Thursday 8 March 2012

Thomas Mulcair interviewed by Planet S

Planet S recently interviewed Thomas Mulcair, NDP Leadership 2012 candidate:

In 2008, Thomas Mulcair became the first NDP MP to be elected in Québec. Prior to that, Mulcair, as Québec’s Environment Minister with the provincial Liberal government, fought for a groundbreaking amendment to the Québec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms that declared a new right: the right to live in a healthy environment that respects biodiversity. In this leadership race Mulcair has garnered the most endorsements from NDP MPs in Ottawa, and leads all candidates in raising donations.

PLANET S: You’ve talked about reaching out beyond the traditional NDP base. What does this entail in your mind?
THOMAS MULCAIR: Right now, our party is not connecting with young people the way that it used to, but we want to hear the ideas of young people because they’re central to our goals. In Québec we saw young people get elected, and a lot of young people came out to vote. The next group that we should be targeting is ethnic communities and cultural minorities.
PS: How exactly do you plan on attracting more young people to the party?
TM: The government has put the largest social and economic debt into the backpacks of young people. Your generation is paying $35,000 more (on average) to get an undergraduate degree than generations that came before you. When are you supposed to buy a house? It’s a matter of intergenerational equity. When you come to retirement, you’ll feel the effects of the wrong-headed approach of the Conservatives. The loss of the manufacturing sector means that your generation will be asked to foot the bill for lost pensions. And you’re also being left with the bill to clean the soil, the air and the water.
So it’s a certain time in our history, in which one generation is actually going to leave less to the next generation, and that’s something that we need to change.
PS: You’ve been pegged as the candidate who would bring the party to the centre.How do you counter concerns that you might compromise longstanding NDP principles?
TM: We’ve gone through four federal elections in a row in Saskatchewan without electing a single [NDP] person. I’d quote Einstein’s definition of madness: we’ve been trying the same thing and expecting a different result. If we repeat the exact same gestures, we will not win any seats in Saskatchewan. Other people have said that I’m going to move the party to the centre, but I’m not going to move the party to the centre; I’m going to move the centre to us.
I want people to realize that the progressive goals and values of the NDP are goals and values that are shared by the majority of Canadians. We’ve often heard the idea that if we form a government it means that we’ve sold out. I don’t think so. I don’t think that we need to change our fundamental values to form a government. But I do know that if we don’t do things differently, we will never form a government.
PS: Why do you think we have a problem getting women involved in politics, and what would you do to change this?
TM: In almost every university faculty, we see about 60 per cent women in the executive. However, in the boardrooms and in politics, we continue to see an underrepresentation. In the 1980s, I was the President of the Office des professions du Québec, and we made a 50 per cent rule. Many commentators — mostly men — at the time argued that we wouldn’t be able to find qualified women for executive positions. But we did.
In Québec [in 2011] the NDP elected about 50 per cent women, and the reason we did this was because we ran 50 per cent women — women who could win. It’s a Québec model that has worked very well. If you look at the Conservative government, the numbers are absolutely astonishing – their caucus is about 15 per cent women because they’ve made absolutely no effort and haven’t made this a priority. There are still government agencies composed entirely of men. If we don’t make change from the top down, we will continue to see a glass ceiling.
PS: What kind of relationship would you like to see between the federal government, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, and aboriginal people in Canada?
TM: In a country such as Canada it’s unacceptable that we have hundreds of thousands of people [who] live in poverty. It’s pitiful for us to allow third-world, abject poverty to exist on reserves, and I find it shameful that children go hungry. The first step in dealing with these issues is approaching First Nations on a nation-to-nation basis.
The very name of the Indian Act is an indication that it needs to be changed. And it’s the strongest indication that the Act comes from another era. I would change our way of dealing with these issues beginning with changing the Indian Act, and making sure that it no longer has a title like that.
PS: How are you going to address environmental issues without turning economically-minded people off?
TM: Opposing the environment and the economy is a 40-year-old fallacy. I would point to the Porter hypothesis [the idea that strict environmental laws lead to innovation and improve commercial competitiveness], and reality.
There’s no contradiction between the environment and the economy. We can’t allow the development of the oilsands without sustainable rules. This refusal to regulate the oilsands has led to the loss of hundreds of thousands of good-paying manufacturing jobs.
It’s called “the Dutch syndrome,” because it harkens back to when the Dutch launched intensive oil and gas industries and allowed its manufacturing sector to be hollowed out. The Conservatives still have not learned the lesson.
When Ed Schreyer endorsed my candidacy, he asked that we hold the press conference in front of a Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) building in Winnipeg because it was symbolic of what was being lost across Canada because of Conservative policies.
Like the loss of other manufacturing sectors in Ontario and Québec, this one’s going to hurt. A lot of the people who voted for the Conservatives will realize that we weren’t crying wolf. To quote Joni Mitchell, you don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone.
PS: How would you approach the Conservatives in the next election?
TM: The only way to approach the Conservatives is with a tough, structured and determined approach.  That is exactly the fight that I would bring against Harper. Not only do we need to point out the disaster waiting for your generation, we need to offer solutions; we need to not only oppose, but of course propose. We are the official opposition, but that’s just a numerical fact; we’ve also got to become, in people’s minds, the government in waiting, and that’s about proposing new ideas in areas such as sustainable development, for example.
PS: What, if anything, do you think the Occupy movement contributed to Canadian politics?
TM: It was a wake-up call that the root causes of the crash of ’08 have not been addressed, and there are a lot of people in our society who are being left behind. The people who brought that crash are still in charge and they’re still making the same decisions. I can tell you that a lot of the analysis that is being done by leaders of the Occupy movement has a foundation in fact, and it’s the first time since the environmental movement in the ‘60s that the public has taken such direct action.
But it does seem to have run out of steam. More long term, the answer is going to have to be political.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you Tom, and blogger. I'm excited about the leadership Mr. Mulcair will provide as proposals are presented to Canadians that will bring the center to the New Democrats. I know also that Prime Minister Mulcair will be joined by a dedicated and sharp team!

DougL, BC