Stephane Dion Soundbytes
“I know one candidate wants to be Prime Minister to deal with education but he had 40% of the students in his old ministry and that’s where he could have made a difference.”
Dion doesn’t feel we need education standards since “people don’t want government in the classrooms”. However, he sees a role for the federal government when it comes to giving money directly to students, or for spending on research. He likes what John Manley did for innovation and would like Canada to be the best country in the G8 when it comes to innovation.
On the Federal Government’s Role in Health Care
For Dion, the federal government must respect the Canada Health Act and the principle that access is not linked to wallet size. However, he doesn’t see a major role beyond that: “We should not be over the shoulder of provinces in health if they respect this.”
On Youth Centres
Dion really likes the work John Godfrey did to fund fitness centres. Stephane sees a lot of youth in his riding who do nothing on the street. “That’s not good for their health but it’s also not good for Canada.” He’d like to see more programs and centres to keep young people active.
On the One Ton Challenge and Paul Martin
“The one ton challenge was not stupid. It was much more than TV ads with Rick Mercer. It was about encouraging people to make good decisions.”
“Paul helped me, but I wonder if he was aware of the one ton challenge. The PM must be aware of the issues”
On the Afghanistan Extension
Dion supported the current mission, but not the vote Harper sprung on Parliament. He said it was insulting to hear people say “we need to support the troops” since every MP in parliament obviously supports the troops.
“Had we made the mistake to go to Iraq, like some people wanted us to, would we say we need to stay there forever, just to support the troops?”
On the Liberal Handling of the Vote
“We should have voted unified; it would have made us a better opposition party.”
Because of the importance of the mission and the vote, it would have been better for the Liberal Party to stay unified on this topic. Dion would have liked the party to insist that Harper come back in October with the full details of the mission: NATO’s role, what other countries are involved, will we revisit parameters, what is our capacity to do other missions? If Harper refused, it was up to the party to say no.
What he said to Bill Graham before the vote
“Look Bill, you’re not a Minister anymore. You’re there to check the government. How can we check it in six hours of debate?”
Kyoto is “more than a target”, it’s “a global approach to a global problem”
On Arctic Sovereignty
Dion wants to build large National Parks in the north and welcome scientists from around the world to study in the north. He feels this would help assert our claim of sovereignty in the arctic.
On the Green Party
According to Dion, they’re “a one issue party”. Liberal success over the years has been because of the two pillars of “economy” and “social justice”. He feels the time has come to add environmental sustainability as a third pillar.
On the GST Cut
Dion would keep the GST at 6% but would not lower it to 5%. The four billion saved from this would be spent on the national tax benefit and on money for the working poor.
I finished the interview by asking him to give a quick word or two about his ten competitors
On Michael Ignatieff: "A great intellect. Ten years ago, I would not have been ready for federal politics. I'm not saying Michael isn't, I'm just saying I wouldn't have been. Experience is really the key; Trudeau had experience before becoming Prime Minister and I think my time in intergovernmental affairs has given me good experience since I got to see a lot of files. Academia is good training, but you still need experience.”
On Gerard Kennedy: "Gerard’s a good politician and very engaging. I don’t know him well but I question why he went to federal politics if it was to make education a top issue. I will say that his experience at the provincial level is valuable. My colleagues like Lucienne Robillard who came from provincial politics always had a good perspective about the provincial view point which is important. As part of the team, Gerard will do great work, but I hope he’s moved to federal politics to do something different."
On Bob: "I have a lot of admiration for Bob Rae and I appointed him as head of the forum of federation. He did great work there. However, I would ask him, as a friendly question, “are you aware of one Liberal who would take out an NDP membership and run for NDP leadership the next day?” I’d just ask that as a friendly question."
On Joe Volpe: "A good colleague. He was a good minister of immigration." [ed note: Dion has obviously learned from Denis Corderre and Michael Ignatieff that those who attack Joe Volpe have to deal with the consequences]
On Carolyn Bennett: "She did great work in Public Health."
On Ken Dryden: "My hero! I was always a big Canadiens fan. He’s the “big guy for little kids”, and recognized the economic benefits of child care."
On Hedy Fry: "I like Hedy a lot and she was a good colleague. She’s been an MP since 1993 so she has more experience as an MP than me, although less in Cabinet."
On Maurizio Bevilacqua: "Maurizio has a very good understanding of the economy."
On Martha Hall Findlay: "The more I know about her, the better I like her."
On Scott Brison: "A very good policy mind. I don’t always agree with him, but he puts ideas on the table which is good."
On the Field as a whole: “When you look at the candidates, we have brilliant intellectuals, great provincial politicians, Martha “the rookie”, and some great colleagues of mine. I’m really happy to be in this race with so many strong candidates."