There has been much talk about minority governments in this election. Minority governments do not necessarily mean instability. In the 1960s Lester Pearson of the Liberals, Tommy Douglas of the NDP and John Diefenbaker of the Progressive Conservatives worked together in back-to-back minority governments which brought us an amazing number of historic policies: universal health care, the Canada Pension Plan, Canada Student Loans, the Order of Canada, the 40-hour work week, two-week vacations, minimum wage, the Royal Commission on the Status of Women, and our Canadian flag. The difference between then and now is that back then the leader of the minority government was willing to co-operate with other parties to achieve goals for all Canadians. That is the kind of leadership Jack Layton and the NDP wants for Canada.
I still believe that the most important issue in this election campaign is the growing gap between the rich and the poor.
When I grew up in the 1950s there were no homeless people in downtown Toronto, no food banks, and people had little or no difficulty finding a job and an affordable house in which to raise their families. There were also no neighbourhoods full of extravagant homes and CEOs with six and seven figure salaries.
It all began to change in the 1980s and has continued to today: the rich and the large corporations have made huge contributions to the Conservative and the Liberal parties in exchange for a major overhaul of the federal tax system that considerably eased the burden on Canada’s well-to-do, reduced corporate tax rates so that already profitable corporations could pocket more of their wealth and brought in NAFTA, which resulted in a tremendous loss of good-paying jobs.
The NDP has consistently been the party looking after the interests of ordinary Canadians. We need to return to policies where the richest Canadians and the richest corporations pay their share in taxes so that we have a country which can fund the programs needed to make this country great for all its citizens. We need a progressive income tax system with a new rate of 60% for incomes above $500,000 and 70% for incomes above $2.5 million. We need to close the loopholes that benefit the rich. We need to support international measures to clamp down on tax avoiders and evaders who hide their money in overseas shelters. We need to re-visit the whole idea of NAFTA and instead support our Canadian companies whose existence is always threatened by multinational corporations. We need to protect and support our farmers against agribusiness giants like those who are putting Garrett Moy, an organic apple grower in Clarksburg, the Woods family, producers of all-Canadian honey in Hillsdale, and Harald Boker, an organic spelt farmer in Elmvale out of business.
With this renewed source of revenue, the NDP would bring back affordable housing; fund health care as Tommy Douglas envisioned it; put money into pensions, not planes; create jobs, not more jails; and reward green, not greed.
Canadians are now seeing Jack Layton and the NDP as a real alternative. I ask the people of Simcoe Grey to vote for the party who best represents their dreams for this country are, and I hope that that party is the NDP.