Lisa Raitt on climate change, Andrew Scheer and why this is the ‘nastiest campaign’ she’s ever seen

Andrew Scheer and his Conservative Party have just two weeks to convince Canadians to choose them to replace Justin Trudeau’s Liberals as the next government.

But as voters get serious about who deserves their trust, questions remain about what Scheer believes, and what he would do in power.

These questions persist in the midst of what Lisa Raitt calls “the nastiest campaign” she has ever seen.

Raitt, a former cabinet minister in Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, is running for re-election in the Milton riding in Ontario.

Here is part of her conversation with As It Happens host Carol Off.

Ms. Raitt, this election campaign was supposed to give us all a good chance to get to know Andrew Scheer. Why do you think he has so much trouble opening up?

I don’t know if he has had trouble opening up…. If you’re on the road with him and if you go to these events, he spends lots of time with individuals. And some [of] our people would say he spends too much time talking to individuals. He’s really good one-on-one.

And I think he should just keep doing what he’s doing, which is communicating through his meetings and communicating through the media of who he is, and making sure his candidates out there like me are talking about who he is.

And yet, at the same time, here is a very, very important thing to him, which is he’s very pro-life. He has stated that many times and yet [was] so reluctant to come out on the campaign trail and say that. So … if he is willing to talk about and wants to talk about what matters to him, why doesn’t he talk about that?

I can’t speak for Andrew, but I would make one comment, that in a hyper-politicized kind of world and election, it is oftentimes difficult for people to take a stance which is not viewed as being popular.

And I don’t know if that’s his reasoning. But one thing, Carol, I am hearing on the doorsteps, and in some cases why people don’t want to take signs or they don’t want to tell you how they’re voting, is they don’t want to draw attention to their vote because they don’t want to get in arguments with other people.

And it’s that kind of interaction, I think, that is really making a lot of people perhaps on the election side more guarded.

In the case of Andrew, he’ll have to speak for himself as to how and when he came forward and indicated. But it’s never been a secret that he was pro-life. It’s not something that hasn’t been known. And he said it to the press last week.

Is this possibly the nastiest election campaign you’ve ever seen?

This is the nastiest campaign election I have ever seen. I have no problem saying that. And you get sick of it.

It’s not just that people are doing it ad hoc or just coming out on its own. That’s being directed by those who are running these campaigns. Those things that come out about Justin Trudeau or the things that come out about Andrew Scheer are coming from the centre of these campaigns. Is that not the case?

You know, even before the writ was dropped there was a cabinet minister, Ralph Goodale, putting out a piece of tape from Andrew Scheer when he was a very young member of Parliament.

Everybody wants to talk about either what has happened, or whether or not we should be talking about these kinds of personal issues. And it’s really taken over the entire campaign. And tonight, I hope when we see the election debate, that we’ll be talking policy.

You wanted and expected — and we all expected and wanted — an apology from Justin Trudeau for the blackface [and] brownface scandal, and we got that. At the same time, you mentioned Ralph Goodale. What he put out was that tape from the House of Commons where Andrew Scheer compares same-sex marriage to a dog’s tail. Why hasn’t Mr. Scheer apologized for that?

He was the one that moved the motion to apologize to federal civil servants who lost their jobs or weren’t able to be promoted because of their sexual orientation.

And he has made it very clear to anybody running in this party, and anyone who’s a member of the caucus going forward, that we will stand and support LGBTQ rights and that’s just the way it’s going to be, including himself. And that is the statement that matters, is about what is going to be happening going forward.

Why doesn’t Mr. Scheer apologize for what he said? If that’s the policy, if that’s how you see LGBTQ issues and you want to be supportive of that, why not apologize for that?

Well the issue, with respect to Mr. Trudeau, is the fact that he has hidden for years from his party, from his friends and from the Canadian people, the fact that he would dress up … in blackface as he’s done on several occasions that we know of, and admitted that he didn’t know how many times.

I mean, he hid that. And it’s quite different than giving a speech in the House of Commons where [Scheer] put forth what his opinion was at the time. I don’t think you can compare the two.

Mr. Scheer has said … “I’ve always voted in favour of pro-life legislation.” He also has said in that statement that he believes 100 per cent that members of Parliament have the right to bring forward legislation that’s important to them, and that on matters of conscience they will have a free vote.

So even though your party has said — Mr. Scheer has said — the government would not reopen that debate if there were a Conservative government, has he not left the back door open for a Conservative to introduce legislation that gets voted by Conservatives?

It’ll never pass. Any kind of legislation that you’re referring to from a private member will not pass through a Conservative government. Period.

And that’s why I get so heated when I see this issue continuously coming up, because it is a complete red herring, and I believe it’s a wedge issue that the Liberals want to use.

And I get offended when they continue to use it, because quite frankly, I don’t want to watch four guys talking about abortion rights.

We’re hearing from many people [saying]: get on with it and talk about what matters — which is for many of them, climate change and responsibilities that we have as a country. Why isn’t Andrew Scheer committing more to the issue of climate change responsibilities under the Paris Agreement?

Well, what we’re talking about is how to get there. There’s lots of governments like the Trudeau government who make grand promises, and say they’re going to get there somehow but don’t fill in the details of exactly how they’re going to get there. We’ve taken a different approach, which is: here are the ways in which we’re going to reduce emissions.

We’re going to use technology, we’re going to put a cap on big polluters, and we don’t think that Canadian citizens should be the ones shouldering the expense associated with people changing their behaviours.

And we’ve set out how we’re going to do it. And that’s entailed in our climate platform that we released back in May and June.

What are the targets that you’re aiming for? What specifically are the targets the Conservatives are aiming for on climate change?

It’s the same that we had before, which is 30 per cent emission reduction, I believe, from the 2005 levels. I’d have to take a look at the actual document in front of me.

But it’s the same levels that had been indicated with Mr. Harper and the same levels that the Liberals have indicated that they were going to be adhering to. And they’re the ones that we’re shooting for, and we think we have the best chance of meeting those Paris targets.

I’ve watched you in your career for many years. I’ve seen the kinds of hits you’ve taken as a woman. I’ve seen them as a cabinet minister, as a Conservative.

In all respects, you have stood up to that and you have continued to speak your truth. I just wonder at this point, in this election campaign, how discouraged you are by politics.

I have to say, it’s not a great election for me. And I think for a lot of candidates who would prefer to be talking about policy and how to serve their constituents, it can almost be frustrating that the bigger issues that are leading the news are issues like the ones that we’ve talked about in this interview, about going back into the past for what people have said, as opposed to looking at what people have stated now as the policy of the party and moving forward.

But this is the last two weeks and I … believe that it’s going to continue in this vein for the next two weeks.

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