Navdeep Bains, MP for Mississauga Brampton South speaks on Party Renewal, climate change, immigrant settlement and more

As Co-Chair of Party Renewal, what are some measures and reforms you have come up with and plan to include in the next platform?
 
Our biggest goal is to connect to the party membership and constituents. Thus our greatest reform is in governance. We are using a 3-pronged approach: increasing internal efficiencies, using the 308 strategy to make the party truly national and more democratic, and restructuring the party leadership selection.
Currently leadership selection is decided by way of a delegated convention. Each riding association elects an equal number of members who then travel to a central convention site where they vote on a Leader.  This system has served us well and produced many great leaders but the country has changed a lot over the past 142 years.  Technology has eliminated distances and made it possible to involve the entire membership, not just a select few, in this important decision. 
We have therefore put forward a new way of selecting our leader called weighted, one-member, one-vote.  Under this system ALL members of the Liberal Party are able to vote for the Leader.  The “weighted” part means that just like in a delegated system, all ridings have an equal voice which ensures regional balance and reflects the realities of our parliamentary system of government.  This of course is only one of many changes we are making to improve ourselves
Under the leadership of Michael Ignatieff, the Liberal Party is going through a renaissance.  We are reasserting Liberal values and crafting a vision for a Canada that is inclusive, responsible and brimming with opportunity

These reforms appear to play a greater role in the federal system and internal party administration, such as election of the party leader. Which ones will actually affect citizens through their local MPs and how?
We are very much interested in addressing the issue of “How do we become more relevant in people’s lives?” We believe one of the most significant ways is through the renewal of ideas. For example, at the recently held conference in Montreal, entitled Canada 150: Rising to the Challenge, there was a huge turnout of people and many of them were able to voice their opinions on many different issues. We are trying to utilize the available technology to hear more from people and increase participation. This will make the party more democratic, thus affecting individual citizens.

You are a great advocate on issues of climate change. What do you think of the Harper government’s recent announcement to further delay imposing GHG emission standards, despite the recent passing of the Climate Change Act? What is your opinion of the government using the US’s inaction as an excuse to delay the imposition of such standards?
The government is using delaying techniques such as questioning the science put forward, and sabotaging events such as Copenhagen, where Canada won the Fossil Award for worst behaviour in negotiations. Using the US as an excuse is also a delayed technique, adding to the government’s strategy of delaying, denying and deflecting in matters of climate change. They know that the Obama administration will have a hard time pushing a climate change agenda so soon after the healthcare reform, so they are using it as a convenient excuse.

How do you believe this issue affects Canada in the global leadership community?
This hurts Canada’s image both bilaterally in terms of the US as well as multilaterally on a global scale. I believe that development of greenhouse technology could have been a niche for Canada and we are losing this comparative advantage. Increasingly there is a greater demand for clean air and clean water and Canada could have provided these with a range of technologies. Further, this would have create a high-tech, specific job market; we cannot compete with China for manufacturing small toys, or India for call centres, so this would be an area to really develop and take a leadership in.

You have been critical of the
Federal Government’s Recreational Infrastructure Canada (RINC) Program in terms of offering an economic stimulus to Mississauga. What do you think should have been included? What do you think must be done to rectify or improve the situation?
In large part the RINC was too political and was designed for photo-ops not real jobs. The money has not been spent where it had been said it would have been, or should have been. Rather than red tape, federal planning, money should be directly transferred to municipalities who can implement those programs that they deem necessary. This would be more effective and create the jobs that need to be created.

What specific measures and standards are you advocating for to guarantee Employment Insurance to all those who are in need for it?
Firstly the 360 hour initiative, where after 360 hours of work, individuals become eligible for EI benefits. Right now each province and region has a different standard for determining who receives EI. In such a recession, it is necessary to standardize this measure and this can be done through the 360 hour initiative. In addition, we are trying to find ways of reducing premium rates, because when the payroll tax increases, number of jobs decrease. Thus we are proposing further training and higher youth employment.

How would you address critiques that might point at differences and inequalities between provinces and regions in terms of opportunity and overall economic activity and progress as a basis for differential requirements for EI qualification?
Yes there are historical differences between provinces and regions, however we are currently experiencing unprecedented unemployment rates and jobs are being lost in key areas such as manufacturing. Therefore, we need to create equal opportunities for all and not allow people to fall through the cracks. EI is meant to save those who are falling through the crack.

Why do you think there is a huge backlog with citizenship applications and how do you think it can and needs to be addressed?
The backlog is largely a bipartisan issue. The government needs to consider increasing immigration numbers per year and address lack of resources in foreign embassies. Often immigrants are obtaining insufficient or false information in their home countries about the processes and requirements, which plays a large role in the backlog of applications. It must also be realised that immigration is not just a numbers game, it affects people in negative ways and has many social implications, and thus a higher priority needs to be placed on issues such as family reunification. In addition, immigrants come to Canada to succeed not to fail, so they work hard here, they earn here and they spend here. This not only enhances their lifestyle and standard of living, but also contributes to the Canadian economy.

Many foreigners are lured into Canada on the basis of educational merit, yet are faced with problem of professional recognition upon arriving in Canada. What do you think needs to be done about this, particularly as many of these professionals are in areas deemed “very necessary” in Canada such as the healthcare field?
I agree, a major reform needs to take place in terms of foreign accreditation. We need to deal and work with medical, engineering and other professional bodies and give them incentives and programs to train these foreigners and have their education recognized.

What measures are you proposing to reduce the gap in spending on immigrant settlement in the Peel region (versus that in other parts of the country)?
This gap has been compounded by a further $180 million cut in funds. What the government needs to realise, as I mentioned before, is that these immigrants work and spend in the Canadian economy, thus it is important to consider them a major part of the stimulus package. My main goal is to put pressure on the provincial and federal governments to increase spending on immigrant settlement in the Peel region.

With federal and provincial budgets already overwhelmed, how do you think a national child care strategy (as created by former Prime Minister Martin) can be effectively implemented without compromising expenditure on other services? Would providing child care, as well as greater investment in public housing, not result in the cancellation of other services?
Yes, it is definitely about choices and we have many limitations. However we have to realise that investing in these key areas of childcare and housing will result in less expenditure in the future. It is basically a case of short term pain for long term gain. For example, our investment in healthcare and education is the reason that many companies set up in Canada as they do not have to spend as much, or any, money on training and health. That is our competitive agenda. Similarly, investment in public housing provides individuals with the opportunity to work and earn a dignified standard of living. This individual can then spend and contribute to the economy and work himself out of subsidized housing. Investing in public housing reduces the expenditure in EI.

What are some of the greatest barriers and challenged faced by small businesses and business owners?
Credit is a major barrier – people have many good ideas and work ethic but do not have the financial means to carry out their ideas. Another significant barrier is the lack of access to foreign markets. The US is connecting with China, Russia, etc but Canada is not tapping into such markets. I am working to increase both access to credit as well as foreign markets. The bureaucracy involved in business is also a great challenge faced by many smaller businesses.

What specific measures and changes are you fighting for to support small businesses by reducing the bureaucratic process and increasing their access to credit and foreign markets?
We would like to have more Trade Canada missions which would help small business owners to network with foreign business owners and take Canadian businesses overseas. We also want to empower Business Development Canada*; banks cannot meet the needs of all businesses, therefore the government has to step in to facilitate and empower banks, which in turn will empower small businesses
*The Business Development Bank of Canada is a crown corporation financial institution wholly owned by the Government of Canada. BDC plays a leadership role in delivering financial and consulting services to Canadian small business, with a particular focus on technology and exporting.

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