Election Issues in North America with Special Guest: Rona Ambrose, Deputy Chairwoman, and former Conservative Party Leader
Host: Peter Haynes, Managing Director and Head of Index and Market Structure Research, TD Securities
Guests: Rona Ambrose, Deputy Chairwoman, TD Securities and Frank McKenna, Deputy Chair, TD Securities
In Episode 27, Frank McKenna, Deputy Chair, TD Securities, is joined by the Honourable Rona Ambrose. Together, they cover a host of election issues across North America, including the Conservative Party Leadership Race, the Ontario Provincial Election, and the bombshell announcement of Jason Kenney's resignation as Alberta Premier. Frank also touches on the recent tragic events in Uvalde, Texas. He expresses his views on gun reform in the U.S., and he outlines whether this event will be a ballot issue in the upcoming U.S. midterm elections. In another discussion, Rona does not believe the leaked Roe v. Wade decision, or recent gun violence, will impact Canadian elections in the coming months. On the global front, Frank offers his perspective on the war in Ukraine, and megatrends that are on the horizon, including energy, agriculture, and pharmaceutical independence, as well as deglobalization. Inflation is also a main talking point, as politicians everywhere confront this topic for the first time in 30 years.
This long-form podcast contains incredible insights from former political leaders that remain connected to the current geopolitical landscape. It is a must-listen for investors who are trying to navigate critical events in the day-to-day markets.
FRANK MCKENNA: Some major mistakes were made and we're paying a price for that. And Europe in particular, making itself extraordinarily dependent on Russia.
PETER HAYNES: Welcome to episode 27 of our monthly TD Securities Podcast on Geopolitics, with our guests the Honourable Frank McKenna. My name is Peter Haynes and I'll be your host for today's episode, entitled "Election Issues in North America." I'm also pleased to announce that for the first time we have a guest on our show, and that is the Honorable Rona Ambrose. Rona is here to add perspective on several of the geopolitical hot button topics on our agenda, as well as to provide her thoughts on the conservative leadership race and Jason Kenney's decision to step down as leader of the United Conservative Party in Alberta. Thank you, Rona, for being on the podcast. And maybe I can even convince Frank to ask you a question or two along the way.
RONA AMBROSE: Great to be with you guys.
PETER HAYNES: All right, well just again, before we get started, housekeeping. Reminding listeners that this TD Securities Podcast is for informational purposes. The views described in today's podcasts are of the individuals and may or may not represent the view of TD Bank or its subsidiaries. And these views should not be relied on as investment, tax, or other advice. So Frank, I'm going to start with you. Last week's tragic events in Uvalde, Texas captured headlines in the US and globally. And arguably, this is the first event to take center stage away from the now 100-day war in Ukraine. That said, it feels like we're into a long and drawn out affair in Ukraine, with no end in sight. Do you agree with the notion from Russia that the West is fighting a proxy war in Ukraine?
FRANK MCKENNA: No, I don't. I don't think in the technical sense of that word. The fact is there's nobody in the West that wants to be in the war. We're there because we've come to the aid of an ally against a bully. When we came to the aid of the United Kingdom in the Second World War and the First World War and European countries, we didn't go there as a proxy contestant. We went there because it was the right thing to do. A proxy war is something that you would see a country like Iran engage in, with Hezbollah as its proxy and so on, so no. Having said that, there's no doubt that the West is very committed to this war. And I think that is causing great consternation in Moscow. Because it means modern weapons, and as much as modern weapons, training and intelligence are all being given to the Ukrainians in order to even up the fight. And I can't help but laugh a little bit. Russia seems to think that virtue is on its side and that nobody-- that nobody should stand in the way of its imperial ambition. And it's just morally wrong to undertake sanctions, or provide weapons, and everything else. It reminds me of a story I was once told about the Christians and the Lions. And the Christians were taken into the massive amphitheater with hundreds of thousands of people there. And the Lions were let loose. And the Christians, in many cases to make it more difficult, they dug a pit and buried them right up to their neck in a pit. And one of these occasions, one of the Christians managed to get his finger out of the-- out of the ground and stared waving his finger at the lion. And the crowd went crazy and said, fight fair, you Christian, fight fair. And that's what this situation reminds me of, where if Russia had their way everybody would capitulate in their wake and the Ukrainians wouldn't fight back at all. That's not the case. So I don't think it's a proxy war, but I think the West is appropriately providing very modern arms to an extremely brave and heroic Ukrainian military, fighting the fight of its life. And I think it's done with the full knowledge in the West that this is not the end of Putin's ambition. And before it was-- it was Crimea. And he could very easily be convinced to go into Moldova, or Georgia, or even Latvia, or Estonia, or other places. So, I think the West has decided to draw its line in the sand in the Ukraine.
PETER HAYNES: Looking at the perspective of Putin, what point do you think he's going to lose patience or confidence in his Ukraine aggressions? And do you make anything of speculation of his blood cancer condition?
FRANK MCKENNA: On the blood cancer I don't have any knowledge one way or the other. We all know that the truth is the first casualty of war. And what the real truth is, I don't know. I think that he feels, from his perspective, that the war is going not so badly. Certainly, he suffered big reverses in Kyiv, but he had better success in Kherson and Mariupol. And now, in the Donbas, they are really showing the power of artillery and mass troop movements. It looks as if they're probably going to overrun Severodonetsk in the Donbas area. There's a danger there that they may encircle the Ukrainian troops. Now, on the other hand, the Ukrainians are counterattacking in Kherson, which would be very interesting, because that was the first city that was seized by the Russians. But the Russians have the advantage, this massive amount of artillery that they're firing from, 25 and 30 miles away. And the Ukrainian soldiers that I've been reading about are saying we don't even see the-- we haven't seen a Russian soldier, but we're losing dozens, even hundreds a day in injured, from this just metal wall that's being thrown at the-- the damage that's been done from splinters and hot steel rolling around in there. All of these things are inflicting terrible damage. One minister told me who would-- in speaking with Zelenskyy, that they're losing-- the Ukrainians feel they're losing 100 military a day to deaths, maybe another 300 or 400 injured and the Russians probably three times that. So this is a really bloody, awful, reprehensible war for small pieces of territory going back and forth. And at this stage I suspect that, at a minimum, Russia is going to want to seize all of the Donbas, which has a population a bit more pro-Russian, before they would ever concede anything, and that may not even be enough. I don't think it's helpful, by the way, and I'll end on that, for people like Henry Kissinger to suggest that Ukraine needs to concede territory in order to get peace. I'm sure that's all very obvious to the Ukrainians, but I don't think they need anything in the negotiations which would tend to weaken their position.
PETER HAYNES: Do you have any sense, Frank, of an end game here? I know we asked this question every month. Is there anything-- we just have to continue to watch this process play out and are we months away, would you say?
FRANK MCKENNA: Yeah, it looks to me like they're into a quagmire now, one where there's not enough advantage on one side or the other to win a convincing victory. If we can get all of this heavy artillery into the hands of the Ukrainians quickly enough, there's no doubt we could-- they could do some very serious damage on the Russian forces. But the Russian army is three or four times as large as the Ukrainian. And it's just the courage of the Ukrainians that's keeping them in the game. So at this stage, it would look to me like it's a bit drawn out. And then it's just a question of who can breathe the longest, hold their breath the longest. The Ukrainians are suffering hugely, but the Russians are suffering hugely, not only on the battlefield, but also in terms of their status in the world and their domestic economy. And in fact, the entire world is suffering. There's more hunger than there would have been otherwise. So I think it's a question of who can hold their breath the longest here. And at some point, one hopes that Putin, if he's as smart as we think he is, will figure out what it that is victory for him and declare it and then get the hell out. We know that he's got to have a win, so-called, in his mind. And we just wish he'd figure out what that is quickly and start making the case for it and get this thing stopped.
PETER HAYNES: Well, there's been some interesting developments recently, where some retired generals in Russia have started to speak about really what's happening, even on their state-sponsored television. And then there was obviously the resignation of one of the foreign ministers or foreign ambassadors in Geneva, speaking about his country. So it seems there's a few splinters there. We'll see if that becomes a little bit more of a hole. Now Rona, it has been unbelievable, frankly, how well the West has remained united against Russia. And recently we've had news that both Finland and Sweden are poised to join NATO. And Switzerland, of all countries, is even considering more formal Western alignment. These are obviously very positive developments in the geopolitical sphere. But under the surface in Europe are a growing group of so-called, quote, "Putin wannabes." These are the far-right leaders that are gaining power in countries such as France, where we saw Marine Le Pen have some success, although she lost to Macron. And then Spain and Italy have also seen leaders at the far right gaining some traction. The aim of these far right leaders is, of course, to append the stability of this Western alliance. We know there's always going to be centrist parties, and left and rights, are you worried at all about this far right trend?
RONA AMBROSE: Thanks for the question. I think if we're thinking about extremism in politics on any side of the political spectrum, whether it's left or right, it should always be met with serious caution and concern. But I would take it back a bit and say mainstream politics, before things become, quote-unquote, "extremist," we usually see the rise of anger, and disillusionment, and disenfranchisement, even isolation in certain pockets of the population. And so, I always ask myself, and I'm sure Frank and others do that have been in elected positions-- well, how do we nip those kinds of sentiments in the bud, when we think about that feeling of disillusionment, and disenfranchisement, and isolation, that people start to feel? How do we nip that in the bud before darker forces take advantage of those sentiments and move people into these extremist corners and pockets of politics? And so, I think at the very base of it, for democracy to work we have to be willing to hear and learn from one another, have some give and take, and hopefully, ultimately meet in the middle. But everyone needs to do their part to dial down the temperature. When we think about North American politics, people were very quick to dismiss the rise of Trump era populism in North America, but we now know it's a real thing. It's a real thing, tapping into real people with strong feelings of distrust that they have in government, and particularly in certain institutions that they feel do not represent them. They feel neglected. And then those darker forces take advantage of those feelings. And we see people, I think, becoming more susceptible to these kinds of extremist views around things like undermining institutions, undermining or even overthrowing governments These are very extreme views, but it is concerning. In Canada when you think about what happened recently with the Freedom Convoy, it's not an extreme example by any means, but it's an example. Our government dismissed that movement outright before it even arrived and went on to label those people misogynists and racists, even some as rapists. And went so far as to freeze protesters bank accounts. That kind of action was unprecedented for a protest. And while it was a very annoying protest and even illegal, it was never violent. And so to this day, I don't even think we have a clear consensus on what brought those thousands of people out to support that particular movement. Because it was supported all across the country. But what we do know is that they wanted the government to listen to them. They wanted the people in charge to listen. And instead of listening-- and I'm sure there was extremist views within that larger movement, but there must have been some people that had real grievances to be listened to-- they were they were immediately labeled and dismissed as enemies of the estate, and extremists, and not worthy of listening to. Now, whatever you think of that, it allowed an opening for politicians to then continuously accuse the government of just not caring for, quote-unquote, "the working people." So I think elected people have to always be cautious about how they interact with these types of movements. When you look at the Putin wannabe phenomenon in Europe, stoking those similar sentiments. Having said that, you mentioned Macron, right? I mean, he won over Le Pen in France. And I think that's a victory for democracy, for liberty, for centrist views. She played footsies with Putin and she was rejected by the French people and Macron won a historic victory. But when you see what Macron did and you listen to what he said, he very quickly realized that his government was not listening to the people. He went back to campaign in those last days of the election to the place where he felt that he had won his first victory, which was in a very working class, immigrant heavy, poor area in France, and spoke to the working people about his commitment to listen to what mattered to them the most, to those who felt disenfranchised by his government, that felt that they weren't listening to them when they were making the case about the cost of living. And so, I think Macron listened. And when he did that, I think he was given another chance by a lot of people that were starting to listen to Le Pen and her conspiracy theories. And so I thought that was a really interesting reflection about what we need to do. He even talks about this clear problem between the elites that govern, and the sentiments of the working class towards the elite, and that we really need to listen. And it was interesting to hear how he felt-- what he felt won him that election. So as the cost of living keeps rising and the inequality between the rich and the poor is growing, the working class can feel neglected. Are we listening and doing the right things? Are we focusing on the right policies? So I think it's a mistake for any large swath of perspective just to be completely dismissed. And of course, we should always dismiss and confront extremist views, but if there is a huge part of the population that's feeling disenfranchised, or isolated, or disconnected from their government, there's usually something at the root of that. And we have to think about what that looks like. I guess I would just end with saying if some European leaders are playing footsies with a leader like Putin and gaining support, we need to really understand where that support's coming from. And it can be something as dark and as powerful as the workings of Russian propaganda and social media, which has a lot of power to disrupt democracies. And so I think as Western democracies that are focused on freedom, and liberty, and Western values, we have to constantly be thinking about what do we do to support other countries that are still fragile. And Frank spoke about Ukraine. And it's a perfect example of why this battle matters. I think Canada-- I'll just end with saying I think Canada has been quite successful in keeping much of that kind of-- this type of sentiment at bay. And I do believe it's because we have a very successful safety net in Canada that addresses income inequality in a way that other countries may not. Certain European countries have the same type of success. But that doesn't mean that these types of ideas can't take root in Canada, can't take hold within our politics. So I think we always have to be concerned about what Canadians need from their politics and be very aware of when they start to feel disconnected. And I think about right now fuel prices. When fuel prices have become unaffordable and people can't buy basic necessities, but our leadership will not pause in any way on things, whether it's a gas tax, or a carbon tax, or a fuel tax, but trying to figure out a way to give people some reprieve, I think that's an example of not really listening to what's hurting people right now. So I'll just end with saying, look, I think elected people have to constantly be listening to what impacts regular people. And I think Macron is a perfect example of someone who listened, and pivoted, and addressed some of those concerns. And I think-- and that was a successful example of fighting off those types of extremist ideas.
PETER HAYNES: Why don't we dig right in on the topic of inflation, and particularly the sticker shock that we're all feeling at the gas pumps. We've discussed energy independence on recent podcasts. And it's clear that the war has created disequilibrium in the energy sector. Can you up our listeners on Western efforts to become, quote, "energy independent" from Russia. And also, some of the other trends that have emerged from the war, such as the trend towards so-called de-globalization.
FRANK MCKENNA: Well, those are all big questions, so I'll take them one by one. First of all, I think there was a certain amount of frothiness developing on oil prices even before Ukraine-Russia. And it was simply a fact that we haven't been producing new oil inventories over a period of time. And so the natural effect of supply and demand would work as it usually does. But we're in a situation now which in many ways is of our own making, Peter. Let's just declare some major mistakes were made and we're paying a price for that. In Europe in particular, they made a conscious decision-- it looks now as like it was an unconscious decision-- and this was with enormous pressure from a well-meaning, but dare I say, naive, green movement. And that led to the shutdown of dozens of nuclear plants in Europe. And nuclear plants are still being decommissioned in Europe, although some now are being recommissioned. Environmentalists have never been able to accept the fact that nuclear is a clean fuel. And the end result of that-- and the end result of believing that natural gas was not an appropriate transition fuel either, led to Europe making itself extraordinarily dependent on Russia for coal, oil, and natural gas, until such time as they would reach that Pollyannish state, where renewables would kick in and fuel all of their needs. Now, is that the right end state? I think it is. The problem is the transition in getting there is very, very challenging. And to put all your eggs in one basket, the Soviet basket, I think has created a very perilous situation for the planet. And it's a lesson for all of us, everywhere around the world. Let's be thoughtful and do things in a very careful, well-thought out way. And if we don't we end up with these extremes. So we all know now that having that kind of extraordinary energy hegemony in one-- in the hands of one country can only lead to disaster. And it does and it has. And so we have to drain the swamp. We have to reduce Russia's monopoly over world energy. And that's going to require a number of countries to step up and provide energy in the short term until we can transition to a different energy future. Canada is one of those countries. And increasingly what you're going to hear as the common refrain is energy security. That was the reason why we signed the original Free Trade Agreement back in the '80s. And we haven't heard from in a long time. But now in North America we're talking about energy security, the importance of having your own domestic supply of energy. And in the case of the United States, needing friendly sources of energy to supplement its own. So to cut to the chase Canada is going to add at least 300,000 barrels, maybe as many as 500,000 barrels a day by taking low-hanging fruit, by debottlenecking, et cetera, and getting some more energy into what's available in the pipeline system into the United States. We will be producing definitely more natural gas, trying to get it to the Pacific Coast, trying to get it into the US. And more laterally, an effort is being made to try to get it to the East Coast. I had a call about a week or 10 days ago from a minister, Canadian minister, who was in a German office when she called. And the German minister was a former Green member, and was a green member, but he was part of the coalition as energy minister. And he wanted to know what we could do in Canada to get Repsol going and Pieridae. Now these are two East Coast LNG opportunities. You don't hear Canadians talking about it very much. But it's very interesting that the Germans considered that to be a crucial part of the lifeline that they needed in order to get natural gas into Europe. So bottom line is Europe, I think, is in large measure being very heroic in the struggle. They are getting off of Russian coal. That's decided. They are getting off of Russia oil in large part, but can't completely divest of Russian oil because they're being impeded by the veto power of Orban in Hungary, talking about despots, who was a friend of Russia's. So they can't completely do that. They're reducing their dependence on natural gas Finland, for example, has made arrangements with the floating LNG vessel out of the United States. It's going to set up there. Both Finland and Estonia will be supplied. You've got Spain and probably Italy looking to Algeria and North Africa. They'll be getting more natural gas there. You've got Germany that's been over in Qatar very successfully. And they're going to be getting Qatari natural gas. None of this is all coming quickly enough, but it is coming. So to cut to the chase, all these countries in Europe now realize they need some modicum of energy security so that they cannot feed this Russian monopoly. Other countries in the world, I think, increasingly are coming to that same conclusion. And that's part of a massive shift in thinking, away from globalization. And I'm a fan of globalization. I think it's lifted billions of people out of poverty. It's lowered the cost of products to us in the West. It's kept inflation low. It's done a lot of good things for the world. But it is no longer in favor. And increasingly, we're seeing near shoring taking place. And that is repatriating items from offshore which we need for a domestic supply. A good example of that would be semiconductor chips. Nobody wants to be dependent on Taiwan and China for all of their semiconductor chips. On pharma, no large wealthy country wants to rely on others for their pharma shipments now. They want to be able to produce their own pharma. And precious minerals, you're seeing every country now trying to find out how they can exploit the minerals that are within their purview and then try to hold on to them. And even food, you're seeing countries now basically putting export controls, like India, and Malaysia, and so on, on food that they produce because they want to keep it domestically. So all of that to say that what we're seeing are megatrends, the kind of trends that change the world that we live in. They won't be forever, they never are. But at the moment, we are going through a couple of megatrends that we have got to be aware of as we plan the future of our country.
PETER HAYNES: Globalization, or deglobalization that has caused this current inflation spike, but inflation is obviously the topic du jour that's dominating the economy, consumers, central bankers, and capital markets. Rona, I want to start with you on this particular topic. What are politicians and business leaders you speak to saying in private conversations about inflation? Are they worried? Are they looking to precedents? Or do precedents from 30 years ago about runaway inflation even matter?
RONA AMBROSE: I think they are worried. And I think both privately and publicly you're hearing from business leaders concerned about inflation, how it impacts their business projections, their input costs. Obviously, politicians are trying to find a way to, quote-unquote, "fix it." Some of these issues are external forces that can't be easily fixed. And when it comes to-- I think there will be time for a post-mortem on central banks and some of the criticism that is being leveled at central banks. But right now, policymakers and those who have influence, whether they are politicians on any side of the aisle, federal provincial governments, business leaders, anyone in a position of influence are trying to figure out how to get inflation under control with the consumer in mind, of course. And that's where politics comes into play. Because those who are in elected office are thinking-- they think more short term and they're concerned about the impact of inflation on the cost of living. An example of that would be here in Alberta, where I live, the government anticipated a big surplus because of oil prices skyrocketing. So rather than keeping some of that money, they applied it as a discount to fuel to give reprieve to consumers, hoping to alleviate the reaction consumers are having and the anger on high fuel prices. So here in Alberta, there's a savings of approximately, I think, $0.13 per liter. And of course, that's a political move. It's a policy move, but it's a political move also, to address one of the most difficult issues that regular Canadians are dealing with. And that is the-- they're struggling to afford basic things, like gas and groceries. And then if you just expand that out to-- the cost of fuel increases the cost of everything. So when business leaders are thinking about how do they address this issue, it's affecting the strategic decisions of, I think, business leaders around the globe. The pandemic brought a lot of things to light and are causing policymakers to go back to the drawing board. We know that. We've seen a rise in protectionist policies. Biden ran against Trump. But now because of COVID, I would argue he's largely adopted the same Trump buy American or America first policy. In some cases, his America first policies are even stronger than Trump's. And we're seeing-- China's experienced the biggest outbreak of COVID cases since the beginning of the pandemic and that has had a huge impact on supply chain issues. Once again, this is impacting inflation. Not a lot that business leaders can do to control something like this, but when we see some of the major ports in China closing down, estimates are that North America is going to continue to feel the ramifications of those closures for months. We see cargo at ports just building up and up daily. So there is a policy angle here. There's a role for the central banks to bring inflation under control. There's a policy angle for politicians to think about. But at the end of the day, some of what's happening here, from a political point of view, is leading to these conspiracy theories that you hear about. And it's leading to, I guess, an oversimplification of how inflation-- how we've arrived at where we are today. This is a very complex issue. But if not addressed by our policymakers in a really transparent way, I think could, and is already starting to lead to criticism of some of our major institutions, like the Bank of Canada. And I think that's dangerous. So some of the criticism is valid, don't get me wrong. But our central banker, along with many central bankers, acted in the same vein. But there's work for everyone to do here. I see that the Governor of Bank of Canada is making an announcement soon. And I think Frank's going to talk a little bit more about more specifically the Bank of Canada and their role in this. But whether it's the government of Canada on their monetary or fiscal policy, and seeing what the Bank of Canada is doing with monetary policy politically, this affects the consumer level. And it's people just being able to afford basic things, like gas and groceries. And things are getting worse. And that will have a political impact on those who are elected today.
PETER HAYNES: I had just started working the last time we had call it runaway inflation at the back end of the late '80s and early '90s. And I was asked my mother the other day-- I said, do you remember inflation? She says, well, I should remember our 21% mortgage. People cannot even comprehend the whole concept of that kind of interest rate. And so with all the externalities, Frank, that Rona was talking about, Do you think it's fair to criticize central bankers for being too slow to raise rates? And if so, did Trump, or now I'll even call it, Poilievre in Canada, the fear of the job safety of the central bankers play into the decision to maybe delay what should have been done sooner?
FRANK MCKENNA: Well, I'll address the last issue first. No, I don't think-- I don't think central bankers pay any attention to some of the rhetoric coming from those quarters. I think Rona's has just made some excellent points. I'll probably, as much as anything, simply address many of the same points. First of all, a dirty little secret is that governments don't entirely hate inflation.
PETER HAYNES: Yeah, because a debt.
FRANK MCKENNA: They hate what inflation does to people who vote. But in terms of their own balance sheet, inflation isn't-- a small amount of inflation isn't so terrible. The reason that I'm more respectful of central bankers, I don't think there's any playbook for this stuff. And I think that unlike almost every other situation in a long period of time, there are set of totally asymmetric factors all coming to play here that I don't think you could possibly contemplate when you took the job on. And I don't think there's any sure way of getting through it. The fact is the central bankers are all pretty well did the same thing on quantitative easing and now raising interest rates, should tell you that either they're all wrong or they're at least all talking to each other. In fairness to our central bank, they actually started the process of signaling inflation and raising rates before others. So I guess if there's any credit for leadership, I think we might get a bit of credit there. But I'm just going to point some of the factors out that I just don't know how you weigh those factors. The pandemic, two years, something that was almost biblical in its consequences, that we've never really seen before. So, they had to manage through the pandemic. And what did that all mean? And in some cases, it meant a lot more money on household balance sheets. Well, what were the consequences of that? On the other hand were a lot of businesses going broke, and what were the consequences of that? Supply chain disruption, well that's come about because of the pandemic to some degree, and port congestion, and what's taking place in China in COVID management. And again, who would have anticipated all of that? But more bizarre things, who would have appreciated the resignation society? Who would have appreciated that right now you can't get workers? Who would have appreciated if you can get workers, they don't want to come back to work full time? I wouldn't have ever thought that through and come up with those conclusions. I'm just telling you as a fact. I think, Rona, you see it where you are. I certainly see it even in Atlantic Canada, which traditionally had a higher unemployment rate. You can't get workers anywhere. Everybody I know is looking for workers. In fact, they're building houses. I talked to two people this weekend building 30, 40 different units of housing just to be able to bring immigrants in, and so we have that. Then how do you grow? You grow in large measure from population growth. We haven't had a lot of population growth naturally, so we've relied on immigrants. We're behind by 2 million in terms of processing immigration. So how does that affect everything. Then on top of that, you get Ukraine and Russia. This is not just a regional war. This is two of the largest producers of resources in the world. And in the case of Russia, it's instantly-- this war has instantly driven the prices of oil, and gas, and commodities sky-high. But it's not just oil, and gas, and energy commodities. Ukraine is the breadbasket of the world for wheat and for sunflower oil, and Russia is as well. And then you've got massive stockpiles of nickel, and uranium, and the biggest supplies of potash in the world are in Belarus, which is part of the Russian orbit and Ukraine. So all of the essential ingredients in a basket measuring inflation are all being influenced by this war. And food prices, I don't think they've reached their limit. They're going to skyrocket. But how does a central banker figure all of this out? And this is going to happen when he makes his decisions a few years ago. The way COVID has been treated in China and deglobalization by itself-- just the fact that you are near shoring commodities that before were manufactured in low-cost jurisdictions is going to create higher costs for our domestic audience and increase inflation. And so all of the above. And then even what Rona talked about, which I have to tell you as a politician, a perfectly legitimate response to reduce the tax on fuel, but the tax on fuel, or carbon taxation, was all part of a deliberate policy, a set of initiatives in order to tax that which we wanted less of and to give people money so that they could buy more of what we wanted. And theoretically-- just theoretically, eco minded people should exalt at higher gas taxes because it theoretically should change behavior. Now people like Rona and I know that that doesn't work in the real world and that you have to address the problems of real people, especially poor people. And I can understand why governments have responded the way they have. But you've just put together the perfect mix of ingredients to create out a toxic stew of inflation, most of which are almost outside the possibility of a central banker to contemplate. So that's why I'm giving them a bit of a pass. But I'm not giving a pass on the fact that we have inflation here and it's significant. And I think it'll get worse. If everybody in the world are looking for workers, you're going to have to pay more money to get workers. And that's very inflationary. And if every commodity now is in more scarce supply, we're going to have to pay more as well. So I think we're in this and we're into it pretty thick.
PETER HAYNES: Rona, I mentioned Poilievre when I was introducing the inflation discussion because he had suggested, as one of his campaign promises, that he would actually fire Tiff Macklem if he was elected PM. So that's a good segue into having you handicap the race for the conservative leadership. There are lots of people in the race. There have been several different debates amongst the candidates. Maybe you can just provide us a little bit of your perspective on who the candidates are, who you think has the best chance of winning, perhaps what you think of Poilievre. And at the end of the day, can you tell us, do you think your-- your former party, I should say, will elect a leader that can win this country?
RONA AMBROSE: Sure, well it is my party, not my former party. It continues to be my party. And the leadership races are always exciting, but they're very internal. We're all watching them from the outside and the media is covering them, but you have to remember that those who are running in the race are speaking to the membership. And they're trying to get their attention as much as possible. There is no doubt that Pierre Poilievre is the one to beat. None of the other candidates, even those with really well-known, well-respected reputations, like Jean Charest, are drawing the crowds that Pierre Poilievre is. Some of his rallies have thousands of people. And I raise this because even when Justin Trudeau first came on the scene and was this-- liberals went nuts over Justin Trudeau, he didn't have these kinds of crowds. Pierre Poilievre is selling memberships to people who have never held a political party membership before. And you're seeing all types of people come out across generations, across across-- rural, urban, you name it, he is-- just I think it was yesterday in Thunder Bay, thousands, or hundreds of people came out. So it's really interesting to see what it is that he's doing to motivate people to vote, because what matters here is not just that they're conservatives, it matters that he's engaging people. So what is he doing to engage them? Some of his-- some of the way he's doing that is through controversy, things like I'm going to fire Tiff Macklem. And look, I think what he's trying to say there is, I don't think this guy's done a good enough job and we're the ones in charge-- you're the ones in charge. His rhetoric is very much, I sit in the House of Commons. The House of Commons, we are the people that represent the commoners. Down with the elites. We are going to represent the working class people. And if those who are in the institutions and people he calls the so-called elites, which he would say probably Tiff Macklem is one of those, if they don't do things that help you, I'll deal with them. It's his way of saying, no matter what, no one is untouchable if they work for the government or they're part of the government. I represent the people. So it's controversial. But at the base of it, what he's trying to say is, I work for you, the working class people. The government should be working for you. No one is above that. No one's above being fired. No one's above being dealt with. No one's untouchable. So it's controversial, but I think he's definitely struck a chord. And it's not with the Bank of Canada necessarily, but struck a chord with people who feel like they don't feel represented in the government, or they're just suffering from what many people are suffering for. We just talked about it-- inflation. Moms are going to the store and not being able to buy the same groceries they used to for their families. They're worried about putting gas in the tank to get their kids to hockey. And not everybody lives somewhere where there's transit, where they can find a cheap way to get around. So there's a whole swath of people here that are just feeling like the government's going in the wrong direction. So it's interesting to see how he's engaging people, partly it's controversial. There's some really good people in the race. Another guy named Scott Aitchison, who is really impressive. Just comes across with a lot of character, a lot of integrity. Now, he's not controversial so he's not getting the same crowds out. But people are really impressed by him. And some really key people in the party are supporting him. So it'll be interesting to see how he does. Leslyn Lewis is back in the race for the second time. She's the standard bearer of the social conservatives in the party. She's getting some pretty big crowds out and will have that strong support. The social conservatives are not supporting Pierre Poilievre because he's pro-choice and he's pro-gay marriage and they're against him. So they're going to put their votes behind Leslyn Lewis. So that's where things are at. At the end of the day, the way that our system works is that it's a point system. It's not a one member, one vote system. So we just don't know how things will work out. If Jean Charest does really well in Quebec and Ontario, he's in competition. So we really won't know. And there's still-- I think the memberships close on June 3rd and then everybody will be fighting for each other's votes and trying to persuade everyone else's supporters to support them. And that'll go on till September. But right now, it's Pierre Poilievre's to lose.
PETER HAYNES: Rona, there are two events that have occurred in the US that are close to the right wing crowd and they've become lightning rod topics recently. One was the leaked Supreme Court draft ruling on Roe v. Wade and the second is gun laws. Is there any chance these events bleed into the conservative leadership race?
RONA AMBROSE: Well, they haven't yet. They haven't yet. Abortion has not been in any political party platform, whether it's liberal or conservative, for decades. So for sure, Canadians take a lot of American media in and they watch a lot of American media. But we always have to be cognizant that Canada's it's own country and we have our own policy priorities. That said, this is an issue that sometimes conservatives have trouble communicating. And leadership candidates will be asked this question. And Leslyn Lewis is probably the person that is the pro-life candidate and she has people behind her. Roe v. Wade, it's interesting, because it's probably-- that leak is probably biggest gift to the Democrats that they've had in a long time. They were on their way to not having really a lot of support from a lot of people. And this leak has really energized the Democratic Party and a lot of their base that had started to feel like didn't really have a reason to come out. And so, this leak has been, ironically, good for the Democratic Party, to get people to think about what it is their party stands for and essentially are fighting for. So interesting, but I don't see a huge influence here. Provinces handle health care policy and abortion delivery. So that's different than the US. Obviously, if Roe versus Wade was overturned, that would give individual states autonomy over this particular policy. So that would be more like Canada. But that's just not an issue where you've seen-- we haven't seen this in any policy platform, whether it's liberal or conservative, for decades. So I just don't see it having a big influence.
PETER HAYNES: So Frank, let's carry on the gun legislation issue, and particular in the US, post Uvalde. Senator Manchin referred to discussions amongst political leaders he is speaking to in Washington as, quote, "different this time." Do you have any confidence that the Senate can find 60 votes for some form of gun legislation to help stop this senseless violence in the US? And do you think this recent tragic event will be a ballot box issue at midterms?
FRANK MCKENNA: I have no hope. I'm sad, dreadfully sad to say that. What Senator Manchin said is right out of a playbook that's been available for 100 years and has worked very successfully for the NRA and its acolytes. And that's basically to stall. When we have one of these tragedies, you do what you can to process the issue and stall on it. And almost invariably, it goes away. And we've seen other massacres, Parkland, and Sandy Hook, and recently in Buffalo, all of similar magnitude, horrific in every way. But the United States is so-- absolutely so committed to its guns-- there are more guns in America than people. And so the people who believe in this believe in it strongly. It's a very highly energized sector of the population. And their leadership has not been ever able to show the courage to actually make any change. Even Trump at one stage, after a massacre on his watch, vowed that he was going to change and push back the NRA and nothing happened. The most they could find agreement are red flag laws. The other issues, something like background checks, everybody talks about it, but they never can agree on it. The NRA is opposed to it. And changing the age to buy a weapon from 18 to 21, there's absolutely no support for that amongst the Republicans. And similarly, doing anything at all to deal with automatic weapons, there's no support. The NRA has them all enthralled. And just sit here, frustrated to even have this conversation. Because I don't think that anybody is talking about taking guns away from people. We're not talking about making it impossible to get guns or anything else. But just bringing a modicum of control in-- background checks, not being able to buy dozens of guns without background checks at these gun shows and then traffic them all over North America, Canada. 70% or 80% of our gun deaths all come from guns smuggled in from the United States. So can anything be done? I don't think so. You're talking, Peter, about a country-- the most litigious country in the world, where you can sue if somebody walked into you on a sidewalk. And they have put a barrier up against lawsuits on gun issues. That is-- that is the extent-- that is just how far it's gone. If they really wanted to open things up, they could open up litigation against gun manufacturers and then essentially the private sector would make all of the rules about manufacturing guns and whether there could be safety features on the guns and so on. But they won't even allow that to happen. And the Supreme Court of the United States, which is now a completely Republican court, is about to even take away the right of states to legislate carry of weapons, open carry. So the Republicans have shown that they totally believe in states' rights when it comes to abortion, totally don't when it comes to states on gun control. And I'm afraid that-- that's a long winded way of saying that I see very little chance of anything meaningful coming out of this. Rona, I'd love to hear whether you have any more hope than I do.
RONA AMBROSE: I don't. And it makes me incredibly sad. It's just-- it's unfathomable that these things can happen in a free and democratic society, governed by laws that are supposed to protect people. And they keep happening over, and over, and over again and no one does anything. And the statistics are so stark about not only the amount of weapons, but how they're used, when they're used, who's using them. It's absolutely clear what the policy answers here are to help curb this kind of violence. And Frank's pointed to a number of very easy policy fixes. And yet, they can't do the simplest of things. And you watch this stuff unfold and the propaganda machine that kicks in, even in mainstream media, that smart people come out and say things like, oh, well what we need is giving teachers guns, we need more-- I mean, it's just unbelievable. And it just keeps happening again and again. Frank, I was going to ask you because you've spent much more time in the US than me the NRA is so powerful. But isn't a group of parents, or isn't a group of people that are-- view this in another completely different way just as powerful? I mean, what would it take to counter the NRA's hold over the Republicans? I just don't believe-- I can't believe that that many elected people believe this is the way to go, and yet the NRA with this strong lobby group that they have seem to somehow hold so much power. what's the answer there, if it's not-- how do we move the power away from this group?
FRANK MCKENNA: It's funny, I saw the NRA and all of the Republican acolytes talking about how-- the way we can stop this is to arm more teachers, but the last two shooters-- I'm talking as if I know anything about this-- but the last two shooters were both in full body armor. So you arm a teacher with obviously a handgun, they wouldn't have a machine gun. So some teacher's in a classroom with a handgun in a drawer and somebody burst into the room with a machine gun and full body armor, what the hell's the teacher going to do? You'll end up having a school where every teacher and every student will have-- will be in bulletproof jackets. I mean, what a world that is.
RONA AMBROSE: Yeah.
FRANK MCKENNA: I'm going to give an answer and-- look, this is an answer that I'm dragging more out of hope than anything. A lot of things change when women decide they change. In Russia, the war in Afghanistan ended when the mothers decided it was going to end because there were too many of their boys coming home in body bags. And similarly, the conflicts in Ireland ended when women said, enough of this. Enough of our men and our boys are being killed. And at some point if the women of America would just take this issue over and say, enough is enough. We're not putting up with it anymore. And we're going to stand up and fight, I think that might move the dial. But right now, I don't see anything that will move the dial on this issue. And the irony is that I don't think the NRA, or even the Republicans speak for the majority on this. Every poll shows--
RONA AMBROSE: Oh, I think so.
FRANK MCKENNA: Yeah, every poll shows that there's support for reasonable measures. But god, it's hard to get anything done.
PETER HAYNES: Maybe I'll put a bow on this by just reminding you of-- I heard a stat after this unfortunate event, that there was a school shooting in Scotland 30 years ago, and you guys may remember that. Andy Murray, the tennis player, was actually in that school. And they made some changes to their laws and there has not been a school shooting in the UK since that law was changed. And so, certainly there are things that can be done here. And we can only hope and pray that people come to their senses in some way, shape, or form. So Rona, let's switch gears a little bit here and we'll move closer to home. And we'll talk a little bit about Jason Kenney's resignation. One day, a couple of weeks ago, Kenney was lobbying Congress to get the Southbound Pipeline discussions started again and the next day he resigns as leader, after receiving only 51% support from his party. Was Jason Kenney doomed from the start of the UCP? And what's next for your home province?
RONA AMBROSE: Yeah, a couple of inside baseball facts. The party here decided not to make any-- to put any rules in place around buying new memberships around this leadership review of Jason Kenney. And what happened was thousands and thousands of people bought memberships to vote against Jason Kenney that weren't even part of the party. So it was a big mistake that the party did not say, look, we cut off the membership here, if you're a member you're allowed to vote in favor or against the Premier. This is an internal party matter and we want to know what our members think. So unfortunately, that's what happened. And we had thousands and thousands of anti-vaccine, anti COVID lockdown people, who were never part of the membership, bought memberships specifically to vote against Jason Kenney as Premier because of his handling of COVID. Here in Alberta, might have been different than in other provinces. He tried to find a balance and the balance was seen as too far. A lot of people thought he locked down too much and they didn't like it. And so he has suffered the consequences of that. And with a 51% approval rating from this leadership review, he obviously said he would respect the results. And so he will stay on as Premier, but then leave as soon as a new leader is elected. And the backdrop of that is interesting. Because the province is doing really well. And the latest poll that came out is that the party is ahead of the NDP and would win again if they went to an election. So he has obviously been the victim of all kinds of internal politics and COVID politics. But it is what it is. So we now have a new leadership race underway. We've got a couple of outsiders who will run. And the current finance minister is going to run as well on, I guess, his record of a balanced budget and running a province well from an economic point of view. So interesting. I think political observers from all sides have been watching and learning from the kind of freedom that Jason Kenney gave his caucus. Because some people say-- I've heard some critics say, oh, he was too authoritarian. It was quite the opposite. In fact, he allowed dissent to run rampant in his caucus. He signed the nomination papers for his number one critic, who then won an election and is sitting in his own caucus. So it was interesting to watch how he managed his caucus. He definitely allowed a lot of dissent to happen. The post-mortem is, was that the right thing to do in terms of managing that? So we have a leadership race underway. The province is in really good shape. Whoever takes over will be the Premier of Alberta and we'll be heading into an election, probably within a year or a year and a half. And so that's what's underway now.
PETER HAYNES: Now, Rona, there's a common name that I keep hearing out there, whether it's talking about the conservative leadership race or even in the province of Alberta, somebody by the name of Rona Ambrose. I'm curious if you think that candidate is going to be running for either-- well, I guess not for the leadership of the Conservative Party, but what about in the province of Alberta?
RONA AMBROSE: No, I'm not. And I don't know where that comes from. I'll take it as a compliment. But it's definitely never-- the source is never me, or my husband, or my family, I might say. Look, there are some really great people in the race. There's a young woman, a conservative named Rebecca Schulz, who's the current Minister of Children's Services, who is a Premier waiting to happen. She is phenomenal. Now, will she make it this time? I don't know. But she may throw her hat in the ring. And it would be really incredible to see someone like her rise to leadership. And if not this time, then probably next time. We've got a couple of really popular people, like Daniel Smith, who's on the outside, who's coming back to vie for the leadership of the party. All of these people are strong fiscal conservatives, but I would say mostly socially centrist. And I think that bodes well for the province. And so we'll see what happens. But the NDP is still quite popular in Alberta. Rachel Notley is very well liked and is popular. And so I think we'll have a showdown between socialist policies and conservative policies, definitely on the fiscal front. And it's a good debate to be had.
PETER HAYNES: Well, I know I've said this before, and I'm sure Frank would echo these comments, Alberta's loss, the Conservative Party's loss, is TD Securities gain. So thank you for all your support for our organization. And I know there'll be people out there disappointed you're not running, but we're certainly happy to have you as part of this process here at TD Securities. Frank, why don't we finish up here with a quick look at the Ontario election that will take place later this week, on Thursday. Doug Ford's likely to get his majority, but I'm curious, are there anything-- any stats at this point that can-- or any events that could occur that can reverse the tide towards a majority? And are there any specific metrics you're watching? And I wondered if you thought that 56% stat of people that would choose a different option if they could, whether or not you thought that stood out as a significant number.
FRANK MCKENNA: Actually, let me just comment, though, on your last statement. I agree with you completely in your assessment of Rona, and we're very fortunate that she's working with us and helping us in so many different ways. I would just remind you of a saying that somebody gave me a few times when I was crazy enough to be looking at different things in my life. Basically, the guy said to me, once you escape the trap, don't go back for the cheese. And that's turned out to be--
RONA AMBROSE: Oh, that's good.
FRANK MCKENNA: That's turned out to be quite prophetic for me. And I've watched an awful lot of wonderful leaders, people I encouraged-- Jim Prentice being one of them, and others, who didn't fare so well when they went back. That wouldn't be the case here, but nevertheless it's important to know how big these sacrifices are. So quickly, in Ontario Doug Ford is going to win. He is going to get his majority. He needs 63 seats to get the majority. I think he'll get over 70 seats. He-- it's funny, because Jason Kenney, I happen to think is a very accomplished leader. And he's in many ways much more accomplished than Doug Ford. But Doug Ford did not have as much division to deal with. And he's very likable. And he's proven himself to be a very good counterparty to the federal government. And the federal government has a lot of seats in Ontario. And Doug Ford, he played that game very well. He did some things right, but he also had the advantage of an opposition that's totally divided. And Rona and I have both been in situations where there's a divided opposition. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad. But in this case, the NDP and the liberals are both credible second and third party candidates. And they're going to be soaking up a lot of votes from each other. So that's a big advantage to him. The latest polls that I've seen showed the liberals running a few points ahead of the NDP. But their vote is not as efficient as the NDP. So they're probably going to end up essentially tying, I would think, on election night. And watching the Premier in all likelihood forming a majority government. I don't think that-- a lot of excitement about that in Ontario. That's not my sense. People aren't thrilled. But on the other hand, they see this result as fairly inevitable.
PETER HAYNES: So Rona, you mentioned Scott Aitchison as a credible leader, potential leader for the Conservative leadership. His writing is Muskoka-Parry Sound, an area I know very well. This is an interesting fun fact-- Frank, you're probably aware of at the provincial level. The Liberal Party candidate in Muskoka-Parry Sound at the provincial level, had been appointed as the liberal candidate and then had to pull out a couple of days later because some background checks on this individual in some of his previous writings were such that the Liberal Party basically told him you have to leave. So that has left a void on the left side. So, what has happened is the Green Party is possibly going to win the Muskoka-Parry Sound writing at the provincial level. And that would be a major, major shift. Because that's always been a conservative hotbed. In fact, when Scott Aitchison was the mayor of Huntsville, I believe there was sort of an agreement with the mayor of Bracebridge, Graydon Smith, that Scott would run federally and Graydon would run provincially. Scott won federally and now Graydon as the conservative candidate in that race has the potential to run into a situation here, where you guys have talked so much and you know so much about divided votes. But it's an interesting situation there, where that liberal leader dropping out is probably going to-- will potentially cost Graydon Smith his chance to be the leader in that writing. So not that I'm a political expert, it's just one I'm fairly close to. We'll have to see how that one plays out. But Rona, you have to spare Frank and I just a quick moment here. We always love to end up talking baseball, and particularly talking about the Blue Jays. So Frank, the weekend sweep of the LA Angels was impressive. Was that enough to get you back on the bandwagon?
FRANK MCKENNA: Yeah, it got me very excited, just because they were all comeback wins. And also, because we're getting some of the other players on the team to really start getting into it now. Gurriel, Kirk looked good. We still are waiting on Teoscar to get going. Vladi could do better than he's doing and he will. Biggio can do much better. But the rest of it's all good. It was fun. It was exciting. It's the way I like baseball to be. It was like Oiler-Flames hockey. It was exciting to watch.
PETER HAYNES: Well, you know what, before we let Rona go, you're absolutely right, that's a great segue to talk about the Battle of Alberta. I know, Rona, you live in Calgary, so you're probably mourning right now. But you should be happy, I think, that a team from your province is going to be represented in the Final Four and potentially into the Stanley Cup. What's the mood right now in the province of Alberta? And I also want you to tell us a little bit about what The Stampede means to you, and maybe your favorite memory of Stampede, which is coming up in a few weeks.
RONA AMBROSE: Yeah, well Stampede, the Calgary Stampede, they call it the Greatest Show on Earth, the greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, and it really is. I encourage every Canadian to come to Stampede and see the rodeo. Because the rodeo, of course, is a reflection of the work and sport of Western culture and the culture of people who live, and play, and work on farms and cattle ranches. And that's really what the reflection is. It's a wonderful sporting activity and it's a lot of fun. Lots of great parties. And of course, if you come you have to buy a pair of cowboy boots and a cowboy hat. And just leave your inhibitions behind and have a great time. It's a lot of fun. My husband is, in fact, a professional former bull rider champion. So rodeo season is kind of next level in our house. And we go to the rodeo every single day and see people. It's fun. And the Battle of Alberta-- hey, the mood in Alberta is fantastic. It's not great in Calgary. And I went to a number of those games. And my mom's with me with her Oilers jersey on and then we've got our Calgary Flames jersey on. So we had quite the family conflicts. But it was a lot of fun. But look, my gosh, Connor McDavid, even as a Calgary fan, watching that guy. He makes everybody look clumsy. He's just unbelievable to watch. His feet move so fast. His hands move so fast. So while good for the Oilers, good for him, good for their team. And of course, we're going to be behind the Oilers now as they move forward.
PETER HAYNES: Good. I'm not sure everybody in Calgary would share your sentiment about the Oilers. Maybe they would. I'm not 100% sure. OK, Frank, I'll get your fast final pick, your Stanley Cup champion.
FRANK MCKENNA: Oh, I-- well, my sentimental favorite is the Canadian team, so I'm going to say Oilers. Although, I think they're going to have a hell of a time getting by Nathan MacKinnon in Colorado. RONA AMBROSE: Yeah.
FRANK MCKENNA: A hell of a time. But if they get by them, I think they could go all the way.
PETER HAYNES: I'm going to stick with Tampa Bay. Someone's got to beat them. They've got to knock them off the pedestal. And the Leafs may prove to have been the second best team in the NHL. We'll have to see here. And we'll revisit that next month. Rona, we'll truly call this a long form podcast here as we went a little over our normal allotted time, but it was so great to have you on board. On behalf of Frank and myself, thank you very much for joining us today. Frank, as always, I really appreciate your insights and we'll look forward to chatting again next month.
FRANK MCKENNA: Thanks.
RONA AMBROSE: Thanks a lot.
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Managing Director and Head of Index and Market Structure Research, TD Securities
Managing Director and Head of Index and Market Structure Research, TD Securities
Managing Director and Head of Index and Market Structure Research, TD Securities
Peter joined TD Securities in June 1995 and currently leads our Index and Market Structure research team. He also manages some key institutional relationships across the trading floor and hosts two podcast series: one on market structure and one on geopolitics. He started his career at the Toronto Stock Exchange in its index and derivatives marketing department before moving to Credit Lyonnais in Montreal. Peter is a member of S&P’s U.S., Canadian and Global Index Advisory Panels, and spent four years on the Ontario Securities Commission’s Market Structure Advisory Committee.
Deputy Chair, TD Securities
Deputy Chair, TD Securities
Deputy Chair, TD Securities
As Deputy Chair, Frank is focused on supporting TD Securities' continued global expansion. He has been an executive with TD Bank Group since 2006 and previously served as Premier of New Brunswick and as Canadian Ambassador to the United States.
Deputy Chairwoman, TD Securities
Deputy Chairwoman, TD Securities
Deputy Chairwoman, TD Securities
The Honourable Rona Ambrose is a dynamic national leader, a champion for the rights of women and girls, the former leader of Canada’s Official Opposition in the House of Commons, and the former leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. Her service includes developing federal policies in military procurement, industrial strategies, health innovation and improvements to sexual assault laws.