Pat Martin, NDP — Winnipeg Centre

In an election based around change, the NDP's Pat Martin is running on a familiar platform.

'We don't all have to have equal wealth, but we all need equal opportunity'

Pat Martin, the NDP candidate for Winnipeg Centre, says he wants to improve the living conditions of the people he represents. (CBC)

Why do you want the job?

As a union leader, my job was to elevate the standard of living conditions for the people I represent, and that remains my goal.

I believe as part of the first NDP federal government, I'll have even more ability to bring resources to our riding. Really, the job of an MP is to bring home the bacon and make sure your riding is getting its fair share of what Ottawa has to offer.

That's why I want the job, to bring federal resources to the riding.

What is the biggest issue for the country, and in your riding?

It boils down to the e-word, equality, and the equality of opportunity. Even though our country is more fair than many, we still have very much a class structure. My job as a social democrat is to level the playing field. We don't all have to have equal wealth, but we all need equal opportunity.

I think that summarizes the disparity you see in a riding like Winnipeg Centre.

What would you do with the Senate?

Our party's position on the Senate is clear. We want to take a triple-A approach: Abolish, abolish, abolish. We know it's difficult, but successive governments have put the Senate on the too-hard-to-do pile, and we're not ready to give up.

Our leader has said we can't snap our fingers and abolish the Senate, but we can bring together the provinces and have a serious discussion on how to end this ridiculous colonial restage that serves no purpose other than to embarrass us. 

Winnipeg was described as the most racist city in Canada. What would you do to combat racism?

I've always said racism is ignorance masturbating. Combating racism is all about education. People don't trust the culture until a family of that culture moves next door to them. Then all of a sudden, you realize they love their children the same way we love ours, and our aspirations and our goals are all so similar.

It's all about exposure and education. Winnipeg is one of the most successful cultural melting pots in the history of the world. Anybody who says Winnipeg is the racism capital of Canada is expressing a terrible ignorance.

I challenge anybody to walk down the streets of the inner city of Winnipeg and find that view widely held. It's simply not true. We're accommodating, we're generous, we're welcoming, we want more immigration, and we're demanding more refugees.

Maclean's [magazine, in an article on racism in Winnipeg] got it wrong, and it was a cheap shot, frankly. I resent the article. The mayor denounced it, the premier denounced it, and I denounce it too.

What role should the federal government play in dealing with climate change?

We're looking forward to forming the first NDP federal government so that we can present a fine action plan at the Paris climate change conference.

We've been embarrassed by winning dinosaur of the year award every year. We're the only country in the world to withdraw from the Kyoto protocol. I expect the first NDP government to be able to restore Canada's reputation internationally on the climate change file.

Canada is way behind, and frankly, our leadership is way behind the thought process of Canadians. We're far more advanced in our thinking about climate change than our current, stubborn Conservative government.

If there was one government policy you think is done better in another country, what is it?

Valuing our natural resources. Norway versus our way in terms of oil is absurd.

Every barrel of oil Norway sells, they were getting $67 per barrel, and we were getting $4 per barrel. We're giving our natural resources away. As a result, Norway has a trillion-dollar fund they invest around the world to pay for their social programs.

With us, the province of Alberta is running deficits. The single most obvious economic factor is the absurd giveaway of our natural resources without adding any value to them.

Under what circumstances is deficit spending a good choice?

In times of economic emergency, deficits are a necessary financial instrument for any level of government, in the same way you borrow money to buy a house and pay it back slowly.

We would have had a balanced budget in the province of Manitoba if we hadn't had emergency flooding three or four years in a row. We've put hundreds of millions of dollars into flood mitigation.

Balanced budgets are in the NDP DNA. Historically, if you look at all the NDP governments, provincially, we have the record for the most balanced budgets. Tommy Douglas had 17 balanced budgets in a row and introduced public health care at the same time.

This is not a contradiction. We know we can balance the budgets by spending more wisely. The only party that is by the people, for the people, and of the people is the NDP.

What do you believe is the single most effective way to fight crime?

Reducing poverty.

The type of crime that irritates most citizens is property crime. Those are almost invariably traced back to root causes such as poverty and the corresponding substance abuse that goes with it.

Every jurisdiction you can think of shows when the economy improves, crime goes down.

What should be done about homegrown terrorism?

We're not doing enough to work with spiritual leaders and constituent minority groups to work with their own youth.

We've offended the Muslim community by accusing their constituency of being the source of homegrown terrorism, but without accepting the overture, or the offer to work with the government, and cultural leaders to intercept or mitigate radicalization.

It depends on the definition of terrorism, but I think a bill like C-51 does more to attack First Nations demonstrators than it does any kind of bomb-wielding terrorist from a specific ethnic group. The bill seems custom made to interrupt pipeline protestors or someone who may contemplate blockading a highway out of frustration.

If there were a gay pride parade in your riding, would you go? Why or why not?

Yeah, I've never missed one. It's the last great human rights frontier in our country, finally putting an end to discrimination based on sexual orientation, and I'm proud to be a part of it.

Have either you or your family had a frustrating experience with the health-care system, and what would you do to fix the problem?

Most of my personal experience, or experiences of friends, have nothing but praise for the care they've received.

The frustrations we hear are still delays, either delays in elective surgery or delays in finding a placement for seniors.

My priority if I were able to influence spending would be getting ready for the tsunami of baby boomers as they hit the need for personal care homes and geriatric services. Bracing ourselves for these types of services is still being underfunded.

And I guess pharmacare. A national pharmacare program would take a lot of the pressure off of the provinces so they could deal with some other priorities. This is part of our platform, finishing the job that Tommy Douglas started with a national mental health program and a national pharmacare program.

What would you do to get more people to vote?

Because we're so close to forming the first federal NDP government, getting out the vote and increasing the voter turnout has been priority number 1. We've done workshops and voter registration drives throughout the last year in some of the inner city and transient neighbourhoods.

We've been opposing the Fair Elections Act. We tried to stop the Conservatives because the Fair Elections Act — and we don't think this is any accident — makes it harder for transient, low-income people to vote.

We've been doing our best to educate people to mobilize the vote. The cruel irony is in a low-income riding like this, the people who need representation the most are the least likely to come out and vote.

It means they have no faith in the democratic system as an avenue of recourse for the types of problems they face. That's pretty sad.

What's a better use of federal dollars: fixing roads or building rapid transit infrastructure?

There is going to be direct support for rapid transit. Virtually all political parties have identified rapid transit as key and integral, as part of an urban agenda.

The good thing about rapid transit is that it reduces harmful greenhouse gas emissions, whereas repairing the roads encourages more people to drive their car.

I'd have to say rapid transit is the best bet for the immediate future. Remedial work on potholes is obviously necessary, but widening roads so more people can take their cars is counterintuitive to good urban planning in this day and age.

Would you support legalizing a small amount of marijuana? Have you ever tried it?

Yes to both.

I don't smoke anymore because I don't really like it, and I don't really like what it does to me. But there is no moral or ethical reason why I would avoid it.

I think it's patently ridiculous to give someone a criminal record for owning a small amount of herbs. Our official party position and my personal position is legalize it, regulate it, tax it.


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