Rickford: Staying positive about the hunger strike - Macleans.ca

Rickford: Staying positive about the hunger strike

Politics on TV: Talking #IdleNoMore, plus year-enders with John Baird, Bob Rae, and the Governor General.


Message of the day

“The treaty relationship was not meant to impoverish one side.”

Hot Topics

  1. First Nations protests
  2. The Governor General
  3. American gun control

Questions not answered

  • Will there be any movement on Chief Spence’s demand now that the holidays have begun?

First Nations:

Power & Politics guest host Terry Milewski hosted an MP panel of Greg Rickford, Paul Dewar and Carolyn Bennett to discuss the #IdleNoMore protests around the country today. Rickford said that they are staying positive with Chief Theresa Spence’s hunger strike and that the ministry keeps reaching out to her, and said that because the issues are national, National Chief Shawn Atleo continues to have discussions with the minister. Dewar said that this is a symptom of the lack of respect the government shows to First Nations, and that the grassroots movement has taken everyone by surprise. Bennett said that nobody wants to see hunger strikes happen, but that Harper has to meet with Chief Spence.

Milewski then spoke with AFN Saskatchewan Regional Chief Perry Bellegarde, who said that the treaty relationship was not meant to impoverish one side, and that they are seeking the implementation of full treaty rights. Bellegarde said that because the relationship with the Crown is nation-to-nation, Harper needs to meet with the chiefs directly as the AFN is not a treaty or title holder. When asked if the AFN leadership is out-of-step with the #IdleNoMore “unifying rallies,” Bellegarde says that they are presenting a common front to end poverty among the First Nations.

When P&P’s Power Panel weighed in, Rob Russo said that it’s possible that Chief Spence’s hunger strike may be a catalytic moment, and that the First Nations’ best bet may be Section 35 of the constitution, which is a lever in the natural resources development boom. Kady O’Malley said that because of the timing of the protests, it will be hard to keep the momentum going as news goes into the holiday lull. Laura Stone said that it’s interesting how the AFN has been sidelined in these protests, even though they are supposed to be the direct line to the government.

Governor General:

Power Play had their year-end interview with His Excellency Governor General David Johnston, who said that his highlight of the year was being able to travel through the country and see it through the lens of his office, and seeing the volunteer spirit in Canadians. Johnston said that Her Majesty has a tremendous love of Canada and thinks of it as a second home, and that the Diamond Jubilee Medals have been able to reach every corner of the country because of the distribution system.

US gun control:

Power & Politics spoke with Wendy Cukier from the Coalition for Gun Control and author John Lott. In the first part of the interview, Cuckier said that it wasn’t a surprise that the NRA would be deflecting attention from the problem of the availability of guns, and she noted that there were two armed guards at Columbine, which didn’t prevent the mass shooting there. Lott said that in countries that banned guns, murder rates went up, and that he has long argued the position that schools should have armed guards.

On P&P’s Power Panel, Stone said that more guns in schools is a bad idea, but it will be interesting to see where the “shield program” goes. O’Malley said that the NRA press conference was an exercise in how not to deliver a message. Russo said that millions of people will see it as a call to political arms, and that there will be a real fight against any effort Obama makes to improve gun control.


Power Play chose Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird as their final “Power Player” of the year, noting that he travelled 590,000 kilometres this past year. Baird said that he was promoting Canadian values abroad, and encouraging trade with Canada. He listed border cooperation with the States as one of the biggest accomplishments, and the situation in Syria as one of his biggest concerns going forward, as well as the government of Iran. Baird noted that their position with Israel is not a barrier to good relations with other countries in the Arab world, and that that North Korea is a “sad situation,” especially given the hunger and malnourishment there.

Power & Politics chose energy politics as the last of their Game Changers today, and spoke with Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver about it. Oliver said the Keystone XL decision woke up the industry that there needed to be new ways of getting the product to market, and that his major accomplishment was the Responsible Resource Development legislation, which he said “reduces duplication and enhances environmental protection.” Oliver said that he regrets that his comments about “radicals” have been mischaracterized, and that he has committed to not going ahead with any project that is hazardous to the environment. Oliver also added that the government takes their constitutional duty to consult with Aboriginal communities seriously, which was enhanced in the Responsible Resource Development legislation.

Responding to Oliver’s interview was Simon Dyer of the Pembina Institute, who said that Oliver’s comments about “radical” environmentalists set the stage for the energy file, and combined with the omnibus legislation, has started to impact the social licence for the resource extraction industry.

A separate P&P Power Panel then gave their thoughts (through the magic of pre-taping), where Greg Weston said the delay of the Keystone XL pipeline brought into focus how dependent Canada is on the US market. Kelly Cryderman said that the need to ship oil in order to get world prices has refined that concern over markets. Kady O’Malley said that the First Nations protests over pipelines going through their territories adds a new dynamic to the debate. John Ivison said that First Nations are winning court disputes that are giving them a veto over resource projects, which means the government needs to engage with them in a different way.

Worth Noting:

  • US Ambassador David Jacobson said that there has been an unprecedented level of response to addressing a hundred areas of regulation that can thin the border. Jacobson said that the US supports Canada’s efforts to diversify their markets in Europe and Asia because 25 per cent of it benefits the American economy.
  • Liberal interim leader Bob Rae said that as the year progressed, it made less sense for him to run for a bid for permanent leadership, and that the field of candidates is not yet settled, which will force the party members and the media to pay attention as the race progresses.
  • Don Martin held a year-ender political quiz challenge between strategists Gerry Nichols and Anne McGrath, and journalists Richard Madden and Stephen Maher.
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