Maclean’s puts 10 key questions to each of the five major party leaders
On the record
Maclean’s puts 10 key questions to each of the five major party leaders
Q. Can you say in three or four sentences why you are running?
CHRETIEN: I was blessed with the privilege of serving this country for 19 years in the cabinet. I think I know this nation quite well, and I think I can do the job better than my competitors. I’ve never believed in the ‘community of communities.’ There are not enough people in Canada, in my judgment, who try to keep Canada as a whole rather than thinking of Canada as only a grouping of different regions. I want to employ these concepts.
CAMPBELL: I’m running because I have a very clear sense of where I think we need to go as a country. I believe I lead the only party that has a realistic approach to meeting the challenges of the 1990s. We are only going to be able to get there, to change the way we do politics, if we develop a sense of common purpose. I think that is the fundamental
challenge of leadership. That is what I would like to bring to the process.
MANNING: I believe Canada can be governed better than it has been governed. I really do think we can manage our public money better, and that our public policies could be much more in tune with what the public is prepared to accept. To achieve those things requires systemic changes.
BOUCHARD: I want to achieve as much strength and power as possible for Quebec. I also want to achieve the main goal of the Bloc: the sovereignty of Quebec. We will work very constructively in the House in the meantime, but we have to explain our goals to English Canada and get them ready to accept the idea.
MCLAUGHLIN: I and my party are needed now more than ever. We’re being told by the right-wing parties that the hallmark of a country is the deficit. While I think the deficit is important, the hallmark of a country is the quality of life. I would bring to this job personal experience and understanding of the lives that most Canadians lead.
In an effort to control health-care costs, Quebec has proposed what it calls a disincentive fee that would apply to people j who seek non-emergency treatment in hospitals. Would you agree to that? Or are there other circumstances under which your government would allow a fee for medical services?
CHRÉTIEN: We are against user fees. That’s our policy.
CAMPBELL: Quebec’s proposal is not a user fee in the traditional sense, in other words, a fee that you have to pay to get service. It is intended to discourage the use of hospital emergency wards to provide routine services. The service would still be free if you went to the more economical servicedelivery centre. In my view, that does not run afoul of the principles of the Canada Health Act. And as long as the service were available to all people free, I think it would be a reasonable approach.
MANNING: Yes. We would free up the provinces to be directed by their electors as
to how they should raise the revenues for the provincial portion of health-care costs.
BOUCHARD: Obviously, I will not form the government. But I will fight any disincentive fee or any similar measure. Such fees would eventually lead to two classes of people in Canada: those who benefit from a high standard of medicine and the rest.
MCLAUGHLIN: User fees are not the answer. I think people will go where they can get the quickest and best care. If there are less expensive ways to do that, make them available. But what is the real purpose of these user fees? Is it to save money, or is it somehow to punish people who go for help?
Q Would you be prepared to tender your resignation if you are unable to live up It to your deficit-reduction targets?
CHRÉTIEN: We are elected for a mandate and the people pass judgment when we have an election. We’ll work to implement our plan. We can’t have an election every three months.
CAMPBELL: I think it would be fair to say that, as long as there were no unpredictable circumstances. [We would want] to make sure that we didn’t face a major international crisis or something like that which would throw our targets off. But I think the voters would answer that question for me in the next election.
MANNING: We’ve pledged that the government itself should resign and call an election if it’s unable to balance the budget over a business cycle—we’ve said three years.
BOUCHARD: We will be in the opposition, but we will go to great lengths to force the government to reduce the deficit so we can invest in job creation. It is one thing to talk about jobs, but to stimulate a recovery you really have to invest money in government programs.
MCLAUGHLIN: We’ve tried to be very reasonable about our deficit targets. If, however, there is a disaster that requires a massive outlay to make sure people don’t die, would you say, ‘Sorry, we can’t do that because we have a deficit target?’ There are many things that may not make it possible.
If you had to choose between reducing the deficit by another $1 billion or lowering the unemployment rate by half a percentage point, which would you choose?
CHRÉTIEN: The problems are never simplistic like that. If you move in one direction you might not achieve the result that you hoped. We always prefer to reduce unemployment. But it’s never put in those terms. It’s impossible to give a yes or no—you have to put it in the context of the complexity of economic policies.
CAMPBELL: I’m not sure it’s a realistic choice because deficit reduction and unemployment are so closely linked. My tendency would be to reduce unemployment because that would generate more revenue, but it’s a spurious choice.
MANNING: The question is based on a false premise. It assumes that the deficit and unemployment are not connected. We argue that they are. That presumption is what’s wrong with this debate.
BOUCHARD: You cannot do anything until you reduce the deficit. If you reduce the deficit, then you can do something about unemployment. You must do one to achieve the other. One is the method, the other is the objective.
MCLAUGHLIN: You have to get the unemployment rate down. One of the major contributors to the deficit is the fact that high unemployment results in decreased revenues. You cannot address the deficit unless you reduce unemployment.
Q. Should Canada introduce mandatory national exams in high school?
CHRÉTIEN: There’s no constitutional way to do it. Can we develop an incentive program for all the provinces? It would be desirable. But you cannot impose it. Education is a provincial jurisdiction.
CAMPBELL: The government of Canada does not have the constitutional authority to implement mandatory exams. But we should continue our work with the provinces to encourage that kind of standardization.
MANNING: We believe in national education standards, but I’m not convinced it has to involve that type of step.
BOUCHARD: Absolutely not. Our education programs must be designed for Quebec. If other provinces go along with it, it’s OK. But in Quebec, it should never be done.
MCLAUGHLIN: I am not opposed to national exams. But what would they be for? To get into university? To be a watchdog on schools? We would have to look at our objectives.
QQ: Should criminals who repeatedly comj mit violent or sexual offences be jailed for
life with no parole?
CHRÉTIEN: For me, sometimes it becomes a problem not of law, but mental health. Sometimes circumstances vary. I know it is a problem that has to be looked into and at sentencing is always controversial. There has to be a review all the time.
CAMPBELL: Where there is an ongoing danger to society, yes, that is a reasonable approach.
MANNING: We advocate that violent offenders, particularly sexual offenders, should not be eligible for parole. I guess that amounts to the same thing.
BOUCHARD: My first reaction is to say yes. But my guess is that people working in the rehabilitation programs might have a say in this. We should hear them out.
MCLAUGHLIN: To make a sweeping statement is wrong. I do think, however, that the parole of repeat violent or sexual offenders has to be carefully scrutinized.
If your policies were adopted, when would the unemployment rate, now 11.2 per cent, fall below 10 per cent?
CHRÉTIEN: Nobody can give you a date. We’ll work to reduce unemployment as rapidly as possible. And as long as somebody wants to work, we have to try to get that person a job.
CAMPBELL: I can’t make that prediction. But I would think that by the year 2000, we should be looking at an unemployment rate of much less than 10 per cent—in other words, two or three per cent lower.
MANNING: That can’t be predicted. Ideally, by the end of a year and a half or two years, the private sector should get the idea that you’re deadly serious about"controlling the deficit. The faster you do that, the sooner we will feel the stimulative effect.
BOUCHARD: I am not prepared to set time frames. I think we should do the best we can to create jobs now, to give people hope.
MCLAUGHLIN: In our plan, we see a nine-per-cent unemployment rate by 1995. By 1998, it would be down to about V/i per cent. It is not something that we like, but we have tried to be realistic.
Q Would you make it illegal for private citizens I to own handguns?
CHRÉTIEN: It is one of our objectives to make it more difficult. But a committee will evaluate if it Is permissible and under which circumstances.
CAMPBELL: There are some activities— the sport of pistol shooting, for example—where ownership is acceptable. I would like to see possession limited even more than it now is.
MANNING: No, I think that’s going too far. What we’d like to do is stiffen the penalties for the criminal use of firearms.
BOUCHARD: It would be easy to convince me to do that. Maybe some private citizens with very particular needs would be able to have them.
MCLAUGHLIN: The whole handgun legislation definitely should be reviewed by parliamentary committee.
Q. HOW soon should constitutional § talks resume?
CHRÉTIEN: It’s not part of my agenda. At this time, the agenda is very clear: it’s job creation and economic growth. At this time, it would be counterproductive to reopen the Constitution. When the time will be right for that, we’ll proceed. It’s not part of our priorities.
CAMPBELL: Only when they have a realistic prospect of success. They would not have It now.
MANNING: As soon as the public is prepared to entertain major discussions. It could be forced by Quebec making some decision with respect to its future. But I think the public—including Quebecers—would tend to defer the discussions rather than accelerate them.
BOUCHARD: They should not resume because there is nothing to do. Everything has been said, everything has been done. The conclusion is that Canada is impotent when it comes to modifying its Constitution. That is why many disappointed federalists will vote for the Bloc.
MCLAUGHLIN: Anyone who proposed a new round of constitutional talks at this point would be put in their place—quite rightly—by the Canadian electorate. Right now, we have to address the economic issues.
Qlf Quebecers voted in a referendum for sovereignty and you considered the wording or the process unsatisfactory, would % you consider holding a federal referendum?
CHRÉTIEN: I don’t want to speculate on that. It’s two ‘ifs’ in a row. There will be an election in Quebec. And there will be a referendum. I will work very hard to make sure that we never have to have a referendum. I will be working to make sure the federalists win the next provincial election.
CAMPBELL: That is a hypothetical situation. To ask someone to answer off the top of their head without the chance to reflect trivializes the issue.
MANNING: I would consider it. But there are steps that could and should be taken first. I believe there’s a search for a new federalism going on outside Quebec that has to be communicated to Quebec so that they see their options are not the current federalism or separation, but rather new federalism versus separation.
BOUCHARD: I would find a federal referendum illegitimate. The only legitimate referendum will be the Quebec referendum. You can trust Quebecers to word the question in a clear and decisive way. Something like: ‘Do you agree that Quebec should become sovereign?’
MCLAUGHLIN: I would not even speculate on what might happen in Quebec.
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