TheStar.com Federal Election Q & A with Jack Layton
Q & A with Jack Layton
Sep 30, 2008 07:46 AM
Here are excerpts of NDP Leader Jack Layton's meeting with the Toronto Star's editorial board:
Q: Would it be a good thing for the country if the Liberal party faded out of existence?
J.L.: I don't have an opinion about that. I don't – it's really up to Canadians to decide what kind of political formation should succeed in our country. I'm suggesting that ours should. And that's my proposition.
Q: But does the existence of the Liberal party get in your way?
J.L.: We need seats to form a government. I'm suggesting – in fact, I think we're probably the only party that will defeat Conservatives in this election. I think we'll defeat quite a few. That's why I think a change has to happen. I think Stephen Harper has got to be moved out of office. I think he's bad for the country. He's bad for working families. As I said he is, time and time again. And Stéphane Dion seems to have agreed with him on the big issue I've just discussed. ... We've had another year of Stephen Harper's measures which have not been good for Canada as a result of the lack of a backbone – in fact, I think it's more than a lack of a backbone – I think there was an agreement on some of the fundamental directions, like the tax cut and the war and the immigration bill, and I could make that a longer list.
Q: You've told us from the one area where you and Mr. Dion clearly disagree on, but I would suggest there are a number of other areas where you're clearly in agreement, where the differences are mere nuances. You both believe in putting a price on carbon; he wants to do it through carbon taxes, you want to do it through cap-and-trade. Most environmentalists will tell you it's not a lot of difference. You both want to .....
J.L.: Actually, I'm going to jump in. There is enormous difference between cap-and-trade and an across-the-board price on carbon. Especially the revenue–quote, unquote–revenue-neutral approach. Because what it does, it is remarkably inefficient to change – to cause change to happen through the across-the-board, revenue-neutral approach. It relies on the marginal impact of the price elasticity. Our approach is focused on putting a financial price on the most egregious behaviour and taking all of that money and putting it into the solutions. The carbon tax does none of that. So I think these are – that's a very, very major difference .
Q: Let me ask the question this way, if Harper gets a majority on October 14 ... would you be open to a ... unite-the-left move after the election to make sure that Harper doesn't get another majority in four years time and so that the progressive thinkers in this country have one party united to defeat ..... (the Conservatives).
J.L.: Look, I have one job right now and that is to try to defeat Stephen Harper. We've got two weeks left to do it. ... I can understand some people would prefer if we weren't even on the ballot and then there couldn't be a split. But we are on the ballot. We have a right to be on the ballot. I don't apologize for being on the ballot. In fact, I think we would do the best job at shepherding the country through the next period that we're facing and I've laid out the reasons why. So, as to what happens after the election, I'll talk about that after the election. And I'm right now very focused. My coach used to say to me: don't think about the next game when you're in the 3rd period of this game.
Q: ... The one (area) where you do agree with the Prime Minister is in attacking the Green Shift carbon tax. ... Why are (you) so philosophically opposed (to the tax?)
J.L.: It's not philosophical. It's entirely about getting results on the reduction of the greenhouse emissions. I couldn't be more at odds with Mr. Harper. Just because Mr. Harper says he doesn't like Mr. Dion's proposal, from here, doesn't mean that, when I'm saying it from here, I'm agreeing with Mr. Harper. Okay?
(On how a carbon tax would affect ordinary people)
... Mrs. Smith heats her home with oil. She's a senior citizen. Unfortunately, they won't sell her just half a tank of oil. She has to fill the whole thing –these are real stories, these are the kinds of people I talk to – so she has to buy the whole thing at the beginning of the winter. She can't afford it. She puts it on a Visa card. Under Mr. Dion's proposal, she'll pay more for that oil and, six months later, she'll get something back. She won't reduce the amount of oil she burns. She already moves out of her second floor and lives on the ground floor in the winter to reduce her heating bills. There's not a heck of a lot more that she can do, unless someone renovates her home. Which, by the way, is precisely what we propose to do. We propose to renovate her home, so that her heating bill goes down. Her emissions go down, and it will be paid for by a fully auctioned carbon price.
Q: When do you think you'll have that ready?
J.L.: Within twelve months. The carbon exchange already exists. I've already participated in carbon purchases. When I was vice-chair of Toronto Hydro, we were making carbon exchanges and trades on the voluntary market already. Why? Because it was wise. And it was good public relations. And good corporate citizenship. And, besides, we were involved in the renovation business. When I was there, we didn't have an energy services company and I said to the board members, Dave Williams and everybody else who we recruited to be on that board, "Let's get into the business of helping people buy less of our product. We'll make more money." They said, "Jack, you're out of your mind." And then I said, "Let's walk through the Better Buildings Partnership, which my company designed, and which we have in Toronto and is the best practice cited by (David) Suzuki and others, about how you securitize renovation investments. And I'm proposing the largest building renovation project ever conceived.
Q: Do you think your cap-and-trade – (in) twelve months – do you think you'll be changing behaviours?
J.L.: Absolutely ..... partly because we already started. It's not like we're starting from scratch. Secondly, because those who have pioneered–I wish Canada had been one of them, we weren't–but those who have pioneered have ironed out a number of the kinks. And in addition we have eleven states and four provinces representing 80 per cent of Canadians who are participating in the Western climate initiative. It's up and running and they are crying out. They're saying this is not really very efficient, it would be far better if our two national governments were doing this. So we're saying, "Let's respond to that call." And it is not difficult to set these things up. We have the expertise. And we've done it before. That's the other thing. We keep forgetting about acid rain. I know if you go back in the Toronto Star you'll find lots of calls for action on acid rain. And a Conservative government of which my father was a part – and he was a strong environmentalist and engineer – brought in cap-and-trade on (tape slows down–cannot make out word) emissions. And what did Inco do, and it was done quite quickly? And what did Inco do? They said: "Well, you got a choice; you can either pay someone else per tonne for emissions they're reducing, or we can invest it and reduce it ourselves." They did a combination. Judging the tipping point at the most efficient cost per tonne. That's the magic of the market and the result is phenomenal.
Q: You take comfort from being on the same page as Obama on cap-and-trade. You heard him on the debate talk about Afghanistan and the need to reinforce their presence there. Are you still talking about ... taking (Canadian troops) out immediately?
J.L.: Yes, I do. And I think Obama is wrong on Afghanistan. And I hope I can talk to him about it, leader to leader. Because I think all of the evidence shows that the direction that has been pursued is not working. I could go on at some length about that, if you want to get into that. ... Key indicators – the deaths of our soldiers, civilian deaths, poppy production, levels of corruption. A senior officer... a Canadian officer–he's retired now–What he sees there, the PRT, he says it's just headed dramatically in the wrong direction. And if you look at half of Afghanistan now and you hear it's designated too dangerous to do aid development in – they've grown dramatically. So it's pretty hard to find an indicator that says we're headed in the right direction. Some say, well, you just got to go in there and win the war. I don't actually hear many people saying that this is something that's, at the end of the day, winnable, when you have 35 million Pashtuns on either side of two borders (with one country) in an unstable nuclear state. But I do hear people suggesting that, if you begin to break down what is all too often portrayed as a monolithic conflict into component parts and begin to use the many tools that we created at the United Nations ... for trying to intervene (in) conflict situations, and have the United Nations play that kind of leadership role – that you've got a much better chance of moving things in the right direction. And I don't believe that Canada can really get us started in that process and use its diplomatic capacities, with credibility and effectiveness, while we're still, at the same time, a portion of a very large NATO, largely American, effort. That's one of the reasons I'm so pleased that Michael Byers has become a part of our team. Here's a very thoughtful Canadian who's got a very good understanding of some of these issues. He's somebody that lots of Canadians were turning to for wisdom on these matters – one of the new bright, new generation of leaders and thinkers in our country, not just on the law of war, on which he's written, but also sovereignty issues in the north and climate change – and he's chosen to be our candidate. And I believe he's going to win in Vancouver Centre and I believe he's going to make a contribution to Canadian politics for a very long period of time.
Q: I've been looking at the platform here and there's a section on fisheries, there's a section on forestry, a section on agriculture. There's no section on cities. In fact, when you look at this entire document the word "city" only appears three times. I understand the platform is a work-in-progress and you've got a major transit announcement today that will help the municipalities, but I'm wondering why–why do the cities not warrant a section of their own in this platform?
J.L.: Well that's a judgment about how many sections and how you package things up. But I would draw your eye to one line, because the FCM (Federation of Canadian Municipalities), which I used to head, passed one motion. They want the equivalent of one cent of the GST to be available for cities, and we commit to that, in our platform, specifically.
Q: I've actually marked that point, right here.
J.L.: Good. Because initially they wanted one cent but then they said they want the equivalent of one cent because they understood–and I argued with the municipal leaders in Canada–I said if you simply say one cent and just ask for a transfer, you don't know what you're going to get, whether that will be done or not. But if you say, the equivalent of one cent, that allows each party to come forward with how they would approach that matter.
Q: It's the equivalent of one cent, which means what?
J.L.: It's close to $5 billion dollars a year.
Q: It says, "$6 billion."
J.L.: Does it say? Well, whatever that figure is. We've apportioned it according to, number one, a national transit funding plan; a national affordable housing plan; an infrastructure plan – and by the way on infrastructure, there's some dollars in the base budgets of the Conservatives. They prefer to do it on it tends to be kind of one-off, triple P projects. It's not our approach to it. We want to get the money to the cities. But the dollar figure is already in an envelope there and that will be part of the package we're committing to. Plus, it's arguable, certainly in some communities, that childcare is related to cities and so on. Now we may get some disagreements in some parts of the country because they run their childcare out of the province and there's those run out of the cities, and so on – and we can have those kinds of debates. But we have – because I think it's so important that you focus on these priorities where the cities' – goals and objectives as cities are in harmony with and must be in harmony with the national objectives. Let's bring those two together in a set of proposals that moves us forward.
Q: ... You're devoting some of the money you say is for cities to childcare. Wasn't the One Cent Now campaign for municipal infrastructure?
J.L.: Well, in certain municipalities, the childcare centres and the operation of childcare is considered as part of that infrastructure definition, in some cities. And it's not the major part of the funding that we're providing for cities, but it's in the package. We think it is in the package. But, no, the municipalities when they talk about the infrastructure deficit – and I was part of developing that whole line of argument at FCM – they're talking about something very real and they need specific investments focused on those areas and we propose to make them, including on transit and affordable housing.
Q: Just to be clear, this equivalent of one cent of GST is not purely for infrastructure?
J.L.: It's not purely for infrastructure. Nor was it ever requested to be, in my view, purely for infrastructure. I've often heard–you know, Hazel (McCallion) talking about how it's – they need money for housing, they need money for transit. Now, I would call transit infrastructure. Some others might not. I think we're into semantics, as to what's included in infrastructure and what is not.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008