Ahead of the federal election on October 19, former Prime Minister Paul Martin visited the University of Toronto on September 9 along with Liberal member of parliament Chrystia Freeland who is running for re-election in the University-Rosedale riding. They spoke on topics of national debt, infrastructure, the environment, and aboriginal affairs.

The economy

The first topic of conversation was the financial crisis. Martin is of the opinion that eliminating the budget deficit is not Canada’s first priority. “There has been a lack of growth in Canada and this must be addressed first. With growth will come economic wellness. We must investment in transportation, healthcare, and research. “Technologies such as genomics are important for future development in Canada. They help support aging populations such as myself.”

Freeland also emphasized a desire for growth in Canada. Her proposed solution came in the form of a downtown relief line and more streetcars and buses.

Freeland expressed a strong interest in reducing economic inequality. “Income inequality is a top priority of mine.” She backed the Liberal plan to hike taxes for the top one per cent of income earners in Canada. “The top one per cent make more money and they should be taxed more.”

Martin also referred to Canada’s environmental improvement compared to other G7 countries. “Canada was once ranked last among G8 countries for environmental quality. We are now ranked first.”

Indigenous issues

Both leaders agreed that aboriginal affairs are an issue in Canada. Mr. Martin expressed an interest in preserving aboriginal cultures, while Freeland expressed interested in accommodating them.

“Canada’s residential school system destroyed aboriginal culture and destroying cultures is immoral,” said Martin. He identified language as the key to preserving a culture. “Language preserves culture. In order to preserve aboriginal culture we must preserve aboriginal languages. This means we must support aboriginal communities and schools.”

Freeland stated that she is interested in a multicultural community that includes accommodating aboriginal communities so that they have a place in Canada. “We are the most successful diverse community in the world,” she said. “The only problem is that our treatment of aboriginals has been abominable. Aboriginal cultures require the same amount of accommodation that other cultures have gotten.”

Concluding the session, Freeland urged all to go out and vote, even if not for the Liberal Party. “Liberals do not possess extreme ideals like the NDP or Conservatives. We stand in the middle of the road and we seek realistic solutions. Even if you are not going to vote Liberal vote for the sake of democracy and Canada.”