HARPER: I think what's happened around the Keystone is a wakeupcall, the degree to which we are dependent or possibly held hostageto decisions in the United States, and especially decisions thatmay be made for very bad political reasons. So I think that just it puts an emphasis on the fact that we must perform our regulatoryprocesses to get timely decisions on diversification of ourmarkets. MANSBRIDGE: All right. Last point on this whole issue ofdiversification to foreign markets: there are some people who arepuzzled by the fact that a good chunk of Canada itself is stilldependent on foreign oil, whether it's Atlantic Canada or Quebec,whether it comes from the North Sea, depleting resources there, orfrom the Middle East, vulnerable oil markets as you've already justsuggested. Does it not seem odd that we're moving oil out ofWestern Canada to either the United States, markets in the UnitedStates, or new markets to Asia, when a good chunk of Canada itselfdoes not have domestic oil? HARPER: Well, look, Peter, on a certain level, I agree with you. |
Itdoes seem odd, and I do think there are people out there in themarketplace looking at dealing with that particular sensitivity orinsecurity. That all said, the fundamental basis of our energypolicy in this country is essentially market driven. You know, wemade the switch some 25, 30 years ago, and it's served the countrywell. As a market-driven supplier, we're now the only in thedeveloped world and in the stable world we're really the onlysupplier that is secure and is increasing its production. So Ithink it's served the country well.
It's served government revenueswell. It's served creation of jobs well. But it is fundamentally amarket-based decision. We don't dictate pipelines go here or there.
MANSBRIDGE: I saw in an interview in the last couple of weeks whenyou were talking about Iran. You said that in your view, they wantnuclear weapons, and they would not be shy about using them if theyhad them. HARPER: Yes. MANSBRIDGE: I found that interesting, because one of the last timeswe talked, you suggested that one of the concerns you had about thepast, about decisions you've made in the past, was that you took,perhaps, too much belief in intelligence reports that you got, andwe talked specifically about 'I think there is some real evidence that the sanctions are biting,that the sanctions are having some impact, certainly on theregime.' Stephen Harper on sanctions against Iran HARPER: We were talking about Iraq. MANSBRIDGE: Iraq, yeah.
But on this one, to say what you've said,are you confident in the intelligence you've seen to be convincedthat A, they want nuclear weapons, and B, they would use them ifthey had them? HARPER: Well, Peter, on the first question, I think the evidence isjust growing overwhelming. This is not, as was the case of Iraq,merely now the opinion of allies. I think the International AtomicEnergy Commission, if you look at its work, it's there really isno secret that Iran's nuclear program has, as one of its purposes,the development of nuclear weapons, and that, I think, is justbeyond dispute at this point. I think the only dispute is how faradvanced it is, and how far off it will be until they actuallydevelop those weapons, and develop the capability of deliveringthose weapons.
MANSBRIDGE: So they're lying when they say they're not. HARPER: I think there is absolutely no doubt they are lying.Absolutely no doubt. On the second question, you know, that'sobviously, Peter, more a matter of judgment. I mean, I've watchedand listened to what the leadership in the Iranian regime says, andit frightens me. You know, these are in my judgment, these arepeople who have a particular, you know, fanatically religiousworldview, and their statements imply to me no hesitation of usingnuclear weapons if they see them achieving their religious orpolitical purposes.
And that's, you know, that's, I think Ithink that's what makes this regime in Iran particularlyinteresting. MANSBRIDGE: Well, if you believe that and it scares you, why is noone doing anything about it? I mean, I understand HARPER: Well, I think as I said in the interview the interviewyou're citing, I think, as I've said, I actually think there's agrowing consensus, at least privately among world leaders that thisis the case. MANSBRIDGE: Well, what does that mean? I mean, trade sanctions wetried haven't worked. HARPER: Well, I wouldn't say they haven't worked.
I think there issome MANSBRIDGE: The goal still seems to be the same. HARPER: Look, I think there is some real evidence that thesanctions are biting, that the sanctions are having some impact,certainly on the regime. They may in the short term be making themmore desperate, but I don't think there's any doubt they're havingsome impact. They're not dissuading them from the nuclear course atthe moment. Whether they're delaying them or not I think is amatter of debate, but I think the truth of the matter, Peter, isthat while there's I think a growing belief of a number ofgovernments that my assessment is essentially correct, I thinkthere's still big uncertainty about what exactly to do.
Tradesanctions are something that, you know, just about everybody agreeson at some level, and everybody is doing at some level, but beyondthat, these are not easy questions for the world. MANSBRIDGE: Do you talk about, when you're having thesediscussions, do you talk about military action? HARPER: I can well, look, I think as you know, [U.S.] President[Barack] Obama's said all options are on the table, and I cancertainly tell you that when we talk about these issues, we talkabout the full range of questions around these issues. But there'scertainly no consensus on, you know, ultimately how to deal withthis matter. MANSBRIDGE: Do you have a view on how it should be dealt with? HARPER: My view, Peter, is that on matters like this that are ofcritical concern to the global community, it's important thatCanada work with its allies. I've raised the alarms.
I think I'veraised the alarm as much as I can, but obviously I don't advocateparticular actions publicly. I work with our allies to see if weget consensus on actions. MANSBRIDGE: I want to move the topic to health care. As you know,while we're sitting here, the premiers are sitting in B.C., tryingto deal with the funding situation that you placed in front ofthem, long-term funding, a significant amount of money with nostrings attached, for them to sort out as they wish.
Health care:two points. This morning, some of those same premiers seemed to saythey'd like to see more money from you, not in that fund, but in aseparate fund, an innovation fund. What do you think of that? ' 'Rather than fighting bogeymen, we should concentrate on the actualchallenges that are before the system.' Stephen Harper on health care HARPER: Well, you know, I know the provinces will always ask formore money. The fact of the matter, Peter, as you know, thisgovernment has increased health transfers more than any previousgovernment in history. They've risen from $19 billion when we tookoffice to $27 billion today.
They're going to be at $40 billion bythe end of the decade. In fact, our transfers on health care,according to projections, are going to grow more quickly thanprovincial spending on health care. So look, the reason we made ourannouncement was to make it clear that there will be, you know,predictable, stable, growing transfers in the future. What I thinkwe all want to see now from the premiers who have the primaryresponsibility here is what their plan and their vision really isto innovate and to reform and to make sure the health-care system'sgoing to be there for all of us. So I hope that we can put thefunding issue aside, and they can concentrate on actually talkingabout health care, because that's the discussion we need to have.
MANSBRIDGE: I take that as a no on an innovation fund. HARPER: I'm not looking to spend more money. I think we've beenclear what we think is within the capacity of the federalgovernment over a long period of time. MANSBRIDGE: The other point is raised, as you know, by some who arefairly well versed in the health-care debate, and have beeninvolved in it for a long time, that the whole issue of the federalgovernment saying no strings attached ensures that there will be nonational standards. Some would argue there aren't nationalstandards now.
But nevertheless, that case is being made. HARPER: Well, look, Peter, we have the Canada Health Act, and theCanada Health Act sets out some basic values of the health-caresystem, including, obviously, the ones that are most important: auniversal system of public health insurance, where no one will bedenied health care because of inability to pay. You know, in myexperience, this is a principle that all of the provinces stronglybelieve in themselves. Now what they're wrestling with is how tomake that system effective, how to lower wait times, and you know,they're the ones who deliver the service. They're the ones who areresponsible.
So I think that, you know, we don't just trust them,we understand they have the responsibility, and we want to makesure that we work with them. We're not we made it a point, asyou know, as a federal government, of not pointing the fingers atthe provinces and trying to blame them for problems in thehealth-care system, but trying to work with them to see how we canmake it better, and I think that's been a better method than in thepast trying to pretend there is some overarching nationalstandards, and then wave the finger at them for perceived slights.I don't think that's been effective. I think what we're doing ismore effective . MANSBRIDGE: Your government's about to embark on a major program ofcuts, relooking at different projects, programs, national programswhen the budget comes down in another six, eight weeks time. Idon't imagine you're going to lay it all out here for us now, andperhaps it's not all ready yet, but there are a couple of thingsyou keep saying.
You keep talking about a major overhaul ofprograms affecting Canadians, and I'm wondering if we can tackleone of them, and that's the issue of public service pensions. Areyou taking a hard look at changing the way public service pensionsare offered? HARPER: This government has already taken some measures toensure that public servants pay a greater percentage of theirpension. I think we raised that percentage from 30 to 40 per cent.There are others out there in the private sectors, you know, whoargue that that should be at least 50 per cent. MANSBRIDGE: Well, that's what I'm wondering. Are you on that sideof the fence? HARPER: We haven't taken any decisions on that particular issue.
MANSBRIDGE: So that's still very much HARPER: We're very much examining all of these things. What we doknow is that, you know, as we face an aging workforce, not just inthe federal government, but the country at large, that over thenext generation, we want to make sure that our pension plans areaffordable, and that we also have the labour in the marketplacenecessary to create jobs and growth. One of the big challenges thiscountry faces, Peter, and we have immediate challenges now becauseof the global economic situation. But you know, the other thingwe're turning our mind to are the challenges that will confront usvery soon after we resolve the immediate challenges, and those arethe challenges of an aging labour force. We're going to have inCanada, as in other Western developed countries, a situation wheremore and more people are retired, and fewer and fewer people whoare working.
That is a serious economic challenge for this country,as it is for all Western countries, and we're going to look at waysto make sure that we can sustain our standard of living over thenext generation. MANSBRIDGE: Well, you know the argument on the public servicepensions that is especially put out by those who oversee the wholepension process, but especially those who are concerned aboutprivate sector employees, many of whom who have no pensions, whosee it as unfair that public servants get a pretty good pensionplan. They would argue, of course, that it's because they're givingup opportunities in the private sector to work for the country.Where are you on that debate? HARPER: Well, look, I'm I agree with both, Peter, if I could befrank. Look, the pension plans of public servants have to be fairto taxpayers. At the same time, as an employer, we have to have apension plan that is reasonable and attractive to get people intothe public sector, but it should not be significantly more generousthan what would be available in the private sector.
MANSBRIDGE: Do you think it is now? HARPER: You know, as I say, we haven't taken any final decisions.We've made some changes to bring it closer to private sector norms.We're examining this issue. As you know, it also raises the issueof pensions of parliamentarians, and that issue will have to belooked at at the same time. MANSBRIDGE: We're almost out of time. Last question.
A week fromnow, you sit down with Shawn Atleo and other members of the FirstNations communities of this country, and what do you hope toachieve on that day? HARPER: Well, look, I think I'm hopeful it will be a verypositive dialogue. What we have is a meeting in Ottawa ofrepresentatives of both the federal government and various FirstNations, and that meeting will be paralleled by a series ofregional meetings across the country of a similar nature. And therewill be a number of sessions and tables, discussing very specificaspects of things like economic development, labour opportunities,challenges in housing and services to governance. I think thisgovernment has a record where we've made, you know, significant,incremental, but significant, incremental progress in a number ofareas, and really, it's to try and bring together people who'vebeen leading that kind of progress, and talk about how we can getto the next steps, and how we can continue to move forward. MANSBRIDGE: Does significant change need to happen to reach thosenext steps? HARPER: Look, significant change, the obvious answer, Peter, isyes, significant change needs to happen.
Aboriginal people in thiscountry are not anywhere near where we want or need thosecommunities to be. That said, my own experience is that it will notbe grand visions and declarations that achieve these things. Itwill be moving forward one step at a time, as we've been trying todo on things like water, investments in education, obviouslybuilding of trust, you know, as we've done through the residentialschool apology, and endorsement of the Declaration of Aboriginal of Indigenous Rights. So I think, you know, we're trying to find away of getting willing partners, and continuing to move forward.But there's a lot of work to be done. This is a long-termchallenge.
MANSBRIDGE: So we shouldn't expect a major step forward in the next HARPER: I hope what we will say coming out of this is increasingconsensus on the next steps that are necessary in these areas, andwhat are the models to follow, which models are working. We havesome aboriginal communities in this country that are verysuccessful, that over the past couple of generations have mademagnificent steps forward, and I think we need to have a greaterunderstanding of how those examples can be replicated across thecountry. MANSBRIDGE: Prime Minister, thanks for your time today. HARPER: Thanks for having me.
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