Peggy Nash answers babblers' questions.

Last Friday,’s online discussion forum, babble, hosted MP and NDP leadership candidate Peggy Nash for an interactive interview in which Peggy answered your questions on her leadership bid. Here is an abridged and edited version of that interview. Read the complete interview on babble here and join the ongoing discussion. Be sure also to read babble’s interview with Paul Dewar available here, Nathan Cullen, here and with Brian Topp, here.

And stay tuned as one more NDP leadership candidate joins us. Niki Ashton will be the final NDP leadership candidate to answer your questions, today, March 5, at 3 p.m. EST/12 p.m. PST.

Rebecca West (moderator): Good evening babblers. Please join me in welcoming Peggy Nash, NDP leadership candidate and MP for the Parkdale/High Park riding in Toronto. Welcome to babble Peggy!

Howard: Welcome Peggy!

Peggy Nash: Great thanks! Glad to be here. Looking forward to your questions.

RW: Our first question is from Howard:

What is your view on international trade? Can you give an example of a trade deal you could imagine signing as Prime Minister and an existing trade relationship you could see yourself expanding?

1springgarden: Hi Peggy, great to have you join us!

Unionist: Greetings Sister!

PN: Thanks for your question Howard. I support international trade. I don’t think there is a future for our economy without strong international trade, but it has to be balanced trade. The problem I have with the way it’s being conducted in Canada is that the latest generation of trade and investment treaties deal with matters far beyond international trade, affecting access to medicines, environmental regulation, industrial policy, natural resource management and the future of public services.

These broad agreements restrict the role of the state in regulating the activities of international corporations. Through binding a broad range of government measures, they limit or even foreclose key options for more progressive governance. This is true across a wide range of matters, often only peripherally related to trade. Chapter 11-style provisions that allow companies to sue governments undermine the democratic will.

Treaty negotiations now deal primarily with regulatory and other so-called “non-tariff barriers” to trade. Sensitive decisions restricting democratic authority over vital regulatory matters should not be made in secret negotiations where only corporate lobby groups have privileged access.

I don’t think there are any perfect examples of trade agreements that I would or would not sign as Prime Minister. As I outlined above, my main criteria to judge will be whether or not the agreement goes too far beyond the scope of actual trade mechanisms and limits the capacity of government to make decisions in the best interests of Canadians in a number of domestic policy areas.

In terms of existing trade relationships that I could see myself wanting to expand, I would have to say that I would like to re-engage Canada in multilateral systems (including at the WTO) to find innovative ways to enhance global commerce while ensuring working people share in the benefits of trade and the environment is protected.

PN: Glad to see you on here Howard, 1springgarden and Unionist, and everyone else reading!

RW: Our next question is from Shartal (via email):

I would like to ask what Ms. Nash’s anti-poverty program includes.

Howard: Thanks Peggy.

PN: Thanks for your question Shartal.

A key part of my anti-poverty plan is creating high quality jobs that pay salaries high enough to keep people out of poverty. In the last two decades we have watched the decimation of our manufacturing sector and those good-paying jobs haven’t returned. There are so many incentives and investments that the government could make to support, revive and re-build our manufacturing sector, but instead they have squandered billions on ineffective and wasteful corporate tax cuts.

I think that raising the GIS is key to lifting and keeping seniors out of poverty. We also have to protect pensions in this country by gradually increasing the CPP. The provision of a Quebec-style child-care program will help many families get out of poverty. A national housing strategy with the resources to back it up is also crucial. This is important across the country but particularly in first nations community.

Education funding is another important step because lack of post-secondary education funding to the provinces has lead to mortgage size debt loads for young people that often does not correspond to their income.

The EI system needs to be reformed to make sure that everyone has equal access to the benefits that they’ve paid into, when they need them, regardless of where they happen to be in the country.

Lastly we should also look at ending consumer and financial gouging that the federal government has jurisdiction over. One area is predatory payday lenders. The government is not fighting usurious interest rates overall and has left online payday lenders completely unregulated.

RW: And from Unionist:

You’ve proposed allowing workers who quit or are terminated to have their workplace RRP accrued entitlement transferred to and managed by the CPP/QPP (if I understood correctly). I agree of course that we need to find ways to protect workplace pension plans. But I’m concerned your proposal would create a kind of two-tiered CPP/QPP, as well as introducing unplanned and uncontrolled liabilities to the plan. Could you please explain the origin of this proposal and whether I’m misunderstanding something about it? Thanks!

PN: Thanks for the question Unionist.

The idea of individuals transferring their pension entitlements to the CPP is novel, and yes could create some complexity.

The origin of this proposal comes from the fact that many other pension plans, including public sector plans, have devised methods for buying service and absorbing other pension plans. This usually the case so I don’t think the complexity is insurmountable. The full scope of the implementation of such a proposal will have to be studied extensively, but I think it is worth the potential complexity.

It has become clearer and clearer that the private pension system is fraught with problems and regularly fails its contributors. The enhancement of the CPP, including a transfer such as proposed, should be looked at as ways to expand the role of the CPP — it is the most efficient, portable and secure pension we can have in Canada.

Unionist: I find pensions almost impossible to understand, but if it means expanding the role of the CPP/QPP without jeopardizing its health, and gradually replacing workplace plans which are increasingly there only for lucky unionized folks (some of them) — good on you, it’s worth at least studying and trying out. Thanks for the reply!

Lara34: Hi Peggy, it is so great to see you here on babble! I hope you’ll have time to explain your midwifery proposal further.

PN: Thanks Unionist for your interest. The future of pensions is an absolutely critical question — not only for seniors but for young workers who need to have confidence that they also will have retirement security.

Boom Boom: I don’t know if my submitted question will be asked, but I’m still interested in knowing if you will work to undo and overturn Harper’s cuts to social programs (I have a vested interested in a youth volunteer program called Katimavik which apparently may be on the chopping block).

PN: Hi Lara34. Thanks for your question. First and foremost, we need to get midwives included as a classification within Health Canada, such as we currently have for nurses and doctors. We need to involve midwives directly in policy development and federal funding decisions. We also need to work with midwifery associations to ensure that their accreditation allows them to work throughout Canada, including in First Nations, Inuit, and Metis nations.

I’ve heard firsthand from the Aboriginal Midwives Association about the critical importance of having midwives in the First Nations communities which are often remote and which today often remove pregnant women from their communities and fly them far from their family and support network. We need to involve First Nations, Inuit, and Metis communities to ensure that their communities are receiving the necessary funding for midwifery services, as well as health promotion programs such as pre-natal nutrition and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder programs.

Please check out my full policy at

Lara34: Thank you for the response. I cannot tell you how glad I am to see this question addressed in the NDP leadership. I don’t know if this is fair to ask, but what kind of response have you had to this initiative from your NDP leadership colleagues? And are you getting any negative response, from any sector?

PN: Lara34. I have not heard one negative response anywhere, but lots of good support. It seems that midwives and the families that love them are everywhere in Canada!

Todrick of Chatham: Peggy, why did you support the bombing of Libya?

PN: To answer Boom Boom: Yes I will definitely reverse a number of Harper’s cuts. The axing of Status of Women offices across Canada and the defunding of organizations like Kairos shows the ideological bent of the Conservative government. They’re in it to implement conservative ideology, not good policy.

It is particularly troubling that they are going after Katimavik as well, but not that surprising. The program empowers youth. It unites young people from across the country and lets them truly experience different communities and the different ways of being in this country. The last thing the Conservatives want is for people to realize that they have more in common than they thought. They don’t want people to stand united. They would much rather continue their divisive politics.

Yes, I would restore funding to Katimavik.

RW: Our next question is from Ryan1812:

I want to know what penalties or consequences will befall a province if they impose user fees for health care? Plain and simple. What will you do in event a province imposes health-care user fees on their population?

Boom Boom: Thanks, Peggy — very much appreciated!

PN: Hi Ryan.

Penalties under the Canada Health Act are linked to federal transfers to the provinces. More precisely, each provincial health care insurance plan must comply with the requirements of the Act before the province receives its total entitlement of cash transfers. If a province fails to comply, the federal government may impose a penalty and withhold part or all of the transfers. If a province is determined to implement user fees, then I will enforce the Canada Health Act using the provisions I just outlined.

I will say however, that the road to user fees can be stopped. I know that working closely with the provinces and making sure they receive the funding they need to operate their health-care systems on a long-term basis, will stop them from even considering the option of user fees.

Howard: Where is my like button?

PN: Glad you found a like button Howard!

Unionist: Howard is a like-minded person.

RW: Our next question is from Chris Borst:

Most of our candidates have been charged with being earnest but dull. In your case, the charges have included “vague”. Given the importance of the mass media in reaching and swaying voters, and the greater media access of the other two parties, what is your strategy to fight and win the “air war”?

PN: Hi Chris,

Nothing wins the air war like bold ideas and clear direction. This past week I put forward the type of plan that can draw a lot of attention and sway a lot of voters. I think one of the main things we have to champion in the next 4 years is that of bringing in a proportional representation voting system.

People have felt so disconnected for so long from the electoral process because the outcome doesn’t reflect their vote. I know the NDP has proposed this in the past, but we can shake things up and get people excited about implementing real change and getting a system where the parties actually cooperate with each other. Imagine if we could convince Canadians that their vote could actually bring the change they’ve wanted for so long.

For this we have to move beyond the platform. We need active campaigns across the country that includes civil society, NGOs, our riding associations and our MPs. We can’t just talk about our ideas anymore. We need to use new social media and new outreach methods to connect with people and get them excited about CHANGE — not just ideas.

If we remain bold and exciting and don’t shy away from risks, I think we’ll sway the 40% that didn’t even bother to vote this last election.

PN: Hi Todrick. The NDP Caucus supported the UN mandate to protect Libyans from government attacks. We wanted the government to focus more on diplomacy and humanitarian assistance, and ultimately voted against extending the mission.

Boom Boom: Dunno if there’s time or if this has been asked, but I have a question with regard to foreign policy: Harper is meeting with Netanyahu today, and although Harper says he prefers diplomacy, one can still hear the war drums beating against Iran. Any thoughts on this, Ms. Nash? (sorry for getting a second question in…)

PN: Thanks for the second question Boom Boom. Canada needs to urge Prime Minister Netanyahu to avoid military action against Iran. We don’t need more militarization and should be focusing all efforts on diplomacy and prevention.

RW: We’re all out of time. Peggy, thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions!

Boom Boom: Thank you thank you thank you!!!!

PN: Thank you for all of the interesting questions and thanks Babble for hosting this forum! Hope to see you online soon!

Kim Elliot: Thank you so much for coming by babble tonight Peggy! Good luck with the last weeks of the campaign!

Unionist: Thanks for accepting our invitation, and good luck in the rest of this marathon!

Chris Borst: Got on too late. Dang. Thanks and bonne chance!

Erik Redburn: Hi Peggy, sorry I missed you. Just wanted you to know that I was already leaning towards supporting your bid for leader, and your answers have only helped. Lot of good candidates as usual, and I know there’s limits to what we can expect from anyone in government now, but I’m personally looking for those I can trust most to turn things around. Harper’s proposed ‘austerity’ measures won’t help, as past experience has shown us. Thanks for taking the time.

Boom Boom: Peggy has definitely moved up in my estimation. She did well here.

RW: Peggy did a great job. Apologies to all whose questions went unanswered. The hour flies by fast, so it’s important to get your live questions in as early in the Q&A as possible.

Reminder to all, Niki Ashton will be here on Monday at 12 p.m. PST, 3 p.m. EST to answer your questions.