Monday, June 05, 2006

One on One with Carolyn Bennett

I had a chance to do a phone interview with Carolyn Bennett a week or so ago. Before jumping into the interview we chatted about internet technology (which she is very familiar with), her blog, and her experience when she guest blogged at this site. She said she'd had a lot of experience with trolls, having done internet town halls in the past. I found a phone interview more difficult to handle than a sit down one, mainly just because of the logistics of taping it. I really should hire Gurmant Grewal to consult on this kind of stuff. So apologies if I didn't get exact wording on some of the answers.

I also had a chance to chat with Scott Brison on Friday and will post that interview very soon, this week probably. Until then, here's Carolyn:

What is the single most important policy Prime Minister Carolyn Bennett would bring forward that wouldn't otherwise see the light of day?

My issue is having citizens feel that they're a part of government and politics. We need to change the face of politics in Canada so that government isn't something doing things to you - it should be a two way accountability. Citizens need to know that if they have a good idea, there's a chance they'll see it put into action.

I've been able to do that in a number of ways, certainly as chair of the disability committee. We need to use technology and feedback groups to make sure citizens feel that they're involved in the direction of the country.

When I interviewed Ken Dryden I asked him who the Greatest Canadian was. As a female politician, I was wondering who you thought was the most influential female Canadian? Politician, or otherwise.

Obviously it's a different answer if you want someone influential to all Canadians or just to me. For me, I'd say Ursula Franklin, the first woman Engineering professor at U of T. As a quaker, a feminist, a pacifist, she's really changed the way I've thought about a lot of things. She's influenced a lot of what I believe in about making government fair, transparent and taking people seriously.

She's one of the people I think of when my batteries need recharging: when I need an infusion of ideas and principles. In my launch speech, I mentioned the story she tells about identifying children at risk. The caretaker at the school she taught at could identify the children at risk, because they were there at seven in the morning. The cook knew the kids who were hungry because they'd come to the cafeteria to help clear the plates and would eat the scraps off the plates. Her point was that we need observations from people like the caretakers and the cooks. It's the same in democracy where we need observations from the people who actually do know what's working, as supposed to just the presumed policy makers.

In terms of a female for everyone, I'd have to say Nellie McClung. "Never retreat, never apologize, get the thing done" is a good approach. I was in Alberta when they were building the famous five sculpture, and Francis Wright took me to the sculpture studio and let me put a bit of clay on Nellie McClung's coat. Now every day when I walk by the statue, I get to look for that little bit of clay on her coat.

On the same topic, female politicians often seem to have to endure a lot of scrutiny from the media; what shoes are you wearing, what dress. So, to turn the tables, who would you say is the best dressed and worst dressed male MPs in Ottawa?

I must admit I do tend to think about their ideas first (laughs). I'd have to say that in terms of tasteful elegance, I'd go with Bill Graham. He always has on exactly the right tasteful choice.

Realistically, are you running to win, to raise issues, or to raise your profile?

I'm definitely running to win. I feel so strongly about the issues and the way government is run. Also, the Liberal Party of Canada requires serious attention to the way we've been operating. We also need to address the issues of electoral reform.

It took me six or eight weeks to figure out if I could move these issues more by supporting someone else or by running myself. I made the decision that the only way to move these issues forward was to run.

On the topic of electoral reform, would you want to change the first past the post system?

For example in Alberta, we see that the Liberals got over 15% of the vote and zero seats; that's unacceptable. In Quebec, you can get a separatist majority with under 50% of the vote. It's unacceptable that we only have 20% women in Parliament; these are structural barriers that need to be overcome.

In our country, we'll always need seats because you need MPs who represent their part of the country. But I think we need to move Canada to a blended system. I have several people from the Green Party helping on my campaign and we've talked a lot about this. The BC Citizen's Assembly came up with the unusual STV system but this wouldn't get you one more woman elected. The devil is always in the details so we need to have a conversation with Canadians about whether the current system is fair and then we have to move on and see what system would work best.

The Michael Fortier situation is also in the news a lot in Quebec, especially since he didn't run during the election. I think if he'd been viewed as a good guy who had run, knocked on doors, and listened to people, it would have been viewed as a lot more acceptable to appoint him. One of the ideas that's been talked about is to select the popular vote seats from the list of defeated candidates. This would also encourage better candidates to run in unwinable ridings. The other piece of this is that you'd obviously need party reform to ensure that these people are first nominated in a democratic way. The democratic reform and party reform would have to go hand in hand for a system like this.

You've been a Liberal MP for quite some time and served under both Jean Chretien and Paul Martin. How would you compare the two individuals from a personality perspective? What were the major differences between their habits, personality, or leadership styles?

They each had tremendous strengths. Jean Chretien had a good political nose and a tremendous gut instinct about what regular people would or wouldn't go for. He also had a reputation for letting ministers run their own show and stuck by his Ministers.

Paul Martin, as the son of a parliamentarian, had a tremendous amount of respect for parliament and for citizens. His pre-budget consultations were a great example of moving citizens and experts into the consultation and decision making process. It's too bad that in the two years that we were in government that he ended up being so focused on playing defense.

You implied that not having a child care system would lead to more people in jails in the long run. Do you truly believe that?

On Wednesday night [guest blogging on your blog], I definitely heard a lot about that. I've posted the Perry pre-school study on my MP site. Most of these studies are saying that for every dollar invested in a child's first six years, we save two dollars in the long run. In the Perry pre-school study the kids who have been studied forty years, the government has gained back 17 dollars for every one spent, from things like taxes, improved health, corrections...

It's not necessarily the child care piece, but the early learning piece that's important. For vulnerable children, we can also pick up problems earlier. And then we can put in place what's needed to help. It does take a village to raise a child and there is a whole spectrum of things society can help with from parental leave to pre-natal education to child care spaces. A lot of the things society offers for children with special needs can be used by stay at home parents as well.

And also, to clarify, at no time did I ever mean that people who choose to raise their children are more likely to create criminals. That's ridiculous - we're saying that we have a responsibility to get the best start possible in life for all the children in the community.

You ran against Peter Kent in the last election. Which of the following fake news anchors would you most like to run against in the next election? Ted Baxter, Murphy Brown, Ron Burgundy, Kent Brockman, or Bill O'Reilly.

Interesting... Murphy Brown might be fun to go against. Probably Bill O'Reilly is the one who is closest to Stephen Harper and I'd like to show people that I know what to do with him. So I'll pick him.


  • Good interview.

    Dryden, Ignatieff, Bennett, Brison, allthough I will be truly impressed when you nail down Volpe for a one on one with the Calgary Grit!

    Any chance?

    By Blogger Manitoba Liberal, at 7:04 p.m.  

  • I think Carolyn Bennett held herself very well, including in this interview, on childcare. There are other ways than a national daycare program to deliver early childhood learning.

    As Gerard Kennedy has shown in his own work prior to politics, you don't need a government to be a village.

    By Blogger Tarkwell Robotico, at 7:20 p.m.  

  • Great interview!

    By Blogger YYC Liberal, at 7:34 p.m.  

  • If you have anymore phone interviews, use Skype. It's free until the end of the year and there are a couple of good free or open-source programs that easily record Skype. (I use PowerGramo, edit with Audacity if necessary)

    Good quality and easy to use. Powergramo integrates directly into Skype.

    By Blogger WE Speak, at 9:38 p.m.  

  • By Blogger Manitoba Liberal, at 11:20 p.m.  

  • I'm no troll, but your first question about "what major policy" would she choose recieved a pretty crumby answer.

    I want a straight shooter. When you ask "what's your major policy" and she replies with a drawn out "I want to involve people" I find myself going, wtf? Give me something to run with.

    It just adds fire to what CG and others have been saying. Candidates talk about "issues" without actually talking about "issues".

    I just got an email from Ignatieff's campaign about signing up as an "early believer". I support Ignatieff, but I ALSO find myself saying "believer in what? rhetoric?" When is someone going to say "I want to implement THIS plan for THIS policy"??

    CG asked Bennett FLAT OUT what policy she'd implement and she skirted away. It was a PERFECT time to set herself apart from others...

    but she didn't use it. Again, I'm not troll but I find that annoying.

    By Blogger Forward Looking Canadian, at 11:45 p.m.  

  • Heh I got that same email and I'm not even a party member anymore; how do they find me? Might be fun to go to the True Believer banquet at the convention...stay away from the punch if things don't go well. ;)

    By Blogger RGM, at 8:04 a.m.  

  • The interviewer does a great job. Can't say the same about the interviewee.

    By Blogger scott, at 5:31 p.m.  

  • I really like Dr. Bennett in a lot of ways. Not as much as my chosen one, but she's still pretty good.

    The only thing I take exception to (and not too heartily) is that Michel Fortier DID run - against Jean Lapierre - and lost, then became a Senator and was appointed to the biggest dept. in the government, Public Works. I don't think it's right, but he did in fact run for the CPC in Outremont. Kinda like the polar opposite of Emerson.

    By Blogger Sinestra, at 10:02 p.m.  

  • Carolyn. Ursula Who???

    HOw about Laura Secord. You know the woman who was entertaining the American troops with "tea" when she overheard their plans to take Stoney Creek. So she left her little "tea" party HMMM??? ran through the woods to the nearest Natives she could find, who then relayed the information to the Canadian (Brittish ) troops to Save Upper Canada.

    I love it when sexual women and natives are undersold by history. We owe Canada to a whore and the Natives who saved our Brittish asses form the Invading Americans.

    Let's have some Herstory Carolyn.

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  • Grit, Carolynn Bennett's comments echo perfectly what I have heard from Liberals in the recent past when she first made these comments.

    Here's what some Liberals actually are hoping for with National Childcare. Their intentions are good, but the mindset behind it is simply racist and prejudiced, though those who hold the view (possibly Ms. Bennett) would never realize it.

    The young Liberals who spoke of this child care issue aren't concerned about working mothers having the ability to "Choose" their lifestyle. They are worried that if single black Mothers (mainly in toronto, and from Jamaica) raise their kids alone, the children will be just as illiterate, ill-educated, and uncivilized as their mothers. To make it even more of a Canadian Values issue...these same young Liberals were also hoping National Daycare would provide an opportunity for Native children to escape the clutches of the Native environment, which to these Young Liberals was nothing but an endless cycle of alcoholism, sexual abuse, hopelessness, and domestic abuse.

    Yeah Grit......those Liberals sure want to do a lot for dos folks who can't do it demselves.

    Ever hear of the racism of low expectations?
    If not....just talk to some of the people in your Party who want National Childcare the most. They have all of the answers.

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