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Your Turn with the party leaders
Jim Harris Green Party
Dec. 14, 2005

Peter Mansbridge: Well, it's your turn now, your chance to put questions directly to the people who want to be prime minister.

We've sent out invitations to all of the parties, and we begin tonight with Jim Harris. Five hundred and eighty-two thousand, two hundred and forty-seven people voted for his Green Party in the last election. Put them all together and you've got a very significant gathering, a major city. The Green Party was a factor.

Well, tonight's a chance to get the word straight from the leader himself, but before we go to your questions, a quick explanation about how we selected the questioners. We asked viewers to let us know what they'd like to ask the leaders, and most were selected from that group. But we also asked a research firm to provide us with a representative group of Canadians. We also used that pool. You should also know that Jim Harris does not know what you'll be asking. So are you ready?

Jim Harris: We're ready!

Peter Mansbridge: OK. Let's get to the first question. It comes from Edmonton. Go ahead.

Corina Ganton: Hi, my name is Corina Ganton and I'm a university student at the University of Alberta. Obviously your party is concerned with the environment. However, although the environment is incredibly important, most people don't like the idea of voting for a single-issue party. So, therefore, my question to you is what is one issue that is of top priority to you, and what are your ideas to deal with it?

Peter Mansbridge: All right.

Jim Harris: Great. Well, thanks, Corina. The biggest issue in the last election was health care, and while every other party was arguing over how much more money they'd spend on the system, the Green Party was the only party talking about health, not just health care. My father died of cancer. My mother-in-law is fighting her second cancer in five years. We all know somebody who's died of cancer, and the bad news is cancers are going to double in Canada over the next 30 years, according to cancer societies. Well, 50 per cent of cancers are preventable. Wouldn't it be a better idea to stop us getting cancer in the first place, rather than to just spend more money to treat cancer once we have it?

Peter Mansbridge: So what's your priority in trying to do that? How are you going to do it?

Jim Harris: Well, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and 50 per cent of cancers are preventable, according to Harvard. Seventy per cent of strokes, 80 per cent of diabetes, 80 per cent of heart disease. When we look at the stresses on our health-care system, if we don't focus on prevention, with the aging population, we will never be able to spend our way out of the crisis that we'll have in our system.

Peter Mansbridge: What would be the priority of the Green Party on prevention? What would you do to make a difference? What would you do differently than is being done now?

Jim Harris: Sure. Well, just for instance, one out of eight children has childhood asthma. You know, 20 years ago, it was one out of 100. This year, 4.3 billion kilograms of respiratory pollutants are going to be injected into our air. And to the Green Party, that is completely unacceptable.

Peter Mansbridge: So it links back to the environmental question then.

Jim Harris: Well, you can't have healthy people on a sick planet. And we're talking about, you know, healthy people, healthy communities, a healthy economy, a healthy environment, a healthy planet. We just can't have healthy people on a sick planet.

Peter Mansbridge: OK. Edmonton, does that answer your question?

Corina Ganton: Yeah, thank you.

Peter Mansbridge: All right. Well, let's move on there. Our next question is right here in the studio. Go ahead.

Therese Taylor: Economic and population growth has been the paramount policies of our current government. And just in agreement with what you said, we have 5,800 people dying prematurely due to bad air in Ontario, one in five children acquiring asthma, and 22,000 Canadian women being diagnosed with breast cancer every year. Since health is the number-one concern of all Canadians, what will your party do to reduce pollution and these skyrocketing disease rates, particularly when you're going to allow voluntary compliance of industry emissions?

Peter Mansbridge: All right. Just before Mr. Harris answers the question, your name and where you're from?

Therese Taylor: Therese Taylor, and I live in Mississauga.

Jim Harris: Therese, that's a great question. First off, we aren't going to allow for voluntary compliance. The federal government had the absolute power to require higher fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles in Canada and chose not to. We would not do that. We have to meet our Kyoto targets, and heavy industrial emitters have been let off the hook, and all the responsibility has been put on individual consumers. That's unacceptable to us in the Green Party. Eighteen million kilograms of proven carcinogens, cancer-causing agents, are going to be released into our air and our water this year. That is unacceptable to the Green Party.

Peter Mansbridge: Unacceptable. Does that mean you would force them not to do that?

Jim Harris: Absolutely. We would immediately reduce a large number of the most persistent toxins that are injected into our air and water every year, and require industry to move along with a very aggressive policy.

Now, what causes – here in Toronto, for instance – smog? We had more smog days this year than any other year on record, and what causes smog? Two simple things: coal-fired generation, electricity generation, and traffic jams. And what we would do is force, for instance, all taxis in Canada to be hybrids. And by the way, it saves taxicab drivers $1,200 every month, and it would save the taxi industry $5 billion over 10 years.

So when Mr. Martin says that Kyoto's going to cost us $10 billion, here one tiny little industry all on its own would save $5 billion. So we have creative solutions to deal with these problems. And we need to move from being the most energy-inefficient economy globally to the leader in energy efficiency.

Peter Mansbridge: That answer your question?

Therese Taylor: It does. Would you also consider banning drive-thrus and kiss-and-rides?

Jim Harris: Well, kiss-and-rides are actually a good thing because it encourages people to use the public transit system. You drop off your spouse and they get on the GO train or the public subway. So kiss-and-rides are actually a good thing.

Therese Taylor: I'm actually referring to the kiss-and-rides that are at all of our public schools.

Jim Harris: Oh, you're talking about dropping your kids off at school. Well, what we've seen, actually, here in Toronto just in the last couple of days, is the launch of the first high-occupancy vehicle lanes – HOV lanes – which encourage people to car share. And we need to invest in our public transit system so that more and more people use it, so we have less smog, and those – the Ontario Medical Association, for instance, there are 5,800 deaths this year, 17,000 emergency room visits in already crowded ERs, and it's completely unacceptable.

Peter Mansbridge: All right. Thank you very much. You didn't say whether you'd ban kiss-and-rides outside schools, though. You're not going to do that, are you?

Jim Harris: Well, no. We'd encourage people to carpool, though. And many parents already do carpool, but, uh, yes.

Peter Mansbridge: Our next questioner is in Montreal. Let's hear your question, please.

Craig Sauvé: Hi, I'm Craig Sauvé. I'm a student here in Montreal. Considering there is another federal party that champions the environmental cause, that is the NDP, is it not counterproductive, considering there are so many tight ridings?

Peter Mansbridge: All right. Here's the question that has dogged your party and has dogged the NDP, the assumption that pulling votes to the Green Party is pulling them away from the NDP.

Jim Harris: Well, first off, that's not true, because 30 per cent of our votes come from people who would otherwise vote centre-right. Thirty per cent of our vote comes from people who won't vote for any other party. And 40 per cent comes from people who would vote centre-left. But there are some fundamental differences, for instance, between the Green Party and the NDP. The federal Liberal government gave $100 million of our taxpayers' money to Ford in the fall, and $200 million to General Motors, ostensibly to protect jobs, and the NDP, of course, supported it because it's CAW jobs. Well, these two car companies have the highest CO2 emissions of any major car companies in the world, and we saw GM announce 30,000 layoffs in November. So a third of a billion dollars of our hard-earned taxpayers' money didn't protect a single job. And the Green Party would not be subsidizing the most fuel-inefficient car companies in the world. Why do we build no hybrids right here in Canada? And I have to believe unionized workers would be just as happy building hybrids – in fact, happier – than building gas-guzzling vehicles. And GM, when it shed its jobs, protected all its gas-guzzling plants. In other words, they're not going to protect a single job producing gas-guzzling SUVs or trucks.

Peter Mansbridge: All right, Montreal. Does that answer your question?

Craig Sauvé: Yeah, that's fine.

Peter Mansbridge: All right. OK. Thanks very much. You convinced him on that point.

Jim Harris: (Laughs.)

Peter Mansbridge: But, you know, what he's arguing is the NDP is seen, at least by him and by many other people, as the one party in the House of Commons now that does fight for an environmental cleanup –

Jim Harris: And we think that's a great thing. We think every single party should steal our platform. But what we need to distinguish is between promises and actual performance. And in government in British Columbia, in Ontario, in Manitoba, in Saskatchewan, the NDP has some of the worst environmental records according to environmental groups. You know, we had the largest arrests in Canada's history, mass arrests, as you know, grandmothers stopping logging trucks from clear-cutting old growth in Clayoquot under an NDP government. We had a statement like "Environmentalists are the enemies of progress" from an NDP premier. Um, so, you know, we don't consider these –

Peter Mansbridge: The bottom line is you're targeting NDP votes just as much as you're targeting Tory or Liberal votes?

Jim Harris: We draw from across the entire political spectrum pretty much equally.

Peter Mansbridge: All right. Back to the studio, right here. Go ahead.

Alexandre de Raucourt: Hello Mr. Harris. My name is Alexandre de Raucourt, and I am a Toronto resident. I voted Green in the last election, and I have been very disappointed by the absence of your party's voice to the issues that have come up in the last year and a half. Why did you not use this interim period to familiarize Canadians with your party's platform?

Jim Harris: Alexandre, thank you so much for your question. And we have been out working throughout the entire year, campaigning, and what we've found is there has been a complete media shutout of our activities. We've been working at the grassroots level all throughout Canada to raise these issues. You know, the very fact, for instance, that I'm excluded from the televised leaders' debate is just yet one more example of this media shutout. You know, we have been above the level of support that in '93, for instance, the NDP elected nine MPs at, 6.9 per cent of the vote. We've been above that –

Peter Mansbridge: Let's get to the point of the question. I mean, it's one thing to blame the media, but you are on this program. The issue is where have you been? Have you had a policy convention? Have you had major news conferences? In the last year, what have you done to attract attention to the Green Party?

Jim Harris: Well, we have been travelling – I have been travelling all across the country. We had 308 candidates in the last election, all of who are working within their communities, working on issues like helping to ban cosmetic pesticides in their cities, in cities like Toronto, Halifax, in Quebec cities. So all across the country, we have been working tirelessly to bring about the kind of positive vision that we see we want to have for Canada, for our children and grandchildren.

Peter Mansbridge: Is that the answer you're looking for?

Peter Mansbridge: All right. Back to the studio, right here. Go ahead.

Alexandre de Raucourt: Well, I was – what I miss was that the leader wasn't representing the 500,000 people who voted for him, I thought. I don't think it's a media shutout. I think that you should have been more forceful in your ideas when issues came up, let's say like Gomery. Where was your position on that? Where was your voice?

Jim Harris: Let me give you the Gomery. We believe that all the opposition parties have been talking about scandal, and we're concerned about scandal as well, but there's a far bigger scandal, the scandal of Kyoto. And in 100 years' time, Canadians won't even remember the name of Gomery. They won't even remember the name of the Liberal Party. But the fact that our world will be uninhabitable for our grandchildren, that will be the true scandal. And talk about accountability. It's not just about fiscal accountability –l it's accountability to our children, to our grandchildren. Mr. Martin says he supports Kyoto, and yet under the Liberals over the last 12 years, CO2 emissions have risen by 24.4 percent, not fallen by six percent. Where is the accountability to future generations? That is a scandal for us.

Peter Mansbridge: All right. Back to the studio, right here. Go ahead.

Alexandre de Raucourt: OK. Why didn't you say that at the time?

Jim Harris: We have been saying that, but I'll give you an example. Mr. Martin talks about the "democratic deficit." You know, I couldn't even get into the budget lockup. Accounting firms are allowed into the budget lockup. They didn't get a single vote. The Chamber of Commerce is allowed into the lockup. I couldn't even get in. You know, there are –

Peter Mansbridge: All right, okay. You've made the point in the question –

Jim Harris: (Laughs.)

Peter Mansbridge: You've made the point in the answer. Were you in Ottawa on budget day? Were you standing in the lobby at the House of Commons available to be interviewed?

Jim Harris: Yes, I was in Ottawa available to be interviewed, and so we are working out to get there, but we are consistently shut out by the media. We are very frustrated too. (Laughs.)

Peter Mansbridge: Okay, all right. All right. You're not being shut out right now. So you are getting this opportunity. Next question is one on e-mail. It comes from Cody Morin in Alberta. And let's have a look at it now. Here's what it says:

Cody Morin (e-mail): I am a former member of the Green Party in British Columbia. I am curious to ask Jim Harris why he thinks a corporate cheerleader (which is essentially what he is - going into boardrooms to preach environmental responsibility, rather than simply to regulate it or force it on corporations), I want to ask why he thinks that being a corporate cheerleader is going to lead to better green and social responsibility.

Jim Harris: Well, Cody, that's a great question –

Peter Mansbridge: (Laughs.)

Jim Harris: … and when I work with …

Peter Mansbridge: You're a corporate cheerleader?

Jim Harris: No, no, but when I work with corporations – and I do work with corporations – I talk about identifying the trends that are going to change our society and corporations.

And for instance, when I have worked with large car companies, one of the things I have pointed out to them is the incredible rise in the demand for fuel-efficient vehicles. Last year, for instance, sales of hybrids increased 81 per cent. There's no other car category that can match that. And, for instance, in the car show in Germany three months ago, Toyota said that every single car it produces will be a hybrid. They didn't give a timeline. And so when I consult with corporations, these are the kind of issues that I raise, because corporations are going to have to be part of the solution.

Peter Mansbridge: But what he's saying here is – and in a way it links back to one of the first questions – and that is how tough would you be if you were in a position of some authority in calling on major corporations to change their ways? In other words, would you force them? Would you regulate them?

Jim Harris: Absolutely, yes.

Peter Mansbridge: Or would you be asking them to do these things on a voluntary basis?

Jim Harris: No, no. Absolutely. We have to meet our Kyoto targets. Heavy emitters, final emitters, are 50 per cent of the CO2 emissions in Canada, and the Liberals have only asked them to reduce their emissions by 13 per cent, so that's –

Peter Mansbridge: But why is there this knock on you, though, that you're asking major corporations to do this on a voluntary basis. He obviously feels that way as a former member, and you've seen it written about you in the past as well.

Jim Harris: Well, it's not true, so I'm here to correct that fallacy.

Peter Mansbridge: All right, well let's move on, then. Next question comes from Ottawa.

Jim Harris: But thank you, Cody.

Peter Mansbridge: Next question comes from Ottawa. And let's hear it now. Go ahead, sir.

Manuel Costa: Hi, I'm Manuel Costa in Ottawa. Some 70 municipalities in Canada, like Montreal, Vancouver, Toronto, and the entire province of Quebec, have banned the urban use of pesticides for health reasons.

I am disappointed that the health ministers at the federal and provincial level are refusing to participate, leaving every single municipality to address this issue with the same argument all over. Now, if you are elected, and as it was done with the smoking issue, will you work to have Health Canada clearly and honestly state the dangers associated with the use of pesticides, resolve this issue for all of us, and cut health costs in doing so?

Jim Harris: Manuel, thank you so much for your question. Absolutely. Hudson, Que., has led the way across Canada for banning the use of cosmetic pesticides. And these are known, proven, cancer-causing agents.

And I just actually was meeting with – bumped into somebody today who has a chemical sensitivity that literally – she found she was using pesticides on her lawn, and it was when she stopped using them that she was able to breathe more easily in her own home. And we have to begin to see the links of what we do personally affecting the health of our communities and the health of our children and the health of our environment. And so, yes, the Green Party is absolutely opposed to the cosmetic use of pesticides.

Peter Mansbridge: Now, is this an issue because it's caught up in the different levels of government, it's a municipality issue now in terms of …

Jim Harris: Well, Hudson banned the use of pesticides, and the chemical companies, the weed companies, the lawn companies took them to court to say, "You don't have the right to do it," and it went all the way to the Supreme Court, and Hudson won. (Laughs.) And so now villages or communities all throughout Canada are saying – Halifax and Toronto, and all throughout Canada – are saying, "We don't want the spraying of cosmetic pesticides, and our Parks and Rec department won't use them anymore."

Peter Mansbridge: OK, I get that, but I think part of the question from Ottawa is how do you enforce this on a national basis? Should the federal government somehow have the authority to make that kind of a ruling?

Jim Harris: Well, we believe, Manuel, that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms must now include the right to clean air, to uncontaminated water, and uncontaminated soil, because every Canadian should have a right to those things, and we should enshrine that in the Charter of Rights. Because then, Canadians, when their rights were being violated, as they are right now, could use our court system to force the federal government when it remains inactive, when it remains silent on these important issues, force them to address them.

Peter Mansbridge: All right, we'll move on. Next question is right here in the studio. Go ahead.

Krishna Ganesan: My name is Kris Ganesan. The total taxes paid by the middle class, total taxes and fees paid by the middle class, has gone up, however, the incomes are shrinking due to outsourcing and globalization. How does the Green Party propose to reduce the middle-class squeeze?

Jim Harris: Chris, thank you so much for that question. What we propose is to reduce income taxes for all Canadians by $3.5 billion a year. So over five years, that's a $17.5-billion tax cut, and we propose to shift those taxes to natural and non-renewable resources.

And we talked about putting taxes, say, on gasoline at the pump, a ten-cents-a-litre pump. And we don't call it a gas tax; we call it a childhood asthma tax; we call it a smog tax; we call it a pollution tax. And if you're an average Canadian driving an average car an average distance, it would be equal. But if you cycle to work, walk to work, mass transit to work, or have a fuel-efficient vehicle, or car share at the kiss-and-ride, it would be a major gain. But if you drive a Hummer, maybe you would want to vote for another party.

Krishna Ganesan: The top marginal rate has gone from 34 per cent in 1985, now it is 29 per cent. In other words, the upper-income people are paying much less. That's why the middle-class squeeze is happening.

Jim Harris: Yes, the proposed tax cuts that we're talking about, the $17.5 billion of tax cuts, would be at the lowest bracket, so it would benefit every single Canadian who pays taxes.

Krishna Ganesan: Thank you.

Jim Harris: Thank you.

Peter Mansbridge: So you're in the income-tax-cut channel, as opposed to the GST-cut channel.

Jim Harris: Well, we actually have something to say on the GST as well.

Peter Mansbridge: Well, say it.

Jim Harris: (Laughs.) We would take the GST off all green products and services. So hybrid cars, bicycles, transit passes, books for students at university, a long list of –

Peter Mansbridge: And how are you going to pay for that? Is that also going to be on a gas tax?

Jim Harris: No, but we are going to promote a green economy. For instance, when we focus on energy conservation as a form of power generation, it creates more jobs than any other form of electricity production. So why don't we have any wind industry, when Mr. Charest announced a $1.9-billion wind program – very exciting – but 70 cents on the dollar is leaving Canada to American, German, Danish firms because we have no domestic wind industry. And by taking GST off of green products and services, we would stimulate green-collar jobs and the green economy, which is the economy of the future.

Peter Mansbridge: So other than those changes, where you'd take the GST off, you'd keep it at seven per cent on everything else?

Jim Harris: Absolutely.

Peter Mansbridge: Okay. We're going to take a quick break here. Please stay with us. When we come back, a question from St. John's, Newfoundland. Our next questioner is standing by in Newfoundland. St. John's, you're on.

Rebecca Cohoe: Hi there, Mr. Harris. My name is Rebecca Cohoe, and I'm a student here at Memorial University. I have supported your party in the past, and I would consider voting Green again in the upcoming election. However, during your recent trip to St. John's, you focused on sealing rather than highlighting some of your party's more relevant policies, such as green-collar jobs and more inclusive health care. Without getting into the sealing issue, would you please address my fear that the Green Party is more interested in furthering special-interest agendas than it is in understanding the actual needs and priorities of both rural and Atlantic Canada?

Jim Harris: Thanks, Rebecca. Well, we, of course, talk about creating green-collar jobs, and Canada has one of the best profiles of any country in the world for wind power, and wind power is growing by 20 per cent a year, compounded every year. And, you know, that famous political commentator Wayne Gretzky used to always say, "I never go where the puck is; I go to where it's going to be." So we're talking about building green-collar jobs, and why aren't we focused on wind power so aggressively here in Canada?

Peter Mansbridge: Did you miss an opportunity when you were there?

Jim Harris: No, we are taking opportunities. This is the longest campaign in 21 years, as you know, and we're releasing two, three releases, policy statements every single day. And so all throughout the campaign, we're making releases on issues.

So green-collar jobs are absolutely important to us. But to touch briefly on the seal hunt – I can't resist it – Sir Paul McCartney has come out and said that they're going to begin a ban, a boycott, of Canadian fisheries exports, $2.8 billion worth, and the sealing represents less than three per cent of the fisheries revenue for Newfoundland. And we need to end this barbaric ritual that has caused protests for decades going all the way back to Brigitte Bardot in the '60s, and I'm proud of our stance on this.

Peter Mansbridge: All right, well then, you've certainly gone there again. So they'll be awaiting arrival.

Rebecca Cohoe: I was hoping you might not, but…

Peter Mansbridge: Yeah. Thanks, St. John's. Thank you.

Peter Mansbridge: We've only got a minute left here. Quickly, be realistic. What's your best hope?

Jim Harris: Well, we are going to elect MPs in this election. We're above the level that the NDP, for instance, elected MPs in '93.

Peter Mansbridge: Two, three, five? Be realistic.

Jim Harris: Well, they elected nine in '93, with 6.9 per cent of the vote. We're going to win over a million votes, and we're in the process of forcing all the old-line parties to address the issues that we're talking about.

Peter Mansbridge: If there's a minority government, which most people seem to think there would be, and for some reason those few Green Party seats, if you get them, represent the balance of power, who are you more inclined to lean towards?

Jim Harris: Well, the conditions of our giving our support to any party are going to be, one, democratic reform in Canada, and number two, the aggressive pursuit –

Peter Mansbridge: You've seen their platforms. You've seen their platforms. Is there one that you could say now, the Liberals or the Conservatives, where you would lean towards?

Jim Harris: We are not encouraged by either.

Peter Mansbridge: Should be an exciting parliament. (Laughter) Jim Harris, we thank you for your time.

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