1 on 1 w/ Scott Brison
In other news, I’ll be at the Alberta Liberal Party convention up in Edmonton for the entire weekend so expect light posting. But come Monday, I’ll have a full recap of the weekend, buzz from the provincial political scene, and recaps of any stabbings/bonfires I’m involved in during Whyte Avenue Oilers parties.
CG: I’ve been asking all the candidates variations on the “Greatest Canadian” question. So, as the only Maritimer in the race, I was wondering who you felt was the greatest Nova Scotian? In other words, which Nova Scotian has given the most to Canada?
Scott was the quickest of all the candidates to answer this question and jumped in right away with Joseph Howe. (It’s an interesting choice given that Howe wasn’t big on the idea of confederation). Brison was really impressed with Howe's fight for freedom of the press in Canada and quickly segued this into a critique of Harper’s feud with the media. There are very few politicians in any party who can smoothly transition from any seemingly random question to an attack on Harper as well as Scott can (and I mean that as a compliment):
“Scott, what do you think of Finola Hackett nearly winning the spelling bee last week?”
“Great question! I noticed that she stumbled “weltschmerz” which is defined as a feeling of pessimism. Which isn’t too surprising, because Stephen Harper has given a new definition to the word pessimism due to his uninspiring leadership on many files.”
CG: The hot topic on the blogs these days is about children donating to Joe Volpe’s leadership campaign. Does your campaign have a policy on accepting donations from children?
He gave Joe the mandatory defense, saying that Volpe may not have known about the donations and that he acted responsibly by returning them.
He then went on to explain that, obviously enough, a 20$ donation from a teenager isn’t a problem since you want youth involved in politics and many of them are. He felt the real issue with the brou-ha-ha over the Volpe donations wasn’t so much children donating, but rather that it might be perceived as corporate donations from drug companies done in a round a bout way.
CG: As an openly gay MP, you’d certainly be the focus of a lot of international media attention if you were running to be Prime Minister. Would you welcome this scrutiny as a chance to advance gay rights around the world, or would you prefer it not be an issue at all?
Scott jumped into his standard line about winning a very conservative and very rural Nova Scotia riding four times. He feels it’s never been an issue before and that voters respect him for being open and honest about who he is, which is something people want in politicians. He also reminded me that he supported Same Sex Marriage back in 1999 when most Liberals were against it (“at times, I’ve been more liberal than the Liberals”).
He also re-emphasized how much he values the Charter since he feels he wouldn’t be where he is today without it.
CG: Paul Martin was 65 when he was elected Liberal leader. Jean Chretien was 56. John Turner was 55. Even Trudeau was 48. What is it about this time and place that makes you think the Liberal Party is ready for a leader under 40?
(I actually have good tape from this part so here’s the answer) “In Canada and internationally, there’s a desire for a new generation of leadership and ideas. We as a party need to change everything from our operations to the way we conduct policy. (ed note: YES!!!) And especially how we present ourselves to Canadians. Canadians didn’t vote for Stephen Harper, they were sending a message to us and sending us to the penalty box. And when you get sent to the penalty box, you need to skate hard.
In Great Britain, Tony Blair was very young when Labour elected him and he reformed that party, shifting them to the centre. David Cameron, new leader of Conservative Party is 38 and has had success moving them to centre and focusing on environmental policy.”
CG: Are you saying the Liberal Party needs to fundamentally shift it’s policy.
This led into a talk on the two pillars Brison feels the party should focus on: the environment and Canada’s role in the world (Jason Cherniak mentioned this a bit during his Brison interview).
Given Canada’s abundance of natural resources, the environmental is a place where Scott feels we can be a world leader. I won’t go into too much detail recapping his environmental policy since every single candidate has talked about this as being important. I’d love to see a candidate come out and say they’re “anti-environment”, just to get some variety.
The foreign policy stuff I found a bit more interesting, given that Scott is one of the only two candidates to support the Afghanistan extension. He feels we can help shape the world during the 21st century which will be "the century of democracy". As economies become more integrated, he feels there will be a larger demand and thirst for democracy around the world. Given that our constitution talks about Peace, Order, and Good Government, this is an area where we can really make a difference. Not only do we have the opportunity to help, but we have a responsibility to – it’s the right thing to do and Canada’s foreign policy can a tremendous potential source of national unity (ed note: and division…).
This led to a conversation on youth in politics since Scott feels the environment and foreign policy are two issues young people feel strongly about. Young Canadians are thirsting for real leadership and vision and it’s up to the next Liberal leader to excite them about future of our country. And given that Liberal values match the values of a lot of young people, it’s certainly in our best partisan interests to get them to vote.
CG: Yes, but how specifically do you get them to vote?
Scott has three concrete policies he thinks will appeal to young people:
1. The first 25,000$ earned a year during the first twelve years of someone’s working life should be tax free.
2. Scholarship for young people who volunteer. Upon graduation of grade 12, they’d get scholarships based on volunteer efforts in grades 7-12.
3. More opportunities for young Canadians to serve internationally.
At this point, Scott had to jump in to a candidates meeting, but he was very good about calling me back afterwards. We talked briefly about fridge selling, and he predicted an Oilers Stanley Cup win (good political sense doesn’t always make for great hockey sense, I guess).
I still feel that Scott is, hands down, the best retail politician of the eleven and would make a very good opposition leader. As a Prime Minister at this point in his political career, I’m still not sold, but he strikes me as an individual who would do a good job at rebuilding the party from the ground up and I heard more specific policy ideas from him than any of the other four candidates I’ve interviewed which is really, really refreshing.