Monday, August 24, 2009

Layton's Address to the NDP National Convention

This of course is a rah rah propagandistic speech but then it is meant to enthuse the party rank and file so this is not surprising. The press tends to portray the NDP as old hat and going nowhere but as Layton points out it has made several breakthroughs recently including winning federal seats in Quebec and Alberta and electing a provincial government in Nova Scotia. This is not exactly going nowhere even though the federal polls have not made any breakthrough for sure.
Layton is surely right that emphasis is often upon green shoots and signs that the economy is bottoming out or growth is actually slightly positive rather than the fact that unemployment is actually increasing and because of budget constraints the social safety net is being eroded while poverty is growing.

Jack Layton's address to the New Democrat National Convention
Sun 16 Aug 2009
Bonjour. Good morning.
I’d like to begin by acknowledging that we are meeting here in traditional Mi’kmaq territory. Please join me, on behalf of all New Democrats, in sending our condolences to the family of courageous Mi’kmaq activist Donald Marshall Jr., who died last week. Donald’s heroic struggle for the rights of his people brings to mind the long struggle for the residential-schools apology that took place in the House of Commons a year ago.
But an apology is never complete until action has been taken. And that hasn’t been done.
Let’s get it done.
Now friends, how about this convention?
I’ve got to tell ya, I’ve had so much fun here in Halifax this weekend, that I’ll be humming Farewell to Nova Scotia/your sea-bound coast for months to come. I get the feeling you’ve enjoyed yourselves too. How about a big thanks to everyone who put this great convention together!
I came here thinking about the faces of the many Canadians who told me that they feel abandoned by their government this summer. Too many Canadians need help and aren’t getting it.
And I also came here thinking of my beautiful new granddaughter, Beatrice.
We need to build a better world for the next generation. So I hope you’re leaving here, as I am, with a new vision of the kind of Canada that New Democrats want.
A Canada with a government whose priority is serving all Canadians. A government that works with us, not against us. A government on your side. Not one mired in the old thinking, but a government based on new thinking.
And a Canada whose government is helping to generate good jobs for our children, so that one in five young people wouldn’t be unemployed, as they are today. This summer I met students who told me they can’t afford to go back to school. Their debt loads are crushing. They haven’t got a job. They’re losing hope. Well, we can’t let that happen.
A member of our caucus told me about a widow whose husband worked at Abitibi Bowater. She was told that her pension was being terminated. She and her husband had worked their fingers to the bone, only to be cast aside after company executives decided to abandon the forest, the mill and her, all with the permission of a government that refused to help.
And she’s not alone. Seniors across this country told me they are worried about how they are going to make ends meet. We can’t let that happen in our Canada.
While Mr. Harper and Mr. Ignatieff do their election dance, they’re letting people wait.
People needed help last spring, but they did nothing. People need help this summer, but Mr. Harper and Mr. Ignatieff are still doing nothing. People will need help this fall, yet the only thing that they are talking about an election.
It’s their obsession. As for us, our obsession is to help people weather this crisis.
Last night, I was speaking with a delegate about the challenges that lie ahead for New Democrats. We talked about those who are quick to say: It can’t be done.
I love it when people tell me that.
It can’t be done.
You’ll never elect an MP in Quebec.
It can’t be done.
You’ll never grab a seat in Alberta.
It can’t be done.
You’ll never build a beachhead in Newfoundland and Labrador.
It simply can’t be done.
And my favourite these days: You’ll never elect an NDP government in Nova Scotia.
Tell that to Premier Darrell Dexter.
Or tell Premier Gary Doer that winning a third majority can’t be done. And what about a fourth?
When I hear that phrase I think of Tommy Douglas and of all the people who said to him when he began campaigning for Medicare during the Depression: it can’t be done.
Saskatchewan can’t afford it, they told him.
You’ll never balance the budget, they told him.
It can’t be done.
But Tommy and our whole movement saw that people were suffering without health care. They needed help. It was the right thing to do. And Tommy got it done.
Tommy did it by budgeting carefully. But most importantly, he set out a vision of a government that serves everyone, a government that sees people not as consumers, but as full participating citizens in our society.
As Canadians, new and old, we’re proud of our country. We’re proud of the way we treat each other, our open-heartedness, our generosity of spirit, the way we help each other out when disaster strikes.
Nobody has to tell a Canadian during a flood, Hey, can you help fill sandbags? Or in winter: Can you help shovel a sick neighbour’s walk. People just step up. I’ve seen it all across this country and so have you.
Yet we have a government that doesn’t seem to share these values. Mr. Harper’s greatest legacy will be the impoverishment of our social programs that we created to help people in times of need.
Mr. Harper believes that government should get out of the way, get rid of regulations and let the free market go to town. The Conservatives - and the Liberals - are true believers in this right-wing agenda. We’ve seen it. They rewarded greed. And they are leaving so many in need. And that’s why, now, during this recession, we need a government that’s working with us: a New Democratic government.
We believe that when people lose their job, they need access to Employment Insurance benefits. We believe in protecting workers’ pensions. And we believe that the bonuses given to pension-fund executives, whose funds lost money last year, should be given back
I met a woman in Oshawa who told us at a big public meeting -- and it wasn’t easy for her -- that she was laid off and used a part of her modest severance to cover her parents’ mortgage payment. They were trying to hold on to the family home because they’d both been laid off by GM. Her father was in tears as he took the check. He told her: “I was supposed to look after you.”
This has got to change, friends. It’s got to change.
We’re in the midst of the worst recession since the 1930s. But they are putting on the rose-coloured glasses again on Bay Street. They do that whenever there’s an upward tick on the TSX. Bank economists are saying, Wow, we’re in recovery. But at the same more and more people are being thrown out of work. This coming winter, thousands more of our family members, friends and neighbours are going to lose their jobs. Even the most optimistic economists say unemployment will keep rising until 2010. But, they say, that’s to be expected in any recovery. What kind of defeatist attitude is that?
And how is it that the CEOs who made the most reckless investments were given the most help in this recession?
So where was the help for the rest of Canadians? There are still hundreds of thousands of people getting the door slammed in their face when they try to get EI.
Poverty is growing even faster than the unemployment rate. And in this recession, as Roy Romanow has said, it’s going to be “much more difficult to climb out of poverty than it used to be.”
That’s because the social safety net we once had has been torn to shreds.
Ask yourself, What caused this recession? Was it the size of your paycheque? Was it your lack of education? Was it a refusal to leave your hometown to find work elsewhere?
No it wasn’t.
This recession was triggered by a carnival of greed among bankers and speculators and mortgage companies. In response, governments elsewhere took strong action on the economy. But not here. It took a poke with a very sharp stick to get Mr. Harper to agree to get moving on the economy.
This summer, I met people at community festivals, in municipal halls, seniors’ homes and church basements, in line-ups at Tim’s and, sadly, outside far too many plants that were shutting down.
Everyone I talked to wanted to know: where’s the help? It’s clear now my friends, that you can’t expect help from the Harper Conservatives. They thought Canada was on the right road before the recession.
And they were wrong. Do you think they’ve now got a vision of a sustainable economy?
Remember when Mr. Harper said he wanted Canada to become an energy superpower? Both he and Mr. Ignatieff want to accelerate tar sands development while sending jobs down the pipelines, toxics down the Athabasca River and acid rain into Saskatchewan. And leave us with an international black eye on climate change.
The world is preparing to gather in Copenhagen late this year to address climate change. Do you really trust what the Harper Conservatives will do for our planet in Copenhagen? I didn’t think so!
We know who you can have confidence in: Premier Darrell Dexter, who just brought in hard caps on carbon emissions. Exactly what is needed.
Here’s another question for you: Do you believe that the Harper Conservatives, or the Ignatieff Liberals for that matter, really will to end our combat role in Afghanistan in 2011?
I didn’t think so.
We want a government that favours diplomacy and development and peacekeeping. That’s why, from day one, we said this conflict cannot, and will not, be settled militarily. That’s why we say again today: support our troops and bring them home.
My fellow Canadians, it’s time to reject the old thinking of complacent Conservatives and Liberals. And it’s also time to cast aside the sterile game-playing that is keeping the Bloc Québécois alive and is gumming up Parliament. We have seen that movie too many times.
My fellow Canadians, it’s time for new thinking. We can’t leave it to the market alone to chart our future. That’s a task for all Canadians.
Can we do it?
Ask Premier Dexter and Premier Doer.
Ask the new Saskatchewan NDP leader, Dwain Lingenfelter
And ask the first woman leader of our party in Ontario, Andrea Horwath.
Ask our smart and dedicated caucus
Ask our new party president, Peggy Nash.
Ask the great candidates we are signing up from coast to coast to coast.
They’ll tell you.
Of course it can be done.
We will undo the legacy of neglect and inequality that the old thinking of the last three decades has left us.
We ask all Canadians to join us, to imagine the Canada we will build together.
In our Canada, the unemployed get the EI benefits and the training that they need.
In our Canada, First Nations, Inuit and Metis are full participants in the new economy.
In our Canada, new Canadians are given help to find good jobs and they don’t have to fear, when they travel abroad, that their passports will be seized and their government will deny their identity.
In our Canada, government protects citizens from the totally unfair practices of banks and credit-card companies.
In our Canada, the disabled are treated with dignity and respect.
In our Canada, families have access to affordable early-childhood education.
In our Canada, climate change is tackled with tough limits on polluters, and a new energy economy, with technologies built here, creating jobs here, and exported to the world.
That’s the Canada we want.
We want to shape an economy that is sustainable and just and creates good jobs.

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