Federal election Q & A with Barbara Doyle of the New Democratic Party (NDP)

By Roderick Benns

Federal election Q & A with Barbara Doyle of the New Democratic Party (NDP)
Barbara Doyle, candidate for the New Democratic Party.

Roderick Benns recently interviewed the PPC, Conservative, Liberal, Green, and NDP candidates for Haliburton, Kawartha Lakes, Brock riding to help voters make an informed decision leading up to the election in October. In our second installment we connect with Barbara Doyle of the NDP.

Benns: Can you highlight a policy of your party that will lead to increased employment and increased average income in our riding? 

Doyle: The NDP will start by immediately increasing the minimum wage to $15 that will help over 900,000 workers across the country while supporting small businesses with the access to service they need to grow, innovate and stay competitive in Canada and around the world. That’s why we have stood up for lower small business taxes, opposed unfair merchant fees, and fought to make it easier to pass on small businesses to the next generation by ending the unfair tax treatment of family transfers of small businesses.

Streamlining access to government export services will make it simpler to break into foreign markets and we’ll also provide small and medium-sized businesses with a single point of contact to help ease regulatory processes and support compliance – freeing up time for entrepreneurs to invest in growing their business.

Strong commitments to proactive training and retraining, while defending and protecting Canadian workers and businesses regarding unfair trade practices, supply management and enforceable labour protections combined with an affordable post-secondary education plan and a first mandate to create 300,000 good jobs across Canada is the first step to ensuring that Canadians can succeed in a low-carbon future as the federal government makes sure that public investments are directed to clean-energy, sustainable infrastructure and boosting energy efficiency in communities across the country.

Benns: Do you believe in climate change science? How is your party dealing with climate change?

Doyle: A New Democrat government will declare a climate emergency and put in place ambitious, science-based greenhouse gas reductions targets that will help stabilize the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. We’ll put these targets in legislation and ensure accountability by creating an independent Climate Accountability Office to do regular audits of progress towards our climate goals.

Recognizing that putting a price on carbon is an important tool to drive greenhouse gas reductions at the source, we will continue carbon pricing, including rebates to households that fall under the federal backstop plan, while making it fairer and rolling back the breaks this Liberal government has given to big polluters.

The federal government can also model change by becoming a trail-blazer in energy efficiency, clean technologies, and renewable energy use. We will lead by example and procure from Canadian companies producing clean technology, ensure that federal buildings use renewable energy, and move the vehicle fleets of the federal government to electric by 2025, choosing made-in-Canada wherever possible.

However, the climate crisis is not just an environmental emergency. It also threatens traditional food sources and the very survival of many Indigenous communities. We have to move past the delays and inaction of previous governments and take a fundamentally different approach to our future – one that recognizes a holistic definition of sustainability. Indigenous communities are not only stewards of their territories – they are also on the front lines dealing with the impacts of climate change every day. We will work with Indigenous leadership and communities to develop coordinated action plans to respond to climate change emergencies like wildfires and floods.

Benns: What’s the future of CPP in your mind, a system under a great deal of stress right now and quite frankly, something that now delivers an inadequate amount of money to seniors to live on?

Doyle: New Democrats are committed to strengthening public pensions and improving retirement security for all Canadians. A New Democrat government will create a Pension Advisory Commission to develop a long-term plan to protect and enhance Old Age Security, boost the Guaranteed Income Supplement and strengthen the Canada Pension Plan. We’ll also make automatic enrollment in OAS and GIS retroactive, so no retiree misses out on benefits that they should be receiving and support efforts to make sure Canadians have good retirement financial literacy.

For more and more Canadians, the prospect of retirement is a cause for anxiety. As costs keep rising and wages don’t keep up, people are struggling to save for retirement during their working years. And many retirees, who paid to have a secured pension, have been let down by governments that protected investors, not pensioners, when big companies went bankrupt. Instead of strengthening support for Canadian workers and retirees, the Liberals have sided with rich corporations to undermine retirement benefits.

New Democrats will stop companies from paying out dividends and bonuses when pensions are under-funded, and we’ll create a mandatory, industry-financed pension insurance program to make sure that no worker is deprived of the retirement benefits they’ve earned. The federal government has a critical role to in protecting defined benefit pensions across the country. The Liberals’ openness to target defined benefit plans in the public sector, which don’t guarantee stable benefits for retirees, puts defined benefits at risk for all Canadians – and we will immediately put a stop to chipping away of retirement security.

Benns: Pharmacare will be a key issue in the next election. Dr. Hoskin’s report clearly favours a single payer system – what’s your preference and why?

Doyle: New Democrats believe that we must do better. Just as our party led the fight to establish universal public health care for all Canadians (thank you Tommy Douglas!), we are leading the fight to expand Medicare – to include quality prescription drug coverage for everyone, regardless of your job, where you live, your age, your health status or how much money you make. We will begin working with the provinces right away to target a late 2020 start date, with an annual federal investment of $10 billion. That means access to necessary medicines in the same way that we have access to medical and hospital care – free at the point of care, financed by a public insurance system that covers everyone. It means that you will need your health card – not your credit card – at the pharmacy till. And it puts an end to costly co-payments, deductibles, and premiums that cost families hundreds and even thousands a year. This will be followed by dental, hearing and vision care so that we have a health care system that truly takes care of your entire body’s health care needs.

Our plan will guarantee that every Canadian can get the medications they need. And it will mean a big savings to employers who currently pay for employee benefits, helping to reward good employers and boost economic growth. It will also cost our system less overall, as a result of pooling the purchasing power of the entire country.

Benns: How will you try to practice inclusive politics and move us away from the intensely partisan? Can you give me an example?

Doyle: At the heart of every policy decision we make, each piece of new legislation we draft, we must remind ourselves that they impact 100% of our population. I serve all constituents in the Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock riding, but also every Canadian across the country, regardless of how they voted. Each person needs me to work my hardest for them to ensure quality health care, affordable housing, protected pensions, and more.

Benns: Do you believe that abortion should be freely available and publicly funded? Why?

Doyle: Absolutely yes, everyone deserves safe, accessible abortion and reproductive healthcare services – no matter where they live or how much money they make. It’s not enough for elected officials to say they won’t reopen the abortion debate – we need leaders to take action to improve access to services. New Democrats will enforce the Canada Health Act to make sure that the provinces make medical and surgical abortion available in all parts of the country, without barriers. We will also ensure that a full range of prescription contraception and reproductive health care options easily accessible at no cost through Medicare and our national pharmacare program.

Benns: Do you believe we should have election reform to replace our first past the post system?

Doyle: A New Democrat government will bring in mixed-member proportional representation that works for Canada – and we will do it in our first mandate in government. We’ll establish an independent citizen’s assembly to recommend the best way to put it in the place for the next election to ensure both local representation and a federal government that reflects the voters’ choice of parties. Once Canadians have the opportunity to experience the new voting system and compare it to the old one, we will hold a referendum to confirm the choice.

Benns: Should Canada institute a Basic Income for every citizen? Why/why not?

Doyle: New Democrats believe…our current patchwork of social programs is not enough to help with daily living expenses. A universal basic income is a valuable tool to help close the gaps. In fact, the Ontario basic income pilot project showed promising results but the Ford Progressive Conservative government prematurely ended it despite campaign promises to see the pilot project through to completion.

In this area we saw the positive results first hand and know that this works. Doctors reported improvements in their patients’ physical and mental health. Individuals and families were able to secure safer housing units. Many chose to go back to school in an effort to quality for or obtain full time employment or start their own businesses. Local stores reported increases in sales. Over and over again, we saw evidence how providing a basic income improves the health, well-being and employment potential of the residents and overall economic prosperity of the community. For those participants that have disabilities that preclude them from working, many reported being able to buy healthy food instead of going to the food bank, taking part in community programs to help fight isolation, reductions in pain and stress related heath concerns. We know that 2019 is the time to deliver. That’s why our New Deal for People includes a commitment to work with the provinces to implement a national basic income pilot project, and continuing Ontario’s program.

Benns: The lack of affordable housing and attainable housing (not just social housing) is an important issue in this riding. Do you believe there should be a federal housing strategy?

Doyle: Canada is in the midst of a national housing crisis which is why the New Democrats will pass legislation enshrining the right to housing as a basic human right. The NDP government will also create 500,000 units of quality, affordable housing in the next 10 years as the first step to ending homelessness within a decade. This will be achieved with the right mix of effective measures that work in partnership with provinces and municipalities, build capacity for social, community, and affordable housing providers and co-ops, and meet environmental energy efficiency goals. This ambitious plan will create thousands of jobs in communities. Our federal government will begin with $5 billion in additional funding in the first year and a half.

In order to kick-start the construction of co-ops, social and non-profit housing, we will set up dedicated fast-start funds to streamline the application process and help communities get the expertise they need to get projects off the ground today, not years from now. We will also waive the federal portion of the GST/HST on the construction of new affordable rental units – a simple change that will help get new units built faster and keep them affordable in the long term.

While making affordable rental housing more available is critical, New Democrats believe that the dream of home ownership shouldn’t be forever out of reach for Canadian families. We will re-introduce 30-year terms to CMHC insured mortgages on entry-level homes for first time home buyers. This will allow for smaller monthly payments. We’ll also give people a hand with closing costs by doubling the Home Buyer’s Tax Credit to $1,500.

To help put an end to speculation that’s fuelling high housing prices, we’ll put in place a Foreign Buyer’s Tax on the sale of homes to individuals who aren’t Canadian citizens or permanent residents.

Benns: What’s most on your mind specific to this riding that we may not have covered yet?

Doyle: Agriculture is the backbone of our economy, an incredible source of pride for our communities, and a high-tech industry that depends on a talented and skilled workforce.

Farmers and agricultural workers feel enormous pressure today. Despite the importance of our food system, previous governments have left farmers to cope with a rapidly changing climate and mounting financial stress on their own, while negotiating away critical protections in trade deals.

New Democrats have a plan for a Canadian Food Strategy that will take a whole-government approach to address regional needs and priorities and investing in our agricultural communities, supporting young and new farmers, and taking steps to ensure that rural livelihoods are good and sustainable.

Modern communications infrastructure is integral to grow a business and that is why New Democrats will make sure that high-speed broadband and cell phone infrastructure is available to connect our farmers and rural communities to the services and tools they need. Rural Canadians should be as connected to markets, opportunities, and each other as anyone who lives in urban Canada.

To make it simpler for young people and women to get into agriculture and build a life on the farm, we’ll work with the provinces to improve training opportunities across the country and provide low-cost start-up loans for new farmers. We’ll also provide support for succession planning and end the unfair tax treatment of family farm transfers – making it easier for family farms to stay in the family.

Additionally, New Democrats will invest in public agricultural research and data collection, ensure that rail transportation treats farmers fairly and helps them get their products to market efficiently and affordably, while also introducing a payment protection programs for produce growers and restoring protections for growers selling to the United States under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act. Finally, to build on the pride and quality of Canadian agricultural products, we’ll work with producers along the supply chain to increase the amount of Canadian food that is sold, processed, and consumed in local and regional markets.

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