster.” All those arguments are applicable, but they’re also saying that this government has not made corporate-social responsibility a priority, and so they’ve dropped the ball altogether.
I did see that Tom Mulcair had an exit interview with the Globe and Mail in which he said that he thought he was more respected as opposition leader by the Conservatives than now by the Liberals.
I think that Harper respected Mulcair. He was good in Question Period—not really a warm and fuzzy guy, the same as most people felt about Stephen Harper. But Mulcair was good in Question Period, always focussed, always on point.
That perception of Harper, was that true? He deliberately made himself seem inaccessible.
I think that it’s all about personalities. Trudeau is an extrovert, and is very comfortable out there taking selfies and doing things with people. I think that Stephen Harper would die if he did that. He always had people taking pictures, but it was uncomfortable for him. But when we were in caucus, having conversations about things that were contentious, he always listened. So the perception that he didn’t listen would not be true. However, I think that his persona—economist, numbers guy, a bit of policy wonk—all those things feed into the fact that people thought “he’s not nice.” Well, that’s not who he was, he wasn’t a personable guy. But he was a decent human being. And I’ve never met a guy—and all Prime Ministers work hard—that worked as hard as he did. He totally was there for the country. Most are, but this guy was really about trying to do what was best, even if he wasn’t always right. I know for a fact that he was there because he wanted to make Canada a better place. That’s the kind of Prime Minister you want.
Now that Andrew Scheer is leader, bringing a different style than what Harper was known for, have things changed within the party?
It started when Rona Ambrose was the interim leader. She came in after we were devastated, when we lost a bunch of our colleagues. Mike Wallace in Burlington, Rick Dykstra in St. Catharines, all of these seats that we thought we might win. And then we got shut out on the east coast. She came in with a new style. We started having fun again. Being in government, it’s sometimes hard to have fun, and she really put an emphasis on the team, and Andrew’s continuing on in that vein. Politics is already hard enough as it is.
Speaking of hard fun, you were one of the few MPs banned from going to Russia. How did that happen?
We added a few people on the list of sanctions from Russia—
This was during the confrontation over Ukraine?
Yep. So they retaliated, they took the Speaker, I was chairing the Foreign Relations Committee, the Vice-Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, a number of people who had been outspoken about the Russia issue. It was retaliation. They didn’t bother banning the Foreign Affairs minister. I know I’m still banned, because I was in Belarus this summer, and we had to get visas to go there. When the staff who were organizing the trip went to drop off the applications at the Belarusian embassy, they said that “You realize that Mr. Allison cannot go to Russia, right?” In other words, I’m in Belarus, maybe I’d want to take a little trip over to Russia, and they made sure I knew that I couldn’t.
So you won’t be vacationing there anytime soon.
Nope. That’s okay though. There are a lot of other places in the world to visit first.
You mentioned chairing the Foreign Affairs committee—is this an opportunity for bipartisanship too. North Korea is obviously something that’s on the minds of many right now. And I think back to the ‘60s, during the Cuban Missile Crisis. As is well-known, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker and opposition leader Lester Pearson did not get along. But during that event, Pearson apparently called Diefenbaker late at night and the two had a serious talk about what Canada had to do. Because it was too important to play games over. In the face of a lot of stress, not just regarding North Korea, but with Trump as well, how can there be room for a Canadian perspective, not a partisan one?
Generally, that’s the case on the Foreign Affairs Committee. For the most part, foreign affairs is something that we should be united on. We’re all appalled when the Rohingya are being slaughtered. We’re all appalled with respect to North Korea, and the tragedy in Syria. We will differ from time to time, but when it comes to foreign policy, most Canadians are on the same page. We believe in the rule of law, freedom of speech, all of these things—and when other countries don’t have these, we need to encourage them. Every time that we went to China, we would raise human rights issues. Maybe we don’t think that Trudeau is raising them enough. Is that because we don’t think that Trudeau cares? No, Trudeau cares about human rights. So it’s about pushing them to do more, faster. We had differing views on immigration sometimes, too. We were bringing in 10,000 privately-sponsored refugees, whereas Trudeau said no, we’re going to being in a lot more than that right away, 25,000, and then 40,000.
Do you think that was a good idea?
Time will tell. The reality is that we need to do our part. We were doing our part. I think that privately-sponsored always makes sense. I was just over at the opening ceremonies for the 150th celebration at the fall days in Lincoln, and there were a number of refugee families from the Congo and Syria. A bunch of local churches worked together to privately sponsor these people. Now they have community, and community matters. We’re trying to have integration.
As opposed to just parachuting refugees down?
Right. If you throw a lot of people in the government program that don’t have any sponsorship, then there’s no sense of community. That’s what alienates them. But I think for the most part, we can find common ground on these things. There are times that we disagree, and that’s when we’ll stand up and we’ll say something.
Your official shadow ministry is International Trade, correct?
It is now, yes.
So I take it that NAFTA negotiations fall under your shadow ministry?
It does. Erin O’Toole is taking the lead on in, because he’s our foreign affairs shadow minister, but we’re looking at companies who trade, we’re speaking to their representatives. We’re talking about NAFTA with our team, absolutely, helping to develop our strategy.
How do you think that Liberals have done so far. They’re obviously in a tough situation. A large majority of Canadians are appalled by what’s being done by the Trump Administration.
When he comes out and he’s flaunting nukes with North Korea and he’s picking fights with NFL players—
It’s a distraction, I think. He’s always trying to get you to look over here, or look over there. But concerning Canada, I think two things. I think that [the Liberals] have been doing a good job. When the US says “We’re going to blow it up”… I don’t think that you should ever lead with what you want. I think you should listen to what they want. So I think that [the Canadian side has] been doing a decent job. I’d like them to be a little stronger when the US comes up with misinformation, hypocrisy, and lies. For example, the issue around wine. The US wants greater access for its wine, but the fact is that the US has nearly a $500 million surplus of American wine coming into Canada. We have a hard time getting our wine into the US because of non-tariff barriers, because of rules, regulations, etc. It’s very disingenuous for the US to say, “We’re not happy, we want greater access.” Why are they being so greedy, is my question. So the US can say what it wants, but I would like to see our guys push back harder against misinformation. From a tactical point of view, [the Liberals] are moving in the right direction, they’re keeping their cards close.
The Conservatives are in an interesting spot, too. Typically we think of the Democratic Party as being analogous to the Liberals, and the Republican to the Conservatives. In this case, is that really true?
Not even close. The Republicans right now, and Trump in particular, are being totally protectionist. It was actually the Democrats who were taking about TPP.
That was Clinton’s deal until she ran against Sanders.
Absolutely. It’s almost like the two parties have switched. And that’s Trump, he’s tying into populism there, people who aren’t happy, who’ve lost their jobs, their wages have gone down, their quality of life’s not better. He’s being political, a lot of this is political, so I think that the Liberals are doing the best they can on this file. It’s tricky, because he says, “We want a deal now.” But there are Mexican elections in the first part of next year. There are midterms in the US next fall. Now Trump wants it done, but what Mexican presidential candidate is going to say, “Let’s get a deal done now that makes us worse off.” We’ve had a lot of experts come in on trade, and they say the same things: Make sure that we continue to increase the flow of goods and services across the border, pre-clearance programs, making the border less sticky. Maybe we need to harmonize a few things in industries. The last part is the chapter 19, the dispute mechanism, which the US wants to get rid of entirely and transfer to its own courts. Well, we know the courts there would never be fair compared to a third-party. These are the things that we hear over and over again. I don’t think that people have a problem trying to modernize NAFTA—I can assure you that there are no chapters on digital economy. If the US comes in and says, “We want to wipe out all these things,” we’re not going to agree to that. The question is what happens then. And that’s what we don’t know.
With respect to the populism that you mentioned—it’s definitely one that goes across party lines. Bernie Sanders tapped into it, too. That populist, anti-free-trade sentiment seems to have largely come from those upset about the absence of the steady manufacturing jobs that for so long supported North America. People blame free trade for these losses. The counter-argument to that is: it’s not just free trade, it’s technological progress. It seems that in the digital economy there just won’t be as many jobs. That the economy does not—and will not—require as many people. On the left, and we see this in Ontario particularly, there has been suggestion that the solution to this a basic minimum income.
Living wage. Is that something that you’d support?
This is one of the challenges we’re going to face. I’m not convinced that a living wage is right for where we are at the moment.
But we could be, at some point?
Well, I’m just saying I listen to a lot of the digital guys coming out of Silicon Valley saying exactly what you just said. It’s A.I., it’s robotics, it’s all of this stuff that’s happening. We’ve lost a lot of jobs due to automation, not just cheap labour. When Trump’s upset with the Mexican advantage, it’s because Mexicans are being paid a buck an hour, whereas we’re paying thirty, forty, fifty dollars an hour here. So there needs to be a balance there. You’re still going to need people, so in the future, the question is how much and how fast is that automation coming? It’s not there today, but there may come a time when [a living wage] is a discussion that we need to have. There are still jobs out there. They’re different jobs than they were yesterday, in many cases. But there are all sorts of skilled manual work available, and those jobs are paying a hundred grand a year.
I talked to Tim Hudak about this. You can’t outsource plumbing. You can’t outsource your electrical work.
No. They are always going to be there.
But those jobs have been devalued.
From a public perception, yes. But not from a financial perspective. We’ve got to back and talk to schools, we have to manage the skills a lot better. Colleges and universities are trying to be responsive, and colleges do a good job of this, though it can always be better.
How have you shifted on these matters? You started your career running for the Canadian Alliance, which was certainly on the right side of the Conservative movement. Did you run for the Alliance because the PCs weren’t much of a party at that point?
There are two reasons that I ran for the Alliance. I was unhappy with Mulroney at the time. I’ve come to terms with Mulroney since then, and I think that he did some good things, some tough things, some stupid things—
Suitcases of cash?
Bad thing. Very bad. I think that free trade was good. I think that GST, which really sucked at the time, actually worked out well, it made manufacturing more competitive. But anyway, the other thing was Preston Manning. My uncle’s wife and Preston Manning’s wife are sisters, so I had heard about him around the kitchen table. And I thought, “I like this guy.” The guy is solid. I don’t agree with everything he put forward, but I think that he was trying to put forward more of a dialogue. This is a guy who would read the constitutions of other countries before he went to sleep at night. He’s a real thinker. The reason I’m involved in politics is because of Preston Manning, not because of his party. I joined the party when it was Alliance. I wasn’t a part of the party when it was Reform.
The party did take something of a shift to the centre.
Absolutely. It had to be more mainstream. My areas are personal responsibility and the reduction of taxes—I think that people would like to see more of their money, but we have a responsibility to take care of those that are less fortunate. It’s a fine balance.
So when you drive back from Ottawa every week, your audiobook is not the constitution of…Peru?
[Laughs] No, no.
What are you listening to now?
Well, I really believe that we are heading for a major, major correction. I intuitively believe that.
You mean in the economy?
Yeah. After what happened in 2008, these things usually happen every ten years.
What do you think specifically is overvalued? Real estate?
Everything. The market definitely is. I don’t that there have been a whole lot of changes in government behaviour since 2008. Yeah, Greece has its deal with the EU. But guess what—its spending hasn’t changed, and it isn’t getting any more revenue—
Individual too. You mentioned individual responsibility, and people are in debt over their ears.
Right. So I believe that we’re looking at another correction.
Do you have any information that I don’t have on it?
No. But I’m listening to the book, “The Sale of a Lifetime: How the Great Bubble Burst of 2017-2019 Can Make You Rich.” I’m not so interested in the rich part, but I am in why he thinks that the bubble is going to burst. And I’m fascinated because these are things that affect the whole country. These are things that matter. I’m looking at the economy as a policymaker.
To try and stop those sorts of things from happening?
Well, I don’t know if we can stop them. Every time that there’s been a correction, we kicked the can down the road.
That’s what happened in 2008, right. There was a bail-out and the can was kicked.
That’s all that was done. So what the book says, and I tend to believe it, that the correction here will be much worse, much deeper, and much longer. It’s also big on demographics, and I’m fascinated by that too. The aging population, how we’re going to have a lot more people on health care, fewer people actually funding it. So these are all the things that I’m very curious about.
There are two sides to these things, right? People borrowing beyond their means, and then banks funding people beyond their means.
Exactly. The perfect storm.
People willing to take on too much debt, and people willing to give it to them. There’s a perception that Wall Street—which was part of that problem—is very conservative, at least fiscally so, so when you talk to those guys [about over-lending], what do you say?
Well you’ve got to remember—I think that Flaherty did a good job to weather the storm. We didn’t really want to spend a lot of money, but we were running a $50 billion deficit at one point. We tried to have a stimulus. I don’t think that now’s the time to spend more money. I think that the economy’s relatively strong. So if anything we should be putting that money aside for a rainy day, and I believe the time’s going to come again soon when we’ll need a stimulus. What I would say to Liberals is: I’m not saying that we never should spend the money, but now is not the time.
Do you think that it’s making the bubble worse?
Yeah, it’s just making it bigger. And we know that it’s going to hit, we just don’t know when. After it happens, though, what are we going to do to fix it? That’s what Flaherty and the banks were trying to get their heads around at that point in time. We did a relatively good job. Banks in Canada have been relatively conservative over the years. They don’t lend the kinds of loans that the US does. Remember, US banks were selling NINJA loans—no income no job no assets—and they were packaging that junk and selling it all over the world. That’s why banks around the world failed, because they were buying the crap that the US was selling. The difference here in Canada, is that when you buy a mortgage, 9.9 times out of ten, it’s going to be with a bank that you have a relationship with, who knows who you are, who knows your situation.
The government regulations are helpful here—
Yeah, and even the lending limits. We did some tinkering with that, Morneau has done some tinkering with that. In all that we’re doing, trying to slow things down a little bit, making sure that people have the ability to repay. Interest rates are at a historic low, and if they were to go up even a tiny bit, that would affect a ton of people.
Morneau, he’s been around a long time, and I’m sure he’s a smart guy—
Yeah, and you’ve got bureaucrats that are around you all the time, giving you advice. It’s about trying to pick the right advice. There’s no shortage of advice. As Conservatives, we get good marks for managing the economy and for being prudent. And at the end of the day, if people don’t have jobs, they have nothing. So I think that people want jobs, not a minimum income. The challenge is if there are no jobs, how do we fix that? We have to create a climate where employees and employers are able to create work. That’s why this taxation thing drives me nuts.
At least from my reading of it, the Liberals have identified a few problems, in particular the reduction of taxes through sprinkled income.
Sprinkled income, yes. But listen, I’ve owned businesses for a long time, Tim Horton’s, Wendy’s—and our kids always worked in them. Now they got paid a wage for that, but they were a part of everything we did. Now we didn’t have that system [sprinkled income] in place—
But you could’ve?
We could have. But in general, why not just have a limit on the time that this can be done? By 25, kids should be graduated and on their way. So there may be some things that [the Liberals] can do without killing what’s important, which is that a lot of people set up companies as investment tools.
As you mentioned, Morneau was getting lit-into during the town hall last night—
Oh my goodness. I felt uncomfortable watching it. He standing up there thinking, “Why did I run for public life again?” He took a big pay cut, travels all the time, never sees his family, the scrutiny, oh my. But I get the phone calls every day. I talked to a doctor yesterday, and I know that doctors take a bad rap on this one, but she said “I am a doctor, I spent 12 years in school, I’m $400,000 in debt, I had the $100,000 cost to set up my practice, and now the government’s disparaging me like I’m a spoiled kid. I’ve had no income for 15 years. I’m going to be honest with you, my husband and I are seriously considering moving to the States.” Those are the unintended consequences I’m worried about.
So couldn’t there be something like an exemption for doctors during their first ten years in practice?
We have to be careful when we go after people—that’s causing class warfare. [The Liberals] are causing class warfare. The richest one percent is Justin Trudeau and Bill Morneau. One has a trust fund, and the other has a publicly-traded business worth hundreds of millions of dollars. So if they’re changing the rules, and it doesn’t affect them, they’ve got some explaining to do. That’s all I have to say. And I want to make it easier to attract doctors. If a doctor bills $300,000 in a year, they have office expenses in that, they have overhead. Their overhead is probably sixty percent. So they’re not taking every dollar they bill. The individual I talked to the other day said that all she does is public health. She doesn’t do anything private. But she said that the tax changes would make her more inclined to do more private—
And go do plastic surgery or something like that?
Exactly. Those are the unintended consequences. As lawmakers we’ve always got to be prepared to think through what those will be.
Have you been following the ongoing debate in Pelham over allegations regarding East Fonthill?
I hear stuff from time to time, but I haven’t been following it too closely, no. But I’m going to start looking more closely now.
Ah, so you haven’t heard anything else? Because there was a telephone poll done in Pelham, commissioned by persons unknown, that asked residents their thoughts on, among other things, the Mayor and the Premier. There’s speculation that the Mayor has ambitions for higher office.
Yeah, he’s a very ambitious guy. I get that impression.
With respect to provincial politics?
Wherever, wherever the opening may be.
He’s said that explicitly to you?
Nope. He never has, but you get a sense of political animals, and when you’re around them you get a sense of who aspires to more. Maybe it’s anecdotal. But you put these things together from what other people tell you, and what you hear. So I would think that he’s ambitious.
So different than someone like [former Pelham Mayor] Ron Leavens?
Yeah. And interestingly enough, because it was before my time—Hudak would know about this—but Augustyn beat the crap out of Leavens for actually trying to do that community centre.
It was under Leavens that the land was bought.
Right. To me that’s total hypocrisy. I mean, you can disagree, but it sounds to me just totally political. Because now all of sudden it’s a great idea? I have a hard time with that. Because at the end of the day, I think that Ron was trying to do the right thing, if everything that I hear is true, to try and build something up. It makes perfect sense, and I think it’s a great project. But to say it’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen, [then turn around] to be the one championing it. Did you have some kind of deathbed conversion experience? What happened here?
Well, it’s going to be a big centre.
I think that it’s going to be incredible, it’s going to be amazing. I’ve been working with the Mayor to try and find pockets of money. The Liberals have been talking about infrastructure dollars for two years, but nothing’s been done. They haven’t put a program in place for two years.
You mean the government?
Yeah, the feds. They’ve been talking about it since they got elected, but there’s no program in place. When we did infrastructure, we got the plan together, got the money out the door, and got things built, right away. With these guys…I don’t know. Will it be in the last two years of their mandate? All of a sudden, are we going to see all kinds of buildings go up as we get close to the election? They’ve done nothing. Well, relatively little, anyway.
How much longer do you think you’ll stay in politics?
It’s funny. I thought I’d stay maybe ten years, now I’m obviously tracking for fifteen. There’s not one of us who get elected that wouldn’t want to be in cabinet. I’d love an opportunity for that. We have no say over that. If it happens, it happens. I think that I can see myself running a couple more times. I’m fifty-two, I’m having so much fun, I’m enjoying my job. I love helping people. I’d love to see us get back in power. Unless there’s a major meltdown in the economy, I don’t see that happening. Trudeau will be two terms. I mean, anything can happen. Taxes have bloodied his nose a little bit, but even now that hasn’t changed the polling. I’m pragmatic. And if that’s the case, then I’d like to be around to see us get back in. I loved my nine years in government, participating then, but I’d like to contribute more to the team. I always play it election by election. I’m always grateful for the job and grateful to the people that elected me. There’s not a day that I don’t walk on the Hill and look around and go “This is pretty amazing.” I’m very very fortunate. It’s a humbling experience.
Thanks very much.