INTERVIEW: Stéphane Dion

In 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 much.

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 qualities.

Solomon: You do now - you have a big ego?

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 all about!

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 that!

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 infighting.

Dion: I was never involved in any of that, wrong leadership.

Solomon: But does that hurt you now? Sometimes people mistake loyalty and being quiet for the inability to lead.

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 elusive quality?

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.

Dion: Yeah!

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 separatism yourself.

Dion: Yes!

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 assembly.

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 gesture?

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 know?

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 country.

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 talk?

Dion: When I became minister of the environment? July 2004.

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 to do!

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 of that?

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 market is.

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 today.

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 retribution.

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?

Dion: Yeah.

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 of Afghanistan?

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 approach.

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 well?

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 allies.

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 the mission?

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 Harper?

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 environment.

Solomon: Those are the three pillars.

Dion: Yeah.

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?

Solomon: Yeah.

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 good slogan.

Solomon: That’s good. That’s your deliverable.

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 in Canada.

Solomon: It’s been a great pleasure to speak with you today.

Dion: Thank you Evan. Thank you so much.


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