About the Blog:

Guelph Politico is locally sourced and dedicated to covering the political and cultural scene in the City of Guelph. Est. 2008.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Stéphane, Frank and Me

This has been a while in coming, but considering that this was supposed to be the denouement to the by-election, I though this would be the perfect time to finally throw it up on the blog. Well, it’s still the perfect time, just for a whole other set of reasons. General election tomorrow? More than likely. I got a media release today saying that Tom King was going to make himself available for interviews following the announcement. But back to the Liberals. Here’s the transcript of my joint interview with Stéphane Dion and Frank Valeriote.

ME: (to Frank Valeriote) So there’s a lot of excitement around here with the canvassing and everything, is that a fair assessment? That there are a lot of people around here excited, I mean especially because of the poll results here that announced you were in the lead…

FV: I would say that about the opportunity to serve the city of Guelph. I am not a bit concerned about the polls at all. I’m concerned about the finish line and when you’re heading to the finish line you don’t look to your right or left to see where other people are. You don’t want to give yourself any false sense of security about anything, and I don’t allow that to happen.

ME: (to Stéphane Dion) Mr. Dion, when’s the general election going to be? […] Do you get tired of being asked that?

SD: Non, we are focused on the by-election. We have a great candidate in Guelph and Frank Valeriote has been involved in every aspect of the Guelph community: arts, fighting against poverty. And now he’s ready to offer his talents and skills to Guelph and to Canada.

ME: Speaking of by-elections, you hear all the time in the news, “Dion has to win two out of three to prove… whatever.” Do you listen to that? How do you react to that sort of scorecarding of you on the by-election?

SD: It’s always part of political life, but I have a job to do and leadership to offer Canadians, and with four by-elections to win, we’ll work hard for each poll. We are confident that Canadians will give us the go ahead to the next challenge.

ME: What do you like about campaigning on a by-election level as opposed to fighting a national one?

SD: The additional challenge most people are not aware of is the vote going out and that means all the conversations you have with people, all the efforts you put in are so important because turnout is likely to be lower than in a general election. The other point is that general elections are local, but are a lot national because people are watching and this is affecting their vote. The candidate can do everything and get helped by their leader, but it’s a different dynamic. I like it.

ME: (to FV) And how does having Mr. Dion here help you?

FV: Well it certainly shows his confidence in the candidate. It shows the confidence of the party. It shows the people of Guelph that Mr. Dion cares about this city and talk about the policies that affect all of us; about the economy, about the environment, about our social programs. And that’s what this election is all about; to reverse the erosion that’s been happening in our economy and our environment and our social programs.

ME: I wanted to talk a little about the Green Shift plan since I had you here. Can you tell me a little bit about its creation? How it started as an idea and how it developed into this strategy?

SD: Yes, it’s something we did not invent. It is a policy that’s been adopted in many countries with a lot of success: Norway, Sewden, Japan. What is striking is that many of these countries are looking to do more. In the UK the two party leaders are working together and the Tory leader is saying “I want more Green taxes as long as the revenue is of these taxes is going into the economy.” So when countless number of economists and Nobel Prize winners are asking the world to do that, why have we not done it? It’s because of a lack of leadership in Ottawa. It’s a very simple idea, but a powerful one: we tax you less on your income, or what you want more of like investments, and we’ll shift it to our pollution. We’ll tax our pollution. Tax less on what we earn and more on what we burn. So this will be our path to fight climate change, which is the worst threat to our nation, and we will help our economy to be an economy of the 21st century; creating great jobs here, in Guelph, and in the rest of the country. Otherwise, we’ll have an old fashioned economy and a polluted environment.

ME: Did you know that it would catch on the way it did, because whether the talk is positive or negative, it is all of what anyone can talk about?

SD: Did I know that my competitors would come with low blow attach ads? Yes. I did know that Mr. Harper would be the first to use low blow attack ads and language to fight the policy about climate change instead of discussing it like adults, face to face with facts on the table. Yes, maybe I didn’t know to which extent he would go, but I knew there were big risks in doing it. The next election will not be only a debate about policy, it will also be a debate about style of politics. What works in Canada? Is it to go to the low blow attack ads or is to speak to the great hearts and great minds of Canadians.

ME: Frank, you’ve gotten a lot of attacks ads even just generally in the Guelph community. I mean, when you’re in the line of fire like that, how do you respond?

FV: Well, the attack ads started long before the campaign started. There were 12 ten per centers, as they say, sent in from other ridings by the Conservative Party, all at the tax payer’s expense, first of all. The attacks following were all on the Green Shift and they’re all inappropriate comments – absolute untruths like the $8 head of cabbage, which really, as Mr. Dion suggested, shows you the extent to which they’ll go when they fear something. They’re trying to give a message of fear believing that people will embrace it more quickly than they’ll embrace a message of hope; particularly during summer when people aren’t necessarily focused on the by-election. Ultimately, I think the people of Guelph are very broad minded, very informed, will see just how effective this Green Shift is. And as I’ve said to you before, Mr. Dion hit the target so well, in dealing with the environment, that he’s left no more room on the page for Mr. Harper to even aim at.

ME: I heard $8 head of iceberg lettuce actually, instead of cabbage.

FV: Okay, sorry (laughs).

ME: Can I ask both you to respond to the news lately about the Conservative cuts to art programs. Guelph, especially in the downtown area, is an incredibly art friendly community with a lot of interest in this area.

SD: We need a strong industry of artists now more than ever. First, because it’s fun; we enjoy good emotions and good feelings when we go to see a movie or to the theatre or go to a museum. But also because to have an effective economy, we need to innovative. You don’t have to be an artist to create, so freedom of art and culture is at the core of a sustainable Canadian economy. It’s a bigger industry than mining, forestry and fisheries put together and so for the government to weaken the promotion of arts and culture, weakens artists and culture around the world. We have a government now that is inspired by a moral-right approach, a right-wing US mentality that we don’t like what is different than the standard. They forget that a lot of mainstream arts and culture were considered odd for their time. I like to be creative and I will fight for arts and culture. And Frank Valeriote will fight for the arts and culture community here.

FV: Arts distinguishes us from other societies around the world; it’s an expression of who we are as a people. It’ allows us to be engaged with other people around the world and they engage with us. And to cut the arts like [Harper] has really affects all of us in a negative way as it doesn’t only disengage us from the world, but as Mr. Dion has indicated, it undermines our economy. It’s a $40 billion industry, and a lot of spin-off jobs are being jeopardized because of his ideological opposition to the arts.

ME: Are you hearing a lot of concern about that on the campaign trail?

FV: I was asked that question at the debate the other night in the Arboretum. And it was of concern to a lot of people there.

ME: (to SD) Let me ask you this: what do you know about being leader of the Liberal Party now that you didn’t know when you took the reins in December ’06?

SD: I knew that it would be a lot of work, but a lot fun at the same time. It’s a great family that’s made some mistakes. On my watch we’ve been divided and we paid the price and I’m very impressed by our will to show to Canadians that there is a solution to the problems of the 21st century as there was one for the 20th century. My challenge was to change a two tier party into a three tier party. We were the party of economic growth and support of justice, and now we need to add environment. We need an economy of Green technology and Green solutions and inclusive, because we need the talent and skills of everyone, so put these kids out of poverty, these decisions helped make me the leader, the party’s behind it and now we need to communicate that. It was a challenge to convince the party of this change for the 21st century. This challenge now is the same but now the scale of it has changed.

ME: (to FV) And what have you learned since the start of the campaign that you didn’t know before?

FV: The campaign has allowed me the opportunity to coalesce all the different ideas in Guelph and really appreciate the tremendous diversity in our community. But also at the same time, the wonderful opportunities we’ve to come to come together and share our ideas and find the common goals that are among us despite the differences we might have.

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