Renegotiate NAFTA: NDP
Janice Tibbetts , Canwest News Service
Published: Monday, September 22, 2008
HAMILTON, Ont. - An NDP government would fight to reopen the North American Free Trade Agreement to beef up protection for Canadian jobs, NDP Leader Jack Layton said Monday.
"We want a new NAFTA. We want a North American fair trade agreement," Layton told a crowd of about 100 supporters. "We want a fair deal, not a sellout."
With the prospect of the next U.S. president reopening NAFTA, Layton also said his New Democrats, among other things, would fight to add "meaningful" labour and environmental standards to the deal, reform the energy provisions, which require the export of fossil fuels to the United States even when there are shortages in Canada.
He said the NDP would also fight to remove the deal's contentious provision that permits foreign investors to legally challenge Canadian policies.
Layton said he is prepared to do whatever it takes to get his party's proposals onto the federal cabinet table, including partnering with other parties to stop the policies of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
While Layton insisted he is campaigning to become prime minister and would work with any party from that position, he told reporters he would negotiate with any Parliament that Canadians elect, minority or otherwise, in order to "put kitchen table issues front and centre" - such as a national daycare program and training more doctors and nurses.
"It goes back to my days on municipal council, you roll up your sleeves and you try to solve a problem," Layton said during a television interview in the morning. "I think right now the problem we have is Stephen Harper and his Conservatives. They're taking the country down the wrong path."
In his speech, Layton condemned Harper's policies on the environment and Afghanistan, promising the NDP would roll back $50 billion in corporate tax cuts he says the Conservatives have bestowed on their "corporate boardroom buddies."
As for fighting violent crime, he said Harper was wrong about a proposal to publish names of young offenders to crack down on troubled youth.
"I think to deal with serious violent crime, we need more police officers, we need serious handgun controls, we need a witness protection program that actually works so people aren't afraid to come forward with information," Layton said. "We need investments in youth programs so that young people don't end up on these paths toward gang participation. I have yet to meet anyone who has said to me that the most important issue on their mind is the publishing of names of underage offenders."
He also lashed out at Liberal Leader Stephane Dion, accusing him of "propping up" Harper's minority Conservative government since winning the leadership in December 2006.
He urged Canadians to be skeptical about the promises and policies introduced in the Liberal party's new election platform in areas such as childcare and pharmacare.
"What we've seen so far is the things that they promise they may decide not to follow through on," Layton said. "What's new about this election is they'll make a promise and say mid-election that it's no longer their promise. I don't think Canadians can have a lot of confidence in the kind of commitments we're seeing laid out by the Liberal party today."
Layton chose to deliver his economic messages in southern Ontario, where the manufacturing sector has been hit hard by job losses.
He was also scheduled to head to Quebec on Monday, where he plans to make several stops over two days to try to shore up hopes of picking up a seat or two in the province, where the party held one Montreal seat when Parliament dissolved in early September.