Canada will most likely go to the polls in June to elect a new federal government. The message from the pre-election Liberal party is that the choice is between an ultra-right wing, newly-minted Conservative Party and the tried and true moderation of the Liberals.
Wasn’t there a third party around here somewhere? Remember them?
In a recent interview New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton wished to remind everyone that there are more than two choices, and to consider their options carefully. The NDP, he said, represent the social conscience of government, although they have never yet won a federal election. Now that Paul Martin has been Prime Minister for five months and Minister of Finance for almost a decade, Layton said, we have something to base our judgment on.
Layton says his party is making an effort to reach out to students, and that the NDP is committed to lowering tuition fees.
“We’ll have in our program a specific platform position for increasing funding to post secondary education,” said Layton. “A portion will be a steady reduction of tuition fees, applied across the board,” he said, adding that tuition fees have steadily climbed over the last decade since Paul Martin, as Finance Minister, lumped federal payments of post-secondary education with welfare and health services in 1995.
Layton also had some harsh words for Paul Martin’s ties to the business world.
“The fifty-five million bucks given to the Irving family to close down the ship yards of St. Johns, Paul Martin lead that program.” Layton also said that Martin’s shipping line CSL, now owned by his sons, took advantage of loopholes to avoid almost all Canadian taxes when Martin was Finance Minister.
“Paul Martin,” he said, “is a tax dodger with a difference: he gets to write the tax laws that he’s going to dodge. A pretty good gig if you can get it; not good for Canadians though.”
A frequent criticism of the NDP is that a government primarily concerned with social welfare would ignore-or does not understand-mechanisms that generate wealth in a country. Layton disagrees.
“In fact I think it is the opposite,” he said. “Mechanisms to generate economic functioning are best pursued by parties that understand a tax dollar is created by somebody’s work. Some number of minutes out of every hour goes to producing that dollar. It has to be used bearing its source in mind. Forget that and you start to behave irresponsibly. That’s the kind of corruption we’ve seen recently with the sponsorship scandal and other examples of the present government.”
Many political commentators have speculated about a Liberal minority government in which the NDP would play a key role. Restoring the Liberals as a minority government, they say, would put more watchdogs in place, more safeguards. But Layton rejects this notion.
“We’re not shooting for a minority government,” he says. “We’re shooting for the government.”
Published: 10:00 am, 17 May 2004
Modified: 5:15 pm, 11 January 2012