NDP leadership candidate Paul Dewar(Feb. 6, 2012)
RICK EGLINTON/TORONTO STAR
Paul Dewar says an NDP government with him at the top would focus on ending tax havens and tax loopholes before raising personal income taxes.
Dewar told the Star’s editorial board that while he wouldn’t rule out raising income taxes, “taxes are a means to an end, not an end in itself.” He contrasted that with the position of one of his leading rivals for the NDP leadership, Brian Topp, who published a detailed plan to raise both corporate taxes and income taxes for high earners at the start of his campaign.
Dewar, 49, has been MP for Ottawa Centre since 2006 and comes from a pedigreed NDP family in the Ottawa region. His mother, Marion Dewar, served as the city’s mayor from 1978 to 1985 and as an MP from 1987 to 1988.
A former elementary school teacher, Dewar became a vice-president of the Ottawa-Carleton elementary school teachers’ union. He said he has the right combination of national and international experience to lead the NDP and persuade voters that he should be prime minister.
Dewar served as foreign affairs critic for the NDP under the leadership of Jack Layton. Eight candidates are vying to succeed Layton in a vote on March 24, and Dewar has been endorsed by four of the NDP’s 102 MPs.
Excerpts from his conversation with the editorial board:
Why you and not the other candidates?
I have experience on the doorstep, in the House of Commons obviously, on the national stage and the international stage — and that distinguishes me from my colleagues. The other experience that I have, that is not as well known to many, is my experience in organizing. I started off in politics at a very early age helping my mother in campaigns. I also got involved in the NDP and working in campaigns right across the country.
We did very well [in the last election] but make no mistake, if we don’t grow and build up at the grassroots level we will not go further than we have, let alone maintain what we have.
What kind of Canada do you want?
I want to build a more caring Canada.
Many people remember Jack’s letter, and of course that stuck with me, but I go back to the July 25 news conference. He said something very simple, very profound to me, and that is we need to take better care of each other. At the core of our movement, at the core of my values is that notion.
We’re in a time right now where we obviously have to address this increasing inequality that’s growing in our country.
For too long people have been told, “no, you can’t do that.” I don’t think that’s in line with where people are at. It’s time for us to challenge that and put forward smart ideas that are in line with that.
So, what do you propose?
My vision is not just to have governments doing this.
My belief is that you have to build coalitions of people to work together.
For instance, my policy on post-secondary education is to have young people be able to volunteer a year’s services aboard and acknowledge that by providing them with a year’s tuition.
By making sure that we go beyond what our health-care system is now and being more innovative. Not just to defend the status quo but to change the way things are.
I personally believe that means strengthening the Canada Health Act to include home care and affordable medicines. The reason I think it is so important to invest in a home care and pharmacare program is that it will actually save the system money.
What I call tax justice in this country. The corporate tax level is down to 15 per cent; obviously I think that should be increased to 19.5 per cent. That keeps us competitive with our competitors.
Tax havens, between 2000 and 2008, $17 billion left our country for foreign shores — and that was just from our banks. I’d like to see that dealt with.
I’d like to see us look at a financial transactions tariff, which is being contemplated in Europe.
What about hiking personal income tax?
I’d like to fix the leaks in our system before I look at that.
I have no problem in looking at an increase in personal income tax if I knew that it was going to stay in revenues and I say that because there are ways, which many people are probably aware of, to avoid taxes. So the first thing you need to look at is tax loopholes.
How much would all that raise?
I couldn’t tell you to a dime. But I can tell you in the case of tax havens we’re talking more than $20 billion, I can tell you in the case of the corporate tax level that we’re talking tens of billions of dollars and I can tell you in the case of the financial transactions tariff a very conservative estimate is about $4 billion dollars.
Would you restore the GST cuts?
No. Not right now.
On the NDP relationship with organized labour:
For 50 years (the NDP) has had a relationship with labour and I don’t think that’s anything to apologize for.
It’s important to have a responsible, mature relationship with labour. We’ve seen it change within our party over the years, most recently to where we now have one-member one-vote and no set asides for unions
The advantage for us is unlike, particularly the present prime minister, we understand the issues and we understand the need to see support for working people regardless of whether they are in a union or not.
(Labour) is a smart thing to be allied with. It’s not just about a group bargaining a contract in one particular place. It’s about how do we increase benefits for all people and deal with this widening inequality.
On joint nominations with other parties, mergers and coalitions:
It’s not up to us to decide just by having joint nominations or even mergers what the (election) outcome is going to be. I think as a party we have to work as hard as we can based on our principles, our values and obviously a platform that connects with Canadians, to get it out there and get people engaged again.
Someone asked me the other day, “Paul are people angry out there?” I said, yeah, some are angry but most people are just disconnected.
So no merger ever?
Here’s one of those dilemmas where you ask me for an absolute in the future. But I can tell you right now it is not something I would look at. I don’t see the reason to. I would . . . work after an election in a coalition. That’s how Parliaments can work and I have no problem with that — with whomever it is.