Friday, June 09, 2006

1 on 1 w/ Scott Brison

I got a chance to do a phone interview with Scott Brison last weekend. Given that Scott was driving through rural Nova Scotia helping the provincial Liberals on the campaign trail, there was a lot of noise on his cell and, because of that, I don’t have a complete transcript of the call. Instead, I’ll post a rough recap of the conversation below.

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.


  • Did you care to ask him anything about the Crawford Panel and it's research into a Canadian Security Exchange Commission, and if that means he would be criminally charged for his escapades into the Income Trust Scandal?

    My personal view on Brison has nothing to do with his age, sexual preference, or his odd accent.

    It has everything to do with the fact that he should be in jail right now.

    If I was on my blackberry I would write:
    "Dear Scott, can U run 4 PM from behind bars?"

    By Blogger Forward Looking Canadian, at 2:33 p.m.  

  • I think its funny that for a candidate who talks a lot about policy he takes quite the number of personal jabs at Harper.

    Some of the policies he espouses I like, such as not taxing the first $25 000 earned. Others I don't care for that much since I see reality as a bit more complex.

    But I don't trust him. Beyond his entire Income Trust scandal thing or his fierce temper tantrums even.

    By Blogger Eric, at 3:00 p.m.  

  • //1. The first 25,000$ earned a year during the first twelve years of someone’s working life should be tax free.//

    The "Beastie Boy" promise..."you've got to fight for your right to party"...which is where this money would go, since all the twenty somethings are still living with their parents.

    Yep...Scott...just load more taxes on parents with children. Scott is revealing his disconnect with Canadian working families.

    Next candidate.

    By Blogger godot10, at 3:00 p.m.  

  • what I don't get is the Liberal party never was a party for tax cuts. Harper comes in with all these crazy tax cuts and the Liberal party complains that Canadian's don't want tax cuts yada yada.

    So Brison's "big fix" is MORE tax-cuts? I'm of the age he's trying to attract and I'm telling you, when I get up in the morning I don't say "gee the country's problems will be solved with a tax-cut!"

    By Blogger Forward Looking Canadian, at 3:14 p.m.  

  • Scott has nothing to offer. He should quit and save the taxpayers money. Haven't we had enough of Liberals? Isn't 13 years enough? Go away already!

    By Blogger What_The_Puck?, at 3:22 p.m.  

  • Is Brison using this leadership bid to raise his profile, and will he go for leadership of the Nova Scotia Liberals if they don't do well in the current provincial election?

    By Blogger nuna d. above, at 4:26 p.m.  

  • Maybe the little babies in the Conservative party like to live with mommy and daddy (family values) for the first 12 years of their working life, but I'm fairly sure that the normal Canadian's tend to be well away from their parents basement after a couple of years of work.

    I wonder if godot10 still shares a bed with his mommy? These Tories have really creepy home lives.

    Also I have to question Brison's quip about being more liberal than the Liberal party. This may apply to SSM in light of some of our backwards caucus, but Brison's 90's camapigning of private health care and the like make it hard to buy him as being all that liberal except out of ambition.

    By Blogger Manitoba Liberal, at 4:40 p.m.  

  • Man Lib; If I'd had more time, I was hoping to go into more depth on a few of his policies he talked about in his run for PC leadership (massive corporate tax cuts and private health care come to mind). His old policy views and his occasional lapses in judgement are the main reasons why I feel he's not quite ready to be Prime Minister. Maybe in a decade.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 5:00 p.m.  

  • memo to godot: few 20-somethings living at home and partying all the time pay much tax. less tax at that age makes it easier to take on mortgages and car loans and start businesses, which makes good economic sense.

    By Blogger matt, at 5:45 p.m.  

  • Child poverty is the most significant poverty problem in this country. Not young adult poverty.

    Harper wants to give a tax credit to families with young children...the Liberals cry foul.

    Brison, a "LIberal", wants to give a tax cut to young adults to drink beer and travel, meaning taxes on working families are not going to be able to be cut.

    Twenty somethings are living at home. Every the parents of those twenty somethings will wonder why Liberals want to give those partiers a tax break instead of them.

    Young adults can reduce their taxes by contributing to RRSP's. i.e. they have to save to get their tax break, not party to get their tax break...which is Brison's plan.

    Adults with young children are more likely to vote than twenty somethings. Harper beats Brison. Q.E.D.

    Brison's doesn't have the shared life experience of working families with children. That's why he comes up with nutty ideas like this tax break, and like private medicine in his previous incarnation.

    People who covet becoming Prime Minister, like Brison, Clark, Mulroney, Stronach, and Martin, should never be allowed to be Prime Minister. People who never really wanted the job, like Trudeau and Harper, make the best Prime Ministers.

    By Blogger godot10, at 7:26 p.m.  

  • Godot10 might be a 27 year old still sleeping in his spiderman underoo's in his mommies house, but the notion that Canada has an epidemic of our citizens early in their carears living at home is not true.

    And Harper raised taxes on familes across Canada by eliminating the income tax reduction brought in by the Liberals in favour his economicly unsound GST cut.

    By Blogger Manitoba Liberal, at 7:39 p.m.  

  • I take it that Manitoba Liberal has not read the Toronto City Summit Alliance report on the working poor.

    Brison is just peddling the culture of entitlement to rich young Liberals. Rich young liberal need a tax cut. Tax cuts for everyone else are bad. But rich young liberals need a tax cut.

    By Blogger godot10, at 8:13 p.m.  

  • godot:

    didn't have to wait much for your reply, eh?

    your premise is that there's a substantial number of twenty-somethings living at home, not in school, making a decent living, and spending it frivolously?

    I can't agree there. I think those that live at home don't make a decent living and hence pay little tax.

    By Blogger matt, at 9:28 p.m.  

  • Rich young :Liberals in Bay Street law firms earning nearly $100K a year two or three years out of law school need tax cuts?

    Brison certainly knows where the Liberal youth delegates are.

    The problem is the working poor.

    The tax system is designed for young adults who want to save. It is called an RRSP. You can even make withdrawals out of an RRSP for down payments on homes.

    Brison's tax plan rewards consumption, not saving.

    The working poor (some of whom are young adults) need targeted tax relief and social programs.

    A tax giveaway as Brison advocates is nothing but a goodie to attract rich Liberal youth delegates.

    Plus, it is massively regressive. Brison makes no distinction between a rich young single Bay Street ("Liberal") lawyer earning $100K, and a working poor family of four on a single income of say $30K, and calculate who is getting the tax break.

    By Blogger godot10, at 9:53 p.m.  

  • When all the candidates agree that the environment is a priority, it's time to ask specific questions on what, exactly, they plan to do to act on that priority. I'm quickly growing numb listening to my number one favourite topic of discussion, I'm afraid - what have they to offer me that speaks to their unique, particular approach? I'm beginning to think that it's all just the typical window-dressing: "Oh, I want a clean world!" with no actual solutions.


    By Blogger Lois, at 12:26 a.m.  

  • Upon graduation of grade 12, they’d get scholarships based on volunteer efforts in grades 7-12.

    That's rather pointless. For the most part, the people who get the scholarships are the same geeks already out there volunteering to get scholarships anyway.

    When I was in grades 7-12, I was more interesting in hanging out with my buddies and getting drunk.

    And for the record, I have my degree now and I paid for it all myself.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:42 a.m.  

  • godot: "Twenty somethings are living at home."

    Where the hell else are they going to live? Are they buying things from the store too?

    By Blogger RGM, at 8:45 a.m.  

  • Watching today's leadership debate demonstrated the problems of 11 candidates.

    It was like watching paint dry.

    What I noted was the Liberal candidates seem, enmass to have forgotten that for 13 years, they were in power.

    I expand on these thoughts at The Infozone


    By Blogger The Infozone, at 9:59 p.m.  

  • Great interview! Brison did well in the debate yesterday. He acutally presented ideas and vision.

    His rural roots were also showing in his comments on the agriculture question. He just gets it and knows that party should rely on on Easter and Steckle as we move forward with a rural agenda.

    By Blogger CMinOC, at 3:38 p.m.  

  • Scott is a cool dude. He was kind enough to call me personally and ask for my support. He's a bright dude, and he's wise enough to support our important mission in Afghansitan.

    By Blogger James Bowie, at 5:01 p.m.  

  • Manitoba Liberal wrote:
    "And Harper raised taxes on familes across Canada by eliminating the income tax reduction brought in by the Liberals in favour his economicly unsound GST cut."

    Newsflash ML......there was no tax cut. In case you hadn't noticed, the "tax-cut" was actually something thrown out simply for political gain. It was never passed in the House, therefore it was not a tax cut. Harper however, did follow through on his promises. Under Harper....taxes did indeed go from 16% to 15.5%.

    That my a REAL tax cut. Not much of one....but real.

    As for Brison and the environment....he's a full of _hit hypocrite. He was one of the most vocal opponents of Kyoto when he was a Progressive Conservative. It is only now that he seems to see the light about the environment.

    Let's peruse the list about Brison.

    Was in favour of the CA/PC merger..then promptly jumped ship when offered something better.

    Was opposed to Kyoto....and promptly changed his mind when he was a Liberal.

    Income trust scandal, "I did not send any message" to...."Well maybe I did send a message.....but it meant nothing"

    Insults some of his more strident supporters (who only support those who can provide benefits - typical Liberal-think)


    He's a liar
    He's a sleazy as Volpe (only with better vernacular)
    Enriched himself and his clients while sitting as a member of Parliament...

    Hmm....hey boys. Looks like you found the PERFECT LIBERAL PM. congrats.

    Tell volpe he should just give up now. Liberals only publicly support the crooks who are NOT KNOWN to be crooks.

    By Blogger James Halifax, at 7:18 p.m.  

  • Godot: everything 20-something who wins the lottery and lives off the investment income for the rest of their lives would also not pay tax under Brison's plan.

    But I don't think we should design our tax policy around them any more than your dreaded "bay st. liberals".

    You are correct, however, in that Brison's policy is designed to foster consumption. That's why I like it. There are a host of social positives to having meaningful economic participation for 20-somethings. A higher birthrate, less of a boomer crunch, less paid in interest charges on loans without offsetting equity gains which will leader to healther personal finances when the boomer crunch does hit, etc.

    By Blogger matt, at 12:38 a.m.  

  • I have to take issue with this:

    Scott jumped into his standard line about winning a very conservative and very rural Nova Scotia riding four times.

    Kings-Hants is not "very conservative" - it's Red Tory, at most, and the provincial ridings have been held by all three parties since 1998. White Rose it isn't.

    By Blogger JG, at 5:12 p.m.  

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