BRINGING NEW IDEAS TO THE TABLE
An edited transcript of Guy Caron’s meeting with the Star’s editorial board
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.