Prime Minister Stephen Harper, while on a tour of Asian countries, including India and Philippines, sat down with The Globe’s Steven Chase to talk about international trade, U.S. politics, immigration and more.
The Globe and Mail: You’ve now visited India twice in three years and China twice in an even shorter period of time. Do you expect to make visits to these two countries a regular component of your approach to building these closer trade relationships?
Stephen Harper: The short answer is I suspect so. We haven’t sat down and mapped out a schedule but as long as we’re able to make progress we will continue doing the range of things we are doing. Which aren’t just visits by the prime minister and/or governor general, but also ministerial visits that happen much more frequently. The opening, of course, in both countries and expansion of the consular presence, the presence of consulates and embassy staff and trade commissions. But, look, we will judge as we go forward the results we’re getting for this. So far I am pleased but we have a long way to go.
Are you surprised by the U.S. election result and how badly Republicans have been doing among a group that you in Canada have been able to reach out to effectively?
I don’t know, in fairness, how much analysis I want to do of the U.S. election. I will just say that the result didn’t surprise me.
I think the biggest thing to remember is that within the range of reasonable expectations we could have had radically different results, right? One or two per cent either way. But certainly I think in the end it probably was the most expected result, which was [Barack] Obama maintaining his presidency, the Republicans keeping the House and the Democrats keeping the Senate. I am not going to analyze Republican or Democratic politics in the United States.
Obviously in Canada, since we established the new Conservative Party of Canada, our goal has been to bring together all conservatives, and what we’ve meant by that is not merely people who belong to the predecessor parties – to the Progressive Conservatives or the Reform-Alliance – but also we’re able to bring together in our party small-c conservatives from every conceivable region and walk of life and background. That’s been our strategy rather than as some would have, watering down Conservatism.
In fact, if I can quote my minister Jason Kenney, he says the goal is to make sure small-c conservatives become big-C conservatives. That has been our philosophy but I am not going to get into what other countries may or may not do differently.
We spent a lot of time in India concerned about the outcome of the nuclear co-operation agreement. In 2010, your throne speech talked about ensuring that unnecessary regulation does not inhibit the growth of uranium mining and ensure it isn’t unduly restricted by foreign investment restrictions.
Given that nuclear trade is a priority for you – and nuclear investment – do you still expect to introduce changes that will ease restrictions on foreign investment in uranium mining?
I think as you know I am not going to comment on foreign investment rules at the present time. They are, as you know, a matter of some discussion and market interest so I am not going to say anything about them, other than to point out, in terms of the nuclear industry, that Canada is relatively rare in that we are a supplier of every aspect of civilian nuclear energy, all the way from uranium mining to the development and construction and operation of nuclear facilities.
In the case of India, they obviously have a need for every aspect of that, but there’s also the particular advantage that they have tended historically to use technology very similar to Canadian technology. As you know we’ve already made significant changes in terms of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited: to privatize its commercial operations and we think better position it in the global commercial marketplace.
The Philippines is a major source of immigrants for Canada – and foreign workers …
It’s the largest in the last two or three years.