Editor-in-Chief Juliana Hayden-Nygren and editor Janna Bryson talk to Liberal McGill’s VP of Operations Benson Cook about electoral reform, the tension between the Young New Democrats and PM Trudeau,  and Canada’s relationship with the US under Trump.  

Janna: Liberal McGill released a statement expressing disappointment with PM Trudeau decision to forgo electoral reform. As per your statement, how do you plan to, “push to make our democratic system fairer for all at every level of the Liberal Party and government?”

Benson: Liberal McGill came out strongly against the federal government’s decision a few weeks ago to abandon its 2015 campaign promise of electoral reform.  In the aftermath of that decision, information providing context to the government’s decision has come to light, which has left us as a club in a better position to understand the reasoning behind the decision. However, we as a club will continue to push for electoral reform as a policy, even if it is something that the cabinet is currently not planning to pursue further.  We plan to further engage with MPs and members of the cabinet as opportunities arise to promote the idea of reforming the way we elect our federal representatives.

Janna: Does this statement mean that you are breaking with your parent party?

Benson:Absolutely not. We don’t enforce strict party discipline, and further, Liberal McGill is not the only branch of the party that has expressed disappointment with this decision.  Beaches-East York MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith penned an op-ed in the Huffington Post expressing his frustration with the government’s decision.

Juliana: How does the Liberal party plan to balance the need to enhance and expand free trade agreements with the rest of the world given the ‘tweaks’ that the government will have to navigate with the U.S. now that NAFTA is reopened?

Benson: The Liberal Government is committed to expanding free trade agreements around the world, because when the global economy does well, the Canadian economy does well.  The government will soon be launching free-trade discussions with the Chinese government, and the non-American signatories of the former TPP will soon meet to discuss a replacement Pacific-rim agreement, as well.  As of right now, NAFTA has not been reopened, and the new US administration has not yet laid out a firm timetable of if and when such a negotiation would take place.  In an absolute worst-case scenario, in which the US government chooses to abrogate NAFTA, Canada would still maintain free trade with the US, as the 1988 Canada-US Free Trade Agreement still remains in force.

Juliana: How can Canada can protect its immigration and refugee programs when there may be pressure from the States to harmonize with their new policies?

Benson: As was clearly exhibited during yesterday’s meeting between Prime Minister Trudeau and President Trump, the US and Canada will not be under pressure to “harmonize” their immigration and refugee policies.  The US administration has made clear it intends to follow a different path on the immigration front than the Canadian government, and we will instead focus on developing a joint national security policy based on fronts we can both agree upon, such as our plans to introduce border pre-clearance at new Canadian airports and right here, at Montréal’s Gare Centrale train station.

Juliana:  NDP McGill in conversation with the MJPS compared the current Liberal government to a “Harper-lite administration.” As a member of the Young Liberals of Canada, do you feel this is a fair comparison?

Benson: Liberal McGill firmly rejects the notion that the Liberal Government is a “Harper lite” government.  While Stephen Harper’s government spent nine and a half years trying to implement a narrow ideological agenda and stifle dissent even within Conservative parliamentary ranks, we have spent the past fifteen months in government reaching out to communities and groups from coast to coast to coast.

Janna: What might’ve prompted NDP McGill to adopt such a view of the current administration?

Benson: NDP McGill’s characterization of the government in this way, which is reflective of them having never formed the federal government, seems to centre mostly upon the fact that the Liberal government has approved the construction of several oil pipelines, despite the NDP’s own demonstrated past support for Energy East.

The MJPS also sat down with Conservative McGill and NDP McGill. Read more to see their responses..