early December, the Liberals in this country will choose their
new leader - the person they hope will be able to take the
country back from Stephen Harper's conservatives. There are
eight contenders for the Liberal leadership. CBC News: Sunday's
Evan Solomon interviews Liberal leadership
hopeful Stéphane Dion in our continuing
series of interviews with the top four frontrunning candidates.
Evan Solomon: Stephane Dion,
very nice to see you.
Stephane Dion: Thank you so
Solomon: You’re a university professor
and I always wonder what’s the moment in your life where
you looked at yourself or your wife and you said 'I want to
be the prime minister of Canada'. Do you remember that moment?
Dion: Yes, because it’s very recently.
It took us two months after Mr. Martin decided to stop to
be our leader to decide to be in this race. So it’s
the end of March 2006.
Solomon: And why did you think you were ready
for the job of leading the country?
Dion: It’s a difficult decision
to take. Somebody said that in politics you need to have a
big ego and a lot of modesty - a big ego to think you are
the one, a lot of modesty to realize you will not do it without
working as a team with others. And I think I have these two
Solomon: You do now - you have a big
Dion: Yes, otherwise I would not be in
this race. I think that there is a convergence between my
talents, my skills, my experience, my ability to communicate,
my passion for Canada, and what Canada needs to do. And it
is more than ever to bring together economy, vitality, social
justice and environmental sustainability, and to be the country
that will reconcile these three pillars more than any other
countries in the world. It’s what is my campaign is
Solomon: And your campaign is built on these
two pillars. Now you often say that for years the Liberal
party was built on two pillars: social justice and economic
prosperity. What is the need for a third pillar? What was
lacking in the Liberal vision?
Dion: Because it was the 20th Century.
For a well-established democracy like Canada, the 20th Century
story was to reconcile economy and the social. To have the
growth and to make sure that everybody will benefit from it,
because the 19th Century has been economy, growth and jungle.
So we Liberals thought that it was possible to design social
policies in a way that will give people, uh, that people will
become healthier, more educated, better equipped in life,
more confident in themselves. And because of that, stronger
players in the economy and then the economy would become stronger
and giving more room to do more social justice, and we call
it the Liberal circle that we gave to Canadians with the help
of all Canadians in the 20 Century. And it’s why we
have been the party of the 20th Century.
Now, why do we need a third pillar? Because
we are in the new century, and in the 21st Century, for the
first time in the history of humanity, we discover that the
planet cannot sustain us, that the development we have, the
economy, growth and development that we have, is not sustainable,
that when you have the former chief economist of the world
bank telling you that humanity is in danger to lose a fifth
of its of its wealth in the coming decades, while the number
of human beings will go from six billion to nine billion between
now and 2050, we are in big trouble. And a country like Canada
was using more energy with 32 million inhabitants than 800
million Africans. A country like Canada must be part of the
solution, not only part of the problem. And if we are part
of the solution, we’ll be rich because we will sell
our solutions to the world. So economy and environment and
social (justice) must be together. My action plan is all about
Solomon: All right, we’ll talk
about those three pillars, but I want to talk about leadership
and then we’ll go through some of those things. You
said a leader has to have a combination of a big ego and modesty.
And you said you’ve got a combination of both. When
is that mix dangerous? I mean, you look at the other candidates.
Do some of them have the balance out of whack? Maybe too much
ego and not enough modesty?
Dion: I cannot speak for the others.
What I want to say is I have more experience as a cabinet
minister than the seven other candidates together. I am told
that this experience has been successful, and it’s better
to have successful experience than another kind of experience.
And experience is not something that prevents you to innovate
- to the contrary. Building from the great tradition of the
Liberal party and proposing to build from it the two pillars
approach, and to add something new -- that will help Canada
to be stronger in the 21st century.
Solomon: Mr. Dion, you know, when the
players get the play book on Stephane Dion, they go ‘smart,
accomplished, lots of integrity.’ All the other Liberals
agree on that. I spoke to a Liberal cabinet minister, off
the record, and he said to me 'I work with Stephane Dion at
the cabinet table and he was never a leader, even at the cabinet
table, he doesn’t have leadership qualities... smart,
innovative, but not the charisma of a leader'. How do you
respond to that?
Dion: I would like this guy to tell me
that, because I think, at the cabinet table, I have been known
that when I was speaking it was meaningful and helpful.
Solomon: Were you a leader?
Dion: But a leader, yes, I am a leader,
but I never pretended to be a leader. I never went to see
this colleague and the other colleagues and to say ‘you
know when the guy will be out I will try and then if you support
me I will help you again.’ I never did that.
Solomon: You weren’t part of the Liberal
Dion: I was never involved in any of that, wrong
Solomon: But does that hurt you now? Sometimes
people mistake loyalty and being quiet for the inability to
Dion: Exactly. I think I have stood for a purpose
of a theory of organization. If you are too good in the job
where you are, people will think that you fit in there but
you cannot go higher. And I was, I am being told, a very,
very successful minister. Each time Mr. Chrétien or
Mr. Martin had something tough to do they were pleased to
ask me to do it, and I was delivering for my prime minister.
I never tried to undermine my Prime Minister, never tried
to go around and to muse that I may be the one after. And
when, by surprise, I was in this race with people believing
in me it was a lot of surprise for others, Dion we never we
identified him as a potential leader, yes because they were
telling us that but not Dion. So in April when we started
we started from scratch. We were a network and now we are
a powerful movement and you have seen how much we grow because
people see me as a leader.
Solomon: Charisma -- is it important
to a leader? And if so, do you think you’ve got that
Dion: I think I have a capacity, yes, to convince
the people and to mobilize a nation. And the people that said
that I have no charisma never saw me delivering a speech.
I’m able to move the people. I’m able to bring
passion. Pierre Elliot Trudeau used to say the passion of
reason -- I have it.
Solomon: The passion of reason.
Solomon: What about the language barrier? Gerard
Kennedy has been criticized because his French isn’t
good enough. Is your English good enough to connect with people
and to articulate the kind of passion that you say you have?
Dion: Well it’s for you to decide and
for the people listening to me. I will not dispute the fact
that among the eight candidates I’m the one with the
strongest French accent. But, I think I’m able to reach
the people, to move them and to convince them and to listen
to them. Because a leader must not only lead, but he must
also listen and learn from others and I’m able to learn.
Solomon: A leader has to represent something.
Stephen Harper says he represents the voice of the New West
and he’s using that to reunite the country. Every leader
comes from a group and says they’re emblematic. You’re
a polarizing figure in Quebec, as you know. You know you’ve
been very much involved, for years, in the great debates in
Quebec about sovereignty. Who do you represent?
Dion: I represent a great hope for the
Canadian people and this hope will be the same in French and
in English, en Francais and in English. It will be
the same in Quebec and Ontario and the West. The direction,
the hope, is to see us on the podium of the sustainable economy.
To start this century, you know, with, at the end of the century,
we’ll have a much better quality of life that otherwise
to protect our children against the chemicals and all the
polluting dangers that we are surrounded by, and to help the
world to reconcile itself with the planet. This is the hope.
To go there, we need to build it on the diversity of Canada.
The strength that we have, we Quebeckers, with our culture,
our talents, our own skills and the ones you see in Ontario,
in the West, in the East part of the country, and in the north.
All in the same direction, but built on the diversity of the
country is what I’m proposing.
Solomon: You know, it’s part of
the purpose of these interviews to get people to know who
Stéphane Dion is. Your dad was a well known professor.
You’re a professor. But as a young man you flirted with
Solomon: And your dad was a federalist.
You, as a young man, thought: 'why not Quebec as a nation?'
Why did you change positions from a separatist to a federalist?
Dion: You are mixing two things: Quebec
as a nation and separatism. Yes, when I was a teenager I tried
to challenge my father on many things, including politics.
And each evening I was coming and giving arguments why we
should have Quebec as a nation state.
Solomon: Nation state?
Dion: An independent state!
Solomon: An independent state -- well isn’t
that what separatism is?
Dion: Yes, separatism is that. And my father
was destroying my arguments very, very politely, respecting
me, explaining to me why my arguments were not as strong as
his arguments for Canada. I respected that a lot. It helped
me to become an adult, to challenge my father. And now I am
very convinced about Canada. I have this country in my body
and I have Quebec in my body as well.
Solomon: Michael Ignatieff has raised the stakes,
the old debate, and it’s the constitutional debate.
He says it’s not constitutional, but it’s become
that in the public discourse. and you know that the Quebec
wing of the Liberal party has raised the notion that the party
ought to strike a committee to recognize Quebec as a nation
within Canada. Michael Ignatieff has supported that and he’s
written articles that it’s a very important gesture.
He says it doesn’t have to come with constitutional
change. Why don’t you support this? What’s your
argument against this?
Dion: It has been improvised. It comes by surprise
for us to so many people. You started to say, Evan, that Quebec
is a nation. So it’s a separatist argument. Nation means
different things. If it means a state, well it’s a separatist
argument. If it means a national identity that Quebeckers
have, that we have of our own, then it may make sense.
Solomon: But he says it means, just to
be clear... Michael Ignatieff says it means a civic nation
of which he argues there are 5,000 civic nations recognized
by the United Nations in the world. Quebec has a national
Dion: This is not true. It’s my argument,
he may use my arguments if he wants, but I wrote indeed years
ago that you have about three or 5,000 human groups describing
themselves as nations and you have only 200 states in the
United Nations. So, we Canadians need to show to the world
that it’s possible to have different people with different
identities working together, as the same people, the same
nation in a state.
Solomon: It sounds to me like that’s Ignatieff’s
argument. isn’t it?
Dion: Except that it’s not true that these
3,000 or 5,000 human groups are recognized in a formal way,
in a document like a constitution. They are national identity
– they have national identities of their own. They don’t
mean necessarily from…
Solomon: So, is Quebec a nation?
Dion: I have no difficulty to find a definition
of the word ‘nation’ that may fit Quebec reality.
I have no difficulties to find definitions of the word ‘nation’
that will show that there are many nations in Quebec, or only
one nation in Canada. It depends on the definition you choose.
But, if you want to put that in the constitution then you
need to be very, very, very precise.
Solomon: But that’s what he says.
I just wondered, because it’s a lot about nuance, the
sentence ‘Quebec is a nation within Canada’ not
as part of the constitution according to Michael Ignatieff.
He doesn’t believe that has to be in the constitution,
but, a recognition and a symbolic gesture. Would you support
the statement that Quebec is a nation within Canada as a symbolic
Dion: If it’s a meaningful symbolic gesture
it must be in the constitution, otherwise it’s a half
recognition. And if it must be in the constitution before
we start this debate - and Mr. Ignatieff said it must be in
the constitution, he may say to oppose it now but he wrote
that. So he must be coherent with himself. If it’s in
the constitution, we do not want to repeat the mistake, the
failures of Meech and Charlottetown and the Calgary Declaration.
We need to have a very clear answer to some questions. First
question: how many nations do we want to put in the constitution?
You don’t know how to answer? Second question: oh you
Solomon: No, I don’t know, but I’m
only going to present the arguments to see how you react.
Mr. Ignatieff said the aboriginals also have a nation.
Dion: It’s only one nation? All
the Aboriginals are one nation, or 600 nations? The Acadians
-- I go each year to La Fete Nationale, a national holiday.
Are they a nation the same way that Quebeckers are a nation?
Anglo-Quebeckers -- can they claim to be a nation? Newfoundlanders
-- they were, some decades ago. Maybe if we ask them now the
question they say why are we not to be a nation too? So, second
question: what is the significance of these recognitions?
Is it purely symbolic or that it means more powers, privileges
and public money to the people that are nations? If you compare
with people that are less than a nation do we want to go there?
If we want to go there, let’s start to have a clear
map of what we have to do before we start the debate. But,
what I want to say above all is, it’s sad that we have
spent minutes about that when we have so few minutes to discuss
about the real challenge Canada has to face. Do you know in
China there are 350,000 engineers more every year in China
paid $14 per hour? Do you know in Canada from any nation you
want to choose who will want to be paid $14 per hour? We need
to compete with them, and if we want to make it a priority
to count the number of nations in Canada to put in the constitution
I will not be this leader. I will be the leader that will
help Canada to have a sustainable economy, able to compete
with China, Japan, the United States and Europe for the good
sake of our children in the next generations.
It’s what I want to do for Canadians today, tomorrow
and the day after tomorrow.
Solomon: And Mr. Dion I think, and I
absolutely want to get to that, but this is a good question,
because in a leadership race we deal with the issues that
are emerging and this is big, this Quebec issue has emerged
because of Michael Ignatieff’s support for it. And I
wonder, do you think he’s made a mistake for the Liberal
party and for this race in raising this question?
Dion: I just said that I will not lose my focus.
My focus is the three pillars approach: economy, social, environment
together. It’s the best way to unify this country. Because,
we Quebeckers are great Canadians. We Quebeckers are great
Canadians when we have a great challenge that we share with
other Canadians. And it’s what I want to give to my
Solomon: But, you have to win support in Quebec.
Ignatieff’s arguing that by his gesture - and he wants
Liberal party support - he will win support in Quebec and
Denny Coderre, his leadership coordinator in Quebec, he’s
saying this is winning support in Quebec because we’re
facing the elephant in the room, that support for separatism
was not following and we’ve got to take a radical step.
You have been involved, more than almost anybody, in authoring
the clarity act, your three famous open letters to the sovereignty
and separatist movement. Is Michael Ignatieff winning support
in Quebec? And at the expense of something larger? Or is he
doing a brave thing in actually trying to solve something?
Dion: Ask him the question. Think about my race.
Let me now answer your question about my race. I think I have
a strong support in Quebec.
Solomon: You do?
Dion: Yes. People respect me, and my
capacity to grow, and to have more delegates coming from Bob
and Michael. It’s great. Because Quebeckers understand
that I have identified the issues that are the most, more
important for their wallet and for their role in Canada and
for the role of Canada in the world. And I’m very confident
it’s the way to unify this party.
Solomon: You can build support in Quebec?
Dion: Yes, because the strategy to pretend
that Canada is not respecting Quebecers, unless there is a
mysterious constitutional change, that is, that need to be
delivered, it’s wrong and it’s not true. This
country is all open to us Quebeckers. Canada is an incredible
leader for us, if we use it with other Canadians and it’s
what I want to communicate to Quebeckers. The Clarity Act
was more than an act. It was a philosophy. And it is a philosophy.
The philosophy is that to break up a country like Canada you
need to have crucial reasons, very important reasons. And
so separatist leaders: please deliver these reasons, because
otherwise why would we break up Canada? Tell us how, how come
we Quebeckers will be happier if we were not Canadian? If
you’re unable to explain that to us, we’ll stay
in Canada and we’ll improve this great country.
Solomon: Is that why Bernard Landry came
out recently and said he applauded the ambiguous language
of Quebec as a nation that’s…
Dion: Again, they want to play the separatist
leaders about this word 'nation' is the following: you have
two meanings in French. It means a national group, a social
identity. In English it mostly means a national state. And
what they want to do is to shift from a meaning to another
one, in order to give the sense that if you recognize us as
a nation, the next step then is to give us more powers to
the point that we will be a nation state. I don’t want
to play this game. I have no difficulty, as I told you, to
define the definition of Quebeckers as a nation. I have no
difficulty to define a definition of Canada as a nation including
Quebeckers in this nation. My difficulty is to start on the
bad footing a new constitutional round. Because Mr. Ignatieff
may say it’s not the constitution, if you speak about
the recognition in order to give respect to people, because
you pretend they are not respected today, it cannot be short
of a constitutional debate. And before I start that, I want
to start that on the good footing. And the bad footing is
to start that in saying, as the resolution is saying, that
we Quebeckers are not respected in Canada. This is wrong.
This is untrue. We are fully respected. We have full capacity
to improve this country. And this country must be improved,
otherwise we will not be one of the leading countries of the
21st Century. We will not do our share for the planet, at
the time where there is a divorce between the people and the
planet. I want Canada to be a leading country for the good
sake of our selves, our next generations, our children in
the next generations, and the role of Canada in the world.
Solomon: Let’s talk about the environment.
It’s one of your key pillars of sustainable economy.
One of the knocks against the Liberals is they always talk
a big game about the environment. You were the environment
minister. After over a decade of Liberal leadership, we all
know that greenhouse gas emissions actually went up. They
didn’t go down. We didn’t hit our Kyoto targets.
So, for all the talk, there was no action. How do people trust
that Stéphane Dion is talking action and not just more
Dion: When I became minister of the environment?
Solomon: 2004, that’s right.
Dion: So one year and a half.
Solomon: And you released the green paper
and, yes, I know about the Montreal Protocol, but…
Dion: But what?
Solomon: Well, I just ask you: was the Liberal
leadership record on the environment, in their decade of leadership
or more, was it good or bad?
Dion: The truth is, our economy is built
on waste and we have enjoyed it for more than a century: a
lot of natural resources, a lot of water, a lot of space to
dump everything. And we have not been careful and up to now
it didn’t hurt us too much. I think now it will hurt
us. And we need to learn to be energy efficient. The Liberal
government has been good under the circumstances. Don’t
forget that 19% of our GDP in Canada is in the hands of what
we call the large funnel emitters, the big polluters, 19%.
It’s 9% in the United States, so I don’t want
these industries to leave the country because if they leave
the country we’ll loose jobs. But also they will go
in countries where there is no regulation and they will pollute
even more and the planet will not be in the better situation.
I want them to stay. I want to give them demanding but reasonable
regulations that meet targets to reach. I want to work with
them, with the market in creating a carbon market in Canada.
It’s the best way to proceed. I want to boost the efficiency
of the new sources of energy in Canada, to wake up all the
innovation that is dormant in this country, to find the solutions.
Let me talk about Alberta. If we reconcile the incredible
economic growth in the very, very worrying environmental threat
that you have in Alberta to make something sustainable, if
we succeed in Alberta we’ll succeed everywhere in the
world after. And we will export these solutions and we will
make mega tonnes of money with it. It’s what I want
Solomon: But, you know the resistance,
and the Conservative plan was about, not about greenhouse
gas emissions, but about intensity, because they say that
trying to reach Kyoto targets are unreasonable, too costly
and they will choke off one of the great economic opportunities
of Canadian history, which is the Oil Sands, which will generate
enough energy that will feed generations of prosperity. And
they are interested in intensity. What’s your criticism
Dion: They are doing nothing, even not intensity.
It’s only talks. If we would have been re-elected today
in Canada we would have a carbon market which would be going.
The industry was looking….
Solomon: Just explain for people what a carbon
Dion: Okay, fair point. You give to your
industry a reduction, let’s say 10% of reduction of
emissions, so less tonnes of greenhouse gases or polluting
smog emissions, whatever. They need to decrease it, let’s
say by 10%. If an industry is able to decrease it by 15% or
20%, they have an extra cut of emissions that they may sell.
Solomon: They can sell it as a credit, okay.
Dion: In the market, if you create the
market. And though it will help to have the cuts where it
is less costly to reach and everybody has an interest to go
deeper than the target in order to make money. Money to what
their opponents, their competitors will have to pay. So it’s
very, very efficient and it’s what we need to do in
Canada. Mr. Harper cancelled it, but (Environment Minister,
Rona) Ambrose is still not sure if she will do it. So we are
wasting a lot of time. I’m saying that the target is
reachable. But it’s not for the good sake to reach a
target. It’s because it’s a way to make our economy
more efficient, built on efficiency instead of waste, and
in 2012 to have both better quality of life because less pollution,
a Canada more respected in the world because we are doing
our share and a much more modern and efficient economy than
Solomon: You know polls show that the
environment, just this week, has reached one of the top priorities
for Canadians and this is a significant jump. Some critics
say people love to be concerned about the environment. They
make it a priority when it’s not an election time, but
come election time, it fades down, and the wallet takes over
from the idealism, and it’s about healthcare, and it’s
about taxe,s and it’s about all those things that moms
and dads, and men and women and kids, face every single day.
Will the environment stay as a top issue in the election?
Dion: If we don’t underestimate
the Canadian people, I think they are ready to vote next time
for concrete deliverables in their pocket, yeah certainly,
but also for a collective effort that makes sense for ourselves
and our children. They are ready for that. And it’s
the only way the Liberals may be back, if we have an approach
of responsibility. Vote for action, not only for short-term
Solomon: But is the NDP and the Green Party
covering that area already?
Dion: Only the Liberals are in the good situation
to campaign not on the environment alone, to campaign on the
three pillars: economic vitality, social justice, environmental
sustainability and to bring together all Canadians from the
West, from Ontario, from Quebec, in French and English multi-controlled
Canada, the North. We have this capacity if we have the political
will and the leadership. And I want to provide this leadership.
Solomon: Let’s talk about Afghanistan.
You voted originally for the mission. You voted against extending
the mission. It’s a hard thing to understand how Liberals
vote for the mission but against extending it. Would you pull
the troops out of Afghanistan?
Dion: The mission was to help a U.S. mission
in the south of Afghanistan to become a NATO mission. We have
been told that we were the country in the best situation to
do this transition. The transition is done now. So Mr. Harper
decided to add two new years without a clear mission, without
the clear mandate from NATO, without to know how we will deal
with the problem there. Let’s say the crop -- will we
change the crop or keep it?
Solomon: The opium crop?
Solomon: Or the poppy crop?
Dion: The poppy, in order to have illicit activity
like pharmaceuticals or something. We need a Marshall plan
in Afghanistan, but these NATO conservative governments in
U.S. and Canada are unable even to identify how to deal with
it. And if we don’t have this rational approach we’ll
loose a lot of lives and money in Afghanistan for no result.
Solomon: I mean you know that they’re
there. If you talk to, and I talked to General Rick Hillier,
and you know they say they’re trying to help the citizens
build schools and have a rule of law and they’re helping
battle the Taliban.
Dion: There is no overall strategy regarding
the crop, which is 50% of their GDP and it is something in
the hands of the war lords.
Solomon: But what would the strategy
be? I just, for the record, I asked Rick Hillier and there
is questions about what to do with the crop because if you
pull up the poppy crop it’s the only source of income
for many poor Afghanis. They would turn on you. They may go
right to the Taliban.
Dion: I’m not an expert, but we need a
strategy. I need to hear my Prime Minister saying we’ll
focus on that. We have some reports that are saying that we
may use it for pharmaceutical reasons. It may make sense.
Solomon: What would you do?
Dion: I would focus on that, and I would
try to design a policy that makes sense, because today it
doesn’t make sense. And if it doesn’t make sense,
I will come up with a conclusion. I’m not saying I will
stay there until 2009 whatever happens. If it doesn’t
make sense, if I’m not able to….
Solomon: Would you complete the two-year mission
that Stephen Harper passed?
Dion: It depends on how it works. We should
say to the world Canada doesn’t want to be there if
there is no progress, if there is no strategy, if it’s
only corruption and no results and no security for the people
on the ground.
Solomon: Would that be giving up on the people
Dion: Well, if we are unable to help
the people of Afghanistan, we need to come to the conclusion
that we may help other people elsewhere in the world. But
if we are able to help the people of Afghanistan, it’s
because we will have designed a mission that makes sense.
And Canada must have leadership of that. Mr. Harper, what
he did was he said, ‘I am the one.’ He said that
last spring, as a macho. He blackmailed the house asking us
for an extension or otherwise they will have an election.
He said, ‘I am the one’ to the other countries.
And now he’s complaining that the other countries are
not doing their share. Well, he has the result of his own
Solomon: Now, there are questions about
the military budget. The question in Afghanistan is, even
for this mission, that the military has said it’s over
stretched. Would you, as Prime Minister, increase the budget
for the military so it could not only do more missions like
Afghanistan, but as you talked about go in other places as
Dion: And, I need to be sure that the
mission makes sense before we put more money in it. If the
argument is that it will make sense if we put more money in
it, I will not believe it. I need to know what is a strategy
about the crop, about the economic development, about the
military effort. Maybe we need to focus on the regions that
are safer before we go in the mountains to fight and kill
the so-called Talibans when sometimes we are killing other
people, and we are not sure what we are doing. And anyway
to try to destroy the Talibans when they will go in the mountains
in Pakistan, because the border is out of control, it doesn’t
make sense to me. So it’s what I would do. Something
I will never do though, Evan, I will never leave in dishonour
like Mr. Layton is proposing. I will not do that. Canada will
not leave in dishonour.
Solomon: Will not leave in dishonour?
Dion: No, but we may conclude that after all
the effort we made we are not helping the people.
Solomon: But so again….
Dion: It’s not a dishonour to come to
the conclusions of this kind after a lot of talks with our
Solomon: I just want some straight talk, so
you may not stay in to complete the mission but you will not….
Dion: But I may too. It depends.
Solomon: But you may so….
Dion: I need to have an assessment of the situation
that is professional and that is understandable for all Canadians.
Solomon: But if the mission, you know there
is a vote to extend the mission without that assessment. If
you had been Prime Minister then would you have not extended
Dion: Certainly not, because we had not
a clear mandate about this two year extension, a doable strategy
and we are in the mess in which we are today. And I don’t
want Afghanistan to become an Iraq. And if we do what Harper
is doing, to be the macho, to say 'it’s me and we will
do it', copying the language and the style of the president
of the United States, it may be.
Solomon: Do you think he’s copying the
style of the….
Dion: Oh completely! We have a prime minister
who thinks that the United States is not only an ally for
us but also a model, and not only for foreign affairs, but
also domestically. Let’s take his approach to be tough
on crime - the same rhetoric and he said the choice is between
tough on crime or soft on crime. I’m sorry, it’s
not true. We need to be smart on crime. And the worst record
you have in the United States is the approach they had about
crime. I don’t want to copy it in Canada, and it’s
what he’s doing.
Solomon: As a prime minister you may have to
work with the President of the United States. How do you work
with someone after being so critical of them?
Dion: I’m not critical of a person. I
never personalize. I have nothing bad to say about any elected
representative of any democracy of the world. Dictators are
something else. I respect the executive that the Americans
are electing. I will work with this person, but at the same
time I know what I prefer to see in Canada and what I don’t
want to see in Canada. And there are things to learn from
the United States and there are things to not copy. It’s
what I would do. But, this being said, when I worked with
my American counterparts about climate change and the environment
I was being very respectful and very successful, despite the
differences of view. I brought them to work with the international
world about climate change when at the beginning my counterparts
were not willing to do anything. So, there is a way to work
with them if you are respectful and firm at the same time.
Solomon: Quickly, Saddam Hussein has been tried
and may be given the death penalty pending the appeals. would
you support the death penalty for someone like that?
Dion: No. I’m against the death penalty.
It will do nothing to humanity if he is killed. I think he
must stay in jail and justice must be done.
Solomon: But that is the Iraqi form of justice.
Dion: It’s their choice. I have no sovereignty
on Iraq. I hope I will be a leader for Canada and a G8 leader.
And I will always argue that the death penalty is not something
that civilization must do.
Solomon: Healthcare -- in the past, you’ve
said you would support, and I’m going to quote, “some
private practice within our healthcare,” because already
you say private practice plays a significant role in the healthcare
of the nation. How would you balance, in the changing and
demanding structure of healthcare which continues to be the
number one issue, how would you balance private and public?
And would you allow more private healthcare?
Dion: I will allow any private practices that
made sense to Canadians to have better access to the service.
Solomon: Such as what?
Dion: But never will the access to the service
will be linked to the size of the wallet. This is what the
Canada Health Act is all about, and I will make sure that
the Canada Health Act is respected.
Solomon: But what if it’s not working?
And you know the decision in Quebec, and it’s very important,
which has said - the Supreme Court decision - which said if
you cannot get good healthcare, you are entitled to do it
through private healthcare. And so therefore, if the Canadian
healthcare act is not providing good service, would you as
Prime Minister allow private practice to get in there?
Dion: Well what is being said to do in Quebec
made sense. What Ralph Klein was using to do in Alberta didn’t,
so we need to be very careful about that.
Solomon: So what is….
Dion: But what I want to say is that
this focus, almost exclusive focus, that we have in Canada
when we speak about healthcare, about the role of the private
and the public, we are missing the most important challenge
we are facing. And it is not in the hospitals that we come
sick most of the time. If one Canadian out of three will have
cancer in his or her life, you think it’s because of
the healthcare system? No. It’s creating a lot of stress
on the healthcare system, but it’s because of our relationship
with the environment. And one I want to regulate, to put the
chemicals and the toxics that are cancer-causing out of the
market. I want to be sure that we will be out of the hospitals
as much as possible.
Solomon: That’s the prophylactic….
Dion: This is something we are not doing
enough in Canada, and I will do it a lot. Another thing, we
need to have much more information. We need to have much more
self care if you don’t want to go to the hospital each
time you have a trouble. And now many people….
Solomon: But you know that’s a
long term solution. But when you’re on the election
campaign, there are people who are sick - now. They are in
long line ups - now. They are frustrated - now. And they say,
‘Prime Minister Dion, what will you do?’ And tell
us what range of private healthcare you would allow to alleviate
the stresses on the public system?
Dion: And I don’t think to open
the door to a situation like in the United States, where you
have a two-tier regime, will help the people. So it’s
not my solution. My solution is certainly to continue what
we have done with the provinces through the last agreements
we had on the Chrétien and Martin, the 42 billion dollars
that we are investing to help people to have access to better
services, better qualities. But there are a lot of things
I want to do in my own jurisdiction - the federal jurisdiction
- that is not done enough. I spoke about regulations to put
the dangerous products and polluting products out of the market.
I want to speak also about what we use to do and we stopped,
to help people to have more sport activities. We need to invest
in it. You say it’s long term, maybe not so long. If
you are completely not using your body for anything and no
effort you would be in the hospitals pretty soon. And all
these kids that are 14-years-old and they have obesity, asthma,
diabetes, what kind of healthcare system will be able to afford
that in 10 or 15 years from now, if we don’t act now
at the source of the problem? The federal government has a
tremendous role to play there, the same for health. I am very
strong on it and what I want to do, Evan, I think is very
important is what they have in the U.K. It is a kind of national
health library, where on the internet you have self-care much
more than today. This is key to me. And these things are not
done because we are only focusing on one issue: private and
public in the healthcare system. It’s a mistake that
we are doing in Canada. I will not do this mistake.
Solomon: We only have a few minutes left. Polls
are showing that you’re very high up as a second choice
for most Liberals, but when it comes to the person who can
beat Stephen Harper you poll very low. Can you beat Stephen
Dion: Yes, I can. And what I think about this
poll is that Mr. Chrétien once said it’s good
to be underestimated in politics. I have been underestimated
in this race. Most of your colleagues didn’t see me
at all at the finish. Now I am at the finish. I am very confident
that I will win, with the great help I received from my volunteers,
that I want to thank so much. And so it will be a real surprise.
And then they will say you cannot win against Harper. I will
surprise them again!
Solomon: Have you been talking to other candidates,
like Gerard Kennedy or Bob Rae, about forming an alliance?
Dion: Everybody is taking to everybody. At this
very moment, where we speak, you have a hundred phone calls
made by all the camps to each other. It’s a very open
race. I think it’s very good for the party, that we
are considered as celebrities with paparazzi trying to see
which meal we have in our plate.
Solomon: Do you enjoy that?
Dion: Well, I think it’s good for
the party. It’s great for the party and it’s a
very enjoyable race. I think all of us, all the candidates,
the eleven of us at the beginning, we are better now because
we travelled so much in this country, to meet Canadians in
all their communities - this has been a great experience.
Solomon: Stephen Harper won an election
because he had five points. They were simple. They were easy
to understand. If Stéphane Dion had five points and
I was taking an elevator ride with you what are the five points
I should know about the Dion platform? Sum them up.
Dion: I have only three pillars.
Solomon: You only have three, that’s
even shorter, Stéphane.
Dion: Three pillars with me: we’ll have
a much more strong economy, more social justice, and a safe
Solomon: Those are the three pillars.
Solomon: But are there three, you know….
Dion: Oh, you want concrete deliverables.
Solomon: Yeah, those are five deliverables.
remember he said he’d cut the GST. He had five deliverables.
what’s your five deliverables?
Dion: And they are very bad policies and people
see that today.
Solomon: Do you have five better ones?
Dion: So, I will not copy Harper. He is copying
Bush. I will not copy him. I will be myself.
Solomon: But, do you need deliverables?
Dion: Yes. I will have deliverables. You will
you open your door, I’m doing door to door. You ask
me why I would vote Liberal?
Dion: I will ask you: are you thinking
to retrofit your house, to change your house, to buy a cottage,
to buy a new car, to change your appliances or your furnace
or your acclimatization? Very likely you will say yes to something.
Then I say, 'perfect, I will give you a very good labelling.
You will know which product will save you money over the years
because it will be energy efficient and your electricity bill
will go down. But this product is likely to be more costly
at the beginning. So I will help you to offset the cost with
a tax rebate. Vote for me!'
Solomon: So a tax rebate on environmental and
energy efficient products?
Dion: Indeed, and in doing so, you will
help your wallet and help the planet. I think it’s a
Solomon: That’s good. That’s your
Dion: Yes. I want to involve the people
in this fight. If it’s only big industries and negotiations
at the international level, we’ll not make it. I met,
as minister of the environment, my colleague from Sweden.
You know, in Sweden they are incredibly successful. For 2020
they will have an economy mostly not dependent on oil and
gas. So they will have their freedom as an economy, if you
want. Well, they will have the strongest economy because of
that. They will not kill their economy, putting it with the
environment. So I asked my colleague, minister of the environment
of Sweden, what is the recipe for success? And she told me,
Stéphane, it’s very simple -- involve your population.
Once the population wants it, they will push governments and
industry in the back and it’s what I want to create
Solomon: It’s been a great pleasure to
speak with you today.
Dion: Thank you Evan. Thank you so much.