handcuffsLast week, an appeal by a French prisoner to the EU’s top court against his voting ban revived the debate about prisoner voting rights in the UK. Colin Murray writes that although the appeal was unsuccessful, the ruling did not foreclose the possibility of future successful challenges to bans on prisoner voting. He suggests that it is highly likely that some UK prisoners serving short sentences will claim that their disenfranchisement is disproportionate to their crime in the run up to the 2019 European Parliament elections, indicating the issue will continue to be a thorn in the Conservative government’s side.

It has been eleven years since the Fourth Section of the European Court of Human Rights issued the Hirst v UK judgement. In that time, the issue of prisoner voting rights has become the touchstone for the fraught relationship between the UK and the system of rights protection under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Whilst other crises (such as Abu Qatada’s deportation to Jordan and the reviewability of whole-life sentences) have been resolved or defused, the Strasbourg Court’s demand that the UK modify its blanket ban on convicted prisoners voting has remained an intractable source of conflict, inflaming the Conservative’s manifesto pledge to replace the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights.

For all of the political fulmination upon prisoner voting in the run up to the 2015 General Election, the UK’s showdown with Strasbourg has of late settled into an uncomfortable stalemate. The UK is in continuing breach of its Article 3, Protocol 1 obligations and as such is subject to regular censure before Committee of Ministers’ meetings for its failure to execute the prisoner voting judgments. At the same time, however, the Strasbourg Court has made it clear, in Scoppola v Italy, that minimal reform of the law to extend the vote to short-sentence prisoners would satisfy the UK’s obligations, and in Firth v UK has denied compensation to UK prisoners for the breach of their rights.

The Court’s first olive branch has been snubbed (with successive Governments failing to respond to a Parliamentary Committee’s recommendation, almost two years ago, that short-sentence prisoners should be enfranchised). But the UK Government’s refusal to meet the Court half way is unsurprising, given the Court’s refusal to press the issue. Strasbourg’s denial of compensation ensures that David Cameron does not have to justify make embarrassing payments to prisoners, effectively downgrading the clash from crisis to a running sore point.

The détente between Strasbourg and the UK makes last week’s judgement of the EU’s top court, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), even more intriguing. Serendipitously timed for release to coincide with David Cameron’s speech to the Conservative Party Conference (and the ten-year anniversary of the Strasbourg Court’s judgement in Hirst), the CJEU’s judgement in Delvigne v Commune de Lesparre-Médoc caused such consternation that Downing Street was obliged to deny that the UK would change its ban on prisoners voting even before the decision was known. The binding effect of CJEU judgments in domestic law means that its intervention on the issue would be much harder for the UK Government to side-step (at least with regard to European Parliament and local elections) than Strasbourg’s rulings.

In the end, Cameron’s speech was not upstaged, with the Court accepting that EU law was not breached in the ongoing denial of the vote to a convicted murderer in France over a decade on from the end of his incarceration. But if the judgment isn’t exactly headline-grabbing, is Joshua Rozenberg nonetheless right to argue that it means that the UK Government should act now on prisoner voting?

In many respects, the Delvigne reference was easy for the CJEU to resolve. The reference by the French Court was poorly constructed, with the Court being supplied with much less background information to the question of EU law its opinion was being sought on than it would usually expect (opening the possibility of ruling the reference inadmissible). The claimant had not attempted to follow the process which existed in French law to lift his disenfranchisement. Moreover, as a convicted murderer, France could make arguments about the seriousness of his offence warranting the additional punishment of disenfranchisement. The Court accepted that in some cases disenfranchisement was compatible with the EU’s Charter of Fundamental rights. Two years earlier, in Chester and McGeoch, the UK Supreme Court had reached the same conclusion on the limitations of the right to vote under EU Law:

I reject the submission that the Supreme Court could or should simply disapply the whole of the legislative prohibition on prisoner voting, in relation to European Parliamentary and municipal elections, thereby making all convicted prisoners eligible to vote pending fresh legislation found to conform with European Union law … under [EU law] a ban on eligibility will be justified in respect of a very significant number of convicted prisoners.  (Lord Mance, para.73)

And yet, in spite of these unpromising aspects of this case, the CJEU did not foreclose the possibility of future successful challenges to prisoner disenfranchisement using the Charter. The Court rejected the argument of the UK Government, intervening, that EU law was not engaged by criminal law sanctions or was not a live issue because the case involved a French national challenging French Law, and therefore involved no “cross-border” element. The Court affirmed that Article 39(2) of the Charter, by which “Members of the European Parliament shall be elected by direct universal suffrage in a free and secret ballot”, did not need any cross-border element to generate a fundamental right enjoyed by EU citizens.

This means that in certain cases, claims for votes by prisoners will engage a Charter right. In the run up to the European Parliament elections in 2019 it will be highly likely that some UK prisoners serving short sentences will claim that their disenfranchisement is disproportionate, given that the ban on voting applies automatically irrespective of the level of criminality which triggered imprisonment (which can be much lower than the serious criminality at issue in the Delvigne case) and there is no avenue to challenge the ban (as there was in the Delvigne case). These factors were determinate in the CJEU finding that French law involved a proportionate restriction of the right to vote. Such claims will be hard for the UK courts to dismiss out of hand, and could at the very least trigger a reference to the CJEU for consideration (as they previously refused to do in Chester and McGeoch, because of the serious criminality of the claimants in that case).

“Victories” like this one are therefore hard for the UK Government to crow over, even if they do help to kick the issue into the long grass for a few more years. It may ultimately be better for the UK Government to respond when it is not being forced to by pressure from a European Court (not that successive Governments have not revelled in the image of “standing up to Europe”). But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the case is the degree to which the CJEU staunchly refused to engage with any of the ECHR jurisprudence on prisoner voting. The Advocate General’s Opinion, released this summer, reached broadly the same conclusion as the CJEU (that EU law was engaged, but that the ban was proportionate), but did so based on extensive reliance upon Strasbourg jurisprudence.

The CJEU, however, continues to fear that it might lose out to Strasbourg as the ultimate arbiter where EU law engages human rights questions. Last year, it refused to allow the EU to accede to the ECHR and in Delvigne, as with other recent cases, it has shunned any mention of Strasbourg in its decisions out of concern over letting Strasbourg’s influence grow by the back door. Prisoner voting rights are becoming a central feature of yet another intractable struggle over Europe’s institutional architecture for protecting human rights.

Colin Murray is Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Newcastle


– Phuong D. Nguyen (LLB Law, Newcastle University)

Undoubtedly, competition law is moulded to assure the process of competition in terms of consumer welfare maximisation and the efficiency of the market. Accordingly, on the process of achieving a perfectly competitive market, firms are required to properly compete with concentrations on price, quality, and innovation of products and services. However, there has been no subsistence of ‘perfect competition’ in several developing countries due to the failures of the market. Firms ‘in concentrated industries’ or firms ‘protected by barriers to market entry’ have a proclivity to exploit their market power to arbitrarily constrain the productivity, raise the price, or reduce the quality of products to pursue their monopoly profits. Evidently, such conduct happens in different geographical markets and jeopardises the stability of the market, and consequentially, consumers’ benefit. Developing economies are the most susceptive subjects. Hence, in resistance to anti-competitive conduct and forestall in its detrimental impacts, the adoption of a robust competition law regime in the realms of both developing and developed countries has been proposed. Nonetheless, in practice, it is apparently difficult to implement a general competition law regime due to a vast array of disparities between developing and developed countries. Unfortunately, in this essence, some challenges would be inevitably engendered towards developing countries

The embryonic development – whether the convergence emanated from the actual desideratum of developing world?

Recently, there have been a large number of issues derived from microeconomic conducts triggering repercussions towards domestic markets and the global market. Thereby, such behaviours nowadays have not been the ‘prerogatives of sovereign nation states’ but viewed as ‘legitimate objects of attention by the international community’. Accordingly, there is an extraordinary spread of competition law witnessed in developing countries adopting, or attempting to adopt, competition policy to ameliorate the adverse impacts that stemmed from the explosion of ‘monopolisation’ and ‘international cartels’ in the 1990s. In the previous period, the preciousness of competition and competition policy had not been the pivotal concentration of the developing world. However, nowadays, due to the propensity of economic transformation, many developing countries have modified their economies based on the economic theories of comparative advantage and liberalisation, replacing ‘centrally planned economies’. Correspondingly, competition has taken into account the need of progressing competition policy with appropriate facilitation.

Nonetheless, this trend has been criticised as immature and ‘simply a response to international pressure’. The beginning of the developing world’s conversion into the developed world mainly arises from the requisite of counteracting devastating effects generated by microeconomic conducts of local individuals, households and firms. Thereby, the pressing of globalisation has persuaded policy makers of developing countries to enact competition laws, rather than the competition laws themselves being inherently formed on the basis of the real growth of developing economies.

Divergences between developed and developing world causing obscurities in achieving a general competition law regime.

There is a plausible existence of a convergence between developing countries and developed countries reflected by the International Competition Network (ICN) in its report on the Objectives of Unilateral Conduct Laws. According to the report, both developed and developing states ‘are common to the competition regime as a whole’ to systemise an ‘effective competitive process, enhancing efficiency and protecting consumer welfare’. However, it is stated that ‘Spokespeople for developing countries often express the need for an antitrust paradigm different from that of the developed world. Spokespeople for the developed world tend to argue for universal norms, which may apply differently when facts are different.’ Thereby, in spite of attaining ‘basic’ goals of competition law, it is still a huge challenge for developing countries to reflect the aims and targets of competition law equivalent to those of developed countries. Since the developing world and the advanced world are not regarded as being on ‘equal footing’ in the level of development. The competition law system of the developed world has been entirely fashioned and progressed pursuant to competition-specific considerations and patterns in the line with international agreements and general growth of international economy whereas the developing world arrives at the urgency of globalisation through international commitments.

On the other hand, regarding the ICN report, ‘ensuring an effective competition process’ can be regarded ‘either as a goal as such or as a means to achieve other goals such as consumer welfare and efficiency’ as it has been recognised by 32 out of 33 agencies from both developed and developing countries as ‘a stand-alone’ to ‘achieve different and related competition law goals.’ Hence, the aspirations of ‘ensuring an effective competition process’ might be variedly discerned in developed and developing countries. In addition, with regard to conceivable vindications of convergence, it might be argued that the onset of competition law in developing countries is merely ‘the cut and paste’ strategy or legal transplant’ from developed countries to developing countries. The competition policies of the developing world have a Western-approach but they have different purposes in the context of competition. For instance, the competition policy of South Africa is on the far side of economic objectives when pondering non-economic objectives with the aims of ‘correcting social inequalities resulting from its history, promoting employment, advancing social and economic welfare, ensuring to SMEs an equitable opportunity to participate in the economy and increasing the economic opportunities of historically disadvantaged persons’. Another example is the Chinese Anti – Monopoly Law (AML), setting up benchmarks to focus on ‘national economic development’ with an uncertainty of how this ‘open criteria’ shall be interpreted. Accordingly, this has resulted in the issue of overriding nationalist protection of China in some cases, typically, in Coca Cola/Huiyuan; Mofcom, the Chinese merger control agency had blocked the merger between Coca Cola and Huiyuan with the core concern of consolidating domestic beverage manufacturers. Nonetheless, this decision has received heavy denunciation regarding its substance and the absence of translucency as argued in The Economist ‘The most benign interpretation of the rejection…is that it reflects a political response to critical comments by America’s new administration. The more worrying interpretation is that, even as China publicly urges other countries to commit to open their markets to Chinese investment and trade, it is imposing yet another barrier to outsiders.’

On the other hand, there has been an inclination of several developed economies demanding that developing countries adopt competition policy as a prerequisite for entering into bilateral free trade agreements. Thus, this might put the developing world in an exigent situation with more harm than good. The first obstruction for developing countries lies inherently in the role of government in the economy. Some developing countries’ governments may go beyond and extend their interference such as in cases of expropriation – stringent trade barriers, which might potentially pose risks towards the economy – instead of leaving economic affairs to be operated by private corporations according to principles of the market. Typically, the lack of credibility of commitments in both ‘vertical’ and ‘horizontal’ has entailed market failures, low standards of equilibria and output. Additionally, the reaction of major developing governments is trying to reduce by ‘self-help’ remedies which are superficially anti-competitive when the government’s capability of administration is circumscribed as its judges and regulators are prone to pressure and corruption.

In respect of governance, the lack of independence of competition authorities subsisting as ‘investigating’ authorities has been mirrored in several segments of the developing world. In particular, those organs in some developing countries have short-time proliferation and have insufficient powers to efficaciously exercise their duties to reach legally binding decisions. A good example is Conselbo Administrativo Defensa Economica (CADE), the competition agency of Brasil, which is accountable to investigate cases of cartel and abuses of dominance. Albeit the advent of the Competition Act, the Law 8884/94 demonstrated the conception of autarquia federal to dictate that CADE was dependent, some provisions of the law have sabotaged the independence of CADE. Specifically, its existence was merely two years, ostensibly short, which accordingly pressed it to seek political support in terms of re-designation. Additionally, CADE also received assistance from Economic Law Office (SDE), part of the Ministry of Justice, and a Secretariat of Economic Surveillance (SEAE), part of the Ministry Finance. Thereby, it is readily understood that member of the authorities like CADE are politically assigned, and obviously have standard duties falling outside the field of competition law.

In addition, the significant peculiarity of convergence in competition law is indicated by the extraterritorial assertion of jurisdiction with plentiful vindications of this appeared in the major parts of the advanced world such as EU and the American regimes. Notwithstanding, there are inherent difficulties derived from the heterogeneous enforcement, externally-based information gathering and the refusal and none of cooperation from foreign firms and foreign competition authorities. For instance, in the case of Genco/Lonhro, two South African undertakings were proscribed by the Commission for their dereliction of dominant duopoly (collective dominance) in the markets of platinum and rhodium. However, in Gencor v. Commission, Gencor alleged that the regulation of the Commission could not applicable to economic activity conducted in a non-member country and granted by the government of South Africa in addition to the contravention of the fundamental principle of territoriality pursuant to international law. In addition, the Commission did not have jurisdiction under the EU Merger Regulation to prohibit activities in South Africa which, furthermore, the Government there had approved. Moreover, even in the developed segments such as EU and the USA, a contradiction in decisions by the competition agencies is unavoidable. A good example is the case of Boeing/McDonnell Douglas merger which represents a conflict in the co-operation agreements in practice. More specifically, in this case, the FTC reached a majority in deciding not to oppose the merger between the two undertakings, while the European Commission seemed likely, at one point, to prohibit it in its entirety.

It is necessary that with the growth of ample transnational transactions, the desideratum of a general competition law is demanding. However, on the basis of mentioned analysis and evaluations, when adopting such a competition regime, the developing world as the latter is evidently confronting with hindrances in comparison to the former, the developed world. Hence, this still seemingly surrenders and impedes the adoption of a sturdy competition policy mechanism in the both advanced and developing countries.

A prisoner

(Image Source:

– Michael Keightley (LLB Law, Newcastle University)

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling that embodies more than the question of prisoner’s rights to vote in the UK is the case of Hirst v United Kingdom ((2006) 42 EHRR 41, [70]). It was a ruling that sparked controversy in 2005 and has set an eight-year resistance against a ruling that has been followed by an incredible 2,354 ‘clone’ cases of people claiming an infringement of their human rights – thereby forcing the question ‘should prisoners be allowed the vote?’

Regardless of your answer it is easy to see that, in principle, a blanket ban is somewhat immoral. It seems unconstitutional to withhold a right that is crucial to the continuation of democracy from a group of people only on the basis that they are part of that group. Arguably, comparisons can be made to the mistreatment of people based on their gender, race, or belief; if it is immoral to unequally treat people based on such groupings, then is it not immoral to disenfranchise prisoners?

These examples, however, are incredibly general and do not follow similar patterns to the disenfranchisement of prisoners. Take someone’s gender and race, obviously these are dependent upon biological circumstances, as opposed to an active decision. Beliefs are born from socialisation, which can influence action – but people are imprisoned for actions against the state, not the beliefs that may or may not influence that action. Prisoners are sentenced for their actions against the state and consequently are, as a group, disenfranchised for those actions. Allowing prisoners the right to vote in the democratic society that they have committed a crime against undermines the idea of taking responsibility for one’s actions – with civil responsibility being crucial in the structure of a healthy democracy, undermining such a concept is counterproductive to the sustainment of democratic principles.

Outside of constitutional and moral considerations are the wider implications of the European Union (EU). The financial implications seem to be the first at hand as the Strasbourg court could issue orders of compensation as a result of this failure to follow the ruling of the UK courts; seen as though no damages have been awarded in such cases previously, it is open to theory and contemplation as to what financial loss this could cause the government and the taxpayer. Say, for example, if a mere £1,500 was awarded in compensation to all 2,354 prisoners; the government would suffer a loss of £3,532,500 in total (not including court fees). Dominic Raab, Tory MP, simply argues “the Strasbourg court can’t force Britain to give any of these prisoners the vote, let alone compensation.” He then goes on to say that it is a matter of “democratic principle” to let Parliament make such a choice – however, Parliament have been delaying this crucial decision for eight years, surely now is the time for the EU to step in? Regardless of whether or not Raab is correct, defying the issuing of compensation from Strasbourg would hardly benefit the current tenuous relationship that the UK has with the EU. With murmurs of referendum from the Conservatives, shouts of independence from UKIP, and a plethora of statistics scattered across the web stating the consequences of being remaining in the EU the pressure only mounts for action to be taken.

But by blatantly ignoring the ECHR ruling for eight years are we not – in the words of Dominic Grieve, attorney general – “creating a degree of anarchy in the international order that [the UK is] trying to promote?” Thorbjørn Jagland, the secretary-general of the Council of Europe, views England as a “founding father” of convention and a “leading nation on human rights”; and the UK’s refusal to co-operate with the convention they are said to embody undermines the foundations and values of the EU and threatens the UK’s EU-membership.

MPs have now made the decision to draft the Voting Eligibility (Prisoners) Draft Bill, which outlines three main options for allowing prisoners to vote: continue with the current blanket-ban that is in force (option one), allow those with sentences of four years or less to vote (option two), or to allow prisoner’s with sentences of six months or less to vote (option three). This Bill is clearly influenced by the political motivation to hold off threats from Strasbourg and not influenced by a motivation to alter, or grant, constitutional rights.

The political motivation is reflected in the Bill’s inflexible options, which fail to address the real issue of prisoners voting rights. First of all, it does not fully consider the crime committed and its context, only sentence length. The issue here being that there seems to be no clear reason as to why the limit was set at four years, or even six months. The inflexibility and general-nature of these options only lead one to believe that such legislation would only be enacted to allow the UK to attempt to maintain positive relations with the EU and not to respect the concept of human rights; this political move is a poor attempt to respect the value of the right to vote and only shows a lack of consideration of the real issue.

Perhaps it would be more constitutional to create a system where people are not subject to a blanket disenfranchisement, or disenfranchisement based on general sentence length, but a consideration of the crime and its context before disenfranchisement; which could lead to a disenfranchisement system based upon precedent as opposed to generalised sentencing. This proposition opens up room for further debate on how such a system would initially be judged and where the limitations of disenfranchisement should lie. Not to mention, the bill that the taxpayers would be footing to have the cases considered in court could be potentially enormous.

The question to consider in regard to prisoner’s voting rights is whether or not you consider the right to vote as a privilege or a human right. If you consider it a privilege then you delve into further questions of defining what would allow such a privilege; but if you consider it a human right then, considering that prisoners are human, then prisoners should have the vote – I feel it is fair to say that there is little deliberation about the definition of human.

Whatever your personal opinions on prisoners voting rights and the UK’s membership to the EU it is clear that these two issues would ideally be decided separately. However, given the eight-year long wait for action in consideration of the ECHR’s ruling and the distant proposals for a referendum these issues have become closely intertwined and something of concern to the UK public. In theory, the outcome here stands on the same grounds as the infamous Factortame decision (Factortame Ltd v Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Costs) (No.2) [2002] EWCA Civ 932) – deciding a crucial constitutional decision for the UK and concerning the supremacy of UK Parliament over the European Union.


25 Oct 2013 -GC 1 (1)

As a token of our appreciation, on behalf of the Law Review I presented Mr. Campbell with a copy of our first volume, printed June 2013

Mary Wong (LLB Law Newcastle University)

On Friday October 25th, the Canadian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, His Excellency Mr. Gordon Campbell was scheduled for an afternoon meet & greet session with Canadian students at Newcastle University. Prior to this event, I met with Mr. Campbell for an interview. As a Canadian, it was an absolute pleasure and honour to have a one-on-one chat with a prominent Canadian figure who hails from the beautiful west coast city of Vancouver -which is special to me as my twin sister currently resides there. Here is what he has to say about his role as High Commissioner, the Canada-EU trade agreement, education, and British culture and recreation.

A. Canadian in the UK

1. I understand you have been based in London since your appointment to the role of High Commissioner, how do you like living in England? Do you miss the weather in British Columbia?

Well actually, the interesting thing is when I came to London, everyone said “Oh be careful of the weather in London.” I find it’s very similar to the weather in Vancouver – there’s lots of cloud; there is probably less rain than Vancouver. But no, the weather has not bothered me at all.


Do you miss Canada at all?

I miss my friends and those sorts of things, but you know one of the great things about being here is that I’m not here for the rest of my life. I look at this as an opportunity to absorb the United Kingdom, all of the culture, all of the history. [London] is an incredible international city – you get to meet people from all over the world.


2. What does your day-to-day life look like in your current position?

Most days I’m doing some business-related work, I’m trying to build partnerships, interest investors, and those sorts of things. The High Commission has responsibility for immigration and security and diplomatic services, commercial and economic diplomacy. You have a lot of meetings, you often represent Canada. Today I was representing Canada at Durham University, talking to students there about Canadian opportunities, and [to] Durham officials about possibilities of partnering with Canadian universities.

So we’re focusing on economic opportunity and educational opportunity and educational exchange, which I think is important in the long term. [Example:] the strength of Canada as a financial centre, as a dependable international partner. We’re dealing with lots of issues like Commonwealth reform. We’re in the middle of major activity to consolidate everything around Canada House at Trafalgar Square, and generate new activities for Canadians and Canadian businesses.


3. How have you found the transition from working in provincial politics and now at the international level for Canada?

In lots of ways there are lots of similarities, whether you’re the Premier or the High Commissioner, you are trying to put the best foot forward for your province or your country. I think it’s a great opportunity, I’ve been the mayor of Vancouver and Premier of British Columbia, this is an opportunity to do something for Canada, for the whole country, from Newfoundland to British Columbia, from Saskatchewan to New Brunswick. So that part is a real opportunity for me, personally, and I hope I am doing a good job on behalf of all Canadians. But there [are] big differences between being an ambassador and being a political leader, and they are basically executive differences. Political leaders are responsible for putting in place plans, making sure they get executed and bringing them forward. I can make recommendations, but my political leader, John Baird, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, is the man I work for, I do the things I hope are reflective of his policies and the Prime Ministers’ policies. I try to encourage people to follow along with that.


B. Canada-EU Trade

1. What are your thoughts on the Canada-EU Trade discussions?

I think it would be very good for the EU and Canada. I think there are whole lot of opportunities, certainly for Canada and the United Kingdom, both depend on trade  – [it is our] economic life-blood. You think of the vast mineral wealth of Canada, the reason we have vast mineral wealth – and it helps create a quality of life for us – is that it is traded out of the borders.


2. As High Commissioner, how do you think you can contribute to these discussions in the UK on Canada’s behalf?

We will provide you with the information you want. I think when you look at the United Kingdom’s economic strategies and Canada’s, they’re basically the same: we both need trade to improve the quality of life. We both need trade to make sure we have job. Some people say we should not go forward with trade. [For example,] we’ll use my province because that’s the one I am most familiar with: there [are] dozens of mills in British Columbia. The demand we would place on any one of those mills from British Columbia would take care of about one mill. If we didn’t have trade, you probably reduce the [number of] mills in British Columbia by 85% or 90% – that is a whole lot of people who aren’t working – but they are working because of trade. And so, I think you just have to start by understanding how important trade is in Canada, and then you think of the competitive advantage of having a trade agreement with the European Union, and a trade agreement with the United States and Mexico. We will be the only country in the world that has trade agreements with those two predominant markets, and they are dominating markets in world trade. So it’s a great place for Canada to be, and it’s great for our economy, and it’s great for jobs, and it opens doors of opportunities for everybody.


3. What do you think Canadians back home and here in the UK can do to prepare for the impact of this trade agreement?

First thing I think everyone should have is confidence in themselves and what Canada could do. We sometimes look beyond Canada’s strengths. Canada is very strong economically. We’re very strong in terms of our business culture and investment culture. We take a lot of the risks out of investments. I think to know that is to be able to tell the Canadian story. The reason we launched “Canada Plus” here in London, in the United Kingdom, is because we want people to know Canada’s universities and scientists and thought leaders, manufacturers and agriculturalists and energy providers – we have all those things in Canada. So when we think of that and then think of how do we meet the needs of a 500 million person market in the European Union, that’s the largest single market in the world, right? It’s a 17 trillion dollar economy.


What would you say to those Canadians who are concerned about the competition part, like the dairy farmers and auto industry?

I think you always hear concerns about competition whenever you make a change. So in British Columbia there was a lot of change at the end of the Free Trade Agreement from the wine industry, for example. The wine industry today in British Columbia is thriving, and this is why: [because] they are good at what they do. So [we] have to have confidence in ourselves – we’re good at what we do. So Canada had an Olympics in 2010. We said ‘let’s put Canada behind this Olympics,’ and we did. We said ‘let’s put Canada behind our Olympic athletes,’ and we did. And what happened? We had the most successful Winter Olympics in the history of the Winter Olympics. So we beat all of the criteria that would have normally been set if you wanted a competition. We won more gold medals than any country in the history of the Games. Those are things that should remind us of what we could do as Canadians. One of the advantages of going overseas or going somewhere else, is that you realize all the strengths of Canada. When I say that, that does not mean that we do not have things we have to do better – doesn’t mean we have it all perfect – but [it] means we have an awful lot of advantages in competing in the international market place. So the challenge of the market place is to make it a fair playing field, and the way to do that is you reduce all of the barriers that stop it from being fair, which is what the trade agreement does.

Change is always difficult; [but] it will create enormous opportunities in manufacturing, enormous opportunities in the agricultural industry generally.


C. Education

1. What are your thoughts on Canadians coming to the UK to study?

I think everyone who can, should. I think it’s a great opportunity to be here. I think it expands the world of education beyond what happens in the classroom in the university. You come here [and] you are exposed to a different culture, different place, [and] different outlook on the world. The more Canadians who can get outside of Canada and get some of their education there, the better off we are as a country, [and] the better off they are as students.


2. Do you think this choice to study in the UK makes a detrimental remark about the quality of Canadian education?

Absolutely not, and for the same reason I think Canadians should come to the UK, UK students should go to Canada. I think part of the world’s top quality education today is exposure to international opportunities. It is exposure to different cultures, it’s exposure to different languages, it’s exposure to different outlets. When we do that, we learn; and when we learn we can understand; when we can understand, we can solve problems.


3. Each year there is a number of students that come to the UK to pursue the English LLB (Bachelor of Laws) and some hope to return to Canada to practice upon graduation. Many students have cited as their reasons: the difficulty of obtaining a spot in Canadian law schools due to high admission standards and lack of space, and costly LSAT fees. What are your thoughts on this?

It’s hard for me to be opposed to high admission standards, because we’re looking for excellence across the board – professional excellence. I think there are some challenges in terms of creating spaces, but there are a fair number of law schools across Canada that provide opportunities, but there’s probably never quite enough. But I think that people who come here and get legal training here are going to find it’s an excellent education. And then they are going to pass their Bar exams in Canada and all those sorts of things. I think we have to think of more complementary education as opposed to conflicting/ competing education. There are some interesting challenges they face, but they are challenges that can be met, and there’s a lot of difficulties in going into law still, but these are real opportunities, so that’s a positive.


4. Now that you are working in England, do you recommend Canadian students who have studied in the UK to work here for a few years after graduation, before returning home to Canada?

I make no recommendations. I think it’s always up to you as a person, as an individual.

We have a youth exchange programme which allows Canadians to come and be in the United Kingdom for two years, and just to experience things in the United Kingdom, they don’t have a job, it’s a special program – same thing for UK students back in Canada; those are good things I think. So I think in terms of those things, they’re really personal choices. What I think is really important is: you do what is best for you. As long as you pursue your goals and your dreams, you’ll be in great shape.


D. Culture and Recreation

1. Which British dishes have you tried since your arrival in the UK? Do you have any favourites or recommendations?

I’m not really keen on kidney pie, beef or steak – I’m fine. When I hear blood pudding, I don’t say ‘I can hardly wait until I eat it!’ I like haggis, I’m from Scotland. I never figured out the purpose behind mushy peas. But do I have a favourite? I’ll give the British fish and chips, and that’s my favourite.


2. What activities would you recommend Canadians living in or visiting the UK to try while they are here?

There’s no end. The first thing is to know there’s more than one place here. So whether you’re going to Winchester Cathedral or Westminster Abbey, or you’re going up north to Aberdeen, whether you’re golfing in Northern Ireland, or art galleries in Cardiff and London, I recommend that. It’s a rich, rich place for history, for culture. Go to Bonfire Night, go to Remembrance Day service. Go to the pageant they have for the City of London when they turn over the keys. All of those things are rich in culture and costume, and they are pretty exciting to see.


And go to the Canada Day celebrations in London that you will be hosting.

You have to go to the Trafalgar Square Canada Day celebrations -everyone talks about them! It’s a great event and everyone is welcome!


3. Name one new activity or dish, which is typically British, that you would like to try in the near future.

I should probably go to a cricket game. I haven’t done that yet, It’s a perplexing pastime to me, people at work are totally engaged in cricket. I used to play cricket when I was in elementary school.


Have you watched a Manchester United game in Manchester?

I have not watched a Manchester United game in Manchester. I haven’t gone to a football game of any sort of the big rivals. And my colleagues tell me you have to be careful of what you wear, who you cheer for – good sportsmanship is not necessarily something to be admired in the stands.


Thank you for taking the time to speak with me. I look forward to your Meet & Greet at Newcastle University later this afternoon.