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Jack Layton accomplished the impossible (with a little help from the anti-Iggy movement)—now what?

Jack Layton

(Image: Daniel Ehrenworth)

I should start by telling you that you’re my MP.
That makes you my boss.

Great—so you have to answer all of my questions.
I’ll do my best.

This is the moment you’ve been waiting for—a chance to show that the NDP is a viable alternative as a governing party. How do you make sure you don’t blow it?
We’ve been around for 50 years in the House of Commons and in public life—from our earliest days with the contribution of Medicare and our work around the CPP. We’ve shown we’re able to add to good legislation and governance.

What is your response to the view that an NDP government would be bad for Canadian business—especially on Bay Street, where the Bob Rae years are remembered with fear and loathing?
Well, of course, Bob Rae’s no longer with the New Democrats. What business is looking for most is a stable set of rules, and that’s what an NDP government would offer, as well as making sure we have the basic infrastructure business needs: transportation, affordable housing, investment in arts and culture. Without those investments, you don’t have the kind of vibrant city that attracts business.

What about your proposal to raise corporate taxes? Wouldn’t that drive foreign investment away from Canada?
I don’t believe so. We’ve made a commitment to keep our corporate tax rate lower than that of our nearest trading partner, the U.S.

How do you justify your call to ban private health care clinics? Won’t that send thousands of patients back into an already strained public system?
There really isn’t evidence of a speeding up of waiting times through privatization. And we’re not talking about closing down existing private operations, as long as they’re within the rules of the Canada Health Act. But reform of the public system is absolutely necessary. If medical staff in the public system get lured by private operators who pay more and offer more attractive working hours, before you know it, you have an insufficient number of health care professionals in the public system, and those who can’t afford the private system end up with longer waiting times. That would be wrong.

Given the rise of the NDP in Quebec, won’t you be beholden to Quebec at the expense of other regions, like Ontario?
That’s based on the notion that Canada is Balkanized and that we can’t bring people together. I think we can.

The day after the massage parlour story broke, your poll numbers with regard to trustworthiness, competence and vision rose from 80 per cent to 97 per cent. How do you explain that?
People don’t like smear politics, especially when there is no wrongdoing.

Speaking of trust, have you heard that your mustache is now being dubbed the “trustache”?
Ha! No, I hadn’t. That’s hysterical.

How will living in Stornoway compare to living in your house in Chinatown?
We’ll probably be here in Chinatown with Olivia’s mom more than this other place. When we’re in Ottawa we work. So we’ll be in our offices. I’ve never even seen the house.

You’ve never seen it? Apparently it’s a $4-million, nine-bedroom mansion that comes with a chauffeur, chef and housekeeper. Can the leader of the NDP have servants?
Well, I think it would be disrespectful if we were to say, “No, we won’t live there, we’re just going to leave this National Capital Commission building empty.” As for the chauffeur business—I just hope the new house is biking distance from Parliament Hill.

 

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