Full text of Rosemary Barton's interview with Tom Mulcair

Read the full transcript of Tom Mulcair's interview with Rosemary Barton on CBC News Network's Power & Politics.

Tom Mulcair on Power & Politics

7 years ago
Duration 17:37
The NDP leader sits down with Rosemary Barton to discuss his party's economic track record, whether he'll cooperate with the Liberals, and the controversial election issue he 'saw coming.'

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair sat down for an interview with CBC News Power & Politics host Rosemary Barton. 

​Here is the full transcript:

Rosemary Barton: How much did the track record of other NDP governments struggling to manage the economy influence your decision to promise a balanced budget?

Tom Mulcair: Well, we can have a lot of discussions and opinions about that, but there's actually an objective study that was done by the federal finance department that showed that the NDP governments are the ones of all parties in Canada that have the best track record for maintaining balanced budgets. My choice for the economy is to — unless you're in extraordinary times like the 2008 crash — which of course required a certain amount of spending, was balancing the budget. It's easy to understand why. It's a tradition in the NDP, as I just pointed out, but look at what it means. When Tommy Douglas took over Saskatchewan from the Liberals he was in bankruptcy; ran 17 consecutive balanced budgets, and was able on that solid foundation to bring in free, universal public medical care, which we now have across Canada. I want to bring in quality, affordable, maximum $15-a-day child care. I want to do that on a solid grounding of balanced budgets. I don't want to leave billions more of debt on the backs of future generations. That would be a flash in the pan of a child-care plan. I want it to be a sustainable, long-term plan.

RB: But the IMF, even as recently as this week, downgraded growth for this country to about one per cent. Everyone seems to think that's sort of where we're headed so it becomes a little bit difficult for people to understand how you're going to do do all these things that you say you're going to do and balance the budget. And I wonder if you hadn't made that commitment if it wouldn't have allowed you a little more room to actually do the things you want to do?

TM: You know Rosemary, we've known each other for a very long time, going back to when I was in Quebec City and I've been a cabinet minister, I know what it is to sit around the cabinet table and making tough decisions and I also know that governing is about setting priorities. So what we've done here is we've said our priorities are not the same as Stephen Harper's. For example, he and Mr. Trudeau have agreed that tens of billions of dollars of tax reductions for Canada's richest corporations is the way to go. I'm going to ask those corporations to pay two per cent more, go from the current 15 up to 17. That will help pay for the things we're talking about. It's fully costed, all the numbers are there, you can look at it whether it's on the revenue side, on the expense side, people get to see. We're going to get rid of Mr. Harper's plan for what he's calling income splitting. That'll also produce billions of dollars that allows us to do the good things that we consider as priorities.

RB: But a lot of your things are back-end loaded, I think it's fair to say. A lot of the things don't get started until three years into your government because you don't have money to do it.

TM: I don't think that that's a fair assessment. I think that when we rolled out … Let's take the daycare plan as a perfect example, for instance. When we rolled out that plan a year ago we had Canada's top expert on daycare there, Martha Friendly, we had Canada's expert economist on child care, Pierre Fortin, who were both backing our plan. The money starts to flow right away. The places start to get created right away. I sit down with the provinces and territories. We supply 60 per cent of the funding. As I've gone across Canada and listened to families, the number one thing that I've heard, Rosemary, is that they do want quality, affordable child care. They also want family-sustaining jobs. The jobs with enough of a salary for a family to live on. We've lost 400,000 manufacturing jobs under Mr Harper. Good jobs, and now he's proposing to kill off tens of thousands more with this Trans-Pacific Partnership. I'm the only leader standing up against that. Mr. Harper and Mr. Trudeau agree on that as well.

RB: I'm happy to get into that, but let me ask you more bluntly then — was there any option, could an NDP government in any way have promised a deficit or is your reputation, an NDP economic reputation, so weak that that wasn't even on the table? You had no choice but to promise a balanced budget?

TM: One of the reasons I was chosen to be leader of the NDP is that I have 35 years experience in public administration, both at the most senior levels of government and as an elected official. And when I explained my position to the party — that we have to be good, prudent public administrators if we aspire to form government — the party and the membership agreed with me.

RB: So that was you, that was you pushing that idea?

TM: It was something that I've always believed in and I don't believe that we can do these things on the backs of future generations. I think that as a social democrat, the number one thing that I have to do, I firmly believe, is to reduce inequality in our society and at the same time to create opportunity. Mr. Trudeau is proposing to spend tens of billions on the backs of future generations.

RB: Well, he's also  promising to tax the richest Canadians and give that money back to the middle class, to be fair, that's also what he's putting on offer.

TM: The biggest inequality in our society today is between generations. The NDP is proposing to do things like get rid of the stock option tax loophole for CEOs, because I don't accept in a country as wealthy as Canada that hundreds of thousands of children go to school in the morning hungry. That money, $500 million, will be paid over to that and we made that announcement at the Broadbent Institute. But you're right, Mr. Trudeau is proposing personal tax increases. I am opposed to that.

RB: The one per cent, to the richest of Canadians.

TM: I am opposed to raising personal income taxes in Canada.

RB: Even for the richest of Canadians? 

TM: I am opposed to raising personal income taxes in Canada, firmly opposed to it, and I believe that tax breaks — the tens of billions of dollars, $50 billion in total — that have been given as tax breaks to Canada's wealthiest corporations are what we should be going after. Mr. Trudeau will not ask the wealthiest corporations to pay more. I will. I'm going to raise their taxes from 15 to 17 per cent, which remains below the average of what it was under the Conservatives.

RB: OK, but here you are talking about your concerns about job losses around the TPP and you're going to raise corporate taxes which, as you well know, there are economists who think that's going to translate into hundreds —150,00 to 200,000 — of job losses so...

TM: That's absolutely false and not credible.

RB: That's one interpretation. 

TM: There's no credible evidence of that and I'll tell you why: If those corporate tax reductions were going to be good for jobs, we wouldn't have 300,000 more unemployed today than when the crisis hit in 2008. We wouldn't have lost 400,000 well-paid manufacturing jobs. That plan is a failure. Stephen Harper as prime minister has the worst job creation record since the Second World War. That's not a matter of opinion, that's a matter of fact.

RB: Let's change gears a little bit. There's been a lot of talk about identity politics during this election. Do you think this election could be won or lost because of a face covering?

TM: Mr. Harper used taxpayers' money to run a poll out of the Treasury Board sometime in the spring that showed that this was a particularly hot issue for a lot of Canadians and he's been playing that. He's been putting the race card on the table in this campaign. He has one of his candidates who was a backbencher with him said that the problem in Canada was that brown people are taking white people's jobs. He has another one who said that Muslim women should get the hell back where they came from. He's signing off on their candidacies, Rosemary. I'll let him live with that. I know that the Canada I want to live in is one where I've always tried to build bridges into other linguistic communities, other religious communities, other ethnic communities. That's the Canada I want to leave to my children and grandchildren. Mr. Harper is painting a much different picture. But it's better to distract from the fact that we're the only country in the world to have withdrawn from Kyoto, that we've lost 400,000 good manufacturing jobs, that he's cutting $36 billion from health care —

RB: But this is not a made up issue, this is an actual issue. Your former party, the QLP has drafted legislation to prevent people from wearing face coverings in the civil service. This is an issue that is present, dominant in the province that you know best, where you have the most support so, I guess the question is, what does it say about Canada if this has become part of the conversation during the election campaign?

TM: I disagree with you, respectfully. I think it is a made-up issue with respect to Mr. Harper saying this week that he was going to ban that face covering in the federal civil service. There's, as you know, there's not a single person in the whole, entire, federal civil service that wears that face covering so, I respectfully say —

RB: Yes, but there is draft legislation in Quebec that's moving in that direction, right? So, it —

TM: I don't see what that has to do with this federal campaign. This federal campaign is about defeating and replacing Stephen Harper. It's harder to get a family doctor in this country right now. We want to change that. Child care for an infant in Toronto costs $2,000 a month. We want to make sure that they have affordable, quality child care.

RB: I guess what I'm saying, Mr. Mulcair, is did you misread the way Quebecers feel about this issue?

TM: Quebecers know me well and I've worked here most, almost all of my career. And you know what? Quebecers know I'm a person who stands on questions of principle. I refused to transfer land in a provincial park to private developers for condos and I left cabinet on that question of principle. When I chaired the Quebec Professions Board, I took on the very powerful president of the Quebec College of Physicians and Surgeons for his failure to deal with the real issue of sexual misconduct by doctors, so this is the person that I am. The courts have ruled in this case and I've been saying the same thing; once the courts have ruled, it's no longer a question of what you like or what you don't like. I understand it's sensitive. I understand people find it surprising and it makes them uncomfortable. But the courts have ruled. And that's what I've been saying here in Quebec and the rest of Canada. I do stand on questions of principle and I know on Oct. 19th, Quebecers are going to be choosing a government. They're going to be choosing the person that they think can best serve as prime minister, and I know that Quebecers, like the rest of Canadians I've met during this campaign, want to defeat and replace Stephen Harper.

RB: This is your first national campaign. Lucky you, it was also the longest one. So, is there something that you've learned through this? Or something that surprised you that you didn't anticipate?

TM: No, there's nothing that surprised me. I knew that Stephen Harper had been planning to play identity politics, had been planning to play the race card in this campaign because when he did that survey at Treasury Board, he didn't come and make the announcement of his decision to make this a big issue. He didn't go to Calgary or Toronto to make that announcement, he went to Victoriaville. So, I decoded right away that this was going to be an ugly campaign where Mr. Harper was going to be playing racial politics, so I saw that coming. But at the same time, I said to myself, I have confidence that in their heart of hearts, Quebecers know that being good to each other and respectful of each others' differences, whether it be religious, cultural or linguistic is the proper way to build for the future and I have every confidence that that will be the case on Oct. 19th.

RB: You've talked in the past that you've opened the door to working with the Liberal Party and that it's been shut every time. What policies, what areas would there be room to get along?

TM:  It's true that in 2008 Jack Layton proposed a formal coalition agreement. We were in the middle of the worst economic crisis since the 1930s. I helped draft that agreement and negotiate it but as you recall, that's also part of history, the Liberals lifted their noses on their own signature and guess what? Seven years later, we're still stuck with Stephen Harper's Conservatives and that's done a lot of damage. I visited seven different communities in southwestern Ontario on Monday — sorry on Sunday —  and I saw a lot of people whose families had lost their jobs. A lot of small businesses shutting.

RB: OK, so what's more important then — that you win or that he lose? 

TM: Well don't forget, this election is about differences and real change. Whether it's on Bill C-51, which is an important breach in our rights and freedoms, Mr. Harper had the support of Mr. Trudeau. On corporate tax havens, Mr. Harper had the support of Mr. Trudeau — voted for his budgets. On Keystone XL …

RB: So there's no areas where you can work together than at all?

TM: I'm just going to, if you don't mind, finish your previous question. On Keystone XL, Mr. Trudeau backs Mr. Harper's plan to export raw crude and to export 40,000 jobs. And more recently, in the past few days, Mr. Trudeau has backed Mr. Harper on the TPP, which will erase tens of thousands of well-paid Canadian jobs. I'm opposed to the agreement that Mr. Harper negotiated, I'm standing up on that.

RB: I get that, so does that mean there's no areas where you can get along? There's no areas? I'm not talking about a formal coalition, I'm just talking about co-operating.

TM: Well, every time I've opened the door to that — and I've opened the door to that several times, as you know, including as recently as this July — Mr. Trudeau takes it upon himself to personally slam that door shut, not just close it. He's gone so far as to say that he would only be able  to work with the NDP if I weren't there. Now Rosemary, I'll tell you this straight up, my priority is to get rid of Stephen Harper because I know what damage he's done socially, environmentally and economically. Apparently, Mr. Trudeau's top priority is to get rid of me. On Oct. 19th Canadians will decide.

RB: Why would he want to work with you given the way this campaign has unfolded and the things that you have said about him even during debates? You've said things like, "You have someone else write your lines, you don't know how to debate." At the Munk debate you said, "I'll leave all the pomp to you Justin." Just yesterday you said, "Justin, you know I know how to get day care through, you can't do it." You call him by his first name. Why the animosity toward someone that you say you would be willing to work with? You're not sending that signal?

TM: I think that any objective look at the, what, product that comes out of the Liberal Party would reveal to you and anybody else who looked at it that I'm the object of daily attacks from the Liberal Party. I'll let …

RB: I'm not asking about the Liberal Party, I'm talking about your personal approach to how you are talking about Mr. Trudeau, whether that helps co-operation.

TM: I'm talking about the Liberal Party and what it's been doing and saying about me personally in this campaign. With regard to the Munk debate, I believe it was Mr. Trudeau who used the word "pomp" to me and I sent it back to him. If you find that the problem, maybe you should start with the person who used the term first. With regard to child care, what I did say was nothing personal between us. Anybody reading that will agree with me. I said that it's not because the Liberals couldn't get it done that it can't be done. And I call on Mr. Trudeau to stop talking against child care because the Canadians that I meet across the country want quality, affordable, $15-a-day child care that the NDP is proposing. Kathleen Wynne's Liberals in the legislature in Ontario, the whole legislature, voted in favour of the NDP plan so I am surprised to see Mr. Trudeau coming to any excuse he can to fight against quality, affordable child care. 

RB: I guess the question is, is the animosity from this long campaign, is it so high that it's going to make any sort of co-operation or working together impossible after?

TM: What I've just said to you before is easily verified. The fact of the matter is, every time I've opened the door to co-operation, it's Mr. Trudeau personally who slams it shut. I have been the one who's been open to it. Mr. Trudeau is the one who has shut it every time. That's easily verifiable.

RB: Last question — lots of people are going to sit down, are sitting down this weekend and thinking about, "What am I going to do?" And they're probably thinking in their specific riding, "How can I make a change?" and perhaps they're considering what you want them to consider, let's get rid of Stephen Harper.  Why should they consider your party over the Liberal Party to make that happen? What's your last pitch to them as they buckle down here?

TM: If you want real change on Oct. 19th, only the NDP is offering real change. On Bill C-51, on Keystone, on the TPP, on corporate tax give-aways, Mr. Harper and Mr. Trudeau are of one mind. The NDP stands four-square against Bill C-51, we will repeal it. We're against Mr. Harper's negotiated TPP, we would never bring that one to Parliament, we'll try to get a better deal. We don't want Canadian families to be hurt. We know that Mr. Harper plans to cut $36 billion in health care, we'll put it back. We'll make it easier to get a family doctor. The TPP will make drugs more expensive for seniors who are already having to decide between putting food on the table and being able to afford their medications. That's the type of positive change we're talking about. And if you're tired of paying $24,000 a year for your infant's child care in Toronto, the NDP has a plan for quality, affordable, maximum $15-a-day child care that we're actually going to bring in. That's real change, Rosemary.

RB: So, people thinking about strategic voting, trying to get rid of Mr. Harper strategically by voting for the person that they think is going to win in their riding. What do you say?

TM: The choice comes down to whether or not we want four more years of Stephen Harper, or the Liberal Party that promises more of the same, or the NDP that has a fresh, positive, optimistic approach of what we can accomplish together. Here in Quebec in 2011 we got rid of the Bloc Quebecois for the first time in a generation by having an open, positive approach. For the first time in a generation, Quebecers voted for a federalist party. We're very proud of that. It's that type of optimistic positive approach of what we can accomplish together that we're bringing to this campaign. I'd love nothing more than to have progressives from B.C. get together with progressives from Ontario and from Quebec and other provinces to work together to make this a better place for families, a better place for the environment, a better place for jobs, better place for health care. That's the offer the NDP has on the table and it's real change, it's positive change. And it's change that's been fully costed and it's going to be brought in by a team that has the ability to put in place a plan to start repairing the damage caused by Stephen Harper.

RB: We'll leave it there Mr. Mulcair. Enjoy the rest of the campaign.

TM: Thanks, Rosemary.


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