When Liberal Lucienne Robillard resigned as the Westmount—Ville-Marie Member of Parliament after 13 years, the riding prepared for a by-election to find a replacement. Now, the by-election may be preempted if hints dropped by senior Conservatives that Steven Harper will call for a general election in the coming weeks prove true. Whether a preview of a local or national race, The Daily sat down with three of the eight candidates in what could be the first competitive election in this riding in 20 years.
Marc Garneau, who was expected to take the Vaudreuil—Soulanges riding in the 2006 Federal election, is back in the race for a seat in Ottawa. As Canada’s first astronaut in space, he is a strong supporter of research and innovation in science and technology. Joining him at the interview was noted orator and former Liberal leadership candidate Michael Ignatieff, now Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party.
McGill Daily: In the 2008 budget, the Government of Canada declared its intention not to renew the Canadian Millenium Scholarship Foundation.
Marc Garneau: The Conservatives are going to replace it by another plan which is comparable, because they recognize it would be a huge outcry if they did.
Michael Ignatieff: We need to make sure that Millennium Scholarship Funds are replaced with equivalent funding, not just some poor substitute. You look at aboriginal post-secondary education, and it’s not terrific. There are some immigrant communities where access to higher education is a barrier partly for cultural reasons, partly for psychological reasons. You get the grades, you get to go. That’s number one.
MD: Do you believe it’s important to allocate a lot of funding toward science and technology as opposed to other areas – not just at McGill, but in the economy as a whole?
MG: There’s some pretty good evidence to show that if you favour all areas of research in the country, the increase in knowledge has a benefit for the entire country. So we believe very strongly in continuing to do it. We want to not depend necessarily on our natural resources, but focus on our brains.
MD: Why do you feel that it’s your party’s role specifically to ensure innovation in science and technology, not just in Montreal but in Canada?
MG: The Organization for Economic Development ranks Canada 13th in the world in innovation. Now, we’d like to be in the top five by touching on more than just research in sciences and technology, but also working with industry. University researchers are really good at doing research, but they’re not necessarily good at starting companies.
MD: Why do you feel that the Liberals Green Shift program for carbon trading will work better than the NDP’s cap-and-trade system?
MG: Well, the Liberals are also going to have a cap-and-trade system, and it’s a good model because it addresses the 500 or 700 biggest emitters of greenhouse gases in the country. We’re talking about coal generating stations, cement factories, refineries. The thing about the Green Shift plan is that it involves all Canadians. We’re going to give back the money from the carbon tax in form of credits for research and technology development. So we should have the motivation to develop the technologies that will allow us to reduce our greenhouse gases.
Anne Lagace-Dowson, with 20 years experience as a CBC, went off the air this summer when she turned to politics. A huge advocate of funding for the Arts and Information Technology, she’s been vocal against the recent Conservative budget cuts.
McGill Daily: How do you think federal government funding is equipping universities and what would you do to change the funding structure?
Anne Legacé-Dowson: We’re seeing encroaching privatization on campuses…as a result of inadequate funding, which isn’t keeping with academic freedom. Programs have been reduced to the point that people who probably should be going to college and university aren’t able to.
MD: How do you feel that inadequate attention to the arts needs to
ALD: It’s so short-sighted that it boggles the mind. The cuts that Harper made to the arts two weeks ago, shows he doesn’t really understand how culture is generated. It’s generated at the base, then larger, more established institutions observe what’s going on at the base, they feed on that, and then they generate all kinds of income. An NDP government is completely supportive of the arts and of universities in this area.
MD: Why do you see the NDP’s environmental plan for a cap-and-trade system as superior in theory to the Liberal’s carbon tax approach?
ALD: The cap-and-trade approach would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by putting ceilings on what’s allowed. Anybody who exceeds that ceiling has to pay fines and buy credits from those companies that don’t pollute, so it’s a kind-of carbon exchange.
[The carbon tax] is inefficient because it basically gives you a licence to pollute. If you’re prepared to pay the fines, you can continue to pollute. There’s no attempt to bring down greenhouse gas emissions.
MD: Canada doesn’t seem to have a clearly fixed end-date in
Afghanistan. In light of the fact of a rising death toll of Candian soldiers, Canadian aid workers, and thousands of Afghans, how do you think the Canadian mission in Afghanistan needs to respond?
ALD: We need to be focusing on bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan through humanitarian intervention, not extending the military intervention. The only way to resolve these kinds of conflicts is to get people to sit down and talk. We’ve spent millions of dollars on military equipment that makes Canada into something new: a military intervener. This is not a role that Canadians want or are comfortable with.
MD: Do you feel that the proposed end-date of 2011 for the Canadian mission in Afghanistan is actually going to be an end-date?
ALD: I think we need to be getting out of there sooner. It’s a doomed mission.
Claude Genest, one of the 200 Canadians selected for Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth lecture tour, is running in what he calls the greenest riding in the province. As the Deputy Leader of his party, he is hoping to capitalize on the largest campaign budget in his party’s history in Quebec.
McGill Daily: This riding has been Liberal for a very long time. Why do you feel it’s the Green Party’s turn to be in power?
Claude Genest: The other parties are not actually green. We have an unsustainable system…running on non-renewable resources. So if we’ve agreed that we must change, why aren’t we changing just as fast as we possibly can? The obvious answer is you can’t because you’re in bed with the corporations that are going to be threatened by these changes.
MD: How is the Green Party going to put into action their policy for a greener environment?
CG: The way you affect change is carrots and sticks, incentives and disincentives, in order for it to work, and that’s why you get carbon tax and cap-and-trade.
MD: How do you feel the provincial and federal funding programs are equipping universities? What would you do to modify the
CG: We do not want students starting their careers saddled with all these debts. We’re looking at a 50 per cent reduction in student loans right off the bat. That’s exactly the type of way to use this windfall we’re going to get from carbon tax. It’s essential we equip the universities to become the entrepreneurs and innovators for the new eco-century.
MD: The Canadian mission in Afghanistan has an unclear policy and a movable end date.
CG: Here’s our policy: no blood for oil. Everybody’s talking about how to extricate ourselves from Afghanistan. Nobody’s really talking about why we’re there in the first place. Okay, there’s a humanitarian component, I read the Kite Runner, I know what goes on there. Because we’re stuck in it, stick it out until 2011 and then gradually pull out.
MD: What would the Green Party envision for the future of Montreal’s economy?
CG: Everyone’s oblivious to all this wealth under our noses. If we would just stop wasting it. Pollution causes disease, and disease costs money. So every little action we take to benefit the environment has immediate and beneficial repercussions on the economy through health.
MD: What does the Green Party plan to do to further develop public transportation in this riding?
CG: Underneath the asphalt all over this town, three inches down are tram car tracks. We have hydro-electricity. Why isn’t the public transportation in this town running on electricity?
– all interviews compiled by Ali Withers