I’d like to tell you about what we can achieve, together, for Canada.
We can have the strongest economy in the world. We can have the healthiest environment in the world. And we can have the fairest society in the world.
Those are lofty ambitions, but Canadians are up to the challenge. We are blessed with a terrific head start. We still have abundant natural resources, fresh water, forests, arable land, minerals and energy. We have a well-educated, multilingual workforce with strong ties around the world. We have a long history of peaceful coexistence and cooperation among our people. These and other advantages provide Canada with a deep history and a bright future.
What we do not have right now is good government. Its shortcomings are chipping away at the foundations of our society, environment and economy. A self-interested and dishonest approach to governing is undermining our sense of who we are as Canadians and what our country is all about. Many people have lost faith. Many more are losing faith. Some are turning against each other. It need not be this way.
I am running to lead the New Democratic Party of Canada because there is a better way and we can make it happen. I want to lead the Government of Canada because I know that — together — we can make our vision a reality.
This document is not your typical political platform, filled with a programme promise for every issue. There are two reasons for this.
First, I believe in consulting with people and incorporating their points of view in my plans, not just paying lip service to that idea. I believe that the members, who set party policy, and all Canadians, are part of determining how we act in government. So, as leader I will continue talking to people and, more importantly, listening to people.
Second, I don’t believe that it is credible, more than three years ahead of the next election, to know how much damage the current government will have done to our economy, to know how urgent priorities may become due to their neglect, or consequently, to be able to specify how much money might be available for every deserving idea. What I can do is explain my vision of where I want to take the country, the principles that I apply in making decisions, the approach that I will take to working with others, and my priorities for action. This should give you a strong sense of how I would lead the country.
But first, let me tell you a little more about who I am and my approach to leadership.
I believe that a leader should have a few core attributes to qualify for the job.
A leader must have a vision: without a clear idea of where I would take the country, I can’t hope for anyone to follow.
A leader must inspire others to action: if I cannot understand your challenges, I will fail to provide solutions. If I cannot understand your hopes, I can’t help you fulfill them. Listening and speaking to Canadians in a way that they understand, no matter where they come from and no matter what their background, is essential.
A leader must be able to bring people together: the politics of division diminishes us all. We are stronger when we work together. This is a core value of New Democrats and a core value of Canadians that we must restore in our democracy.
A leader must be able to get the job done: a record of accomplishment is a minimum requirement if Canadians are to be expected to give you their trust.
I believe that I am such a leader and that is why I am asking for your support.
As many of you may know by now, I speak Cree, English, French and Spanish, a mark of my commitment to understanding and being able to speak to the people with whom I live and work.
As a young man, I founded the Cree Nation Youth Council, an organization that still supports entrepreneurship and community involvement among the youth in my part of Quebec.
I was the first of my people to get a law degree and was elected as Deputy Grand Chief of the Grand Council of the Cree, a body that represents nine different Cree communities.
A lifelong environmentalist, I served as vice-chair of the Cree Regional Authority and as Chair of the James Bay Advisory Committee on the Environment.
I worked in the private sector with Creeco Inc. and Eeyou Co., balancing our duty as stewards of the land with sustainable economic growth. We showed that you could employ people and turn a profit without ignoring environmental responsibility.
I brought people together as a key player in many national and international initiatives, including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I was a principal author of La Paix des Braves, the landmark agreement between the James Bay Cree and the Government of Quebec that created thousands of jobs and has given my region of Quebec a sound and viable economic future.
And now I represent Abitibi-James Bay-Nunavik-Eeyou in the House of Commons and am the first Indigenous person to seek the leadership of a major federal political party. Inside and outside of politics for nearly 30 years, I take pride in this track record of accomplishment. It is one in which I believe Canadians can put their trust.
If there is one thing above all else that my life experiences have taught me, it is that each of us is connected, interdependent, supporting and supported by each other: that our mutual reliance — our community — demands that we make the effort to understand and respect all of our relationships and the role each of us plays in them.
I see the Conservative government methodically sewing divisions between people and I am troubled. I know the suppression and disaffection that are created by these tactics. As a child, I was one of those taken from home to a residential school where the purpose was to divide us from our roots, our families and nature. We were taught fear and mistrust. I have witnessed, first hand, the damage this does to people and to communities both at home and in my work around the world. It is a method for holding power by weakening society and democracy. This is a recipe for disaster.
There is a better way.
I have a vision for prosperity through reconciliation — bringing people together — that inspires me and is inspiring more and more Canadians as I travel our country in this campaign. It is the respect for all our relations that I was taught as a child.
Canada prospers when we forge the links that make us stronger.
We prosper when our economy grows to benefit of us all, when what we provide to our country reflects what we take in benefits, when we share in supporting others as our society supports each of us.
Canada prospers when we understand and respect each element of our environment, human and otherwise, in the certainty that we must act to sustain what sustains us.
We prosper when we invest in young people, providing the best education in the world without the crushing burden of enormous student debt, and when immigrants and new Canadians receive the help they need to integrate so that they can contribute to their fullest capacity.
Canada prospers when we are healthy, receiving the best care we can provide, and when community infrastructure anywhere in Canada is as strong as everywhere else.
We prosper when governments keep their promises. When every commitment, contract or treaty signed is honoured, and when that is demonstrated, transparently and accountably.
Canada prospers when we share a vision for a strong, healthy, fair country, when we share in the effort of making that vision a reality, and when we share in the benefits of our accomplishment.
I believe that if we act with respect for all our relations, we will come together to share in a more prosperous future. I hope you will share in this vision with me.
The healthiest environment
I was raised to understand that the land and the people are connected. There is no separate “environment” from which we stand apart. We rely on what it provides to us in food, water and air for our very survival. The environment relies on us to act with respect toward it in order to keep it healthy. We must act to sustain that which sustains us.
Our current government is deliberately downplaying environmental concerns to benefit its friends. Oil companies are reaping massive financial benefits while sowing the seeds of global climate catastrophe. The current government would have us all believe that we can either have a healthy economy or we clean up the environment, but not both. I fundamentally disagree.
Failure to sustain our environment is the surest path to ruin. A healthy economy relies on a healthy and stable workforce not under threat of disease, hunger or dislocation. A healthy economy requires reliable infrastructure such as roads, airports and railroads that is not threatened by landslides, storms or floods. And a healthy economy requires predictability of the sort that is lost when weather patterns become unstable.
My goal is global sustainability: a relationship with the environment that recognizes humanity’s reliance on the earth and a relationship with the earth and other people that acknowledges our interconnectedness.
We need to move from a carbon-based economy to one that is sustained with carbon neutral energy production. This is the greatest challenge of this generation. It will mean putting a price on carbon and we need a national dialogue to determine how best to transition to a carbon neutral economy through a combination of smart taxes and cap and trade systems.
With its incumbent risks, nuclear energy is not a long-term viable option. We need to invest in wind, solar, geothermal, tidal, and run of stream hydro, to diversify our energy grid and build resiliency into the system. We need to conserve energy by investing in green infrastructure and more efficient homes and transportation.
We need to invest in our schools and support leadership and innovative thinking, because we need the support of our universities and colleges and the private sector to succeed in this endeavour.
We need a national energy strategy, just as every other OECD nation has, which ensures that we meet Canada’s domestic energy needs, with an emphasis on local, renewable energy.
Canada is one of the largest consumers of energy and we have not met our global commitments to reduce. We owe a duty — to ourselves, our children, our grandchildren, and the world — to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and develop adaptation strategies, engage in constructive international dialogue, and provide relief to those nations that are affected by climate change. We are all connected. We need to ensure that we have the necessary financial, social and humanitarian capacity to respond together.
Dwindling fish stocks, clear-cut forests, polluted water, toxic waste and mountains of garbage are all evidence of our abuse of resources. We waste as much as we produce through unsustainable farming, fishing and forestry methods. We need to develop our resources in a fashion that respects the capacity of the earth to regenerate renewable resources and with careful stewardship of those that are not renewable.
In my work, especially in negotiating La Paix Des Braves, I have put this principle into practice and I have seen it succeed, for the protection of the environment and for the development of the local economy. The benefits of resource extraction and processing must flow first to the communities where the development is occurring and we need to stop the roller coaster ride of boom and bust resource extraction.
We must work together with the provinces and territories to support more sustainable use of natural resources by helping to finance innovation in everything from farming to forestry to mining to energy supply to source water protection. In the course of this effort we must respect the rights of Aboriginal peoples to development and conservation in their territories.
Nearly half of the scientists at Environment Canada are set to retire in the next few years and the current government does not plan to replace them. We must restore the federal capacity to examine and monitor environmental toxins in order to safeguard our health, soil, water supply and clean air. We must restore our capacity to enforce regulations to ensure everyone does their part.
The ongoing loss of biological diversity in the wild and in our domesticated animals and crops threatens our capacity to feed, clothe and heal ourselves. We need to step up implementation of the Species at Risk Act, and we will need complimentary efforts at the provincial and territorial levels. We must work with them to support education, research and innovation to regenerate, prevent further losses and to celebrate our diversity.
Biotechnology, nanotechnology and nanomaterials, while bringing some interesting developments, also carry the potential for serious human and environmental harm. The rush to bring these new technologies to market should not overshadow our obligations to carefully consider their unintended consequences. We need to regulate their development and deployment, increase monitoring and better research the implications of all of these technologies before, not after, their use.
To respond to the environmental challenges we face, Canada must enhance its resiliency to overcome potential environmental shocks and the incumbent disruption to our social and economic wellbeing. We need to mobilize for innovation. We need to respect the finite capacity of the earth’s resources and learn to live within those limits. We must act to sustain that which sustains us.
The fairest society
A fair society is one in which we act with respect for the rights of others, in expectation of their respect for our rights, grounded on the principle of the rule of law, which spells out our commitments toward each other. Once upon a time, our leaders called this a “just society.”
These principles apply equally in questions of global, national unity or social justice.
Canada and the world
Canadians once took special pride in our role as a constructive and influential nation on the world stage. Today, that reputation is in steep and rapid decline.
This Conservative government has demonstrated how poorly it understands international law and diplomatic relations, embarrassing Canada at every turn.
The opposition to serious action on climate change has earned Canada a reputation as a dinosaur among nations. The defining proof of Canada’s fall from relevance was, of course, our failure to win a seat on the UN Security Council; a clear rebuke to what not so long ago would have been an automatic place at the table. Now, the Foreign Affairs Minister says Canada won’t even try again.
This retreat might be considered a small thing were the practical consequences not so serious. Canada’s voice on the great questions of our time is not heard. We no longer receive consideration when important decisions are made. Our opportunity to contribute to real solutions is diminished.
Canada needs a new and effective foreign policy, designed by people who understand how the process works and are willing to implement it. We need to invert the way we look at global issues. Turn it on its head.
Instead of reacting to each new situation as though it were an isolated and unique event, we need a long-term vision of our shared global future. That vision should be based on adherence to constructive process and a clear sense of our values.
My twenty-plus years of international diplomacy tell me that only when we treat people with respect and listen carefully to them can we find the common ground upon which practical solutions are built. Foreign relations are no different from relationships with your neighbours, friends and family. Respect leads toward solutions.
Terrorism, civil war and war between nations have the same roots in a failure to respect international law, human rights and the humanity of others. We cannot disrespect these values when it suits us and then expect that others will follow them.
As much as we may feel disgust, fear or dismay when we see the heinous acts of some so-called leaders, we must not fall into the trap of demonizing them, shutting our ears and shutting off any hope for progress. Killing the next Hussein, Bin Laden or Gadhafi will not prevent other despots from arising.
We must be clear about our values. Canadians cannot claim to stand for peace and so easily opt for war. We cannot claim to prize humanity and allow so much suffering. We must understand our connection to others on this planet in a more direct and personal way. Their future is our future. Their failure is the failure of us all.
If we are to prevent crises rather than haphazardly react to them, we must understand how to reconcile our goals with our own values and to reconcile those with the goals and values of others. We must build our foreign policy from this foundation, with clear objectives, perseverance and integrity.
National unity should be a core objective of any federal government, whether in relation to the aspirations of Quebec, alienation in the western provinces, Canada’s relationship with Aboriginal peoples or simply engaging all citizens in the project of our country.
Sadly, the Conservatives appear to prefer to work toward dividing people against each other for their ends. We need to understand and respond to what is happening if we are to promote the common bond of interest among all Canadians.
Quebec’s assertion of national pride and self-determination, the seizing of control over its own political, economic and cultural destiny, and its refusal to accept continued relegation to second-class status have redefined Canada. Yet, the response of federal governments was to alternate between appeasement and opposition. They failed to understand and share in the aspiration of a group of Canadians to throw off historical injustice and take on the difficult task of setting their own future.
Western alienation — “the west wants in” — was a response to the arrogance and unilateralism of a federal government dominated by other interests since Confederation. It also reflected a broader desire for recognition that, when it came time for decisions that affect everyone, equal respect was due to the views coming out of the resource-based and energy economies in the west as was being given to the views of Bay Street. And it reflected a strong desire among westerners to be part of the national dialogue.
Over the history of Canada, the economic interests of the Hudson’s Bay Company right up to Bay Street has taken primacy over the rights and interests of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. Despite occasional eruptions of civil disobedience, the patient response of Aboriginal peoples to having Canadian governments ignore treaties, rule of law, human rights and collective rights should not be overlooked. Like Quebec and the western provinces, Aboriginal peoples are asserting themselves in a new way that will benefit the country, if we show we understand and respond supportively.
In each of these challenges to our national unity, we see an element of what exists with the Occupy movement that arose this past year. We see large groups of people who are being excluded from the national dialogue and want to participate. People who recognize that power rests with decision-makers whose money buys them undue influence and understand that the government in Ottawa is not on their side in that struggle.
We must give people the respect they are due. We must understand the challenges they want addressed and the aspirations they seek to fulfill. We must act on the basis of the rule of law in a just, transparent and accountable manner.
In short, we must provide fairness.
For Quebec, that will involve a continuing dialogue over how to protect its unique place within Canada, to ensure that Quebecois culture and the French language thrive and that its economy is secure on behalf of all Quebeckers.
It means affirming the concept of Quebec as a nation within Canada, committing to bilingualism, and supporting the Sherbrooke Declaration. These are marks of a minimum standard of respect.
It also means working with Quebec and all provinces in a constructive manner to rebalance the responsibilities of constitutional jurisdiction with the authorities of revenue generation.
Additionally, it is important to recognize that the desire for the western provinces to be “in” has only partially been met. Stephen Harper brought his friends at the large oil companies in downtown Calgary to the table, but left everyone else as distant from the centre of power as they had ever been when Bay Street was calling all the shots.
Canada relies on regional resource and energy economies, but we cannot continue to feed our resources to other countries as though they are infinite while receiving so little in return locally. We need to protect Canada’s own energy security first and foremost. We need to recognize that future growth of manufacturing in Canada will be closer to the site of resource extraction, with value-added local jobs tied to the resources in the ground. We need to protect the local environment so that the people who live near resources are not those facing the greatest harm and the least return from its extraction. And we need to allow the people on the ground the opportunity to make those decisions, without manipulation. These steps are in everyone’s interest.
For First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, Canada must abandon the policy of assimilation finally and completely, returning to the original relationship of partnership and nation-to-nation dialogue. As with both Quebec and the West, Ottawa has treated the original inhabitants of this land with enormous disrespect. The movement toward self-determination among Aboriginal peoples is now, but we have yet to see a federal government ready to respond to the solutions provided by First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.
Under my leadership, we will return to the principles of the treaties, we will respect the Aboriginal and treaty rights recognized in Section 35 of the Constitution of Canada, and we will meet the minimum standards for survival, dignity and wellbeing set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The wealth of the land and the power of decision-making will be shared fairly, as the laws require. The right of self-determination will no longer be undermined through colonialism and paternalism.
I’d like to flag one more serious challenge to national unity: the growing gap between the richest Canadians and everyone else.
I am dismayed at how easily people dismiss the needs of others. Some seem to believe that they are entitled to use what has been created by and belongs to us all in order to profit them alone. The growing gap between the rich and the rest of us is the result of this belief and it is in the process of sinking economies around the world. It is at fundamental odds with what we know to be our best interest. It is the ideology behind governments of and for the few, paid for by the many.
There is today no greater threat to our future as a country than this inequality. It threatens our economy, it threatens our environment and it threatens our society. It must be redressed immediately.
The way to do this is to elect a government that is not beholden to large corporate interests.
The way to do this is to elect a prime minister who understands what it means to be disaffected, who was not raised with privilege, who has been on the wrong side of the power equation and who has come out victorious for the people.
The way to do this is for those who understand the power dynamic in our country to take control over our destiny and demand that we be guided by the principles of fairness for all the people.
My vision for Canada is one where Canadians no longer face discrimination, harassment, subjugation or violence because of who they are. Being made to live in fear or shame, being judged as less than others before you’re given an opportunity to contribute or achieve is not part of my politics.
As a country, we are still far from achieving equality between men and women.
Women remain the principal care providers for children and they often do so without the help of another income in the family. Affordable, available childcare would make it easier for women to work and provide for their families. It is well past time and smart economics.
It is stunning to me that pay equity has still not been achieved. Clearly, the government needs to get on the side of women on this issue, beginning with the establishment of a tribunal to address outstanding cases more quickly.
Far too many women live in fear of violence or an insecure environment. The work on missing and murdered Aboriginal women stands as a testament to how much still needs to be done, but this problem is not confined to any one part of society. It is pervasive and will require support for local action, working with those affected to develop a range of practical solutions on the ground.
I want to lead a Canada where people living with disabilities have the same opportunities to fully participate in society as others take for granted. We need to remove the stigma around these issues, especially psychological or mental disabilities. And we must address the question of who defines disability: government, employers or the individual in question. We need a simple process to get fair, fast and inexpensive answers when that question arises.
In the Canada I want to build, we work together: straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, queer, man, woman, both or neither. Who you love and how you love doesn’t matter; that you are loved is what matters. What your body looks like doesn’t matter; that you are healthy is what matters. We are all equal.
Perhaps our finest marker of social justice is the high quality of health care we provide to every Canadian, equally. We can provide better results, but let’s remember our health care system already does a pretty good job.
Most of the complaining comes from those who want a bigger profit from illness, let’s not be naive. Over the past decade, the biggest rise in costs have come from the private sphere (drugs and equipment) while the public sector (hospitals and staff) have held to near inflation rates. Those are the facts.
So we need to look at running more of the system in a way that is less expensive, as we do the public portion. Also, we would look at how we pay doctors. Today, there is little incentive for prevention but lots of incentive for high turnover, high prescription, and highly invasive treatments. That must change, and we must work with both the provinces and the medical community to realize it.
A fair Canada is one that invests in its youth. If we want to maintain the economic advantage of our well-trained workforce, the highest quality education must be available to each and everyone, regardless of their personal wealth or circumstance.
To ensure this, we must act to keep education and training accessible and affordable. We must alleviate the burden of student debt by investing in our education system and insisting that those institutions repay that investment through fairness toward their students.
Of course, First Nation, Métis and Inuit people form the fastest growing and youngest demographic in Canada. In addition to establishing a new relationship of full partnership, the federal government must reverse the effects of centuries of discrimination to help Indigenous peoples fully participate in this country’s future and to address, at last, the greatest social injustice in this country.
In a fair Canada, immigrants and newcomers would have their skills and qualifications recognized where they meet our standards and the federal government that brought them here would help facilitate that instead of allowing professional associations to stand in the way. The statistics tell us that people need more help overcoming their lack of local experience, gaining a stronger facility with official languages and integrating into work and community life.
I know what it is like to be an outsider on my own land. And yet, I understand that Canada’s record on ethnic integration is the best in the world. We have far less conflict than most other countries, with a much higher immigration rate. The point is to integrate old ways with new in a constructive fashion on an ongoing basis. We should show the same respect to new Canadians, those who immigrated generations ago and to the first peoples. We should take pride in what works and not give into fear.
We also must not give into fear when it comes to our criminal code. The so-called “tough on crime” agenda is simply “dumb-on-crime” in my view. It flies in the face of the facts, every serious study and on-the-ground experience in other countries. In the United States, they are now reversing the changes they made to their laws in the face of evidence that such an approach actually makes crime worse.
Mandatory minimum sentences interfere with an independent judiciary, undermining the rule of law. I believe in providing judges with sufficient freedom to make the best decisions on every case that comes before them.
When it comes to marijuana laws, I think it may be time to go further. A proposition in California suggested that it is time to look at full legalization, regulation and taxation. Medical authorities have recently made the same recommendation. Marijuana is no more harmful than alcohol. Unlike alcohol, it is non-addictive.
The criminalization of marijuana creates ties to other crime, just as prohibition did with alcohol. This creates an enormous cost for the justice system, the penal system and for society as a whole when we criminalize tens of thousands of our young people. This idea deserves serious study. In the interim, decriminalization is the least we can do toward reducing the harm inflicted by our current legislation.
I support better gun control, particularly to stop the smuggling of guns across the border. I also support registering all guns, including long guns. The facts show this increases safety.
But the Liberals blew it. They ignored the legitimate interests of hunters and Aboriginal people (and I am both) by treating us like criminals for owning a gun, by putting the responsibility on our shoulders, by ignoring Aboriginal rights and by wildly overspending to create the registry in the first place. Those mistakes made people angry and gave Stephen Harper and the Conservatives an excuse to set Canadians against each other.
The long-gun registry was a divisive issue because there were valid concerns played upon by special interests. The way to deal with this would have been to bring people together, develop understanding and find common ground. Instead, we now have Canadians angry at each other and our country is going backwards on gun control, which makes people less safe and secure.
This is a perfect example of the terrible governance with which this country has been plagued for far too long. It is a perfect example of how my approach to leadership differs from the divisive Conservatives and the arrogant Liberals who preceded them in office.
The strongest economy
We need a strong economy that serves Canadians, not a country that exists to service multinational corporations. This is the fundamental difference between my view and Stephen Harper’s.
There are some issues where we agree. For instance, I believe in balanced budgets and holding personal income taxes steady, although I hold these views for entirely different reasons than does the current prime minister.
Then there are areas where we disagree fundamentally.
I do not believe that individual Canadians, struggling to make ends meet, should be subsidizing services to corporations. I believe that Canada’s natural resources should benefit all Canadians for as long as possible, rather than profiting a very few for a very short period. And I believe that trade agreements that do not uphold minimum environmental, labour and human rights standards are bad for Canada and for the other countries involved, serving only the interests of multinational corporations.
I believe in balanced budgets for the same reason that Tommy Douglas did. If we are beholden to banks or foreign governments as creditors, we sacrifice our sovereignty to them in exchange. Look at the sovereign debt crisis in Europe and the consequent exercise of control by Goldman-Sachs over Greece and Italy. I don’t want to put Canada in that position and adding to global instability won’t help our economy.
I believe in holding personal income taxes steady because the personal debt crisis is the greatest internal threat to our economy today. Canadians need to get their personal debt under control. To help them, government needs to provide people with a predictable and sustainable basis for their own personal planning.
Among other steps we can take, holding tax rates steady will help accomplish that. We also need to make the whole tax process simpler. We cannot expect people to manage their financial planning when they can’t understand the tax system or the tax form itself, and benefits should not go to only those who can afford the best accountants.
I would ask the Department of Finance to review the $152 billion spent on existing incentives, deductions, credits and loopholes to reduce complexity, simplify the system and generate a higher degree of fairness across the board. I believe that, as a result of removing many ineffective corporate incentives, boutique credits and deductions for the already privileged, we can raise the minimum standard deduction for everyone to the level of a living wage. That way, the tax system can never drive a hard working person into poverty. This will serve Canada and Canadians much better than any of the changes that have been made in the last five years.
Income inequality has been growing for almost 30 years and it is going to take a number of strategies and time to reverse. But if we are going to close the gap between the privileged few and the rest of us who pay for those privileges, we must share responsibility more equitably.
That means restoring a balance between the benefits people take from society and their obligations to society. For years, corporations have been saying that we have to cut their taxes or they’ll take their investment elsewhere. We’ve given in to blackmail. We paid for it by putting the responsibility on the middle class.
As is NDP policy, I believe we can hold corporate taxes to levels that remain competitive with the rest of the OECD countries. Corporations place demands on government services just like individual Canadians, but are paying half the personal rates in taxes. Corporations and their servants in the current government keep insisting on reducing corporate taxes and one has to wonder where those demands end.
It is worth remembering that corporations exercise rights as “persons” in law. I believe that we must turn the tide on this dynamic before we reach the point where the trade-off between the rights that large corporations exercise in our society and their unwillingness to accept fiscal responsibility becomes unsustainable.
I recognize that, if you insist on balanced budgets and don’t intend to raise personal income taxes, the usual next step is to look at cutting government services.
We can reduce the cost of government by eliminating services that do not actually serve the interests of Canadians. For example, eliminating corporate subsidies would provide billions in newly available revenue. Paying resource development companies to invest in Canada when the resources are finite and in our soil is simply ridiculous, especially when post-extraction processing jobs then go overseas.
There are many other examples where the cost of government could be reduced in the interests of Canadians. For example, we can reduce the cost of the Department of Justice and serve Canadians better by accepting the direction of our courts. The government currently spends over $300 million per year fighting against the rights of First Nations in cases analogous to those where courts have already declared the federal government wrong. The same waste of money applied to the recently failed 28-year multi-million dollar fight against pay equity in the public service. Exhausting people’s resources to avoid a legal duty toward them is simply wrong and it can be stopped.
Personally, I do not believe in big or small government. In fact, I don’t believe the size of the government is relevant to anything but rhetoric. Conservatives say they want smaller government, but all they do is reduce government revenues while increasing its size, therefore rendering it ineffective government.
Unlike the Conservatives, I do not consider environmental protection, food safety inspection or health trials for new pharmaceuticals to be unnecessary services. Whether large or small, those services are simply good government. In fact, the size of government is currently bigger than when Stephen Harper took over in 2006, but there is now a deficit instead of a surplus. We have a bigger, but hobbled, government.
Balancing revenues and expenditures can be achieved in other ways, the main one being to grow the economy. I have experience doing this in Quebec, helping to create thousands of jobs through resource development and ancillary services.
Over the next 20 years, there will be over $300 billion invested in resource development on the traditional territories of Aboriginal peoples. The delays and expense that result from the current relationship are too costly. We need to ensure that greater certainty is brought to the resource sector by respecting rights, by settling questions around environmental approval processes and by sharing the benefits of growth with local communities. This can be done, as I have said elsewhere, by treating people with respect, listening to their concerns and ideas, and finding the common ground on which to move forward. I have done this before and I can do it again across the country.
We can develop the North by investing in these communities, providing proper infrastructure and supporting their development on their own terms. The governments closest to the people are best placed to determine their needs.
The Government of Canada needs to radically alter its approach and finally support local governments. The Conservatives only invested in infrastructure in 2009 because they were forced to do so and then claimed credit when it helped the economy. I would make those investments because they are the right things to do.
We can help all communities with resource-based economies by insisting that the promises made to them are kept. Companies have taken government incentive money and then moved the refining jobs somewhere else. Without these value-added jobs and with lasting environmental damage, rural communities absorb all the risk with little of the reward.
The mismanagement of forest policy is similar. The trees came down, but mill production went offshore. We ship raw logs overseas and buy back furniture. The time when Canadians were satisfied as drawers of water and hewers of wood has ended. Longer-lasting good-paying jobs are available, once governments stop supporting short-term interests over the future of Canadians.
We must also make it a priority to end the hollowing-out of rural Canada. Young people are leaving their communities, unwillingly but in large numbers, because they can’t make a living on the family farm and there are no other jobs in their communities. We need to address this on an urgent basis.
Part of that involves protecting rural Canada from the attack launched by the Conservatives and their friends in giant agribusiness. The incentives, the regulations and the infrastructure are all aimed at supporting giant agribusiness. Health regulations are calibrated for industrial-sized operations, yet simply can’t work for smaller farms. The family farm, organic farms and small farms of all kinds are being squeezed out.
The suffocation of the Wheat Board is just the beginning. Our supply-managed dairy, poultry and egg boards are next. Conservatives have been completely duplicitous about this, pretending to be on the side of the farmer while selling them out to Monsanto, Viterra and Cargill.
The NDP has a historic role in supporting farmers that we must restore. We need to show farmers and farming communities we’re listening, that we get it, and that we’ll support their struggles.
Job creation is critical to so much that is part of a healthy and prosperous country. We need strategies for boosting employment that are as varied as the many types of employment there are. This includes supporting the creative economy, revitalizing farming and rural communities and investing in education as a driver for employment.
The other key element in a strong economy is our trade policy. I favour increased trade with other nations, especially to overcome our inordinate reliance on the United States as a trading partner.
The question is what rules should apply. Should we allow countries with no labour or environmental standards to set the maximum standards for trade or should we insist on minimums with which we, and the rest of the planet, can live? That is the real question and there is no doubt that Liberals and Conservatives have sold Canada out every time.
We have lost jobs to places with starvation wages, no environmental protections and no protection for human rights over and over again. The value-added jobs are being shipped elsewhere. My approach is to insist on fair trade. Fair to workers, fair to the planet and fair to Canada’s economy.
A final thought
Through the thoughts that I have shared here, I hope to have given you a strong sense of my vision for Canada and the approach that I would take as leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada.
I understand that I have not addressed every issue of importance. I will continue to write and speak about many more subjects over the remainder of this campaign. It is probably never possible to completely exhaust all of the issues that need to be addressed, and as I explained at the outset, I don’t believe that it is wise to try to do so more than three years before the next election, nor desirable without more fully engaging with party members and the Canadian public. Instead, I have concentrated on what I see as the fundamental questions we need to address as a country, identifying some of my priorities for action, providing examples of how I would approach the challenges that we face together and describing the kind of Canada we can create by working together.
As a final thought, I would like to comment on the race for leader itself. There are two themes running through much of the media comment on this race.
The first is that the candidates do not provide sufficient fodder for comment because we largely agree with one another. Some of the comments I have made here may differentiate me from one or more of the other candidates and, if so, I am pleased to provide the pundits with something to talk about. More importantly, I think that the commonality between us points to the strength of our policies as a party and our shared values, as well as the breadth of the common ground on which I believe all progress will be made.
Where I really differ is with the current administration. That is most evident in how I approach the issues of the day. I do not seek to divide Canadians, as I know that we need everyone to both participate in and benefit from our success as a nation. I do seek to attend to the challenges of the most vulnerable and to support the aspirations of all because I know that we are in this project together. That is who I am as a New Democrat and as a Canadian.
The other theme in the media is the horse race. I have no idea who is winning or losing. What I do know is how empowered people have made me feel through the terrific support that I have seen from every corner of the country and how moved I am when I see that my campaign is empowering others.
It is my firm belief that we will form government when we empower Canadians to feel that they are forming government, that their ideas are the ideas that we are putting forward, and that we will implement them. It is my hope that people find some of those very ideas here and that they understand, from what I have written, from how I have run my campaign and from how I have led my life, that I will act on those ideas that make for a better country.
Canada can have the healthiest environment, the fairest society and the strongest economy in the world. We can make that happen by working together.
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