Peter Mansbridge: Tonight, it's Liberal Leader Paul Martin who has joined us here at the River Run Centre in Guelph, Ontario. He'll be taking questions from our viewers, but before we begin, a few words about how we selected the questioners. We asked viewers to let us know what they'd like to ask the political 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. And one last note: Paul Martin does not know what he's about to be asked. So let's get to the first question, and it's right here in the room here in Guelph. Go ahead.
Sophie Cheney (Campbellville, Ontario): My name is Sophie Cheney and I'm from Campbellville, Ontario. I was listening to the debates on Monday evening, and you mentioned that the other leaders were - your words were drive-by smear was how you described how they were attacking you, and you mentioned that the Canadians wanted to hear about the issues that were important to Canada's future. The very next day, the Liberal Party unveiled a series of American-style attack ads, and I'd like to know why you chose to do that.
Paul Martin: Well, in fact, if you take a look, they were really not attack ads. What they were were essentially quotes of Stephen Harper's or positions that he had taken, and this election, I think we've got to be very clear, is about a very different set of values between Mr. Harper and myself. And it's important, I believe, that Canadians understand the values of the prime minister that they're going to choose, and so what we simply set out were Mr. Harper's positions. And this morning, you may have seen, he confirmed that everything that he has said, the positions he's taken over the course of the last 10 years he stands behind. So that when Mr. Harper for the sake of discussion addresses a far-right U.S. conservative group, as he did, and says that they're a light and inspiration to Canadians and that we're second-rate, then I think it's fair to say to Mr. Harper, explain what you're saying, and I think that political leaders have to stand behind the positions that they have taken.
Peter Mansbridge: Do you accept that?
Sophie Cheney: No, I'm afraid I don't, because I think you should be talking about what your program is for Canadians and letting us make the decision as to where the leaders stand and that's what CBC helps us to do is to try and evaluate the different platforms in an unbiased way.
Paul Martin: Well, I think that's fair, but what I then did after that is I did, I set out, for instance, our child-care program and essentially pointed out what we believe. Now, Mr. Harper has also set out his, which is very different. I set out our program in terms of helping students with tuition. You may or may not be aware, for instance, we have said we'll pay up to $3,000 a year, one-half of students� first tuition at university and college and one-half over the last year. I think that's a very important part of the debate, but I think what you have to have is the opposition leaders have to respond to your positions as, in fact, I will respond to the positions that they take. Stephen Harper today, for instance, said he will withdraw from Kyoto. I don't agree with that position, and so I will state my position on Kyoto, but I will do it in the context of what he would do as well.
Peter Mansbridge: All right, thank you. We've come a long way, though, from the preamble of the question, which was about attack ads. You said they weren't attack ads. Most people accept that they were negative ads, just like the Tories have run some negative ads. A question came up today about whether or not you'd approve them. You said you had, this latest run of ads. Does approving them mean you actually saw these ads before they were released first to a web site and then pulled back? Did you actually see them?
Paul Martin: Sure, or I would have seen a transcript. Look, I approved those ads. There is no doubt about that.
Peter Mansbridge: But when you looked at the military ad, I mean, I've heard your explanation today that it's really about a difference in policies, about where you'd base troops, did you actually think that that's what it was about when you saw it or read the transcript? Does it really come across that way to an ordinary viewer?
Paul Martin: Your question is a very good one. I think it's important to explain that my view is that if there's going to be a natural disaster, I'm very supportive of the military, and I believe that we've got to - I've increased their salaries, I think we've got to increase their numbers. I think they play a tremendous role, and domestically, they play a huge role in terms of disaster relief, and Gen. Hillier, the head of the chief of defence staff, has said he wants them to be positioned where there's a critical mass. Mr. Harper and I have a difference of opinion. He thinks they should be spread out across the country. The problem is you don't want to spend two weeks or two days gathering people together. Now, the point
Peter Mansbridge: I don't want to dwell on that point
Paul Martin: I would like to answer your question, if I could, Peter.
Peter Mansbridge: The question is very straightforward. Those ads don't talk anything about policy but where troops will be based on a policy area. It comes across as soldiers in Canadian cities, on the streets with guns at a time when guns on streets is a major issue.
Paul Martin: But that's the reason the ad never showed. We withdrew the ad because absolutely, you're right.
Peter Mansbridge: But you approved it.
Paul Martin: No, I didn't approve it. That's what happened. The ad was prepared. I don't prepare the ads. The ad was prepared and then immediately upon seeing it, we said, this ad is going to be misconstrued. And that's why it was pulled. That ad never appeared and I think it's really important to understand that. People saw that ad, but you've not seen it on your television. It appeared in a blog, and they pulled it right away.
Peter Mansbridge: It's actually on your web site and they were delivered to television stations, but aside from that, you had seen a script and you approved the original script.
Paul Martin: But then when we saw what the ad looked like, it was very clear that the message that we were trying to convey was not going to be conveyed by that ad and we pulled it.
Peter Mansbridge: All right, let's move on. Our next question comes from Montreal, so the monitor here will show our questioner.
Guillaume Lavoie (La Malbaie, Quebec) : Good evening. My name is Guillaume Lavoie and I'm originally from La Malbaie, Quebec. Being a federalist, I'm very concerned with the rise in support for separatism that we can see in Quebec, to such an extent that even though I have strong conservative values, I would probably be ready to vote for any party if I could be convinced this party was the only way to prevent the separation of Quebec. In this context, I would like to know, Mr. Martin, what concrete action you intend to take if you are elected to prevent the separation of Quebec and defend national unity knowing that this is your party that was responsible in the first place for the current rise in support for separatism that we can see in Quebec. Thank you.
Peter Mansbridge: All right, there's the question. The answer is?
Paul Martin: Well, I think the first thing we have to do and we have to make it very clear to Quebecers, that we are very open, that we recognize Quebec's place within Confederation. We recognize its distinct character, and we also have huge respect for its desire to preserve its language and its culture, and, in fact, to preserve the French language right across the country. I think that openness to Quebec's aspirations is essential, but then I think at the same time we've got to point out the fundamental issue, which is that in the world in which we live, with China and India on the rise, mega countries, we are 32 million people, that's all we are, with a tremendous opportunity, that we are so much stronger together and that, in fact, Quebec's competitors, you know, are not Ontario, they're not British Columbia or Manitoba. Quebec's competitors are the United States. They are China, and they are India. And we have a huge opportunity. We have a great network, our universities, we share the same values, we share the same understandings, and in fact, the other point is that Quebecers are part of those who built this country.
I am a Quebecer, immensely proud of it. They're part of who built this land, and I believe that if you respond to Quebec's aspirations on the one hand, if you're open in terms of what it means to have that specific character, and you then say we are one country and we are going to take on the rest of the world together, there's no doubt in my mind that Quebecers will stay with Canada.
Peter Mansbridge: You didn't argue with the gentleman's preamble, that the current rise is a direct result of your party's handling of the sponsorship program and the fallout from it. You wouldn't argue with that?
Paul Martin: The fact is that if you take a look at the vote in the last election, which was well before sponsorship, of course, it was a very close thing. It was close to 49 per cent, so that I think that is arguable, but if the question that you're putting to me is that did the sponsorship issue hurt the cause in Quebec, the answer is yes, it did. And that's one of the reasons that I called the Gomery Commission. That's why I asked for an unlimited mandate because my only way to defend integrity of government, my only way to defend I think national unity is to be as open and transparent as you possibly can and say a mistake was made. Then when Judge Gomery came down with his report and essentially exonerated my government, I took that nonetheless because he named people and I gave it to the authorities and I said, okay, we are going to punish people. People who did wrong things are going to be punished.
Peter Mansbridge: Next question on the same theme.
Nathan Shaw (Hamilton, Ontario): Good evening, Mr. Martin. My name is Nathan Shaw from Hamilton, Ontario. On the theme of national unity, I strongly believe, as you just mentioned, Canada is stronger as one and stronger together than we are apart. As we've seen from the previous question, support for sovereignty is on the rise, and now the western provinces feel increasingly alienated from this country's government as well. You often talk emotionally and very eloquently about unity, and I believe you when you speak on your emotions, but I'd like to know policy-wise whether you believe a united Canada is truly possible or we should become more decentralized and the provinces should be given more autonomy than they have right now as your opponents have suggested.
Paul Martin: Well, I believe that you can have strong provinces. In fact, you can have strong municipalities, which I also believe, but you can have strong provinces, but you have to have as well a strong federal government. The role of the federal government is to establish the great national objectives that the country can look to and then to build a consensus across the country to do it.
As an example, with the national child-care program, that - we are creating the first new social program of our generation - that program has now been signed by 10 provinces – all of have signed on to it.
We've got national objectives, but the way in which you achieve those objectives are going to be very different. Quebec is further ahead than some provinces, Manitoba is further ahead than some provinces, so you get to those objectives in a different way, perhaps, but you have to have great national objectives because we are, in fact, we are one country, and we've got to recognize that those kinds of objectives, that kind of shared feeling of attainment is an essential part of national unity. As an example, you talked about the West. Well, we brought in the Pacific gateway. We're closer to China and Japan than is Australia. This is a tremendous opportunity for us. It's a western opportunity, but it's also a national opportunity. What we've really got to say is that, yes, the regions of the country are different, there are different circumstances, but when the country pulls together on something like a Pacific gateway or a national child-care program, those are the kinds of things that build nationhood, and that's what I want to do.
Peter Mansbridge: Do you buy into that?
Nathan Shaw: The federal government having national objectives is one thing, but being able to implement those policies and having the provinces agree is a completely different thing, and I'd like to know whether or not you think that if you were to be elected, you would be more flexible because I don't think the current system of – sort of a lot of western provinces, even Ontario, the Ottawa-knows-best mentality is sort of difficult for them to get around. And I would like to know, would you be more flexible in accepting regional views?
Paul Martin: Oh, I think regional views are very important, but as I just mentioned in the child-care plan, essentially we've established the principles. They've got to be accessible and equal, but, in fact, the way that people are going to achieve them is very different. In some provinces, for instance, they'll only have non-profit child care. In other provinces such as Ontario, you can have non-profit and profit. So we are flexible, as long as the objectives are clear. The same thing with the municipalities. Nobody ever said that we could establish a national program for support of our municipal governments, the big cities and our smaller ones. But we've done it. We've got nine provinces who have signed on to that. When I was the finance minister, they never said we'd get the provinces to agree with the federal government on protecting the Canada Pension Plan, but we did it, and I think it's simply sitting down and working these things out. But I think we've got to understand, there can be regional differences, provincial differences, but we are one country.
Peter Mansbridge: OK, thank you very much. We're going to check out this question now coming in from Cobble Hill, British Columbia.
Miles Phillips (Cobble Hill, B.C.) : Hi, my name is Miles Phillips. My wife and I have two young daughters, seven and three years old, and I wonder what the country will be like 25 or 50 years from now. Will there be fish in our oceans, clean air, clean water and sustainable energy? There doesn't seem to be any well laid-out plan for the future of our natural environment. My question is this: What is your future vision of the natural world that my children will inherit, and I want you to be very specific in your answer about how you will achieve that vision. You've obviously done well with the economic deficit. Now, how will you fix the environmental deficit?
Paul Martin: Well, the first thing is that I think the environmental deficit is very much part of the economic deficit. You cannot have a strong economy if, in fact, what you're doing is polluting your waters, if, in fact, you know, your health-care costs are going up because people have asthma because they can't breathe the air. There's a fundamental value here. You expressed it in economic terms. I happen to believe it's also one you express in moral terms.
Peter Mansbridge: He wants specific answers as to how you're going to change that.
Paul Martin: Let me deal with it within the economy. The first thing I brought in is environmental indicators. We measure the economy. Gross domestic product, we all know those numbers, but governments react to what you measure. So I have said, when we measure our economic indicators, we're going to do it on an environmental basis as well. So we're not going to have economic indicators that say the country is doing well when, in fact, we're polluting the air because it's going to cost us a fortune and we're going to deal with it.
The second thing you have to do is you have to recognize that most environmental problems are international, and Canada has taken the lead on climate change and on Kyoto, and I believe as an example that Canada taking the lead of the United Nations, 150-odd nations, on how, in fact, we deal with climate change is a means of encouraging Canadians to participate. I know you're going to say I shouldn't raise this. It was tragic today that Mr. Harper said he would pull out of Kyoto. This is an area where Canada is taking leadership. So the answer to your question is we've put the funds there, we're working with the other levels of government, with the municipalities, we've put the funds in it, we've set the regulations, but I think we've got to measure what we're able to do because that in the end is how you're going to know if we're succeeding.
Peter Mansbridge: Next question is here in Guelph.
Shazia Teja (Guelph, Ontario): My name is Shazia Teja from Guelph, Ontario. I understand, as do many Canadians, that your physician runs a private clinic. My question to you is what is your opinion of these private clinics that we see in places like Quebec and British Columbia? And further to that, would you try to stop them, and if so how?
Paul Martin: The doctor's office is a private office. When you go to a doctor, that's a private office. He runs it as a private office. When I go to my doctor, I go in to a private office. When I get my health care, I pay with my health-care card, my medicare card. I do not go to a private clinic any more than any other Canadian. These are open. Anyone can walk in, but I think your question is very important and that is I believe that the role of the federal government is to support the Canada Health Act, number one, unequivocally. Federal monies that go into health care should not go into private health care. They should only go into public health care. We've got to make the public health-care system work, and that's what we did with the provinces when we talked about reducing wait times.
Now, if there are going to be disputes, if a province decides, well, it's going to push them this way, we have set up a dispute settlement mechanism, a dispute avoidance mechanism. The federal government will say, no, you shouldn't do that. But rather than having the politicians making the decision, there will be a body of experts who will determine whether, in fact, that lives up to the Canada Health Act. I will not put money into the private health-care system, and I will support unequivocally the Canada Health Act.
Shazia Teja: But would you stop the proliferation of these private clinics?
Paul Martin: Well, I will do whatever the Canada Health Act allows me to do, and that really will require obviously this dispute avoidance mechanism, and somebody's going to have to decide whether, in fact, what is being done is within the Canada Health Act or is not within the Canada Health Act. Roy Romanow set out in a letter in Truro, Nova Scotia, and he's a very strong proponent as you know of the public health-care system, exactly how this should work, and I've got to say I pretty well buy what Roy Romanow said.
Peter Mansbridge: I'm a little confused on the issue of you and your doctor. Because as you may know, the Conservatives are running ads saying that your doctor runs a private clinic and you go to a private clinic.
Paul Martin: No, no.
Peter Mansbridge: Either you do or you don't.
Paul Martin: No, I don't go to a private clinic. My doctor, long after I started going to him, did set up an operation. I don't ask my doctor what he does in his private time any more than I ask you what you do in your private time. But I'm telling you what I do. I go to my doctor, I go to the same kind of situation that everybody else in this room. I support the public health-care system. I don't pay for health care. I have a health-care card and I belong to a government health-care system.
Peter Mansbridge: So do you think that's an unfair ad?
Paul Martin: That's the question that was asked by the very first questioner, yes, of course I do.
Peter Mansbridge: Have you asked for them to have it pulled?
Paul Martin: You know, I've got to say that I have over time explained this to them, but, you know, I'm not getting through. I do believe that when you do an ad, it ought to be true.
Peter Mansbridge: All right, next question is coming up on the monitor here and it's coming from Stirling, Alberta.
Cary Oler (Stirling, Alberta) : My name is Cary Oler. I have four young children. My wife is sacrificing a good income to stay at home with them. I want to ask why government isn't doing more to help families who want a parent to stay at home. I know you have a specific plan to address day care for working parents, but what about a plan to address families who feel it is more important to raise their own children?
Peter Mansbridge: This question comes up a lot and I know it's been thrown at you before in some of our "Your Turn" segments in the past. The issue is still for families in the situation where one parent stays at home, and they don't feel they have anything specific for them as opposed to those where both parents are at work.
Paul Martin: Well, the question he's raising is where one parent may be working outside and another parent working at home, and, you know, the fact is that there are within the Income Tax Act, there are spousal allowances as an example which provide for this.
Peter Mansbridge: But everybody gets that, right?
Paul Martin: Well, no, but there is a different spousal allowance if, in fact, you're a single-income family in the situation which the person is describing.
If the question really is, does the government provide benefits for the kind of situation he is describing, the government does. The answer is yes. If your question is are they equal to what may well be the cost of a public day-care program, that really would depend on the province, but I think that it's a legitimate question and I think we've got to obviously look at that kind of situation.
The other point I would make, though, is we brought in very substantial personal income tax cuts, and when you cut personal income tax, the fact is that the salary that the questioner would make, he actually gets a better break than if, in fact, that was a two-income family. It's the way the Income Tax Act works. I think what we have to do is take a look at. We definitely very strongly believe that people have to have choice and the only way you have choice is if you have public day care. Otherwise, there is no choice.
But we also believe that, yes, people who are in that situation, there ought to be an equivalence, and the combination of the reduction of income taxes and these various allowances we think should provide it. The answer to your question is are we there yet? No. Will we get there? Yes.
Peter Mansbridge: Income averaging is one thing that some people argue is the way – I should say none of the other parties have anything specific for a person like this either, but income averaging is an issue often brought up as a solution where they would basically split the income on declaration of the person who's working outside the home, and that way, their tax would come down. Is that something you'd consider?
Paul Martin: Well, in fact, it's something that we looked at when I was in finance. I know it's something that the department of finance continues to look at.
Peter Mansbridge: Looking at it and–
Paul Martin: No, no, but let me answer the question. The judgment call that you really have to make is how do you get the biggest amount of money for any income tax cut into people's pockets? And the judgment call at the present time, given what we're talking about, the $30 billion that we're going to be cutting tax, is we can get more money into people's pockets now, into middle-income Canadians and lower-income Canadians, and that's where our priority was. Our priority was essentially middle-income and lower-income Canadians. As the government's economy, as the economy continues to strengthen, we can look at that kind of thing, but we did have a priority. It really was middle-income Canadians in this particular case.
Peter Mansbridge: Next question is right here in the room.
Glen Spooner (Chatham, Ontario) : Hi, I'm Glen Spooner and I live in Chatham. There's been a lot of information put out about what has happened during the sponsorship scandal, but very little about what will stop further occurrences. As a taxpayer whose money has been thrown away, what legislation would the Liberal Party pass to protect taxpayers from further occurrences, and are you prepared to introduce laws to make government more transparent and punish the politicians involved?
Paul Martin: Certainly. Let me deal with your questions in reverse order.
The answer to your second question is yes. And, in fact, the reason I put the Gomery Commission into place was so that, in fact, we were going to be as open and transparent and so we would lead to the kinds of changes that you've talked about. That was the reason.
Now, we have brought in extensive changes. The fundamental problem that occurred, apart from, I mean, there were people who just did things that were dishonest. When people do dishonest things, they try to hide it and you don't find out about it for a while.
What you have to have is a system that will (a) prevent them, and (b), if they do something, it will allow you to catch them. What we've essentially done is in every single government department, we've now put in a chief financial officer and we're making sure they have the real training to be a chief financial officer and we're having them, in fact, we're doing it now, it's already well under way, and then they will report to a controller general at the Treasury Board.
So, in fact, you've got a parallel track of checking out. Then we've increased the number of internal auditors by some 300 within the government to make sure this kind of thing can happen. There was a failure in the system and we have fixed the system. I can tell you that we've done that, and then we're going much further. For instance, I've put in a system now where staffers have to report their expense accounts once a quarter publicly on a web site. We've opened up totally the way in which government operates in terms of transparency, the role of the auditor general, and Mr. Justice Gomery will be reporting in about a month, and I have made it very clear that we will accept all of his recommendations, but we've gone a long way already. Look, what happened was unacceptable, and that the system broke down was even more unacceptable or certainly as unacceptable, and we're now in the process of fixing it. We've done a lot.
Peter Mansbridge: All right.
Glen Spooner: Further, what about the politicians that have been involved in this? I do not hear anything about penalties involved for this. And as far as I'm concerned, there's been a crime committed, and I would like to see some kind of penalties.
Paul Martin: Well, we've turned the whole thing over to the authorities, to the Mounties. The fact is that there are criminal charges pending, people are being hauled in front of the courts, in front of the criminal courts. There are also civil suits that are pending. We actually added 12 people to the list. So we're going after them, let me tell you. As far as I'm concerned, you know, the re-establishment of complete confidence in our system of government means that those people who did wrong should pay for it.
Peter Mansbridge: Just one question on Gomery. Your argument on Gomery from the beginning has been, one, you weren't aware of the sponsorship scandal while it was going on, two, that as soon as you were made aware and you were in the position, you cancelled the program and began the investigations, and three, that you've implemented the various programs that you just talked about. Given all that, if that's all the case, why is it that you're still wearing it?
Paul Martin: Well, because I'm the prime minister, and I think that people expect that a prime minister will accept his responsibilities. But I mean, the fundamental issue is we put Judge Gomery in place. We gave him unlimited resources and mandate. It took him over a year. He's got 25,000 pages of evidence. There is no person in the country who understands that issue better than he.
Peter Mansbridge: I understand that, but the fact is that you still wear it. It's not about responsibility, but you're sort of still dragging it around.
Paul Martin: To a certain extent, I raised this in the debate. Judge Gomery totally exonerated me and every member of my government. Here's the man who heard the whole thing. He looked at it and he said, fundamentally, he said two things that are very interesting. He said, number one, here is the role of the minister of finance, and the minister of finance sets the budget, but the role of the minister of finance does not follow through and that's not his job to follow through with how the spending is done. Number one.
The second thing that he said was the strength of our democracy is no other country would have called a sitting prime minister and a former prime minister, no other country would have set in place this kind of issue. Now, you ask me, why is it still an issue as far as I'm concerned? Because I'm the prime minister and because the opposition keeps raising it constantly, and that's the reference I was making to the drive-by smear. The fact is Judge Gomery has said the government - here are the people who were exonerated, here are the people who were guilty, and I'm saying let's get the guilty people.
Peter Mansbridge: All right. Next question is right here in the room.
Amy de Sousa (Mississauga, Ontario): Good evening, Mr. Martin. My name is Amy de Sousa, and I'm from Mississauga. I would like to know what your government plans on doing to make sure the judicial system works for victims and their families by making sure criminals serve their full sentences and if released will not let Karla Homolka be able to appeal those restrictions that infringes upon the rights and safety of victims and families.
Paul Martin: Well, we are bringing in changes. You may have seen that, for instance, in the case of bail, which goes directly to part of your question, in terms of bail for gun crimes, we have said we're going to bring in the reverse onus.
What that means essentially is if a person is seeking bail at the present time who has committed a gun crime, it's up to the Crown to basically prove that that person shouldn't get bail. What we're saying is, no, you should prove that you should get bail. In other words, it's a much more difficult standard. We're going to do that.
We've made it very clear that there are going to be what they call mandatory minimums, and that is if you commit a gun crime or if you were a biker in Montreal 10 years ago, but if you commit a gun crime, then you're going to jail and you're not coming out. And they're not going to be able to make a deal that's going to get you out. I think this is the kind of thing we've got to look at in other areas as well. I also, by the way, think we've got to deal with some of the social causes, but your question was directly, how do we stop people - how do we stop people from getting out of jail when, in fact, they shouldn't, and the answer is you basically have mandatory minimums and you make sure they stay.
Peter Mansbridge: Is that good enough for you? Do you want to follow that up at all?
Amy de Sousa: No, that's good, thank you.
Brad Patzer (Barrie, Ontario): Good evening, Mr. Prime Minister, my name is Brad Patzer. I'm from Barrie, Ontario. My question is concerning the new Liberal handgun policy that you're platforming. A previous Liberal government brought into place our current gun registry system through bill C-68. Now nearly $2 billion later we see the Toronto-area residents living through the past year, which has been dubbed the year of the gun. My question to you is how are you going to assure the voters in the upcoming election that your current attempt or your new attempt at gun control is going to be any more effective than the past?
Paul Martin: Well, these are two very different issues.
The question of the gun registry dealt with long guns, and the fact is that it is simply a registry system. We've changed it so that there is no more renewal fee, but we are largely dealing in that case with hunters, farmers, honest people who don't intend to use their guns for any other reason except hunting or the uses that a farmer may have. In the case of handguns, it's a very different issue.
First of all, there has been a registry for handguns for 20 or 30 or 40 years now. That isn't the issue. The issue is these killings that take place are taking place with illegal handguns, and they're happening in one of two ways. Either they're being smuggled across the border, so we're putting in place more intelligence, more border guards to deal with it or, in fact, they're being stolen from private homes, and essentially, you know, a gun in a home is a break-in away from being used.
The mayor of Toronto has a story that he tells about one collector who lost – had 30 guns stolen. Within a year, 12 of those guns were used in a crime, one of them in a murder. Our view is if you're going to deal with gun crime, get rid of the guns. Ban the guns. Take them away. That's what we're going to do. It's not a question of registering. We're saying we'll buy the guns off you. You can sell them, any way you want, but we do not want guns because handguns kill.
Brad Patzer: On that then, if the policy that you're putting forward is an elective one for each province to decide on a provincial level, I guess I'm thinking that the voters want the federal government to step up, if you're downloading that on to a provincial level to make the final decision whether we ban or whether we don't ban, I guess I feel that the federal government or your policy is lacking and that the federal government is proposing something, but really ultimately it's up to the provinces to decide.
Paul Martin: Essentially the reason for that is the nature of our country. We're banning handguns right across the country as part of the Criminal Code, but what we're saying is that the provinces have to opt in. And the reason is quite simple, and that is that they have the means of enforcement. We're going to set up a special squad of the RCMP who will go in and help local police, but fundamentally this is an operation that's going to be done by provincial police or by the local police, and so that the federal government just doesn't have the capacity to do it, and so what we would expect is those provinces, such as Ontario and Toronto where there is a major problem, are the ones who will opt in. In fact, as you know, Ontario has opted in. But it's a question of enforcement.
Peter Mansbridge: You'll have to make it quick.
Brad Patzer : You said several times that handguns are killing people, but isn't the real problem the person behind the handgun, and how are you addressing the individuals who choose to use guns in acts of crime?
Paul Martin: I'm not sure I understand your question, but if what you're saying to me, is there a major social problem here, the answer is unequivocally yes. That's why at the same time we have done this, we have set aside a $50-million program to deal with community activists. I was in Toronto not long ago, and essentially what you're talking about are young people about hopelessness, exclusion. They're saying I'm 15 years old, and there's just no opportunity for me in life. There's a huge void. I'll fill it with violence. There's no doubt that banning of handguns is an essential part of the solution. So are mandatory sentences. But, I mean, if we don't deal with the social causes, poverty and the lack of exclusion, we will never solve this. And I got to tell you it's important to Canada that we deal with this in the way that you've just described. Yes, absolutely.
Peter Mansbridge: Thank you very much. We're moving on to Ottawa. This question coming in from the nation's capital.
Husain Sadar (Ottawa, Ontario): My name is Husain Sadar. Mr. Martin, in this election campaign, the Liberal Party is being promoted as Martin's Liberals. This seems to imply that the Liberal Party under your leadership will somehow be different than the one under the leadership of your predecessor Hon. Jean Chrétien. Can you please give some specific examples, preferably in terms of your approach to guide Canada's foreign, fiscal, and environmental policies as compared to the ones under the leadership of your predecessor, Monsieur Chrétien. Thank you.
Paul Martin: Well, every political party - I mean, there were - you know, there were the Pearson Liberals, then there were the Trudeau Liberals, the Chrétien Liberals. The fact is that a party becomes identified with its leader, and the leader has certain views and certain convictions, and that's what has happened here. I happen to believe fundamentally that - obviously you won't let me go on for hours on this.
Peter Mansbridge: It's a pretty wide open question. But he does want some specific differences.
Paul Martin: My view is we will not go back into deficit. Fiscally, we will never go back into deficit.
Peter Mansbridge: How is that different from Jean Chrétien?
Paul Martin: This is the policy that I brought in. The question is at some point will you go back into deficit? I am saying no. We will pay down debt and we will reduce taxes. But fundamentally, when you look at where Canada fits within the world, it's clear how integral we are with that world, and, therefore, I believe that our foreign policy has got to be independent, and it's got to strike areas not where we're a mediator, but where, in fact, we are a leader. Darfur in the Sudan is an example of that where Canada stepped in and said, OK, the United Nations is having trouble, the African Union is having trouble. We are going to be the catalyst to bring this about.
Peter Mansbridge: Are you saying we didn't have an independent foreign policy under Jean Chrétien?
Paul Martin: The question is - the question isn't whether you have an independent foreign policy. The question is how do you exercise it? Where are the areas where you exercise that foreign policy, and that is going to depend upon the circumstances that occur when you're the prime minister. As an example, I said that I wanted Canada to take the lead on the UN conference on climate change. I wanted Canada to take that lead in that conference in Montreal because I believe that Canada has an opportunity, despite the fact quite honestly that we have not lived up to our reputation in terms of climate change and we've got a long way to go, we have an opportunity to bring the world together, and I think that Canada can do that in terms of climate change. Obviously another prime minister might have done that. I picked the areas of foreign policy that I believe Canada really has got to set out as our areas.
Peter Mansbridge: All right. Question here in the studio.
Alana del Greco: Good evening, prime minister. My name is Alana del Greco. I am a second year history and political science major from York U. My question is concerning a policy initiative that you announced in Monday's leadership debate concerning the abolishment of the notwithstanding clause. Essentially if you were to abolish this clause, you would give an unelected, unaccountable appointed body control over policy and things like that over the legislators, elected legislatures across the country. Are you concerned that by heightening the court's authority will you will be infringing upon the right of parliamentary supremacy?
Paul Martin: Absolutely, and that's the whole point. I think in terms of our Charter rights, I do not believe that, in fact, the majority should have the right to take away the rights of the minority. That is the purpose of the Charter. We are a nation of minorities, and Parliament, by the way, is usually elected by a minority.
One of the elections, 1997, the government won with 37 per cent of the vote. So the fundamental issue is who is going to protect your rights?
Let me give you an example that I have discussed. Forgive me for taking the time but I really think it's an important question. There are a number of Conservatives, quite a large number of Conservative members of Parliament, who have said that they would take away a woman's right to choose, and, in fact, some of them are among the leaders, Stockwell Day, people who would be in cabinet.
The president of the Conservative Party has said that he has a roadmap to achieve that. There would be a private member's bill brought into Parliament. Now, that private member's bill would not pass today. But if there were a majority of Conservative members, then that bill might well pass.
So let's assume - this is a debate we all thought was over. So let's assume for the sake of discussion Parliament passed a law under a Conservative government taking away a woman's right to choose. It wouldn't take that long; it would go to the Senate. Over a period of time it would pass the Senate.
Now what would happen is that all of a sudden that would be the law of the land, and so a woman's right to choose would have been taken away, and then it would be tested in the courts. There would be an appeal under the Charter. And all through that time it might go either way, but the woman's right to choose would be in huge doubt, if not against the law.
Then the Supreme Court of Canada would decide. Now, let's assume that the Supreme Court of Canada decided and they said that's a Charter right. You can't take away a woman's right to choose.
Then what happens is it would go back to Parliament and Parliament would have a decision on the notwithstanding clause. Since the original bill passed, Parliament would vote the notwithstanding clause and suddenly a woman's right to choose would have disappeared. My view is that minority rights, Charter rights should not be taken away by the majority, and that applies in a wide range of cases, and I can't believe that a woman's right to choose is actually being put in doubt. But the fact is that that road map is out there and it is an issue. And I believe that the only way in which you protect it from every becoming an issue is you essentially say Parliament, governments are not going to be able to overrule the Supreme Court and take away your Charter rights.
Peter Mansbridge: The last question was about the notwithstanding clause. Just briefly, the explanation as to why you believe in it now. But it's like it hasn't been around for a while. Why now? Why did this suddenly come out in the dying days of the campaign?
Paul Martin: You may remember that the debate took place when the whole Charter came in, at that point.
Peter Mansbridge: At different times there have been many debates on the notwithstanding clause but you've never taken this position in this way.
Paul Martin: All along, I have said I would never use the notwithstanding clause and I never believed that the government should. You may remember that one of the reasons that Mr. Trudeau said that he accepted it was because he never believed a government would do it. What's happened now is the Conservatives - the Conservative justice critic Vic Toews has said he wants to use the notwithstanding clause to correct all of those errors all of those Liberal judges in the Supreme Court have made.
Peter Mansbridge: You're willing to throw this away, this possibility of the federal government, because of one possibility of one party coming in to power.
Paul Martin: Not a bit. The fact is that up until now, there has never been an expectation that it would be used. Now all of a sudden we are seeing the possibility of using it in a wide number of areas. I mean, it's not just women's right to choose, which is one I must say that really boggles the mind, but they've also talked about the possibility of using it in terms of same-sex marriage.
Peter Mansbridge: Although Harper has said he wouldn't.
Paul Martin: Well, but the problem is what can happen is a private member's bill can be introduced and it can pass through a private member's bill. It doesn't have to be led by the government. What's–
Peter Mansbridge: He said he wouldn't use the clause even if it was a private member's and it came back he wouldn't use it.
Paul Martin: What happens if it is his membership that votes the legislation and then it goes up and then it comes back and his membership says I want to do it. If that's the case, and I hope you're right, all I'm saying is that's great. Let's get rid of it. Let's not have a possibility that somebody can use the notwithstanding clause and take away your rights. But take a look at the nature of this country. People come here from the farthest reaches of the world. We have a multitude of religions, a multitude of cultures. The fact is you can elect a majority in Parliament with a very small minority of people. So that all of a sudden you can get 35 or 36 per cent of the population voting for a political party which has a very different set of ideas than the ideas that you and I or anybody may have.
Peter Mansbridge: Your party's done well by figures like that and ended up in majority situations. I don't want to hold back the viewers who have got questions.
Paul Martin: That is right. I would never use the notwithstanding clause. All I'm really saying is if you don't believe in the notwithstanding clause, let's take that away so that a future government, and not in five or 10 or 15 years, under some kind of pressure will use it to take away the rights of Canadians. If you want to look at our history, look at our history, the times that we have done - we really have not behaved well towards minorities. The fact is that I think we owe it to future generations to protect them.
Peter Mansbridge: OK. We've got to move along. I'm in big trouble on time here. Let's go to this question in Charlottetown right now.
Margaret Macdonald (Charlottetown P.E.I.): My name is Margaret Macdonald. Government encourages families to keep aging parents at home as a cost-effective way of dealing with the elderly. Keeping in mind that this is a full-time job and that work outside the home is not an option, what does your party propose to help those of us that are doing it at the present time while ensuring that seniors are receiving proper care?
Paul Martin: Well, my answer applies obviously to people who are taking care of an elderly parent. The same answer would apply to people who are taking care of someone who is disabled, a disabled brother or sister or parent. Because the question is very, very well put. Unpaid caregivers are a growing segment of our society as we age, or as people are disabled, and we owe them a tremendous amount. The cost, human cost in terms of trauma, tension, as well as what they lose is enormous.
So we have brought forth a number of plans to help people under these circumstances. First of all, a $15,000 tax credit because it costs money. They've got to buy things. So that's part of the plan. The other is up to two months leave out of the Unemployment Insurance Act, and we intend to extend this to part-timers as well. So that, in fact, if what you have got is a brother or a sister or a grandparent, a family member, and we're going to extend that definition and you're devoting an enormous amount of time to having to take care of them, then we really do believe that the government has a responsibility to you to help you through that piece. And this is a very important part of what, in fact, we're saying we're going to do.
Peter Mansbridge: All right. Next question is right here in Guelph.
Wasim Jalal: Good evening, Mr. Prime Minister. First of all, I want to thank you for being our prime minister for the last two years. It's easy to remember all the bad stuff happen, and I to thank your family for being patient with the long working hours, long meeting. Now, we have established the positive side, let's move to the next side.
Peter Mansbridge: Let's get to it, please.
Wasim Jalal: Well, I supported the Liberal Party in the past. I am confused who to vote to this time, and last time I was, but this time is more, and the reason why, if I look to the Liberal promises and words, it's still the good old Liberal words. However, when I look back to your government policies and action, it's leaning more and more, whether it's foreign policy or domestic policy, it's leaning more and more toward Conservative policy. It's more consistent with the Conservative policies. And that's confusing me. I don't know what to think about it.
Paul Martin: Well, before I answer your question, let me just say that there hasn't been as much patience as you think. (Laughter) But let me just say that there could not be a greater difference between me and Stephen Harper, between what we stand for and what he stands for. I don't want to get in to the first question but I have to do it. The child-care plan. This is the first, as I said, this is the first national social program of a generation. It essentially says that we are going to provide the spaces, we are going to have the educators there so that you can get the early learning. That's a Liberal policy. This caregiver policy which I just talked about that says we have a responsibility to families and we're going to help them under all of these circumstances, that's a Liberal policy.
Peter Mansbridge: The concern is that the campaign is Liberal policies, but governing is not. That's the concern.
Paul Martin: Except that, the child care was brought in when we were the government. That's not a campaign promise. We've signed it with 10 provinces. The whole environmental policy, the ratification of Kyoto, the taking the leadership, that was not during the campaign. Our environmental policy is set by the government when we were the government. The issues of – we've already brought in a caregiver policy. What we're doing is we're building on that caregiver policy. We're extending it. That was done when we were not the government. The whole health-care plan, the reduction of wait lists, that was something that we initiated. The public health-care system is part of our country.
Peter Mansbridge: We're going to have to leave it at that. I'm sorry. Thank you. We've got to move on. Right, we're right out of time. I'll accept the blame. This one was my fault, my responsibility. I'm accepting it.
Well, for the past hour, Liberal Leader Paul Martin has been answering questions from our viewers. I've got a couple for him before we say good night. Both you and some of your senior ministers, and I think of Ken Dryden just the other day, have conceded that you're in a difficult spot with 10 days to go. You've got room that you have to make up. Some people point back to a moment during the holiday break when the RCMP announced its investigation as a key moment, a pivotal point in this campaign where things started to tip the other way. Was it right for the RCMP to actually say what they were doing? Conventional operations of the force, they don't talk about that. They don't talk about whether they're investigating anyone or anything. Was it right?
Paul Martin: Well, you'll have to ask the RCMP.
Peter Mansbridge: I'm asking you because there's a lot at stake for you here.
Paul Martin: Essentially what happened is you had an opposition allegation, and that's all it is, by the way. It's only an opposition allegation in the middle of an election campaign. So there's not the same degree of weight to it as there might have been if there hadn't been an election campaign or if it had been from an outside party. So there is a political tinge to what the opposition did. The RCMP are obliged to respond. But it's important to note that what the RCMP said, and people tended to forget this, is they said there is absolutely no evidence to support the allegation. But they feel honour-bound to take a look at it, and they have not yet to the best of my knowledge made any report.
Peter Mansbridge: Even in saying that, they went so much further than they would normally go in discussion about any investigation, saying that at that point they had no evidence of any wrongdoing on the part of the minister of finance or his staff, but they, in fact, hadn't started doing any questioning at that point. Having even said that, that strikes a lot of people as odd that the Mounties would say that in the middle of an election campaign.
Paul Martin: You're going to have to ask them. What is important is that they made it very clear that they had no evidence, no suspicion of any breach, of any leak, and they had no evidence pointing to anybody but that they felt that they had to go on. Why they said the way they did they did, but the fact is –
Peter Mansbridge: Did it surprise you that they said what they said?
Paul Martin: Well, a lot of things surprise you in an election campaign.
Peter Mansbridge: Was this one of them?
Paul Martin: Well, I mean, to the best of my knowledge there wasn't a leak. To the best of my knowledge, nobody has done anything untoward.
Peter Mansbridge: That's not what I'm asking.
Paul Martin: That's what I'm answering.
Peter Mansbridge: Ten days left. The tone's been pretty tough this week. Do you think it's going to be that way from both sides for the final days?
Paul Martin: I very much hope we can debate the issues. I'm going to go back to it. Huge value differences between Stephen Harper and myself. Stephen Harper has essentially - he confirmed what he said 10 years ago that he is very much part of that mindset that exists within the far right, the conservative far right.
Peter Mansbridge: He did say he's changed on a number of issues but his basic core beliefs are the same. You could probably the same thing. You've changed your mind on certain issues, the notwithstanding clause, the GST, the tax cuts.
Paul Martin: My core beliefs were never identical to the far right of the U.S. conservative movement. I believe my values are Canadian. I don't need to import my values. The fact is that Mr. Harper has said that's really a part of the wellspring that he draws from. I think that's a fundamental difference, and I would hope that it will be debated between us over the course of the next 10 days.
Peter Mansbridge: I guess it will be debated at a distance seeing as the face to face ones are over. Mr. Martin, as we say to all the leaders who drop by, we wish you good luck and thank you for doing this.
Paul Martin: Thank you for having me.
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