Rona visits the Pod for a Discussion on the Alberta Election and Federal Politics
Guest: Rona Ambrose, Deputy Chairwoman, TD Securities, and Frank McKenna Deputy Chair, TD Securities
Host: Peter Haynes, Managing Director and Head of Index and Market Structure Research, TD Securities
Frank is joined by his colleague, The Honourable Rona Ambrose, for a wide-ranging discussion on Canadian politics including the upcoming Alberta Election, where a recent own goal by Rachel Notley on corporate taxes might be the catalyst for a UCP victory next week. Rona and Frank also discuss politics in Ottawa, including the assertion by former Prime Minister Jean Chretien that Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre's policies are even right of Stephen Harper. Rona finishes up with some advice on social media for aspiring politicians, especially females.
RONA AMBROSE: I wish we would just have an election because that's where people are at. People just want to talk about these really important issues in their life.
PETER HAYNES: Welcome to episode 40 of our monthly TD Securities Podcast on geopolitics with our guest, the honorable Frank McKenna. My name is Peter Haynes. And I'll be your host again for today's episode where we will have a special guest with us for the second month in a row. This time, we have the Honorable Rona Ambrose, former leader of the Conservative Party and currently deputy chairwoman at TD Securities. And we have Rona joining us today to talk about some Alberta election updates, which is pending here later this week. And then, of course, Frank and Rona will talk about federal political issues in Canada. As I've said several times and I'll say it again today, on behalf of all of us at TD Securities, we're so privileged to have two former politicians in our ranks that both should have been our prime minister. Rona is one and, of course, Frank is the other. And, really, I say it again that Canada's loss is TD's gain. And we're very thankful for having both of you working for TD and both of you for joining today. And Rona, thanks for being our special guest.
RONA AMBROSE: Well, thanks for having me. And it's great to be with both you and Frank.
PETER HAYNES: Well, we look forward to the discussion. I have to do the standard disclaimer here, just to remind listeners that our TD Securities Podcast is for informational purposes, and the views described in today's podcast 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 upon as investment, tax, or other advice. So last month, as I mentioned, we had a guest on, Chris Krueger from the Washington Research Group, who is part of TD Cowen. And we're excited to be working with his team on geopolitical issues. We focused on US political issues in the last month, naturally. And while some of them are still in the news and maybe we'll get them today-- get to them today, I thought it made some sense to pivot back to Canada and deal with some of the top-of-mind domestic issues. And that starts with the Alberta election. The election in Alberta is interesting, not only because of the strategic importance of Alberta inside Canada, but because it involves a premier-- Danielle Smith-- who was not elected by the people of Alberta, but instead by the UCP party members following Jason Kenney's resignation. Smith's opposition in the election is a very familiar face, Rachel Notley, leader of the NDP party and former premier of Alberta from 2015 to 2019. Rona, it appears this race is very close as we're coming down to the wire. Can you provide us a play by play to date and also whether either candidate made any headway at last week's one and only debate?
RONA AMBROSE: Yeah, absolutely. It's definitely an important election, for the country and for the province of Alberta. Interestingly, we've got two women that are vying to be premier. So no matter what happens, we're going to have a woman premier in this province. And it'll be the third time. So it's interesting that it happens here in Alberta. Both Danielle Smith and Rachel Notley are known entities to Albertans. Danielle Smith has been in politics for a long time in Alberta, in and out of politics. Rachel Notley was, of course, a premier a few years ago. So it's an interesting dynamic to consider. Advanced voting starts this week. And election night is next week, May 29. The NDP are trying to frame the election around trust and health care. And the UCP, the Conservatives, are focusing our message on jobs, the economy, and public safety. But I think, like everywhere in the country, the ballot question is coming down to affordability. And I think, at least for the business community and I think at least for myself, arguably, the biggest issue is around corporate taxes. And I say that because things were quite politically competitive between the two parties. In, in fact, a number of areas, it looked like the NDP was in winning territory. But I think there was a bit of a breakout moment last week. And it was a goal on self by Notley. The Notley NDP promised to raise business tax rates from 8% to 12%, something they did last time when Notley was in power. And then Jason Kenney got in and he reversed it back to 8%. That was the lowest business tax rate in Canada. It's what we have right now. And it's lower than 44 of the US states when it comes to corporate taxes. So it makes Alberta very competitive from a tax rate point of view. And last week, the NDP promised to raise-- if elected-- raise corporate taxes by 38%. So this was a bit of a breakaway moment for the UCP. Because all of a sudden, it became a investment leaving the province, job losses. We've seen a number of economists weigh in saying, 37,000 jobs could be lost. We could see outflow of over $1 billion in investment. And this is a time when you look at the energy transition and so many other issues-- geopolitical turmoil-- we need certainty, we need a predictability around our corporate tax rate. And we need competitiveness. So I would say that has become one of the big issues here. The business community is starting to speak out about it. Chambers have spoken out saying, whoa, we saw what happened last time that we did this. It wasn't a good idea. So they're almost trying to pressure Notley. Look, if you are elected, this isn't a good idea. So, and then, lastly, you asked about the debate. There was no knockout punches at all. So I can't say who won or lost. It was really a wash. And bottom line is the key battleground is Calgary. The NDP is going to take Edmonton. And the UCP will take all of rural Alberta. So the fight is in Calgary.
PETER HAYNES: Why did the tax issue just get surfaced in the last few days? Was this something that the UCP party was holding on to knowing they could sort of bring it out as a weapon just leading up to the election? Or is this just a new platform item that Notley has released in the last few days?
RONA AMBROSE: It's a platform item-- Notley released her platform last week. And she needed to explain how she was going to pay for a lot of increases in public services. Alberta spends more money per capita in health care than anywhere in the country. So it's interesting that health care, education, social programs haven't really been the sticking point in this election. Both parties are promising to spend a lot, do a lot for nurses, for doctors, for teachers. What has all of a sudden become an issue is corporate taxes, business taxes. And Notley was promising to spend more. So she had to explain where it was going to come from and how she was going to get that money. And that was by this increase in corporate taxes. But there's a substantial issue with that because taking it from 8% to 12% means that there will be an impact on the economy, an impact on jobs, an impact on investment. And so now that's what the debate about is here in Alberta.
PETER HAYNES: And Rona, I remember when Smith was running for her own party's leadership last year that her platform was chockablock full of very aggressive rhetoric that the rest of Canada was kind of shocked by. The Alberta Sovereignty Act was one issue, which suggested in simple terms that Alberta would ignore federal policies that it deemed harmful to the province. There was a suggestion about-- and we talked about this at our conference last fall-- about Alberta pulling out of the CPP. And then, thirdly, there was a lot of rhetoric around vaccines and COVID policies. It seems like these issues are no longer front and center in the election. Is this me just missing something or has Smith decided to sort of put those issues on the back burner?
RONA AMBROSE: Yeah, she had to put those issues on the back burner. I mean, in the leadership race, first of all, Jason Kenney is a close friend of mine and I would have continued to support him if he ran again for leadership. But I chaired and supported a young woman named Rebecca Schulz, who ran against Danielle Smith and against a number of these issues. Danielle Smith was successful. She only garnered 53% of the party vote. So you have to remember, not only is she still trying to unite the party, she now has to unite the whole province. So she has a big hill to climb. And one of the ways she's climbing that hill is to listen to a lot of her caucus and cabinet who are saying, you need to get rid of some of these policies that you ran on. They are showing to be very unpopular with the wider electorate. And so we have seen her decide to drop a number of these policies.
PETER HAYNES: And have those policies formally been dropped, just to be clear here, the Sovereignty Act as well as pulling Alberta out of the CPP?
RONA AMBROSE: Well, I think pulling Alberta out of the CPP, it sounds like it'll be a discussion for the future and it will be some type of referendum. So it will go to the people if it happens, so definitely not something for this election to be decided. And the issue of the Sovereignty Act, yes, an act, something like it was passed, but it was very symbolic. It didn't have the teeth, nor the power that I think she originally thought. I think there was quite a bit of pushback on that issue.
PETER HAYNES: OK, Frank, you're watching from a distance, like I am. What are your thoughts on the two candidates? And having been in their position in your previous life, I'm curious, if you're a campaign chair for each of the candidates with one week to go, what would be one piece of advice you'd give each of them in the final days of the campaign?
FRANK MCKENNA: Like Rona, I know both of these ladies. And, quite frankly, I think Alberta is fortunate to have a choice between two strong women. In the case of Rachel Notley, she's a well-known person in Alberta politics, I think a well-respected person in Alberta politics. Her father was the NDP leader before her, died in a tragic plane crash. It was left to her at age 21 to go to her mother and tell her mother that Grant Notley was dead. She grew up quick. I think she's a seasoned politician and I think actually quite well-liked, even in the business community. Her problem is her party, quite frankly. Alberta is not inherently an NDP province. And the NDP policies, some of the pro-union, but just some of the big spend policies are generally not popular. And I think that she made a major mistake in this past week in actually feeding the boogeyman around the NDP in terms of taxation. I don't think that was good. It may not be a coincidence that the polls have showed up a bit of a lead now with UCP, where before it was dead tied. So that's her situation. Danielle Smith, on the other hand, she really had a rocky road to get to be the leader of the party and to become premier. And I just take you back to that famous expression, why did Willie Sutton rob banks? Well, he robbed banks because that's where the money-- so why do-- why do leaders-- why do people in politics go to the extremes in their party? And the answer is because that's where the votes are. The energy in a lot of political parties is on the flanks. And in the case of Danielle Smith, she was, I think, pretty well dead last and certainly not competitive. And she really pandered to the far right wing and ended up picking up a lot of votes from that energized sector of the party. And she ended up winning the leadership. And then like a lot of political leaders, now she's got to figure out how she can pivot much more towards the center, which is where the vote-rich part of the province usually is. I should tell you a quick personal anecdote. My son was an energy executive in Calgary, ran into Danielle Smith in the last year or two. And she said, oh, say hello to your father. She said, I spent a weekend with him in the Caribbean. And my son called me immediately and he said, "Dad, is there something here I need to know about?" And I said, well, it's actually quite innocuous. I was chairman of Canvas Global. She was a reporter at the Calgary Herald. And the two of us went to the Turks and Caicos to do a feature on whether the Turks and Caicos could and should join Canada. And I must say, it was a delightful weekend. I found it very engaging. But having said that, her challenge-- because you asked about the challenges-- is to run away from that boogeyman of the things you've talked about-- CPP, RCMP, Alberta Sovereignty Act, vaccine, and all of the issues around that. So she's been locking back a lot of those things, certainly not making them center to her campaign. And the extent to which she's successful will be the extent to which she's makes herself out to be not scary, a centrist, pragmatic, premier-like. And so both of the candidates have the same problem, but from different sides of the political spectrum.
PETER HAYNES: Is there anything they can do here in the last week? Or is it too late to pivot off of a tax strategy at this point in the election cycle?
FRANK MCKENNA: They'll each do both positive and negative. In both cases, they'll want to look premier-ish and they'll want to reinforce their strengths. But they'll also want to reinforce the weaknesses of the opposite party. So they will certainly, the NDP, will try to paint Danielle Smith as too radical and too beholden to the far right wing of her party. And in the case of the UCP, it's very simple. They just have to demonize the NDP. So on the negative side, they'll do that. But on the positive side, both candidates need to look premier-ish and centrist and pragmatic. And I think, unfortunately, the NDP, as Rona just said, they're probably guilty of an own goal here in throwing up an issue that is not healthy for them in the run -up to the election.
PETER HAYNES: And Frank, Rona mentioned this was an important election for Canada. So when you think about this from the Federal Liberals, what are the aspects of this election that are of particular interest to Ottawa? And then when you think about it from Poilievre's opposition Conservative Party perspective, what would he be watching closely?
FRANK MCKENNA: Yeah, so I just want to mention one other factoid before then. And that's around the NDP and the concern of the business community. One of the smart things that Rachel Notley did was engage the chief economist from the ATB, Todd Hirsch, as an advisor to her on business matters and financial matters. And he's taught public finance at the University of Calgary for nine years and was chief economist at the ATB. So I think that she was doing the right things to try to take some of the fear out. Unfortunately, she may have lost that. So it's very simple in terms of the liberals. They're looking for a partner. Trudeau, for whatever faults people attribute to him-- and I can pick out my share-- he's actually pretty good in terms of his relationships with provincial counterparts. He and Ford in Ontario, of course, progressive conservative, are really BFFs. He's been able to have a cordial relationship with Legault, which is not easy, and a close relationship with the NDP with Horgan in BC. And so he's a pretty easy guy to be a partner with. But you need to be respectful. And he needs a partner on climate goals, on carbon tax, for example. But, particularly, in the case of Alberta, I would say around pathways, which is really the intersection of climate and energy. And, quite frankly, Alberta needs a good partner on pathways. The energy sector needs a good pathway. In the case of Poilievre, his situation is interesting because what he wants is to have a partner that he can work with. But the NDP would be a bad message for Poilievre. That would not be a good message for his own success as prime minister. But he's got strong Alberta roots. And I think that he's reading the tea leaves in Alberta very carefully around this election.
PETER HAYNES: Rona, it's no secret that both you and Jason Kenney carry a lot of weight in the province. And you mentioned earlier that you were working with another candidate that did not actually end up winning the leadership of the party. Is it normal practice for you and the former premier to weigh in on the election publicly? Or do you stay quiet on the sidelines? And if you have said anything, what have you said publicly?
RONA AMBROSE: Yeah, I mean, look, I'm a Conservative. And I want the Conservatives to win power. And, more than anything, I want them to win because I believe that without a strong provincial and federal economy, but particularly here in Alberta as an Albertan, our economy matters. We don't have a huge economy, but it's-- and we all know that we rely heavily on the energy sector. And when I think about what's happening nationally, globally, we can't always rely on price of oil staying where it is. We've got an energy transition to think about. We need investment coming into this province. We just can't have a situation where we go from being one of the most competitive tax rates in North America to being one that isn't competitive. And Rachel Notley will say, well, we'll be equal to Ontario and Quebec. But it takes us way out of the league of being one of the most competitive in North America at 8%. And I would just counter one thing that Frank said about Todd Hirsch. Todd Hirsch. Is a very well respected economist who is now working for the NDP. That was a great play by Rachel Notley. But he came out and endorsed the platform and then was questioned about it and admitted that he hadn't done the analysis around jobs and investment. And Jack Mintz did that analysis. And he said we'll see an investment, loss of $1 billion to Alberta and a loss of almost 40,000 jobs. So we just can't have that in our province. And so if Rachel Notley wants to wear a blue jacket and pretend she's a progressive conservative, then she's got to be there for our economy and for a competitive tax rate. So I've spoken out about that. That's an issue that I feel really strongly about and I want whoever the leader of this province is to make sure that we remain economically competitive.
PETER HAYNES: And has Jason Kenney said anything publicly? Or is he laying low?
RONA AMBROSE: I think it's a bit different for him. Stephen Harper, Stephen and I have spoken out about the importance of re-electing a conservative government and it's all around economic issues. It's different for Jason. He's the former premier, just finished his tenure. I think it's just respectful for him to just lay low for a while and let her carry the message.
PETER HAYNES: Just as we finish up on this topic, I'm a hockey fan and I know Frank's a hockey fan and we're both proud Canadians, as I know you are, Rona, as well. So I was happy to see the announcement of an arena deal for Calgary, which involves contributions from all of the municipality, the provincial government, and the hockey team's ownership. Clearly, this announcement's timing was tied to the election cycle. But I'm curious if this issue has the wide support of Albertans, especially in light of the recent vote in Tempe, Arizona that shot down state funding new arena for the Arizona Coyotes.
RONA AMBROSE: Danielle Smith was careful to make sure no funding is going directly to the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation, which is the people who own the Calgary Flames. She's supporting infrastructure around the arena. And then the arena deal is between the city and the Calgary Flames' ownership. But this has been 10 years of squabbling, even more than 10 years to see an arena. Bottom line is the arena in Calgary is so old that it means that we don't get certain bands coming here to play. So we don't get certain concerts because-- and I'm not exaggerating-- the equipment that bands use literally can't hang from the ceiling because it's so old it could cause a serious hazard. So we lose out on all kinds of economic activity when it comes to concerts and events. So that's the number one issue. And then the second is it's old and the Flames want to build a new arena and for much more than just hockey. So it'll be really tough, if Notley gets elected, for her to cancel it. She's said she'll look at the deal. I mean, I could see maybe if she gets elected, I wouldn't be surprised that she might try and change the terms of the deal. But I think everyone agrees that we're getting to the point now where this thing really needs to be replaced. So I would think, considering that, she will probably support it if she's the premier. The other issue is, it's battleground Calgary. This is where the NDP and the UCP are fighting for seats.
PETER HAYNES: And it was interesting as I was reading a little bit about Edmonton's recent development around the Edmonton arena, how quickly all of the other infrastructure was built around it-- hotels, along with condominiums and the like. It's amazing how quickly you can build around these facilities. And I sometimes wonder if that's fully factored into all of the analysis becomes so much about political rhetoric at that stage. So we'll move on here to federal politics. And the recent liberal convention in Ottawa was an opportunity for senior members of the party to provide some big picture perspectives on Canada, our place in the world, and the future political opposition to Prime Minister Trudeau or his successor in 2025. One of the speakers at this convention is someone I know you, Frank, have come to respect and speak highly of. And that is former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. Here is what Chrétien said in reference to opposition leader Pierre Poilievre's assertion Canada has big problems. Quote, "No, Mr. Poilievre, Canada is not broken. Canada is the envy of the world." Do you agree with Chrétien?
FRANK MCKENNA: I completely agree with him that Canada is the envy of the world. I found that in spades when I was ambassador from other-- ambassadors around the world, even. And as we travel around the world, we all hear how much respect there is for Canada. But I don't agree with them about Canada not being broken somewhat. When I say we're the envy of the world, by the way, that's because every country has issues and problems and we have fewer of them than many and most of the others. But Canada is broken in some respects as well. I think we just have to be honest about that. It's not working as efficiently as it should. Our quality of life, which is good, could be better. I'll just name three or four quickly interprovincial trade barriers. So it's unconscionable that we can have free trade with most of the large economies in the world and not have free trade within Canada. Almost every study indicates that would add at least a couple of thousands dollars a year per person to the income of Canadians and as much as $80 billion to the GDP of the country. We've got a productivity challenge. Our productivity is not only worse, but it's slipping. And that's worth as much as $5,000 per capita that we could improve our standard of living and our regulatory approval process to get anything done. It's just broken, in terms of getting pipelines built, in terms of getting critical minerals or any of those things. We look at the Ukraine War and Russia at a time when there's been a need for urgency in respond and getting natural gas to Europe, for example, or getting food into the hands of people or getting access to critical minerals so that every country can have some sense of security. We can't do any of those things, not in a timely way. We've got ourselves massively overregulated in that respect. And then I dare say health care, we measure ourself against the United States constantly. And almost every study indicates that we probably deliver better quality health care than the United States at half the price. Almost every study also indicates that we deliver better than average health care against other nations in the world at a comparable price. So we, by using the one standard, I think we make ourselves try to feel better. But we actually have real challenges in our health care system. And a lot of countries in the world have done a better job at it. So we could learn from other countries. So are we pretty good? Yeah. Could we be better? Yes, much better.
PETER HAYNES: Rona, just on the same topic of Chrétien, he spoke of Poilievre personally. I know you know Poilievre quite well. And he claims that-- Chrétien claimed that Poilievre's political views were so extreme that he made former Prime Minister Stephen Harper seem reasonable. On a scale of 1 to 10, most Canadians like to-- [CHUCKLING] --I know that's-- gets a kick, you guys get a kick out of that one. On a scale of 1 to 10, most Canadians like to live in what I'll call the 3 to 7 or even the 4 to 6 range. Yet, Chrétien implies Poilievre is outside of this range. Do you believe Chrétien's assertion that Poilievre is right of Harper politically? And do you think that's fair?
RONA AMBROSE: It's really interesting because so often you hear about Stephen Harper and Chrétien being compared to one another because they approach their provincial federal relationships very similarly. They were tough in a lot of similar ways dealing with certain issues. And Stephen was very much an incrementalist when it came to policy. He was cautious and he was thoughtful. And he was not somebody that would just throw caution to the wine and announce some big, bold thing that had never been done before, hadn't been researched, had been thought through. So it's just really interesting the last-- I would never think of Stephen as extreme. Because he's an incrementalist. He did things little by little, cautiously, thoughtfully. And so, no, I think, look, Jean Chrétien is one of the best campaigners this country has ever seen. So, of course, you ask him to come and speak at your convention to take a swipe at the opposition. He's really good at that. He was always such a strong campaigner. I have a ton of respect for him, especially in how he dealt with the provinces on a number of issues. Now, so, no, I don't think-- Stephen was never extreme. Stephen was really thoughtful, very cautious around when we look at what happened in the 2008 financial crisis, how we emerged from that, balancing the budget, cutting-- increasing funding for health care, but on a very predictable trajectory, long-term 10-year funding, of course, re-announced by the Trudeau government at the same rate. So, no, let's talk now about the idea that Pierre is more extreme. First of all, Stephen is not extreme. But I do think that, again, Chrétien is going to say these things because we're-- it's becoming really competitive. Pierre is outpolling Trudeau on all fronts now. And so, yeah, you're going to get people come out trying to figure out, how do we paint this guy in the worst possible light? OK, let's say he's like Donald Trump. Well, he's not like Donald Trump. He's nothing like Donald Trump. And the interesting thing is, it's such a ridiculous claim that it's actually not working. They keep trying to throw mud at the wall on this issue around Pierre Poilievre is like Donald Trump. And it's just not sticking. They're going to have to have a debate with Pierre. Justin and Pierre are going to have to have a debate about policy. Because people are at the point now where they're getting-- just like with any government-- they're getting a bit tired of the Trudeau liberals. They're wanting to focus on certain things that are top of mind for them. And a lot of that is around affordability. Justin is trying to focus on those things. Pierre is honing in on those things also. And it's almost like I wish we would just have an election. Because that's where people are at. People just want to talk about these really important issues in their life. They feel like there's a debate between the two. I think if you want to say-- the word is an extreme. There's actually a differentiation between the two leaders. And I think that's healthy. We need to have a debate that is philosophically differentiated by two different people that are representing-- they might want to get to the same place, but their ideas about how to get there differ. And we haven't had that for a while. And I think that's healthy for the country. There's nothing wrong with having that type of a debate. Now, having Chrétien say he's more extreme, I can't see any of the likeness to Trump. I mean, Pierre Poilievre is one of the most pro-immigration national leaders we've ever seen. And I think part of that is his wife's family's experience about coming to Canada as a refugee family from Venezuela has had a huge impact on him. And one of the only policies he's actually announced before an election is this "blue seal" program to fast track recognition of foreign credentials for work-- for immigrant workers like health care. He's really focused on affordability issues around housing. And I think that has spurred a real interest in the youth. Part of that it's his communication style. I think young people like it. But he is now polling ahead of the other parties on from a youth perspective, which has, frankly never happened with the conservative movement. So it's very interesting. So none of these policies are extreme. None of them are far right. You know, he's not-- I don't see any policies that he's announced yet. I think one of the differentiators for him too is this public safety issue around safe supply of drugs and supporting harm reduction, but saying we also need to intervene and give people drug treatment. I think that's resonating with people in the cities that are seeing a lot of issues related to homelessness, drug addiction, and mental health. I'm just talking about a couple of things that I think are resonating with people across the country, are definitely not extremist views from a politician in Canada, and have no relationship to a Donald Trump type figure.
PETER HAYNES: So Frank, Rona was mentioning Trudeau's name a few times in there. If Nate Silver was making a line on whether Prime Minister Trudeau runs again in '24 or '25 or whenever the next election is, based on what you're hearing out of Ottawa today, what would that line be?
FRANK MCKENNA: Yeah, well, based on what I'm hearing out of Ottawa today, it's almost certain that he's going to be running again.
RONA AMBROSE: Yeah.
FRANK MCKENNA: But things could change dramatically. But he's got a challenge. And, quite frankly, any incumbent would have a challenge during the times that we're in. In Trudeau's case, he's running well behind in the polls as much as maybe 7% or 8% in all regions of the country. So that has to be worrisome for them. But as much as well, one has to worry about the state of the world. We're in an inflationary environment. And people see that in terms of affordability of everyday items that they're going to purchase. You've got that. You've got the unsettled state of the world. We've got that debt ceiling crisis to the south of us, the Ukraine-Russian situation, which should weigh on all of us. And you put that all together, apprehension about the China-Taiwan situation, and the Chinese interference situation in Canada, you just add those all on and that would be hard on any incumbent. And then on top of that, he just happens to have been there in Alberta eight or nine years, and so he's a lightning rod. Just as much as we find our watches and phones obsolete, we tend to find our political leaders obsolete after a certain period of time. So he automatically assumes that particular mantle. And he tends to bring a bit, some of it on himself by some of the positions he takes. I think it's interesting. A thoughtful analysis of the policy leads me to believe that we are going to have a pretty healthy debate in Canada. And it's good. And I think we're fortunate in the country to have credible leaders who largely are able to get rid of some of the litigated issues. And I'm thinking, for example, Poilievre is pro-cannabis legalization, not going to change medically assisted dying, the right to choose, not an issue anymore, same sex, those issues, immigration. Those are hot button issues in other countries that drive people to extremes. And so they're largely off the table. So we're much more likely to be fighting about climate change, what the respective parties would do, the intersection of climate and energy pipelines, for example, LNG. Guns would probably be a hot button issue. Because the liberals have really picked that file up. We'll find that we're probably going to be fighting over center ground around affordability, the economy writ large, and issues like that. And I guess it reveals my bias. But my bias is that we not litigate things that have been resolved in the past and get on with some of the new issues surrounding people's personal life and quality of life and affordability.
PETER HAYNES: You mentioned immigration. And we always think about immigration as an issue in the United States, very high profile issue in the United States. But all you need to do is talk to our friends in the UK to realize the issues that they're facing with respect to the debate over immigration. So Rona, Frank mentioned a bunch of the issues that Poilievre would have in his campaign. Is there anything that was missed in terms of what we'll call the defining pillars of Poilievre's campaign? RONA AMBROSE: Well, I think it'll be a lot focused-- I love how Frank put it about issues that have been litigated and are in the past. It says a lot about just the nature of Canadian politics that we're able to get past some of these polarized issues. I mean, look at the issue of abortion here in Canada compared to in the US. I mean, it's nuts what's happening in the US around a woman's right to choose. And here in Canada, both leaders have said, yeah, no, we're both pro-choice, move on. I mean, that's one thing. And you look at other countries that are moving backwards on the issue of same sex marriage, Pierre's father happens to be gay and has a partner. And both of them were at his latest large rally. These are both leaders who are, I would say, progressive on all of the right issues. I think the battle will be around the economy and public safety. Those are the two issues that I think where we'll see some differentiation. One of the things that we're seeing-- and I think Frank would agree-- in all countries is just this sense of nationalism and anti-free trade. And also I'm glad to see that there is nobody talking about closing borders to labor mobility. But there is a lot of more talk-- and we see it from both parties-- around, how do we build at home? And some of this is from external pressure, geopolitical pressure, pressure on our supply chains, lessons learned from COVID. So I think that's going to be an interesting debate in the next election too. And both parties, neither of the parties are where I would say Harper-- you know, Harper has always been very pro-free trade. And yet, the conservatives, I think, I think we have moved a bit on that more to where the left is, which is around a more nationalistic approach and a more build in Canada, protect our industries, which is interesting. So I think it will get-- and then public safety is the other issue. We've seen with the crime rate increase and we do see this nexus of homelessness, addiction, and criminal activity in certain cities across Canada. And it's becoming a real issue for people that say they don't feel comfortable riding transit anymore. They just want to know, how are governments going to deal with it? Do we need more treatment centers? Do we need more support for addiction? That's become, I think, also an issue that will be debated.
FRANK MCKENNA: Strongly support what Rona said about going nativist in the country. It's not the right thing for Canada. And I hope we don't become protectionist. But Poilievre is vulnerable, but knows it, on things like his track record on the vaccine, support for the convoy, et cetera, talking about firing the governor of the bank, flirtation with cryptocurrency. The liberals will try to demonize him on those issues. And part of his success will be how successfully he can pull away from-- as will Danielle Smith-- pull away from some positions like that and get himself into that very wide and very, very energetic center. You can choose the battleground you want to fight on. But then you get dragged into other battlegrounds.
RONA AMBROSE: Yeah, that's right.
FRANK MCKENNA: And I think that the last Conservative leader who I like a lot, Erin O'Toole, basically kind of lost it at the very end around things like vaccine and vaccination of members and so on. He was a pretty moderate guy. You also have caucuses who have different views. And I think Poilievre has got a very good control of his caucus. But if they get off the talking points on things like guns, climate, abortion, and so on, then he's going to have a bit of an issue. So some of the messaging you can control, but some of the stuff is-- just comes over the transom when you least expect it to.
RONA AMBROSE: Yeah, and we always say that in politics. You know, you have your platform. You have your talking points. You have your strategy. Even as a government, you have all of that. And then something comes out of nowhere and completely defines your administration, something you never expected. Like for Trudeau, the election of Donald Trump, right? And NAFTA having to deal with anti-trade sentiment, the Ukraine War, I mean, I could go on and on. And so that is not what Justin Trudeau thought would happen in his tenure as prime minister and completely pushes all your strategy off track. And it happened to Harper too, right, with the financial crisis--
FRANK MCKENNA: --financial crisis, yeah.
RONA AMBROSE: Yeah, the financial crisis with some of the refugee issues, I mean, it's really interesting.
PETER HAYNES: Frank, it's going to be interesting to see if there's any, what we'll call, political legs on a topic that's front and center today. And that is the foreign influence on politics in Canada. And it's been a front and center topic for a little while here in Ottawa. And we'll see whether or not that continues. There have been revelations that have surfaced about alleged Chinese meddling in Canadian federal elections and about, in particular, a Conservative MP, Michael Chong, who was subjected to foreign threats from the Chinese government. So, in retaliation, Canada has expelled a Chinese diplomat from Toronto that they believe was involved in these threats against Chong and his extended family back in Hong Kong. The Chinese government responded by expelling a Canadian diplomat from Shanghai. Is there much more that Canada can be doing here to protect our political system from influence of authoritarian governments? And do you think Canada has done enough to send a message to China?
FRANK MCKENNA: So it's a terrific question. And by the way, the Nanos polling that's out now reveals that one of the reasons why the Liberals have dropped fairly precipitously is because of this very issue. I talked to the minister of Global Affairs this week on this and some other issues. But we talked about this. And I kind of asked, in a way, what would you define as success? And success for her-- and her department has been working backchannels very aggressively-- is that we expel a diplomat, which we need to do, and that they expel a diplomat and that's the end of it. No more tit for tat. No more economic sanctions and so on. And on that basis, Canada believes they've achieved a good result. And I believe they've achieved a good result as well. And I want to say this, if you don't mind me taking another minute. His honor governor general-- former Governor General Johnston is now reported in and is recommending no to a public inquiry. He is one of the finest people I've ever met in my life. And the country was very fortunate to have him as the governor general.
RONA AMBROSE: Agreed.
FRANK MCKENNA: And I thought he did a-- I agree with him on this. And Canadians have to understand maybe a little bit of the back story here. But when you have the kind of information that you have-- and he said, by the way, that the Globe and Mail has misreported or taken out of context the number of the things that have taken place and implied it was probably less serious than they make it out to be. But having said that, when you have this kind of a situation with the largest or second largest economy in the world, you've got to be really careful. And I can tell you from having been on the Oversight Committee of CSIS before, your intelligence gathering has to be very, very carefully guarded. You can't have a public inquiry that brings in confidential informants or tells where you've got bugs hidden in embassies or that you're monitoring certain conversations. You can't do that. Secondly, you can't compromise your allies. We're part of the Five Eyes intelligence sharing system. And other countries are not going to share their intelligence with us if they think it's all going to be put on display at a public inquiry. And, thirdly, we want to deal with the Chinese issue, but we don't want to embarrass that government. We don't want to push them into the point where we have huge economic retaliation and our lobster fishermen can't sell their lobster and soybean farmers can't sell their soybeans and so on. So we want to continue to be engaged with them economically, but push back on them on these security issues. So I'm hoping they get that balance right. Look, the media loves public inquiries. They don't have to work anymore. They just sit in the back of the room and they write their stories. Opposition parties love public inquiries. It embarrasses the government constantly. Lawyers really love public inquiries. They all get rich. They go longer than we ever anticipate and they, in terms of reference, get wider. So I think that we'll find that Johnston has come in with something that's workable and pragmatic. And hopefully it'll allow us to diffuse this issue.
PETER HAYNES: I don't want to try to use an analogy here that maybe isn't appropriate. But I'll just throw this one at you. This whole retaliation tit for tat kind of reminds me a little bit about the Yankees series with the Jays last week when there was sign stealing. And we know everyone steals signs. But if you get caught with your hand in the cookie jar, you're going to pay the price. Now, I would argue the Blue Jays did not appropriately retaliate. And so maybe that's a reason why-- we'll talk about the Jays in a minute-- we have been slumping lately. But I think sort of-- everyone knows they're doing it. It's tit for tat. We're going to expel someone. Are you confident, Frank, this is the end of it? Or do you think China will sort of add a little bit and try to get one up? Do you think this is the end of it?
FRANK MCKENNA: Yes, I do. I don't think it'll go away as an issue. But I think the fact that they didn't go further and introduce some form of economic sanction is probably telling. So, yeah, right now, Canada would say we're even. And hopefully the Chinese will feel the same way.
PETER HAYNES: OK, Rona, I'm going to finish up with a question for you. And it's a more general question about your life in politics. You started-- I believe you entered politics in 2004. I'm curious, since you began your time in politics, how has being a politician changed? I'm thinking about things like the influence of social media. And are you seeing social media and other of these sort of new-ish influences impacting the Alberta election?
RONA AMBROSE: Yeah, I mean, I've always said that social media is wonderful in certain ways because it democratizes information. Everybody has a camera. Everyone can capture things as they happen. Things can become more authentic. They can become more grassroots. And we see that in a lot of really important social justice movements around the world. But social media is also-- I've also called Twitter and I've said it to the president of Twitter that it can be a cesspool, particularly for women public figures. We're regularly threatened with sexual violence and cyber stalked, subjected to crude assessments about our appearance. It is an absolutely horrible place to engage debate in as a woman that's a public figure. But it's hard to not be engaged on social media because that's where a lot of people are. So my advice to people-- women coming into politics-- is I always say to them, hand it over to your staff, especially your Twitter account. Don't touch it. Don't read it. Let them handle your posts and any of the commentary that stems from it. Send them your videos. Send them your pictures. You can even tell them what you'd like to say. But let them handle it and then handle the fallout of it. And if the fallout is violent, then you call the RCMP. And even, unfortunately, when the RCMP is involved, these guys are getting so sophisticated that it can take a long time for police to track them down. So, absolutely, social media is a useful tool to get your message out. I mean, I even said this to our CEO the other day. I am much more cautious now because I don't have a panic button anymore. I don't have the same type of protection I had when I was in public office. If I have to think about that and I'm not even an elected official anymore, but I speak out sometimes, that just gives you a sense of how you have to monitor yourself and, I guess, suppress yourself a bit because you're so afraid of the kind of people that are out there. And it's on all sides of the political spectrum. So I'm not suggesting it's the left or the right. It's everywhere. You see people attack people in very violent ways. I've experienced it in my public life. And I hope I don't have to experience it in my private life. But it's especially difficult for women. And I've known women who have quit politics only because of the pressure around their sense of public safety due to social media. And I've known many people-- and I'm sure Frank has too-- that now have to have security. Their children have to abide by certain types of protocol when they're at school, all because of social media. So lots of good, but lots of difficult situations that emerge for people in public life.
PETER HAYNES: That's a very sad and telling statement, unfortunately. I want to say Rona, as well, our hearts go out to everyone in Alberta-- I should have mentioned this earlier-- dealing with the wildfires.
RONA AMBROSE: Thank you.
PETER HAYNES: Can you give us any good news on-- I've been reading just about potential weather changes that may or may not be positive. Are you feeling like things are getting under control? RONA AMBROSE: Yes, I mean, they are under control in a number of spots. There's still dozens and dozens of fires that are out of control and not, but none that are threatening towns and cities anymore. We had 20,000 people evacuated. A lot of people have been able to go back to their homes. And it rained yesterday. So, hallelujah. I hope it keeps raining. But incredible, the amount of support that's come in from other provinces, all over the place to help fight these fires. And we're seeing some clearing of smoke today-- some rain, some lower temperatures have made a difference, but still lots of active firefighting happening here. Thank you for mentioning that.
PETER HAYNES: Well, we're cheering for you from everywhere in the rest of Canada. OK, Frank, another thing we're cheering for here is a little bit better performance by our Blue Jays. I got a text from you 10 days ago and it read as follows. I got to read this one to you, Rona. "Last two games against Atlanta have been the best baseball I've seen in a long time. Hope it continues." From there, the Jays went on to lose three of four to the evil cheating New York Yankees. And then they followed that up with a sweep by Baltimore in Toronto and then lost again in the first game of the Tampa series. Frank, where is your head at now after 50 games or is it just swimming in every direction?
FRANK MCKENNA: Yeah, no, look, I think I jinxed the team, honestly. We've played the kind of baseball I love in that three-game series and won really, really exciting games. But since then, it's been all downhill. I'm fairly despondent at the moment, Peter, if you have to know. With the exception of Chapman, I would say, Bichette, Bassitt, generally speaking, all of the team are underperforming. And I'm talking about the bullpen and some of the starting pitchers and right through the lineup. This is a far better team than the team we're seeing on the field.
PETER HAYNES: It's early, Frank. It's still only 50 games. I do agree with you. I don't like being in last place. But I'm going to say a month from now, I do feel like we'll be in a better spot. But Rona, I have to ask you a question. And it's concerning to Frank and me as well. Is Canada ever going to win a Stanley Cup again? I know we all thought this might be the year, maybe stupidly, that the Leafs might win. And that ended quickly. But even the Oilers, I know you've been cheering for the Oilers and have seen some of them, their games over the years. You talked about McDavid in the past and how great he was.
RONA AMBROSE: Yeah.
PETER HAYNES: But what happened to the Oilers?
RONA AMBROSE: I don't know. I don't know what happened. Both Calgary, Calgary didn't end well. Oilers, the Oilers didn't-- I mean, that was sort of our last hope. I don't know. You know what? Of course a Canadian team is going to win again. But it's all about chemistry. It's all about having the right coach. And we're seeing a ton of movement out there on general managers and coaches. So let's hope, let's hope next year will be better.
PETER HAYNES: Yeah, and we all say that they'll win again sometime. I just want to remind you. I'm 54 years old. I was born in '68. That was the year after the Leafs last won the Stanley Cup. So I'm beginning to wonder whether it'll ever come true in my lifetime. So Frank, at least you have been-- I know people know you're a little bit older than me. But at least you have been alive and able to remember the Leafs winning a few Stanley Cups. I can't, unfortunately, so.
FRANK MCKENNA: Them and Canadiens and Calgary and so on, but I'm with-- I'm with the two of you. I just kind of cry here. I had such high hopes this year. I'm a big fan of Edmonton and McDavid. I thought Calgary could have made it to the playoffs. And Toronto stumbled. And Winnipeg had a decent team. I don't know what it is. I don't know. There's not something in the air in Canada. But we just can't seem to get past the first or second round.
PETER HAYNES: Doesn't seem right. I agree with you. Well, look, we covered a lot of ground here in Canada. We have a big country and lots to cover. And Rona, I want to say, thanks again for coming today. And Frank, as always, great content, and we'll chat again next month.
FRANK MCKENNA: All right, bye bye.
RONA AMBROSE: Take care.
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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.
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.
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.