An edited tran­script of Guy Caron’s meet­ing with the Star’s ed­i­to­rial board

Toronto Star - - THE FUTURE OF THE ND? - poverty but oth­ers are sus­pi­cious that it will pro­vide cover for politi­cians to slash ex­ist­ing safety-net pro­grams. Will it?

Where is the race right now?

My first task was to get my­self bet­ter known by putting for­ward poli­cies that would be seen as out-of-the-or­di­nary and I think my Ba­sic In­come Pro­posal achieved that goal. My sec­ond task was be­com­ing a “com­peti­tor.” With my new en­dorse­ments and the pos­i­tive re­sponse to my per­for­mances in de­bates, I’m where I want to be.

You’re the only Que­be­cer in the race but we’re a long way now from the Orange Wave. You got into pol­i­tics be­cause of Jack Layton’s be­lief the party’s suc­cess ran through Quebec. What hap­pens if you don’t win?

Well, we still have 35 per cent of the vote in the prov­ince and we were neck-and-neck in the last elec­tion; 2019 will strengthen the party in Quebec and our path to form­ing govern­ment in Canada still runs through the prov­ince. But chal­lenges re­main: we had 12,000 mem­bers in the prov­ince; now it’s down to 5,000. To be a force in Quebec, you have to un­der­stand Que­be­cers and their pol­i­tics.

There are many in­ter­est­ing ideas in your plat­form. Your tax plan is very am­bi­tious and your sig­na­ture pro­posal — a Ba­sic An­nual In­come — is very bold, in­deed, but there are no new uni­ver­sal pro­grams that have been for decades the bread-and-but­ter of so­cial-demo­cratic elec­toral plat­forms. Why?

I wanted to move in a slightly dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion. It strikes me that the NDP has had the same plat­form for two or three elec­tions and, as you know, uni­ver­sal day­care, a pro­vin­cial ju­ris­dic­tion, was a pro­posal of ours in 2015, and Premier (Kath­leen) Wynne said she wouldn’t work with an NDP govern­ment on it. The beauty of my pro­pos­als is that we can ex­e­cute them with­out the sup­port of the prov­inces.

But aren’t you break­ing with a long-stand­ing NDP be­lief that Ottawa should be the leader? Isn’t this a rad­i­cal shift?

Well I do be­lieve that Ottawa can play a lead­er­ship role in health care, for in­stance, but not by im­pos­ing pro­grams — and for a good rea­son. Ini­tially, it paid half the bill for pub­lic health care, now it’s less than 25 per cent. It’s hard to im­pose a “na­tional vi­sion” when the prov­inces are pick­ing up most of the tab.

But your sig­na­ture so­cial pro­gram is a case where Ottawa can act alone and ar­guably it will likely de­fine your run for NDP leader. Your Ba­sic In­come Plan guar­an­tees peo­ple liv­ing be­low the “low-in­come cut­off” an an­nual in­come. Cu­ri­ously, this very in­no­va­tive pol­icy has split the left: peo­ple like you be­lieve it will elim­i­nate

Ba­sic In­come pro­vides for ba­sic needs like food, lodg­ing and cloth­ing and I be­lieve it will have a huge im­pact re­duc­ing poverty. But it won’t work if a prov­ince uses it as an ex­cuse to off-load their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. If that hap­pens there will be a way of tak­ing them off the pro­gram. Ba­sic In­come will have a huge im­pact on min­i­miz­ing in­come in­se­cu­rity in the face of rapid changes al­ready un­der­way in the work­place.

The Lib­er­als have run into trou­ble “sell­ing” a loop­hole elim­i­na­tion that nets just $200mil­lion in new rev­enue. Your tax plan is much big­ger, gen­er­at­ing $31 bil­lion in new rev­enue, cor­rect?

That’s about right.

You’re talk­ing about net­ting $2 bil­lion from an in­her­i­tance tax and $12 bil­lion from a wealth tax. Won’t you have to bring in the army to sell it? Is it too am­bi­tious?

Canada needs to re­form a tax sys­tem that hasn’t changed in decades. This is a vi­sion that’s am­bi­tious and bold but these are not taxes on labour in­come but on un­pro­duc­tive cap­i­tal. We need to ad­dress eco­nomic in­equal­ity. We are one of the few ad­vance coun­tries with­out an in­her­i­tance tax. I don’t want to make ev­ery­one equal but you want to level the play­ing field and the tax sys­tem is not play­ing its role. My plan pro­poses a rea­son­able in­crease in cor­po­rate taxes, but oth­er­wise I’ve been care­ful not to tax money in­tended for in­vest­ment in the pro­duc­tive real econ­omy.

Here’s an­other hot-but­ton is­sue. Is there any pipe­line pro­posal you sup­port?

Nope. Any in­ter­provin­cial pipe­line goes through the Na­tional En­ergy Board, and the NEB has no cred­i­bil­ity. An NDP govern­ment would re­form it, so the con­sul­ta­tion process doesn’t ex­clude 90 per cent of those keen to be heard. And we need a sep­a­rate process seek­ing First Na­tions’ con­sent.

Do First Na­tions have veto rights on pipe­lines, etc.?

Yes, if it’s a na­tion-to-na­tion re­la­tion­ship, we can only pro­ceed with their con­sent.

How much time would you spend in Ottawa if you win?

I’ll be in the House two days a week; oth­er­wise I’ll be out there re­con­nect­ing with Cana­di­ans.


NDP MP Guy Caron says that he hopes his Ba­sic-In­come Pro­posal will help him stand out as a can­di­date. As in­no­va­tive as it may be, his plan to lessen in­come in­se­cu­rity has split the left.

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