The New Liberal Vision of Canada
- Stéphane Dion
- Media Type
- Item Type
- Canadians as a great people up for a great challenge. The Liberal platform released two weeks ago. Stephen Harper’s platform released yesterday. Canada’s economy and its significant challenges. Facing a volatile stock market. Economic performance. Stephen Harper not facing these challenges. The lack of a plan by Stephen Harper. The Liberal plan for the country. The action plan. Working with financial regulators. Working with premiers. Stephen Harper’s agenda. The speaker’s team. Jack Layton’s plan. The speaker’s commitment to fighting poverty. Fighting against climate change. Goals of the short and long terms. Advantages of the green shift. Why the speaker wants to be Prime Minister of Canada.
- Date of Original
- 08 Oct 2008
- Language of Item
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- Full Text
October 8, 2008
A joint meeting of The Empire Club of Canada and The Canadian Club of Toronto
The Hon. Stéphane Dion
Leader of the Official Opposition and Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada
The New Liberal Vision of Canada
Chairman:Helen Burstyn,President, The Canadian Club of Toronto
Head Table Guests
Chris May: Director of Government Affairs, Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario, and Director, The Canadian Club of Toronto
Jo-Ann McArthur: President, Jo-Ann McArthur Strategies Inc., and President, The Empire Club of Canada
Rocco Rossi: CEO, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, and Director, The Empire Club of Canada
Nitin Kawale: President, Cisco Canada Janet Yale: Executive Vice-President, Corporate Affairs, TELUS
Martha Hall Findlay: MP for Willowdale, and Federal Liberal Party Associate Finance Critic
David Pecaut: Senior Partner and Managing Director, The Boston Consulting Group, Chair, Toronto City Summit Alliance, and Co-Founder, Luminato
The Hon. Ralph Goodale: MP for Wascana, and Opposition House Leader
The Rt. Hon. Paul Martin: Former Prime Minister of Canada.
Introduction by Helen Burstyn
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.
On behalf of the Canadian Club of Toronto and the Empire Club of Canada, I thank you for joining us today for this very special joint presentation.
Thank you, as well, to Cisco and TELUS, sponsors of today’s event.
One of the great liberal prime ministers, Lester Pearson, once said that politics is the skilled use of blunt objects.
But in stressful times, faced with complex issues, people tend to look for simple answers, and for leaders who say they have them. Bluntness comes to the fore; skill and subtlety tend to get lost in the shuffle. Two years ago, we witnessed one of the most exciting leadership conventions in Canadian history. Stéphane Dion was elected as the 11th leader of the Liberal Party of Canada on the fourth ballot. It was an extraordinary result for an underestimated candidate.
Stéphane Dion himself admitted at the time that being underestimated was his personal weakness. But at the same time, he said, “It is my strength.”
Being underestimated was certainly part of his ascension to the Liberal leadership.
But Liberal Party members chose him for a reason. It was partly his integrity that inspired them. It was also an appreciation of the ambitious vision articulated in Mr. Dion’s platform—his “three-pillar policy” integrating economic prosperity, social justice and environmental sustainability.
No one can dispute Stéphane Dion’s courage. His support for federalism may have cost him dearly amongst nationalists in his native Québec, but his performance in last week’s debates had many in La Belle Province thinking he’d make a pretty good prime minister. The Green Shift has proved challenging to communicate, but what is abundantly clear is that he cares deeply and passionately about the environment.
Of course, the state of the economy and how to protect it has become a central issue in this campaign. Again, Stéphane Dion has taken the initiative with a five-point, 30-day action plan.
During last week’s debates Stéphane Dion underlined what he felt is an essential difference between his Liberal Party and the governing party. He believes that government matters. With so many critical economic and social issues facing the nation, he said this is not a time for a “laissez faire, I don’t care” approach. Government has a role to play right now.
Stéphane Dion has always been a man with the country’s best interests at heart. He’s genuine, intelligent and passionate about making this a better country, and a better world.
In short, Stéphane Dion is a standard bearer for both liberal values and Canadian values.
Please join me in giving a warm welcome to the Leader of the Official Opposition and Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, the Honourable Stéphane Dion.
The Hon. Ralph Goodale and the Rt. Hon. Paul Martin also gave introductory remarks.
Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to speak to all Canadians—to the people of Toronto, of Ontario, of Quebec, of Saskatchewan, to all Canadians. We need to be together. What we are facing is very big, but we are a great people up for a great challenge. As you know, yesterday Stephen Harper was in Toronto to release his platform. I have to apologize I cannot do the same with you today. We Liberals released our platform over two weeks ago, because I believe that Canadians deserve to see a party’s platform more than one week before election day.
With an election less than a week away, Canada’s economy is confronting significant challenges. We are facing a volatile stock market that is understandably a concern for every Canadian looking at his savings, his home, and his pension. Canada has the worst economic growth in the G-8 so far this year, our worst performance since 1991. This summer we saw the single-worst month of job losses since 1991. We have had nine straight months of falling labour productivity, our worst performance since 1990. And now chief economists from our major banks are forecasting a recession for Canada.
Stephen Harper has done nothing to meet these challenges. He has failed the first and most important test of leadership. Stephen Harper is saying, “I don’t care.” He is singing that same old song, “Don’t worry, be happy,” rather than acknowledging the fear and hurt being felt by Canadians. Stephen Harper said yesterday that he saw buying opportunities in the stock market. He is completely out of touch with the impact the current economic turmoil is having on the lives of everyday Canadians. We Canadians worry about our savings, about our jobs.
Stephen Harper has no plan. That isn’t good enough. We have to act now. Doing nothing is not an option. We Liberals have a plan for this country, both for our long-term prosperity and for the short-term challenges we face right now. We have unveiled an action plan for the first 30 days of a Liberal government. Our plan will accelerate investment in manufacturing, in infrastructure, to create jobs, well-paid jobs, good jobs, green jobs, new jobs. There is no time to wait. We need shovels in the ground. We need to improve our public transit with green infrastructure. We need to create jobs now.
We need to work with financial regulators to evaluate our regulatory framework and our fiscal position to ensure the government is doing what it can to protect our savings, our homes, our pensions. We need to look at options such as raising the level of deposit insurance on Canadian savings or ensuring that seniors are not forced to withdraw their savings from their registered and retirement income funds during this time of market volatility. We need to look at all of that.
We Liberals understand that we need to work with premiers, not against them. Unlike Stephen Harper, I will meet with first ministers to work towards common goals. Stephen Harper has taken the opposite approach. He has chosen not to hold the former first ministers meeting. Jim Flaherty is finance minister. He said that Ontario would be the last place someone would want to invest. What kind of government attacks its own citizens and the economy of its largest province? I understand the challenges facing Ontarians and I believe in the immense potential of Ontario as our main economic engine for a richer Canada, a fairer Canada, and a greener Canada.
Maybe if Stephen Harper spent less time distorting me and my plans he would have been able to come forward with a real platform, not a brochure. Stephen Harper’s agenda is one of distortion and dishonesty. He may speak better English than I do, but I speak the truth better in both official languages than he does.
With six days left in this election Mr. Harper’s platform is too little too late. It offers nothing to put Canadians’ minds at ease and offers no vision for our country. Isn’t it irresponsible that a quarter of the price of his platform is devoted to what? To the economy? To health care? To the environment? No. It is devoted to a two-cent decrease on the tax on diesel fuel. A quarter of the cost of his platform. This is the king of all gimmicks. The very next day after Stephen Harper made this announcement, the cost of diesel went up by two cents. Such a gimmick will do nothing to strengthen our economy. There is not an ounce of vision in Stephen Harper’s platform. Stephen Harper suffers from the same fatal flaw as other right-wing politicians. He talks about shrinking government and then he spends and spends, building nothing with no plan. Many Canadians who thought they would vote Conservative are reconsidering their choice now, because they understand that the Conservatives are poor managers of the economy. I say to all these Canadians, “Join us.” Join us Liberals because we understand how the market economy works, how the government works and how the two must work together.
Look at my team of Ralph Goodale, John McCallum, Martha Hall Findlay, all my colleagues in this room. Isn’t it impressive? I’m so proud of my team. In Toronto itself I have the material for two cabinets. What will I do? Are you not impressed?
History shows us that in tough economic times progressive governments put economies back on track. Clinton after Reagan and Bush. Blair after Thatcher and Major. Chretien and Martin after Mulroney. And, of course, McGuinty after Harris. The basic reason for that is that Conservatives don’t understand how the government works for the people and for the economy. We Liberals understand the economy, and understand the government. It is why we need to win the next election for the sake of Canadians.
Yesterday Mr. Harper said that during an economic storm was no time to switch votes. Well I say the captain of the boat is asleep at the wheel. For the sake of all Canadians, we need to change course, we need to change the captain, we need to change a whole group.
Jack Layton says he has a plan. Unfortunately his plan is paid for with monopoly money. His plan is a job killer, a plan that will raise taxes on our businesses by $50 billion, putting at risk the jobs of our workers and their families. Does Mr. Layton think he will attract investments to Canada by making it more expensive to do business in Canada? Jack Layton says that a cut in corporate taxes is a right-wing policy.
Well, if that were true, it would mean that Sweden with its low corporate tax rate would be a hot bed of neoconservatism, while the United States with its very high corporate tax rate would be a socialist paradise. A low corporate tax rate is not a right-wing policy. It’s not a left-wing policy. It’s the right thing to do. For generating investment, for creating jobs, it’s the right thing to do.
Many Canadians are trying to decide whether to vote for the NDP or Liberal. We share many of the same social values. We want the same thing at the end of the day—the same goals for a fairer Canada. I say to all Canadians committed to social justice Canada will never have a prime minister more committed to fighting poverty than I.
As we fight the fight against climate change, the worst environmental threat many of us are facing, I say to these Canadians committed for a green agenda, Canada will never have a greener prime minister than I. I say to all these Canadians we cannot wait. We need a fairer Canada today. We need a greener Canada today. We need a Liberal government that will build this greener and fairer Canada on the foundation of a strong economy. This is what we need.
For the short term, the turmoil in which we are in, and for the long term, to ensure that Canada succeeds in the twenty-first century, our entire plan is designed to make Canada more sustainable, more innovative, more energy-efficient, more competitive in the world economy, because for Liberals it is always the economy first. No other party is offering a stronger plan to reduce income taxes for families and for business to boost investment in R&D and green technology. Two hundred and thirty of Canada’s leading economists have written supporting the principles of the green shift. Cut taxes on those things that help our economy grow—income, innovation, investments, our savings—and shift those taxes to pollution. These economists have all said that this is good for the economy and good for the environment, good for your wallet and good for the planet.
A green shift is good for the whole country and certainly good for Ontario. In addition to our commitment to invest in clean energy and to invest $1 billion to attract investment into our manufacturing sector, our plan includes boosting the tax credits for R&D, and the very, very generous accelerated capital cost allowance for investment in energy-efficient machinery and equipment. It is what the Ontario economy needs. It is what it will have with a Liberal government.
All this with the economy, the environment and social justice will be done with the fiscal discipline that is now part of the Liberal DNA thanks to Jean Chretien and Paul Martin.
Yes, we have a plan for the long term and a plan for the short term; a plan for us and a plan for our children. Let me conclude on a more personal note. I entered politics after a long discussion with my wife Janine and I will never thank my family enough to have accepted this sacrifice. I entered politics at the insistence and invitation of Prime Minister Jean Chretien. In fact, it was Madam Chretien. I went because I wanted to help my country to stay together. I went because Janine and I wanted our daughter Jeanne to enjoy Toronto in Ontario as part of her country as much as your children and grandchildren enjoy Montreal and the whole of Quebec and Quebec City as part of your country. This was the motivation for me and I did it because I love my country, but also because I know what it represents in the world as a hope. It is proved that people with different languages and accents, people with different backgrounds coming from everywhere in the world may be stronger, better citizens on the planet because they are together. This is what Canada is all about.
I want to be prime minister of this united Canada because I know that together we will face the difficulties of today and make sure that Canada will be a leading country of the twenty-first century—a richer, fairer, greener Canada. It’s what I want to do. It is why I will fight to the last minute to win this election for Canadians. When you go home on October 14 after having cast your vote for the Liberals, I want you to proudly look into your children’s eyes and grandchildren’s and say to them, “I voted for me for the tough times in which we are, to have a government that cares and will help me, but I voted for you too, for your future, for a government that will not only govern for the next election but also for the next generation.” Merci.
The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by Jo-Ann McArthur, President, Jo-Ann McArthur Strategies Inc., and President, The Empire Club of Canada.