Yakovlyev, Cohen, Postma, Petra discuss five major election issues in detail

Jaren Kerr: Hello everybody, thank you for participating in The Varsity’s student Federal Election roundtable. I’m Jaren Kerr, the moderator of this discussion, and I’m excited to speak with you all about some important issues that are central to this year’s election — especially issues that affect students. So today it’s just a discussion, not necessarily a debate, and what we want to hear from each of you is: [for you] to share your ideas, your thoughts, and your insights about the topics that we are going to discus. So, we will begin right after everyone gives themselves an introduction, and we’ll start right here to my left.

Vlad Yakovlyev: Hello, my name is Vlad Yakovlyev. I am the Director of the University of Toronto Campus Conservatives.

Alexander Cohen: I am Alexander Cohen; I am the President of the University of Toronto Liberals, and I’m also in my third year of studying history and political science at Trinity College — thought I’d add that.

Nathan Postma: [To Cohen,] we’re students too. My name is Nathan Postma; I am the external VP for the U of T Green party. I’m in my second year at Trinity College doing environment ethics and anthropology.

Natalie Petra: Hi there, I’m Natalie Petra. I am a second-year University College student; I’m studying ethics, society and law, and peace conflict and justice studies with an additional minor in equity studies… I’m the Director of Communications for Canada’s New Democratic Youth, and I’m also the president of the York Simcoe riding association.

Kerr: Great, okay. So we’ll start with our first question, and we’ll start with you Natalie. So, why should young people vote?

Petra: Honestly, there’s a million reasons, and that’s almost like a loaded question, it’s like giving me candy I just want to answer so many things.

Kerr: Go ahead.

Petra: The biggest thing for me is that this is your future; fundamentally, you are voting for either a continued path for the country or a new direction; you’re voting for policies that will affect your life today, and that will affect your life tomorrow, and that will affect your life every single day until the end — that’s huge. Young people are completely and totally underserved, right now, by our system, just in general. And that’s certainly gotten worse under the Harper Conservatives to me, but it’s so important that you go out there and you exercise your vote. And no matter which of these parties you vote for, or if you go there and you decline your ballot, or you spoil your ballot… to make a message, the fact that you went out there and you participated in the system and you engaged is so, so crucial.

Kerr: Great. Nathan?

Postma: Yeah, just to echo a lot of what Natalie said, it is about sending a message. It is your future. Young people often forget that you know, 15, 20 years down the line policies implemented today are going to be affecting them. And that could mean the difference between entering into a workforce debt free, looking forward to the future, or entering into the workforce bogged down by student loans and tuition fees that were deferred. So, it’s important to get young people out, so that they know their futures are in their own hands.

Kerr: Okay. Alex?

Cohen: Well, I think that there’s a lot of clichés that you could repeat about this, and obviously, we’re all in agreement that […] voting for young people is very important, but I think that it comes down to two key things. First is your individual responsibility and benefit from voting, in that as Nathan said and Natalie said, it is your future; it is policies that really do affect your lives, affect the amount of money you have in your pocket, affect the education you’re going to get, affect whether you’re going to get a job, affect the kind of home you’re going to be able to live in. And those are all really relevant things especially in a time when it is already harder than ever for young people to do those…things. To find a job, to pay for school, and to get a place to live.

And then, the second point would be more of a collective responsibility in that the system’s designed to have everyone participate. The system’s designed [so] that everyone’s voices come together. That’s what the government’s supposed to be, that’s what elections are supposed to be, and when one segment of the population doesn’t vote you end up with a government that doesn’t fully reflect the country, fully reflect its citizens, and that’s a government that I think is a lot poorer for it because it’s not able to fulfill its mission by serving people. And I think if young people exempt themselves from the process, the system is that much poorer for not having their input, and won’t consequently, serve their needs.

Kerr: Thank you. Vlad?

Yakovlyev: I think there’s a lot of talk that’s coming to youth about how Canadian politics is accessible, moderate and, quite frankly, I think that we can all agree that despite that, this particular election is going to have very serious impacts, regardless of which party comes into power, or stays in power in the case of the Conservatives. And I think that this is especially relevant for young people because this is a future we are inheriting. This country is deeply in debt. This is something that we will have to address in our futures. In fact, this is something that many of us are worried about addressing now. Many of us are graduating and entering the workforce.

So this is something that directly affects us, not just in the long term, but even the very particular policies that will affect us today. Whether it’s foreign policy whether it’s economics, on many levels. Whether it’s something as simple as infrastructure, investing in things like transit for example. That’s all very important and relevant to us, short term and long term. And if young people want to have a better future and want better lives today, then voting in this election and participating in the electoral process is extremely important.

Kerr: Okay. Thank you. So, our next question is on the same topic. So, besides voting, how else can students get involved in the election or in politics in general? Especially for international students who aren’t able to vote. What else can people do? I’d like to start with Nathan.

Postma: Volunteering, for me is definitely the best way to do that. You don’t have to be eligible to vote in order to go out with the candidate that you support: knock on doors, get signatures, and create the political dialogue that’s so important in any democracy. So for me, the number one way is absolutely volunteering, but it is also just creating a dialogue with your friends, talking to them about the political process challenging their views, reflecting on your own. And then that way, you can have a more competent democracy at the end of the day, and that’s the best for all Canadians.

Kerr: Great, okay. Vlad, I’d like to hear [from] you.

Yakovlyev: There’s a wide variety of ways and, as Nathan said, volunteering is obviously one of the strongest ways you can actually participate. You can participate on a partisan basis, if you want, and that’s something that’s open to students who will not necessarily be voting as well. I mean, some of the campaigns I’ve worked on have had young people from other countries, even international students who are not eligible to vote, but they have issues that they care about and they want to express.

And another thing, really, it doesn’t even have to be a partisan thing. Some students have gotten involved with Elections Canada itself, some students get involved with organizations that aren’t necessarily partisan but push forward a particular issue that they care about. For example, here on campus… we have a club called “Generation Screwed” which is part of the Canadian taxpayer’s federation, which really addresses the issue of the amount of debt this country has, and the amount of a burden that the average taxpayer will have in light of this. This is a very particular issue and it is a non-partisan group, which… a lot of students really care about that. So, there are many ways that students can get involved.

Kerr: Natalie?

Petra: Yeah, I would echo those things. Volunteering is always a really really great way to get involved. Again, you don’t have to be Canadian, in terms of your citizenship, to get involved. But, I think it’s also something that I would emphasize, in that […] my colleagues up here haven’t necessarily put out there, is that the decisions that are being made by domestic election will affect you at the end of the day. Whether you choose to stay here and you choose to go through the immigration process, or even if you just stay here for the next four years as a student, or even if you go home and our foreign policies affect your life. So, it matters. Even if you’re not necessarily a citizen at this point in time. And I think too, something else that’s really key, is that not all ways of getting involved have to be partisan as you mentioned.

Another great thing that I would mention is getting involved with your students’ union. The UTSU’s VP external Jasmine Denike, she’s running a fantastic “voteposal” campaign, where, we’re just trying to get students to get out there and pledge that you’ll vote. Elections Canada is always an option as well, issues based campaigns are really phenomenal, U of T 350.org runs a great campaign in terms of pushing how they think that we should be reforming our system for the environment. So, find what you’re passionate about. Find what you’re comfortable with. More than anything else. Even if it’s just talking to your friends about the issues, being comfortable is so so important. Especially with issues that can make some people touchy, which are so personal to some people so just making sure that you’re comfortable is number one.

Kerr: Alex?

Cohen: Well, I think like everyone else up here, elections for us are pretty much a smorgasbord. There’s a lot going on, but I think, obviously, I echo a lot of what’s been already said, non partisan involvement, volunteering: I always enjoyed that, I believe, even before I could vote — I was like 12.

But, what I would add to what’s been said is: I think elections are a time when you have a truly unique access to politicians. […] I’ve seen a bunch on my own street knocking on doors, and I think that everyone, regardless of whether you’re involved in politics or whether you just see it in the newspaper, whether you’re an international student, I think it’s a really unique opportunity to be able to talk to politicians, to put them on the hot seat and to try to make them more responsive to what you need, and to what you want, and I think that in between elections politicians have the luxury of, you know, being able to stand high and mighty up in Ottawa, but now their jobs are on the line and I think it’s incumbent – especially on students – to really push politicians, to try to get the most out of them and try to make the most of the time when they’re reapplying for their job because once they’re locked in for four years, who knows?

Kerr: Great, alright. So now we’re going to move onto the topic of diversity. And I have a question. It’s quite open, but that’s on purpose. I really want you guys to define this in whatever way that you please. Whatever makes most sense to you. So my question is, what is at stake for multiculturalism this election? And I’d like to start with Vlad.

Yakovlyev: Multiculturalism is obviously a foundational part of what […] Canada is and it’s something that each and every party claims to uphold. And, quite frankly, that’s something that […] every single student can say that they have some sort of experience in this field. They have friends, from a diversity of cultures and as a result we experience a diversity of opinion. How different people experience politics and so on. This can happen in, you know, the setting of Canada itself. Different groups in Canada have a different experience of Canadian politics. But, a lot of the time, students from different backgrounds also find themselves being concerned with what’s happening back in their own countries. I mean I’m Ukrainian. So, naturally, the issue of what’s happening in the Ukraine is very important to me and Canada has a very large Canadian Ukrainian population. So, this is something that every single party needs to engage in, and that every single student needs to consider. So, really […] it should be part of the debate, it should be something we are discussing. And, I think that’s important for every single student, regardless of what background they come from.

Kerr: Thank you. Natalie?

Petra: Yeah, so I guess, just to me as a student, my own personal politics aside, multiculturalism is just such a difficult topic because oftentimes it’s rooted in the language of assimilation. And it’s rooted in policies that have not always been the most equitable and the most fair for certain groups within our country. So it’s a little difficult for me to address that kind of topic.

But I think that what’s at stake for Canadians, especially for those who are from diverse backgrounds, especially those who are visible minorities. Because, personally, my parents are both South American, but I’m visibly white and I can pass on the street as a white person in that way. But for those who are visible minorities, what’s at stake here is the continuation – or not – of policies that consistently disenfranchise them. Policies that make everyday life, and accessing the system harder. So, that’s really key to me in this election, and I think that we all need to step back and kind of consider: who’s going to be looking out for you in particular? If you are racialized or if you are from a more multicultural background where you care about those issues particularly. But also, what’s at stake for your friends and your neighbours? Because even if you may not experience that, personally every day, I guarantee that at a school as diverse as U of T, you probably know somebody who has gone through struggles because of that. So, it’s important to step back and consider what’s at stake for either you, or the people around you.

Kerr: Thanks. Alex?

Cohen: Well […] I can say that I’m very proud that we’re up here, well, not up here, but we’re sitting together on a stage and none of the four parties here are anti-immigrant. And, I think […] it says quite something about Canada that we’re really the only country in the developed world that doesn’t have a major political party that’s anti immigration. And, I think that’s unique about Canada and I think that’s great. And, I’m also very proud that, as a Liberal, that it was a Liberal government under Pierre Trudeau that brought in the policy of official multiculturalism, and made us into, set us on the path to what I believe is the most tolerable society in the world.

But, as we are not a perfect society, there’s a lot more to be done, and I agree that for our diverse population… the idea of multiculturalism is very relevant to this election I think if you look at the policies that you traditionally associate with multiculturalism, stuff like immigration and accommodations and stuff like that, you see… very different visions from the parties. On something like Bill C-24 […] you see a very stark division between the parties on it and what it means to be a Canadian, be a citizen, and so I think that it is a very relevant debate to have, and it’s an election where it has come to the forefront in a lot of ways, and it will be interesting to see how it goes.

Kerr: Great, and we’ll finish with you, Nathan.

Postma: Fantastic. So, when you talk about multiculturalism, and this election, my mind goes to two places. First off, it goes to the refugee crisis that’s going on in the Middle East right now, and I think about First Nations as well.

So to address the first one, most people are aware by now that there’s an enormous refugee crisis in the Middle East, millions and millions of displaced people trying to find better homes and just in desperate, appalling conditions. So, the green party would like to see more people, more refugees brought in and to operationalize that a little bit more we’d create a class specifically for environmental refugees, as well as conflict refugees just to make sure we’re including as many as possible. And, in Canada we have a ton of people with Middle Eastern backgrounds that I’m sure are very sympathetic to what people are experiencing there, and increasingly as it moves north into Europe it’s affecting more and more in the world so Canada needs to do it’s part, really back up its multiculturalism and bring in as many refugees as we can.

As well, I think about First Nations and how we need to be interacting with them on a nation to nation basis, and how they need to have more of a say in what’s going on in Canada. And with the findings of the truth and reconciliation committee out we can really dive in and figure out exactly what we need to do to help these populations.

Kerr: Okay, thank you. So we’re going to move onto our third topic, and I think it’s one that is quite important, especially as students. And that’s job creation. So for a moment, I’d like you to actually advocate for your parties a bit more explicitly and tell me, what can your party do to create a stronger job climate for young people and for recent graduates? I’d like to start with Alex for this question.

Cohen: Thank you, well this is one I’ve been looking forward to. The fact is there’s really no way of […] there is an absolutely appalling state of youth unemployment in this country. Since the recession, there have been nearly 200,000 youth jobs lost and they haven’t come back. So, while we see Prime Minister Harper on TV touting an economic recovery, touting the strongest record in the G7, an economy that’s growing, that has not been equal, that has not been equitable and one of the groups that is really taking on the chin so to speak has been our generation, has been young people.

And so, and I think that speaking to the earlier point about why you should vote and why you should care about politics, I think a lot of young people are turned off from politics because they don’t see a government that’s responsive to the fact they can’t get a job, they don’t see a government that cares about whether the labour market is fair for young people and a Liberal government would act on that. We have a plan over three years to invest 1.3 billion and create 120,000 job for youth over the three-year period. It’s more than any other party. And the investments would be targeted in things like job grants summer jobs, apprenticeships et cetera and really the idea is not just to get people a paying job, but to get people that first job, to get young people that first job that will then set them on the path to a well paying career. And that’s really important and that’s really been missing during the Harper decade when what we’ve been seeing is a loss of that first job for young people which affects their earning potential all down the road. And that’s really something where government’s failed. And the Liberal plan will address that our youth employment plan will address that. Our infrastructure plan will create green jobs, so we’re not just creating new jobs, but the jobs of the future, and really ensuring that government is looking out for young people, is acting on this, and is addressing the biggest issue among youth, which is unemployment.

Kerr: Okay. Natalie?

Petra: I’d argue that there’s actually two big issues for you it’s post-secondary education and youth unemployment, but on the topic of youth unemployment, I’m really, really proud of the NDP’s platform on this. There’s a few key planks that are really, really aimed at tackling this problem. First off, we’d work on creating 40,000 new jobs for students. Under Stephen Harper’s government we’ve seen unprecedented numbers of job losses, particularly for young people. The youth unemployment rate is double that of the national average for quote unquote adults. So it’s really disturbing that nothing has been done to sort of tackle and remedy this issue. But it’s more than just kind of creating these jobs. You have to look at, I guess, what industries are you creating this in. [F]or us, we feel that small businesses, small medium businesses and green economy, they need to be the drivers of the economy. The small and medium sized businesses already are of course, but we need to invest more in that green technology so that’s really, really important to us.

On top of that, there’s two other really, really important points. The first being a federal minimum wage. This was axed by the Liberal party. And under our plan to create 40,000 jobs we want to create those jobs in federally regulated industries, we want to create co-op placements, we want to create internships that are paid, and opportunities for youth to get that experience, and to do that at a fair and reasonable wage of 15 dollars an hour. That’s super important because it’s one thing to be working, and of course any work is better than no work, but to an extent but if you’re not working for a fair wage and if you’re not working for something you deserve, it’s difficult to find living conditions that are adequate for you and your needs and to also pay for school if that’s what you’re doing at the same time.

The second piece that’s really important to us is tackling […] regulations […] for interns who are not paid at this point in time. Right now, if you’re an intern you don’t have protection against sexual harassment in the workplace, you do not have guarantees for vacations and for holiday pay. You have no regulations in terms of safety. You have no protections and if you are injured as a worker there’s no recourse that you can go to at this point in time. So really fundamental to the NDP is implementing regulations for that. Making sure that you are protected as a worker just the same way that any paid worker would be. And then slowly eliminating those unpaid positions, because they’re really not fair to youth. They especially target those who are on the bottom, and those who are not able to afford to not be paid for a little bit of time while they work that unpaid internship so yeah it’s a really comprehensive plan to create jobs, to target unfairness and to make sure that students and young people are paid fair living wages.

Kerr: Okay, Vlad I’d like you to respond.

Yakovlyev: I would obviously have to disagree with both my colleagues here in that I do think that the Conservative party has provided an absolutely wonderful job creation record: 1.5 million jobs created. And quite frankly, we have done what is necessary in the context of the global market and in context of how the global economy is operating right now. We provided the stimuluses [sic] we had to provide. But, now is the time to balance fiscal responsibility with providing opportunity for young people.

[S]omething we haven’t kind of considered here is that a good portion of what we have to focus on is what job sector is actually being focused on. And we actually, our government has actually offered a tremendous amount of support for trade and apprenticeship jobs, which are quite frankly lacking in this country in every province. And that’s something that young people will find to be increasingly relevant as the nature of the job market changes. And, quite frankly, I don’t see why naming a bunch of […] projects, […] increasing the federal minimum wage and so on is responsible when you’re not going to explain how you’re going to pay for it, or if you’re going to pay for it with money you don’t have, namely through a deficit. You really do have to strike a balance; you really do have to provide room for the economy to grow without destroying it by focusing on one particular issue with fiscal irresponsibility. And I think that a stable economy is going to be relevant for young people regardless of what situation we’re in now and that’s something we need to focus on. We need to let the economy grow and then the atmosphere for job creation will develop and that’s going to be very, very, very good for young people I think.

Kerr: Alright. Nathan?

Postma: Yeah, just a quick point before I get into the green’s platform. I’m a little bit disappointed in the Conservatives when they say that they’re doing what’s necessary in a global market. Because for them they’ve ceded sovereignty to multinational corporations and foreign corporations with the Trans-Pacific partnership. Something that we would definitely axe.

But moving into our job creation plan as the Green party, the time is now for a wholesale transition into a long-term sustainable economy — something that’s going to be there for future generations, something that isn’t in jeopardy. And we’re going to do that off the back of the national sustainable jobs plan. So that’s big focus on trades and apprenticeships, making sure that those are available across the nation, very easily accessible. Because we need these people to implement physically the clean tech that’s being developed. We need them out in the field maintaining buildings, retrofitting high polluting industries so that they’re more clean and we can continue on with that. As well, we need these tradespeople and these skilled workers to close our enormous infrastructure gap. Right now it’s estimated at 350 billion dollars, which is absurd. And that’s something that we’re going to have to pay for in the future. So the Green party would take one point of the GST and dedicate it exclusively to closing that gap. So that’ll be 6.4 billion dollars a year. And we need our army of tradespeople and apprentices to make sure that we’re in those buildings making them more environmentally friendly, and we believe that this will reduce emissions by 30 per cent in Canada. So, there’s many benefits both in jobs and as far as environmental sustainability is concerned as well.

As has been mentioned before, small businesses are a big focus of ours as well. We want to make sure that we remove red tape for them, and that they have access to green tech and it’s not something that’s financially unfeasible for them. So we have a green technology commercialization project that we’d implement to make sure that green tech is accessible for those small businesses.

Finally, just last point; we mentioned youth unemployment, which is an enormous problem. We would address that with the community environment service corps making sure municipal governments have access to young workers, to again fix the infrastructure, and we’d be dedicating a billion dollars to that plan.

Kerr: So this has been really enjoyable so far and we’re just going to take a short break.

Kerr: So we’re back and I wanted to revisit this topic of job creation, definitely because it’s an important one and also because I could sense that a lot of people were responding visually to other people’s responses. So, I would [like] to give everybody the floor to make some responses to whoever else you’re sitting with. And we’ll start with Natalie for this one.

Petra: Yeah, the big thing that I kind of rolled my eyes at a bit was when you [to Yakovlyev] said these plans will bring us into deficit. There is a plan here that will bring us into deficit; it’s the Liberal plan. But, our plan is fully costed; it’s a responsible [plan] and it’s a sustainable plan, and I invite people to go onto the NDP website and take a look at the main platform plans. We have sustainable, viable ways of financing our plans and policies, and that doesn’t mean increasing taxes on the backs of the middle class, and it doesn’t mean crippling Canadians or crippling this economy. That’s frankly fear mongering from the Conservative Party. I’ve seen a lot of conservatives that have compared the NDP to the Greek situation, which is so absurd and so silly, so to say that our plan is not costed and that it’s fiscally irresponsible, well it’s incorrect in the case of the NDP but certainly true in the case of the Liberals who have promised a deficit.

Yakovlev: You promised to increase the minimum wage to $15; and, might I add to put it completely honestly, it’s only federally regulated jobs, not a $15 minimum wage across the board.

Cohen: Very few of which actually make under $15 at this moment.

Yakovlev: Exactly, exactly. And beyond that, despite everything, the NDP has simply not been able to properly account for how exactly they’re going to pay for this. Thomas Mulcair has not been completely true on this; I don’t think that’s completely true, but, quite frankly, the only way you are going to grow jobs nowadays is by ensuring that the economy is running strongly, and, of course, a big thing that I personally neglected to mention is that we have lowered the small business tax […] I know that the NDP and the Liberals both want to do this which is completely on point, but that is one of the many things you can do, and as a general principle on what you are supposed to do if you want to grow jobs, you allow people for more room so that they can do what they can with their money and the economy will grow as a result.

Again, we have a very strong job growing record, despite whatever may be said, and we are accounting for the jobs that currently aren’t too strong in the job market. Like I said before, we are increasing the amount of money we are putting towards trades and apprenticeships jobs, which is something that Nathan actually mentioned, and I completely agree that this will also help the environmental sector and a variety of other things, but these jobs, quite frankly, these are things that help Canadians on a local level, these are [things] that build the economy on every level and that is something we definitely need.

Kerr: Okay, and Natalie had actually looked at the Liberal plan and said that that was insufficient, would you like to comment on that or defend it, Alex?

Cohen: I would, a little bit. I think that when Justin Trudeau — he was actually in Oakville — at the end of August, and he made the announcement that […] a Liberal government will run three years of a modest deficit, in order to kick-start the economy through the largest infrastructure investment in Canadian history. And, actually, that has been my proudest moment of the election so far, because it showed really not just what a leader Justin Trudeau is that he had the courage to say to people: ‘yeah we’re going to run a deficit,’ ‘Yes, there is investment that’s needed in this country.’

The fact is that other countries are making the investment. If you look at the growing economies around the world, if you look at China, where they’re building miles and miles of high-speed rail every year, if you look at the United States, where Vice President Biden spoke last month about how they needed to rebuild LaGuardia Airport. Countries around the world are making serious infrastructure investments, they’re making them now, and not only will that create jobs but that will improve the economy long into the future; that will make us more competitive. So, I can see it, and our leaders see it. The Liberal will run modest deficits for three years, but when you contrast that with the austerity of the Conservative platform and the NDP platform, which former budget officer Kevin Page — who is no friend of any party, he held Harper’s feet to the fire for years — said “It is full of holes like Swiss cheese.”

The fact is that the NDP promises a lot, and promises a balanced budget. The Liberal Party is honest with people; you can’t have it all. But, just to address the second point, the idea that we heard from Vlad, that these are spending programs, they’re considered luxuries, the idea that creating jobs for young people is a luxury. Now, the Conservative Party is happy to spend money on a lot of things, like giving people a tax credit to, you know, fix their deck, the home renovation tax credit. The Conservative Party is happy to allow adults to get a tax credit for being in fitness programs, this costs the government money. We think it is far better, rather than [having] these boutique tax cuts, to have the government invest money to give young people their first jobs now. This is not welfare; these people aren’t going to be in subsidized forever, we want to subsidize young people so that they can have their first job, so they can build skills, so they can build skills they’re going to carry with them throughout their career, and go on to have that career.

So, I really resent the idea that running a modest deficit to stimulate the economy, which is crying out for stimulus, is necessarily irresponsible. It is actually responsible. And the idea that investing money so young people can kick-start their careers is also irresponsible, because it is the most responsible thing to do.

Kerr: Okay, so I’m going to let Nathan speak and after that, everybody can make their last remarks and we’ll move on to the next topic.

Postma: Yeah, Alex, you were making great points about making sure youth are out and ahead and making sure they’re getting those jobs, but I’d like to bring up something that differentiates the green party from some of the players here, is we want to make sure young people are going out into a sustainable job market, not on the back foot, not in debt. So we have a plan to forgive current and future student debt if it’s over $10,000, the financial need is there, and were moving to phase out tuition payments by 2020.

So that way we have these sustainable, environmentally friendly jobs, it’s going to close our infrastructure gap, I’m happy [Alex] brought that up as well, but they’re going to go in with a clean slate, they’re not going to go in thousands and thousands of dollars in debt, and that’s something the Green Party is very proud of, and that’s something that should resonate with young people

Kerr: I’m going to allow everybody to make their last remarks; I’d like for you to keep it concise; I know a lot has been said. So, we’ll start with you, Vlad.

Yakovlev: I find it interesting that at the beginning of this program we mentioned, or at least I mentioned, the fact that students will be inheriting a monstrous debt as they grow up and so on, and as we are essentially the future of this country. It’s going to have to be paid off at some point or another, and I find that a ‘modest deficit,’ of what is it: $30 billion is not going to help that situation in any way.

Furthermore, we understand the necessity of deficits, we’ve had to run them, as everyone has pointed out quite frequently, and running those deficits have actually helped us to make stimuluses [sic] of our own, but this is not the time to be running deficits because we have recovered to the point where we can allow Canadians great freedom to do what they can with their own money. We can allow them further tax breaks and so on, and quite frankly, increasing government spending, let alone increasing taxes, is not something that’s going to benefit youth. It’s not going to benefit anyone in this country.

Kerr: Thank you. Natalie, last remark?

Petra: Yeah, I just wanted to touch on a few of the points that were made in the last set of, I guess, responses to one another. I think it’s really irresponsible that Mr. Trudeau thinks that he can balance the budget on the backs of future generations. If there is one point that I will ever agree on with the Conservative part is that sometimes the future is unstable, and when you’re gambling with three years of deficits, and, I mean, we could have a terrible downturn in the economy by the end of those three years — we don’t know what’s going to happen — you’re taking a gamble with the futures of Canadians and those are young people who are going to be seriously affected for years to come if the deficit is bad enough.

Infrastructure is also really important to New Democrats, and I wanted to quickly point out that we do have a sustainable plan for infrastructure. We’d like to invest $1.3 billion a year for twenty years, that’s sustainable federal transfers to municipalities. Municipalities, actually, only make eight cents out of every tax dollar, and that’s something I learned when I was running for municipal office myself. It’s really sad that we download this cost onto them, so we want to make sure that there [are] investments in infrastructure and transit that helps us move towards a greener economy, creates jobs for us to be able to get out there and go get, so to speak, but it’s a responsible answer to the Liberals, who would like to plunge us into debt to fix our infrastructure crisis. I think we can do that; we can address this issue without ruining our future economy.

Kerr: Okay, Alex, what do you have to say to that?

Cohen: Well, I would say that, not only is investing in infrastructure, and investing as the Liberal plan proposes, the responsible thing to do, it’s the necessary thing to do. The fact is, I can ask anyone on this stage who has taken public transit in this city, it is simply too difficult to get around in this country. It is hurting our economy, it’s hurting our economic productivity, and really, it’s hurting the prospects of our young people. If you live in a place where you’re dependent on a car, and you can’t afford one, that completely limits your mobility, and that’s the case for too many young people, and for too many Canadians in general.

And so, the Liberal plan, yes, does run modest deficits. In the scale of what actually matters in a trillion-dollar economy, a $10 billion deficit’s not much. But really, the irresponsible thing to do now would be — while countries around the world are investing, countries around the world are making their infrastructure modern, they’re improving their economy — to just sit on our hands, and invest the pennies that we see from the parties on the left and right.

Kerr: Okay, if you have anything to say Nathan, we’ll go with you.

Postma: Yeah, definitely. I’d like to close off just saying that sustainability, and a stable future is built into the Green Party platform, in many ways, but job creation is one of our strongest areas, I feel. Closing that infrastructure gap that’s been mentioned many times is so important, and the Green Party is willing to dedicate that one point of GST that I was mentioning earlier, that’s $6.4 billion a year, to close in that gap, so, not only does public transportation make things more accessible, it’s more environmentally friendly, and getting people with proper, well-paying apprenticeships in trades and clean tech is where our country needs to go, if we’re going to be stable in the future. So, with that sustainability, with the small businesses that we’re going to prop up and support, and making sure students are entering a job market without burdensome debt to hold them back, is, I think, the strongest way forward for Canada.

Kerr: Great. Okay, so definitely a very good discussion on that. So our next topic is the environment, and why don’t we start with somebody who’s clearly enthusiastic about that, Nathan. The environment is definitely a long-term issue that’s going to affect us today as well as future generations, so what is the best way to maintain it?

Postma: To maintain our environment?

Kerr: To maintain, or improve, our environmental situation, I should clarify.

Postma: Yeah, so we want to improve more than we need to maintain. We need to make sure that we’re moving forward in a very responsible way. So, for us, that means no new dangerous pipelines, no new dangerous tanker routes. Because one accident, and entire ecosystems are permanently destroyed. And that’s not a legacy that future Canadians should be inheriting [from] us. As well, we need to make sure that there is a strong reduction in oil sands growth; we need to keep that solid.

Obviously, fossil fuels are an enormous cause of global warming, and it’s affecting people all over the world. It’s not us, it’s the people we don’t interact with, it’s people in the developing countries that are feeling it the most. So, not only do we have a responsibility for future Canadians issues, [but also a] responsibility to the rest of the world. It’s a connected system and that’s important to remember.

And finally, for me, establishing a national strategy on climate change is so important. The fact that we don’t have one is appalling, so, for us, our national strategy is something we’d bring in right away, and that would have us divest from fossil fuels, removing our subsidies from there, pricing carbon is a huge one for us, carbon fee and dividend plan that would see that money going into the pockets of every Canadian over 18, it’s a fantastic plan. And moving into international leadership on climate change issues. Canada is so rich in resources that we have a responsibility to do this, so when the COP 21 conferences come up in Paris, we need to reverse the legacy that the Harper government has given us, and show that Canada is prepared to take a strong stance on climate change and global warming.

Kerr: Okay, Vlad, would you like to comment next?

Yakovlev: Definitely. Well, I definitely think that this is something that each and every student should be concerned about. It’s something that I am personally concerned about, and I actually know quite a few Conservatives who would like the party to do more in terms of how we help the environment and so on, and I think that the key to this isn’t so much simply abandoning the Conservative party and assuming that it’s going to do everything horribly, just because its environmental record isn’t as great as it could be. I think the answer is that the youth should give their voice on [Nathan interjects] – hold on, you’ve had your go – this is just another opportunity for youth to make their voice heard in the Conservative Party and I know plenty of people in the Conservative youth who are trying to make their voice heard in this entire debate.

Now with regard to the Keystone XL pipeline, there are dozens of environmental regulations that have been set and that we have promised, that, until we meet every single one of them, we will not engage in this project. And quite frankly as Mr. Harper had said in previous debates, our carbon emissions have been lowered significantly under this government. We have done better. We have definitely improved Canada’s environmental record, regardless of whatever superficial, symbolic position we have in the Kyoto protocol and so on, you know, making ourselves known on the international stage. We have made practical efforts to help the environment, whether it’s enough or not is something we will handle, but to say that we have had this horrible sort of record, that we’re causing the next environmental Armageddon, I think it’s completely off point. And, I personally think that our environmental record has been, at least, sufficient.

Kerr: Alright, Alex?

Cohen: Well, I think it’s telling that Vlad had to begin his little speech there by apologizing, essentially, for the Conservatives’ environmental record, because, honestly, an apology is warranted. The fact is, climate change will likely be the defining issue of our generation as we move forward, and we’ve seen over the Harper decade, a total abdication of leadership in the environment by the Harper government. I mean, we are considered below the United States in our efforts to combat climate change. Stephen Harper is mentioned alongside the now former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott as a world leading climate skeptic. We’ve pulled out of Kyoto, we’ve abandoned other environmental commitments internationally, and the worst part about this is it doesn’t just ignore the problem — the grave problem of climate change that affects our lives, but it also hurts the economy.

[T]he lack of environmental leadership by the Harper government is a key reason why President Obama has dragged his feet on the Keystone XL pipeline, it’s made it much harder to sell in the US. So, a Liberal government would, within 90 days of the Paris climate change conference, which is happening on the first week of December, the Liberal government would sit down with the provinces to set down a Medicare-styled approach. So, that means, each province would be able to create its own program within a national standard, national framework — similar to the way, in the 1960’s, the Liberal government established Medicare. [Petra interjects] This would allow us to work with provinces like Ontario, Quebec, B.C., all of whom have climate plans of their own. [To Petra] The NDP helped us out with [Medicare], I’ll give you credit for it.

Petra: I think you’re forgetting that Tommy Douglas kind of did the Medicare thing but keep going.

Cohen: He did it in Saskatchewan. It took Lester B. Pearson’s leadership to bring it to every Canadian. Anyways, my point is that a Liberal government would take action on this immediately, we would cut fossil fuel subsidies, because investing in those kind of fuels is the past; we would look heavily at investing in green technology, and this is another part of our infrastructure plan that was decried as irresponsible by the other parties, is to create green jobs, such that you not only help the economy, but create jobs that will be sustainable long into the future, and make our country a green energy powerhouse, which is something that is especially relevant to young people. So, we want to move from being asleep at the switch, having our country drift on the international stage in terms of the environment, to being the world leader that we were under the Liberal governments, and I’m sure we will be again under the next Liberal government.

Kerr: Okay, Natalie, would you like to respond to that?

Petra: Yeah, I do have a more substantive answer, but before we start, I wanted to say two quick things. Number one, I think it’s slightly shameful that you [to Cohen] attacked Vlad for saying that his party needs to improve something. Certainly, attack the Harper government’s policies because they’re shameful, they’re flat out shameful, period. But, it takes courage to say that you want to improve, or change, something about your party. I think every single one us sitting up here feels that way about some things within our party, so that, I kind of disagreed with, it left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.

The other quick thing I wanted to mention is, again, while [Tommy Douglas’] idea was the foundation for [Medicare], you’re right, Lester B. Pearson did help implement this federally, but so did John Diefenbaker. It’s important to mention that this is a collaborative effort and this is a policy that arose from people working together, which is something that is profoundly lost in our Parliament in this point in time.

But now, to get to the substance of the question, I think that the Liberals deserve some credit for signing the Kyoto Protocol. But, at the end of the day, the fact of the matter is that emissions rose 34 per cent under their government, and then the Harper government withdrew. The NDP is committed to a strong, stable, green economy, and that means improving how our environment is managed. Tom Mulcair has been an environment minister in Quebec and he has a strong record on acting on those things. So for us we want environmental assessment for all pipelines, that involves talking to First Nations, talking to environmentalists, talking to scientists, talking to industry, and if it does not pass an environmental assessment, as Linda McQuaig has said, “that oil will stay in the ground.” And that’s really clear for us.

We want to introduce a cap and trade system. There’s a really big problem; for me, as someone who studies public policy, I’ve noticed that there’s a huge problem in terms of gaps in our environmental laws, and they’ve been gutted by the Harper government; but there’s massive issues where some things are federal, some things are provincial jurisdiction, some things are municipal and some things are international. And what happens is, you have this jurisdictional overlap where nobody knows how to act. So, what we need is clear federal policies, and that’s something the NDP is committed to.

And finally, we want to be able to build a clean economy, a green economy that creates jobs, both in technology but also in implementation. Those are jobs that are desperately needed and it’s a place where young people can find their footing in the workforce.

Kerr: Okay. And we’re going to move on to another environmental question, one that a lot of people have mentioned in passing. So I’d like to ask everybody: are oil pipelines antithetical to environmental protection? And are they antithetical to our progress with indigenous populations? And we’ll start with Alex for that one.

Cohen: So, my answer to the first question would be a qualified no. No, in that, the idea of pipelines as a concept is not antithetical to environmental protection. The fact is, we have, what is due to our development, a largely fossil fuel based economy that uses a lot of fossil fuels, and they have to be transported. They have to get from ‘Point A’ to ‘Point B,’ and unfortunately when they’re transported by rail, there’s accidents that occur like the tragedy at Lac Mégantic two years ago. So, the idea of pipelines is not inherently irresponsible as long as they meet rigorous conditions, as long as they are environmentally sound, as long as they are approved by the communities in which they pass through, as long as they go to a location, unlike the Northern Gateway pipeline, where tankers could not navigate safely. So that answers the first question.

Secondly, I think that the rights of First Nations are paramount, I think that no pipeline – and this is the Liberal Party’s policy – I think that a lot of the efforts right now to build pipelines too often ignore First Nations and ignore their needs, and so, my answer to the second question would be, in its current state, yes, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Kerr: Okay. Natalie?

Petra: Yeah, so, I guess to kind of touch on the points you inquired about there, I don’t think that environmental protection and pipelines are fundamentally irreconcilable. I agree with you [to Cohen] that there has to be guidelines for how you implement that, and you need to be careful about the future impact of building a pipeline. It’s completely infeasible to say that we’ll never ever have any pipelines in this country, we just won’t do that. We have a natural resource that unfortunately, in my opinion, is a big backbone of our economy, and I think we need to diversify, but, as for right now, it’s simply not feasible to say that we’ll never, ever build a pipeline, or we’ll shut down all the existing ones we have, that’s not really realistic. But it has to pass very stringent environmental criteria for me to want to move on that. It has to be agreed upon by First Nations, by scientists, and by the government, and it needs to be a collaborative process. In terms — I guess, to bridge into the First Nations question you had mentioned, the fact of the matter is First Nations have a legal right to their land.

First Nations are not wards of the state, they are a group of people who can advocate on their own behalf, and we must communicate with them on a nation-to-nation basis. The fact of the matter is that, Tom Mulcair and the NDP have been really clear that we are the only party that has come out the gate immediately, as soon as the TRC came out, and said, hey, we are going to talk to you on a nation-to-nation basis. We will treat you with the respect that our government has not treated you with during the entire existence of our country. We will acknowledge the fact that our policies wiped you out, both culturally and physically. We will acknowledge these things and we will come to the table with these things in mind, with the idea that we’ve committed horrible injustices to this group of people. So, there will never be a pipeline, in my mind, that is legitimate unless it has the consent of the First Nations who rightfully occupy that land. They have a legal right to do that, it’s constitutional, but it’s just fair and it’s simply the right thing to do.

Kerr: Okay, Vlad?

Yakovlev: I definitely, naturally, do not think that pipelines are not ethical and so on, I think that as Alexander mentioned, these things are a large part of our economy. We do currently require them to operate. And, you know, as we mentioned before, of course you do need environmental regulation. There are over 100 different rigorous points that have been provided for us, concerning what needs to be covered before we consider building this actual pipeline; and, our government has assured everyone that until each and every one of these points are met, we are not going to continue this project. So we’re definitely taking this into account.

It’s not true that we’ve been completely ignoring environmental regulation and causing total havoc on the environment. This is something that’s necessary for our economy, and it’s something that’s not necessarily going to negatively impact our environment. We are definitely keeping this responsible, we are definitely keeping a tight watch on this. And, quite frankly, I think it’s silly to provide this unreasonable focus on simply doing everything in your power, even to your economic detriment, to save the environment, as if Canada is having this absolutely horrible impact on the world. As if we alone are going to cause a sort of economic disaster. I definitely don’t think that’s true.

And concerning the First Nations, we have definitely not broken a single regulation concerning how we interact with the First Nations, especially with regard to this pipeline. We have cooperated with them to the degree that the law requires us, and we are completely doing everything in line with what is expected, even if others may disagree, even if others say we can do more. Again, like I said before, it’s possible that we can improve, but right now, what we are doing is completely under regulation, completely under what is expected us, and this pipeline is a pragmatic, practical and properly regulated project.

Kerr: Okay, Natalie, you can have a brief chance to reply, actually –

Postma: Can I have another chance to respond to this?

Kerr: I apologize, Nathan, go ahead.

Postma: Perfect, so the Green Party today, rejects both pipeline plans. The big ones — the Kinder Morgan and Energy East projects. We’ve been talking a lot about regulation, and I find it interesting that Vlad’s the one bringing it up the most, because under the Harper government, regulations, across the board have just been stripped, so you can talk about operating under regulations, but they’re just not there anymore. And that’s absolutely devastating for our fresh water. Canada is blessed with beautiful rivers and freshwater lakes, and I invite you to take a look at an algae bloom and tell me that the environmental crisis is not real.

But, the pipelines, we’ve talked a lot about regulations and that’s good, stringent environmental assessments are fantastic, but what we’ve found is that once it passes assessments, they’re just forgotten about, and they move on from there, and they sit and they leak, and no one is maintaining them, no one is watching them, and that has enormous ecological impacts, obviously. And of course, just to echo what the NDP and Liberals would do, negotiate with First Nations on a nation to nation basis, but right now, we reject the pipeline projects out right so that wouldn’t fall under consideration anyway.

Kerr: Alright, Natalie, I’ll allow you to make a quick response.

Petra: Yeah, the only thing that I’ll say is you [to Vlad] said that when dealing with First Nations, that Bernard Belcour and the rest of the Conservative party has been in line with legal regulations, and that others would agree that that’s fair, and I invite you to examine the idea of who is the ‘other,’ because the ‘other’ is really First Nations; and First Nations are screaming at your government that you are not doing a good enough job in conversing with them, and the legal regulations, as they are, are simply not good enough because they don’t recognize the full sovereignty that First Nations have.

At the end of the day, the way the Conservative government treats First Nations, to me, is indicative of what so many past Canadian governments have done, which is treat them with a paternalistic attitude: where they are wards of the state, and we must care for them. Certainly we were to improve their conditions because we made those conditions crap in the first place, frankly, but we need to respect them and deal with them on a nation-to-nation basis, and that does not mean treating them with the paternalistic attitude the Harper government has treated them with.

Yakovlev: To that, I’d simply say that we currently have a legal framework to work with, with the First Nations, this is something we had a dialogue with over an extensive amount of time, you know, going back into what the Liberals have done as well. This is something that, we have something to work with in this regard, this is something that they have agreed to, even if they would currently like more legal regulations to be in place, the fact is, we’ve operated according to the legal standard that is expected of us.

Of course, one may think that we should change the nature of these legal discussions, but we are currently discussing what is our responsibility, what is our legal responsibility to the First Nations in light of this pipeline. This is the discussion right now, and quite frankly, we have done what is expected of us, we have respected their rights to the degree that we have already legally agreed upon for this pipeline to go through.

Kerr: And I’ll allow Nathan to make a final remark and we’ll move on to our final question.

Postma: Fantastic, we’re talking about a dialogue with the First Nations, and relating to pipelines, and yes, it has existed and Harper’s government, has been there to create a limited dialogue, certainly, but I don’t find your point defensible because those pipelines — in Harper’s mind — are going through regardless of the dialogue, and once you get into other issues, very serious issues, like missing and murdered Aboriginal women, when the dialogue needs to be there, where is the Harper government then?

Kerr: Okay, thank you for that, it was interesting. And now we’re going to move on to our last question, it’s definitely a polarizing one, but definitely one that has been talked about a lot this election. So that is drugs, or more specifically, marijuana. So there’s been a lot of discussion about this, as I’ve said, and what does this mean for students? Is this just sort of taboo, or sort of fun, or is it an important factor that’s impacting people’s votes? And I’d like to start with Nathan for this question.

Postma: I think students, especially, are able to see the hypocrisy that exists in our current legislation around drugs. So much spending, so much unnecessary spending to pursue a war on drugs, and ask any student on campus if they feel that impact. No, it’s so two handed. So what needs to move forward now is to recognize what part marijuana plays in our culture and to legalize it, and tax it… [T]here’s so much potential to make money here. And, the United States, incredibly, is more progressive on this issue than we are. Many states have begun to legalize, Colorado especially, and they’re making so much revenue off of it, and the fact that we are not taking advantage of that, and we’re leaving that money to sit in the hands of organized crime, is absolutely appalling, and it needs to move forward with licenses, regulation, taxation — it’s common sense.

Kerr: Alright, Natalie?

Petra: Yeah so, this issue, I’m sure, is important to a lot of young people, and I’m really proud of the way that the NDP has honestly handled this issue because, honestly, when I first approached the issue, and I realized the NDP was in favour of decriminalization, I was, initially a little bit concerned about that. I thought, why not just move right to legalization? And then, I kind of started reading into it, and gaining a bit of background knowledge on this, and it started to make more sense, so let me kind of go through that quickly.

Firstly, just off the bat, something must change about marijuana laws in Canada. This negatively impacts, particularly equity-seeking groups, young people, and often times people who are racialized, are targeted by police in these situations, and these are non-violent drug offenses that end up ruining your life, especially if you end up going to jail for something like this, or if you do time. So, just, right off the bat, you start with the premise that, okay, something needs to change, and the moderate step to me is to move to decriminalization. Libby Davies, who is a phenomenal MP, so sad that’s she’s retiring at this point in time, but, she explained it really well when she said decriminalization is not the end step for the NDP. At this point, it’s a first step, and it’s an immediate step that we would take if we were elected, but the next step after that is to have a panel where we talk to medical experts, or we talk to Canadian citizens, or we talk to law enforcement, and we bring these groups to the table, and we figure out what’s the best way of going towards a legalization process. How do we box this in […] and how do we have a dialogue with one another? That’s huge to me, and it’s a responsible measure that, to me, parties who are just saying, well we’re just going to legalize it immediately, are not taking that intermediary step. That’s fundamental to me.

Kerr: Okay, Vlad?

Yakovlev: This issue definitely is polarizing, for some people, but if you would like my personal opinion, I do not think it is nearly as relevant to Canadians as certain people would make it seem. I think, definitely things like the economy, like the environment, like foreign policy, which, I feel should have been mentioned tonight, are more important to Canadians than legalizing marijuana. I do not think that legalizing marijuana is going to create an economic, sort of, boom that will fix a whole bunch of issues. I find it interesting that our war on drugs is being compared to that of the United States, while at the same time the United States is being hailed as a more progressive society than ours. We have not increased the scope of the war on drugs up here in Canada, the government has not created harsher legislation concerning it. Stephen Harper has stated his principle belief that marijuana is something that negatively impacts our society. It is a view that I personally share, whether that’s of any relevance.

Kerr: It is.

Yakovlev: And I find it interesting that, despite the fact that Jack Layton disagreed with this view, Thomas Mulcair, around the time he first became leader, also reiterated that, by principle, he is against legalizing marijuana based on the belief that it has a negative impact on society. So, to be quite frank, I don’t think it’s entirely relevant, I don’t think it’s economically relevant, and I don’t think that legalizing it will solve a good portion of social ills. I think it’s an issue that really, should be considered at a point when we have less important things to think about.

Kerr: Okay, we’ll finish with Alex.

Cohen: Okay, so this is an issue for us, the Liberal Party. I think if you walked into any residence on this campus, at this moment, you could find at least one person smoking marijuana. And, I think that shows a few things. Firstly, that the current drug policies, and the war on drugs that Canada has partaken in — and I’m going to get to that in a minute actually — the Harper government has entrenched us with policies, has been an absolute failure. Billions of dollars, ruined lives, criminalizing those who need medical help, and actually addressing the fact that it hurts people all around the world, as people who watch “Narcos” knows. But, more specifically, what’s the hypocrisy about it? Well, firstly, as it’s been touched on by some of the others, if these weren’t upper-middle class, likely white kids smoking marijuana, they would likely face a much harsher penalty from the state. Now they talked about the idea that racialized Canadians are much more heavily targeted for drug offences and that creates a prison population that is much more heavily racialized, and not reflective of the population as a whole and a justice system that’s not really serving everyone as a whole.

So, we find incredible hypocrisy with the drug policy in that everyone is using it, it’s not making a difference, yet we are spending huge amounts of taxpayer’s money going after it. The fact is, marijuana is considered by many people at the same level of alcohol and tobacco. It is not something that the state needs to spend massive amounts of money keeping out of people. We can make money off of it, it is legal now in the United States. Honestly, it is common sense, and there’s no need to see what it’s like, marijuana is already prevalent in our society, Canada has the third highest use of it among young people, a Liberal government would obviously consult with experts, consult with law enforcement, consult with medical professionals, on the legalization, but really, it is time, it is common sense and a Liberal government would make that happen.

Kerr: Okay, so quickly, I’ve seen two people who are interested in responding. Make some final remarks and that will be the end of our discussion for tonight. We’ll start with you, Nathan.

Postma: Yeah, so I’ve heard two points that I’d like to contest over here. Vlad mentioned that he wasn’t so sure that it would create an economic boom or an industry, and I can’t believe that. Because if you look at Colorado right now, they’re absolutely thriving off of this. It is an industry that is existing entirely underground right now, and there’s so much money there, potential.

Cohen: So much money in Colorado that they have to give it back to the taxpayers.

Postma: And I can’t help but feel that, decriminalization as a first step is overly protectionist. Because in that first step, the money in this underground industry is still going to the wrong people, and we have examples to base our policies off of in Colorado and in Europe. So, while this dialogue is happening, the money is still going to the wrong people and we have examples of how to bring in legalization properly already.

Kerr: Okay, Natalie?

Petra: Yeah, so just a couple of quick points. I think that you need to look at the opinions of Canadians, and at the end of the day, there are Canadians who simply do not want this to be the legalized, and while it’s my personal opinion, I would like to see that happen, I would like to see us gaining the economic benefits that Colorado and Washington have been gaining, you have to kind of consider that not all Canadians would want this, and that’s part of being a responsible government. It’s looking at the opinions of everybody, so that intermediary panel to me, while the NDP would want an end goal of legalization, you have to take into account those voices while you’re the government. There’s a couple of quick things too that I wanted to mention.

You [to Vlad] mentioned that the Conservatives are loose leading these drug regulations and that’s simply not the case. I remember a distinct quote from Rona Ambrose, where she said she was outraged that medical marijuana laws had been redefined by the courts. And finally, in particular, I know that we’ve touched on this, the Liberals and myself, that those who are racialized are particularly overrepresented in the prison population. But again, I think what’s been really key to stress in that, is that in that subset of people who are racialized, in particular, the ones who take it the hardest are First Nations. First Nations are extremely overrepresented within our justice system, and there’s tons of papers from the government that corroborate that evidence. It’s just facts, at the end of the day, that these are people who are being put into prison for non-violent offenses, and we are continuing to create the social problems that we discussed earlier, in First Nations communities. We are taking families apart, and we are creating a culture and society that is still based on fundamentally unjust principles.

Kerr: And I think it’s only fair that since you’ve gotten some responses, Vlad, to quickly make a final remark, and that will be it.

Yakovlyev: Like I said, I quite frankly do not think that this is something that’s extremely relevant to – it has a measure of relevance but I don’t think it’s so important that this is a defining electoral issue. There is maybe some room for legalization in some point in time the current government stance is that marijuana is something that negatively impacts society. Comparing it to alcohol and tobacco does not remove that point, it simply solidifies it. Why would we encourage something when we are already trying to teach kids in schools […] we are trying to discourage them from engaging in the other things. I think that we definitely need to discourage — the war on drugs, contrary to what my colleagues have said, I don’t think it’s true that we’ve horribly increased the amount of damage we’re doing, that we’ve increased the amount of effort we’re putting into it, as you’ve all said. It seems that its impact on society is so ingrained, I don’t see any evidence of our sort of war on drugs as you see in the United States, especially in the southern states, which have not legalized these things.

End of roundtable. Closing statements from the participants can be found in video format online.

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