I caught up with Scott Brison about some of the issues that have been on his plate of late.
Q: The citizenship guide issue – you’re taken the lead on that. It’s been a few days now and we’ve heard all manner of excuses from Kenney on that, so what’s your read of the situation?
A: This is a minister who has claimed no involvement. We know that the public servants fought relentlessly to keep the equality in the guide, and the Minister’s office claims that neither he nor his office had anything to do with its removal. That leaves us with only one other alternative, and that is that the Prime Minister’s office did it. There was not some homophobic gremlin in IT services that mysteriously plopped it from the guide, and it was ideological, and it was unacceptable.
Q: The Speech From the Throne had a lot of talk about free trade agreements and breaking down tariff barriers. You’re the trade critic, so I wanted to get your thoughts on those.
A: This government has provided Canada with the first trade deficit in thirty years. That results from a failure to defend our interests effectively against US protectionism in our largest market, and a failure to diversify our markets and deepen our trade relationships with some of the fastest-growing economies in the world, particularly China and India. For the first three years, the Harper government treated China with contempt and India with neglect. Only recently have they shown any interest in any of those countries. With China in particular, it will take us a long time to undo the damage wrought on the traditionally favoured and strong Canada-Chinese relationship.
Q: They’ve mentioned reintroducing the Colombia agreement, and I know this has been tied up in the House a lot the last time, given that the NDP and the Bloc were filibustering. Any signs that that might change this time around, or will it be an exercise in more of the same?
A: The discussion on human rights in Colombia in Canada has resulted from this free trade agreement, which is direct evidence that economic engagement fortifies and augments the capacity to engage on human rights issues. We would not be having the discussion on Colombian human rights if we were not talking about economic engagement and free trade. The key is to work to ensure an ongoing dialogue.