NDP leadership hopeful Guy Caron was in Whitehorse over the weekend for the Yukon NDP convention.
Caron, MP for Rimouski-Neigette-Témiscouata-Les Basques in Quebec, said his riding — rural and dependent on seasonal work — had much in common with the Yukon.
He said the NDP needs to have a strong economic platform.
“The NDP is not known as the party of the economy and that’s a mistake,” he said. “We’ve left the Conservatives and the Liberals for too long label us on those issues.”
So far, a universal basic income has been his major platform point in the leadership race. Caron’s basic income plan would provide a taxable income supplement to all low-income Canadians.
“It’s not only to fight poverty but also to assist to alleviate economic insecurity,” he said
Basic income already exists in the form of the Canada child benefit and guaranteed income supplements for seniors, he said.
The minimum income would be calculated differently depending on the regional economic situation — residents in the territories, where the cost of living is higher, would get more.
“We can’t afford not to do it, poverty is very expensive,” Caron said.
There are more homeless people than ever across the country, and poverty costs the country billions of dollars per year, he said.
On the other hand, Justin Trudeau’s government went from a balanced budget to a $28-billion deficit, with “very little to show for it,” he said.
And he took aim at Maxime Bernier’s proposed tax cuts that he saw as only favouring the most wealthy.
“That’s not a social project but that will be costing a lot and nobody is saying ‘it’s too much,’” he said. “I don’t see why fighting poverty will actually be too costly when cutting taxes on the rich wouldn’t be.”
Ultimately, marginalization results in the rise of figures like Donald Trump, Caron said.
“(They’re) taking advantage of their despair by making (people) dream of a return to normal and more inclusion,” he said “This is what we need to avoid in the country.”
When talking with Yukoners over the weekend, the topic of climate change came up often, as did questions about his basic income proposal.
“It’s not that strange (it would come up) because climate change is affecting the north more than any other region,” he said.
On the issue of carbon pricing, Caron said he was open to a carbon tax but that it had to be adapted to each region’s economies.
“I do believe it is part of the fight we need to have against climate change,” he said. “But it needs to be done in a way that will not impoverish people.”
On the crime front, Caron said he didn’t believe in mandatory minimum sentences, which he said were proven not to be an effective deterrent and lead to increasing justice costs.
He tied poor economic conditions to higher crime rates.
“We need to work to improve economic conditions to make people feel they’re not in desperate situations,” he said.
Contact Pierre Chauvin at firstname.lastname@example.org