Saturday , 25 September 2021

Lakeland MP Shannon Stubbs talks virtual Parliament, border, Huawei in long interview

Lakeland Connect’s Meredith Kerr sat down with MP Shannon Stubbs for a lengthy and wide-ranging interview earlier this week. It has been condensed and edited for this article. You can watch the full interview here.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada’s parliament has been functioning under a hybrid model which sees reduced numbers of MPs participating in Ottawa, while others tune in to the proceedings and vote virtually from their homes or constituency offices. According to Stubbs, the virtual voting takes much longer with votes taking up to an hour to complete.

What has been your experience of the virtual parliament?

“The difference is that the members are now not seeing each other on a regular basis. So although I have diametrically opposed worldviews and positions on a number of issues, obviously, with our counterparts in the opposition, there are issues in which we would agree and I would try to work with them on.

“I did that in the past on rural crime, or support for veterans or support for seniors, that kind of thing, we can work together and find common ground. And I have found that’s a lot more difficult now, because of the shifts that we’re on and because of the distance. And I guess the thing that bothers me about that is that that works really well for the Liberals because it means that it’s more difficult for the rest of the opposition parties to come together on the things in which we can agree.”

Stubbs went on to explain that her private members bill C-221 has been directly impacted by the reduced contact with other opposition parties including the Green Party and the NDP.

Bill C-221 would create a fiscal incentive from the federal government to help small and medium sized oil and gas companies remediate and reclaim closed wells. According to Stubbs, the bill is necessary because of a court ruling that bankrupt energy companies must fulfill their environmental obligations before repaying creditors, which has made it more difficult for small and medium-sized companies to get capital from investors.

“So in the initial meetings, many of those colleagues would say ‘Oh Stubbs, you’re just always arguing for the oil and gas industry and we want to shut it down this would just be help for them. So we’re opposed.’ Then I would say, I know we have conflicting objectives here. I want to see this industry survive and thrive long into the future; you want to shut it down. But we must both agree that full remediation and reclamation of these wells as well as protecting taxpayers, preventing the government being fully responsible and having to spend millions of tax dollars on this, we must agree on those objectives.

“So then I would have these conversations, follow up a couple of times. And by the second or third try, then they’re more open to it. And they were starting to talk about ‘Okay, well, maybe we could have some amendments work with you on this,’ which is the same process that I had gone through on every bill.

“Well, then it was right after that, that the Liberals turned us into a glorified committee, not even full parliament, and then prorogued.  And now we’re back in this really weird setup, where there’s distance between us, and we don’t get to see each other to get to work. So we had an hour of debate on it. And I was listening to my colleagues from the other parties, and they’re back on their original rhetoric about handouts and subsidies.”

Following the election of Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole in the spring, Stubbs was moved from being the Natural Resources critic to the Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness portfolio.

She said a big part of the reason for the move was her work on rural crime in Canada. In 2018, Stubbs made a motion calling on the federal government to study rural crime and related factors and deliver a report back to the House of Commons within six months.

“[The portfolio] is a little bit like drinking out of a fire hydrant,” said Stubbs.

As vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, Stubbs’ work has focused on border management in the time of COVID, as well as the danger posed by China, and developing supports for victims of crime.

The border

“Overall, most Canadians are seeming to say on sort of the big picture things that they’re mostly satisfied with the response [to COVID-19]. I think that we do need to see the government do a better job at being consistent and clear… People are raising, I think, pretty rightful questions about the difference between when you drive over the border versus flying and there’s flights still coming in. There’s a bunch of very reasonable questions I think that people are asking and that’s what I’ve been focusing on pushing the public safety minister on.”

As examples of inconsistencies, Stubbs cited reports of American billionaires not being subject to the same quarantine requirements as Canadians returning from the U.S., as well as airline pilots in identical roles being given different instructions, and confusion over who is an essential worker.

China as a threat

Earlier this year, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) warned of an ongoing campaign by Beijing called Operation Fox Hunt, which is focused on suppressing dissent in the Chinese diaspora abroad and in Canada.

“And so they’re bullying, harassing, threatening, intimidating, Chinese Canadian citizens, as well as Chinese nationals on Canadian soil. And it’s crazy. For example, a report of one of the things they were doing is they would go to Chinese Canadians and threaten their family members that are still in China and try to coerce them to come back to China…So you’re either going back to China, or you’re committing suicide. And in order to force you to do all of this, your family members in China are being arbitrarily detained or their lives are at risk.”

“We’ve always been opposed to this, but we’ve said the liberals should immediately pull all of the money out of the Asian Infrastructure Bank. They’ve given millions of Canadian tax dollars to the Asian infrastructure bank when there’s no transparency on the other side.”

According to Stubbs, China uses the money invested in the AIB to build critical infrastructure in developing countries as a way of advancing economic imperialism.

“The second thing that we’ve been really pressuring them on is to make a decision to ban Huawei from Canada’s 5G networks,” said Stubbs.

She noted other allies in international intelligence like Australia have already taken steps to ban Huawei. Two Canadians have been imprisoned in China since 2018 in retaliation for the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver at the request of the United States.

According to the Huawei website, the company is owned by its 104,572 employees and it explicitly states that no government agency or outside organization holds shares, but the claim is disputed by academics who found “Given the public nature of trade unions in China, if the ownership stake of the trade union committee is genuine, and if the trade union and its committee function as trade unions generally function in China, then Huawei may be deemed effectively state-owned.”

“It’s a very naive thing to think this is just a telecoms company and it’s no big deal. That company is mandated by Chinese law to report back on all intelligence and information it gets in the countries in which they operate. So that’s the real security risk: cyber networks, risk to defense, and frankly, risk to every individual’s personal security and personal information,” said Stubbs.

Victims of Crime

“I have been speaking a lot about and fighting on issues related to the parole board. Victims and family members of crime over the last couple of months have either been blindsided with notice of sudden parole hearings, or were preparing for a parole hearing that then at the last minute was cancelled, or couldn’t participate because even though universities, towns, and you and I were able to figure out the zoom thing–apparently the parole board couldn’t,” said Stubbs.

Stubbs said she also wants to see changes to the way it is handled when someone has been deemed a dangerous offender and released into the community after serving their prison sentence.

New Brunswick MP Richard Bragdon has a bill focused on reducing recidivism through better engagement of the private sector, not-for-profits and faith-based organizations. Stubbs said she supports the bill because the success rates of those groups are much higher than government programs.

“And then on my side, what I’m trying to work towards is saying, there also needs to be support and coordinated programs for victims of crime,” said Stubbs.

Across much of Alberta, there is the volunteer-based Victim Services which accompanies people through the court process in partnership with the RCMP, Alberta Justice, and Corrections staff.

According to the federal government’s website, victim services are a shared responsibility between the federal and provincial governments. There is currently no overarching group coordinating efforts between the government agencies and non-profit groups involved.

About Meredith Kerr

Meredith Kerr moved to St. Paul for a career in journalism and morning radio in 2014 expecting to stay for six months to a year. Since then, she has put down roots in the form of a husband, a mortgage, two babies, and a poorly behaved dog. She continues to work as a reporter until such time as she finishes her book and becomes fabulously wealthy from the royalties. Meredith also serves as a member at large on the St. Paul Library Board and volunteers as a Beaver leader for the 1st St. Paul Scout Group.