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Speaking Out Louder

Ideas That Work For Canadians

Layton, Jack

If we do not change our direction, we are liable to end up where we are headed.

Chapter One
Why Does Politics Matter?

• Charles Taylor’s book The Pattern of Politics laid out the idea that debate and conflict can produce positive transformations. I had never thought of it that way. Compromise had been the watchword of Canadian politics, especially among the elites. Professor Taylor told us that this was the politics of status quo and privilege. He encouraged us to “challenge the way things are.”

• A successful twenty-first-century economy will be one that recognizes that public and private organizations should be structured to use capital efficiently, that improves environmental quality, contributes to solving social inequities (not watch them increase), that creates good-quality and safe jobs, practices true corporate responsibility, extends human rights, enhances democracy, and invests in products and services that people want and need. These organizations can be large or small, organized as non-profits, public-sector entities, or privately owned firms. 'What matters is that we create a context in which all of us have the opportunity to help meet the Quadruple Bottom Line goals. This vision celebrates the idea that democratically elected and sovereign governments by the people can provide the flexible and purposeful framework for our economy. What do I mean? Here's a for instance. The public sector has to provide many essential services because only elected government has the potential to be directly accountable to the people. I say "potential" because true accountability requires a democracy that works well. I join most Canadians in putting education, health care, key community services like water and child care, energy, and most transportation into this "public sector" category. Moreover, our government has to invest in social and physical infrastructure, the nuts and bolts, because elected and engaged governments can reflect the balance and interconnectedness needed to reflect the priorities of the public. Someone has to look out for the common good, challenged, as it almost always is, by private greed. Who better to take responsibility for this than all of us together, through our votes and through our engagement in our communities?

This Quadruple Bottom Line vision is certainly not mine alone. Such new thinking is, happily, sprouting up here and there, often in places least expected. I am simply acknowledging what is already happening on the ground every day. Consider what Bill Hunter, president and CEO of Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries, one of the largest pulp mills in North America, was quoted in the Globe and Mail, December 1, 2003, as saying: "There is a new wave of CEO thinking about the triple bottom line [profit, environment, and social effects]. It's ethical; it's moral; it's access to raw materials in the long term. Society should demand that and will demand that."

Quadruple-bottom-line sustainability:

Chapter Two
Sharing Our World

• In Calgary, the city council endorsed the building of a new rapid-transit line extension, and they contracted with a wind-power manufacturer to provide all the electricity needed to run it. In a marketing masterstroke, they call it Ride the Wind… When you ride Calgary’s C-Train, it’s like sailing – the wind is pushing you along, with no pollution at all.

• “To have the results you have never had, you must do what you have never done.”

The Kyoto Protocol

• Better Buildings Partnership, go to

• … replacing polluting air conditioners with environmentally advanced central cooling using cold water as the basic cooling source was technically workable, economically viable, and politically achievable. (To find out more on this, go to www.enwave.comS)

Chapter Three
Sustaining Our Lives

Friends of the Don River

• As Maude Barlow rightly points out, water belongs to the earth and its species and accordingly should be declared a basic human right.

Asphalt Is the Land’s Last Crop

• We are losing our best agricultural land fast. Once it’s gone, it's almost impossible to reclaim. As one wag put it, "Asphalt is the land's last crop." Ontario now loses about one square kilometer of prime agricultural land every day. In the past thirty years, urban uses across Canada have eaten up about six thousand square kilometers of quality agricultural land. Picture the whole of Prince Edward Island built on and paved over.

Food Security

• Like all elected politicians, I receive my share of politely indignant proposals telling me what to do. But a letter I received in 1985 kept nettling me. It was addressed jointly to me and to my (then new) partner, Olivia Chow, who had just been elected to the Toronto School Board, representing the same downtown ward as I did on city council. The letter came from Dr. Cyril Greenland, a professor of sociology at the University of Toronto and a constituent to boot. The essence of his letter: too many thou¬sands of children were going to school hungry, and we need to address that issue.

The Most Fundamental of Human Rights

• Finally, there's the issue of our retail food industry. In this business area, Canada has the highest degree of corporate concentration of any country in the world. Two retailers drive this sector - Loblaws and Sobeys. These retailers squeeze the food processors, who, in turn, squeeze the farmers. It's a nasty chain, and with most farmers holding the bottom link of that chain, they have virtually no bargaining leverage. Most Canadian farmers are price takers, not price makers. Food, which ought to be a highly important national issue, has the least government intervention of any major sector of our economy. Is there a national program to produce food? No. A national program to distribute food? No. A national program to sell food? No. Though we understand the need for a public presence in making and selling electricity, for instance, we have no Food Canada to offset the power of corporations, no public ownership, and very little regulation. And, as we have seen in other sectors, when governments cut back on One MAN/WOMAN can't serve two masters-enforcement and inspection, everyone's food security suffers, and we run a higher risk of buying and consuming tainted meats and other products.

Our marketing boards (eggs, milk, and wheat) help control the supply while guaranteeing a floor price to farmers. Yet these efficient, public, accountable regulatory bodies are also on the trade chopping block, with the federal government sharpening the axe. The U.S. government keeps attacking the Canadian Wheat Board in expensive legal proceedings, claiming the board is a state-trading enterprise and that its presence distorts the wheat market. The U.S. has appealed and lost the case on ten successive occassions but it shows no interest in letting up and simply files another appeal. Preserving our right to organize the sale of wheat through the co-operative mechanism of our Canadian Wheat Board is important, not just for farmers and agricultural sustainability, but also as a matter of Canadian sovereignty. Canada should be helping other countries develop similar mechanisms to help their farmers. But Canadians have recently elected a minority Conservative government that wants to kill off the CWB, without even giving grain farmers who market their products though the board a vote on its demise. So much for the grassroots democracy that the Reform and Canadian Alliance parties used to preach about.

Chapter Four
A Caring Society

Public Health Care Comes to North America

• Tommy warned the party faithful that each generation had to stand and fight to preserve what had been won previously.

Protecting Canada’s Health-Care System

• Much has been written about the Romanow Report, and it is available on the internet at Final Report

Public Health versus the Medical Model

• Numerous studies show a clear connection between economic conditions and a person’s health. A recent report by the Canadian Public Health Association says that “life expectancy depends more on the internal distribution of wealth than increases in income. The narrower the spread of income in a given society, the higher will be its overall health status." The British Medical Journal agrees: "The more equally wealth is distributed, the better the health of that society." A rich nation with an unequal distribution of wealth is not necessarily a healthy nation. Among the twenty-nine OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation Development) nations, the richest is the United State, yet it ranks twenty-second in life expectancy for men and nineteenth for women. And the U.S. has the greatest gap between rich and poor. So policy that increases the gap between the well-to-do and the rest turns out to be literally lethal. Years of life are lost as a result.

• Infectious and communicable diseases are directly linked to living conditions. Poor nutrition, contaminated water, overcrowded and unsanitary environments, and similar factors result in tuberculosis, pneumonia, diarrhea, measles, and other common diseases. These days, medicine can treat them all, but their causes are not medical. And if we want to create healthy societies, the answer is not more or better health care but improved living conditions, a cleaner environment, and a more equal distribution of income.

• "We live in a culture that promotes gluttony but glorifies thinness."

Chapter Five
Reawakening Our Communities

A Raw Deal for Cities

“We’ve got the responsibility, but we don’t have the legislative authority and the fiscal tools.” At FCM, we used to refer to the federal government’s attitude toward cities as a “culture of non-recognition and neglect.”

The Shame of Homelessness

• In 1990, as a member of the opposition and when he was seeking votes for his Liberal leadership bid, Mr. Martin wrote the following: "[A]ll Canadians have the right to decent housing, in decent surroundings, at affordable prices.... Only the national government has the financial resources to address the full dimensions of the needs of this country." Were Canadians being sold a similar bill of goods when his government promised a new deal for cities?

Let's also recall Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations in 1948 and ratified by Canada: "Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widow¬hood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.” Are those, too, just nice words, or do they represent a commitment? For the thousands of homeless people across Canada they ring hollow when governments won’t build housing.

• Housing investments also save taxpayers' money. The total cost of helping homeless people in our cities is at least four times more than the cost of providing affordable housing for them. Hostels, police, emergency rooms, and jails all cost money – lots of it. So why not save that money, create a more caring society, and make people happier and more productive all at the same time by investing in housing. A good idea whose time has come again.

A case of empowerment: Hudson, Quebec

• Because the challenge takes place under the undemocratic structures of trade deals, there won’t be the same opportunity to present the public-interest perspective as there was at the Canadian Supreme Court. No. By contrast, the global tribunals that will rule on the case will not have representations from Hudson, or other municipalities, or any other citizens' groups. They will hear from the corporations and from national governments, behind closed doors. They will make their decisions without accountability or democratic contexts. The considerations will be limited to the impact of the laws on the commercial interests of the firms involved.

This is the new global constitutional framework in action - a set of rules designed not to ensure people's rights but to protect investment rights against the decisions of democratically elected governments. If allowed to stand, this new world order will set back the struggles for democracy that have taken place over the past three hundred years.

Sovereignty from the Ground Up

• There's a saying that national governments are "too big to solve the small problems facing citizens and too small to solve the big ones alone." That sentiment recognizes that local governments are best positioned to deal with the "small problems" that become big issues in people's lives. It also reflects what's called "subsidiarity," the idea that, as an FCM report explains, "decisions should only be taken at a higher level of government when there are manifest reasons to do so." The principle recognizes that people get the best, and the cheapest, governance when services are delivered by the most local level of government that can afford to deliver them. Properly funded, either by revenues collected nation¬ally or by their own authority, local governments are often the most imaginative and the best equipped to deal with social and economic issues. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, because everything is a different size.

Here's an example. The federal government designs labour-market training programs intended to provide people with skills to enter the workforce. But they take no account of the lack of child care or the availability of public transit, which can prevent the very people the program is designed for from taking advantage of it. Provincial governments might support clean air initiatives, but if they fail to give municipalities the powers to control urban sprawl or provide the funding necessary to operate public transit programs, the result will be increased air pollution. This lack of co¬ordination and consultation with local governments undermines the good intentions of initiatives that provinces and the federal government sometimes put forward. Your local government, with the people of your community actively engaged in the process, plays – or should play – a very important role in shaping what goes on right around you.

Chapter Six
Building the New Prosperity

An Industrial Strategy for Green Cars

• The green car industrial strategy we have proposed is based on the idea that the national government should shape our economic development with proactive strategies. We should jump in with both feet to create jobs, improve the environment, and allow the auto industry and other businesses to make money responsibly. Of course, this is directly contrary to the let-the-market-rule philosophy of the Liberals and the Conservatives. We need to challenge the view that we should sit back and let industrialists decide our future¬ with no guidance, incentive, or requirements from society as a whole. If that had been the philosophy years ago, we would never have developed the national railway system, the national health-care program, the St. Lawrence Seaway, and much more. So what sort of proactive industrial strategy would be best for the auto sector? After all, Canada wouldn’t have an auto industry today were it not for similar efforts in the past - like the Auto Pact, which required companies to invest here in return for granting tariff-free access to our market. How can we use similar far-sighted policies to stimulate made-in-Canada investment and employment in crucial high-tech industries like auto manufacturing?

Canada Needs a Raise

• About 97 per cent of businesses in Canada employ fewer than five people. In total, small business - understood as having fewer than fifty workers -employ over one-third of all Canadian workers. In fact, most new jobs are created by small businesses, so CEO projects involving a small number of participants are part of the mainstream of economic development. And they should be encouraged to reach more people. Their model ought to be made more widely avail¬able, to open up CED-sponsored programs to a much greater number of people. Certainly there's no question that CEDs are a valuable tool in building the new prosperity - from the ground up.

Chapter Seven
Building a Just Society

• “The trappings of democracy hang loosely on an emaciated body politic.”

The Electoral System

• In this chamber, sir, one's stature is measured from the shoulders up. -TOMMY DOUGLAS, RESPONDING TO AN MP'S QUIP ABOUT HIS DIMINUTIVE FRAME.

• Elections that are more democratic would also help address the arrogance that can, and has, set in as governments begin to see themselves as invincible. As a result of our archaic voting system, invented long before the telephone, our governments learn that they can win elections even when most Canadians oppose their policies. "Majority" governments become high-handed and inattentive to the public good. Abuse of power can follow, making politics susceptible to scandal.

The media tend to treat scandals as one-off affairs, a few politicians getting too close to their corporate friends. This ignores the systemic nature of corporate scandals, which, sadly, are as old as Canada itself. Even our first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, was embroiled in scandal in the 1870s over railway contracts to his corporate friends. Prime Minister Paul Martin must have realized that the root of the sponsorship scandal, which came to a head with the auditor general's report in early 2004, was not a few rogue Liberals or bureaucrats but rather too many Liberals, including Liberal MPs who had become so comfortable that they believed they could do whatever they wished. The arrogance is ironic, given that all three Liberal "majorities"-1993, 1997, and 2000 - were not elected with 50 per cent approval from the voters. But our current system is a winner-takes-all system. The winning party takes it all and then shares the spoils amongst its friends. In countries with effective PR systems, parties that have to interact with others to pass legislation tend to be somewhat more humble and accountable.

A fundamental principle of a just and democratic society is empowering its people and engaging them as active players in their economy and society. Ensuring that all our citizens¬ native-born or new to Canada - are equipped to participate fully must be a cornerstone on which Canada is built. And revitalizing our democracy - through proportional representation and by encouraging people to participate directly in their own communities - must also be our goal.

Chapter Ten
Working Hard for Working Families

• “What can we accomplish during this session that will achieve some positive results for Canadians?”

• Reviewing how various political budgets have managed the books when they've been in government at the provincial level over the past twenty-five years is also revealing. A study shows that provincial NDP governments ran deficits 59 per cent of the time. But that was better than the Conservatives when in power provincially or federally, at 69 per cent, and much better than the Liberals, at 83 per cent. Still, whenever New Democrats ask questions about the wisdom of cutting corporate taxes or reducing the debt faster, the lecture commences on our lack of fiscal responsibility. These are diatribes from right-wing spokespeople whose parties have a demonstrably worse track record than ours.


• In the wake of the January 2006 election, Olivia, Trinity-Spadina, and I managed to escape for a few precious days to go snorkeling off the Bahamas. A new book entitled The Weather Makers had just been published by Australian writer Tim Flannery. It's all about how, over the past century, the human species has begun to transform the weather and the earth's climate in very dramatic ways, and I made this book my reading over the time we spent on a tiny island - an island close to sea level. There was something quite striking about imagining this chain of tiny islands under water which, if the scientific projections are accurate, could occur within the lifetime of my descendants. Flannery's book really con¬firmed once again for me the profound and massive impact that humanity is having on the planet. When I returned to Ottawa, I decided to offer the prime minister a copy of The Weather Makers. A few weeks later, when Mr. Flannery spoke in Toronto, I had the opportunity to introduce him, and his speech rammed home the powerful nature of the transformation that we are in the process of creating here on the planet.


• Now is the time for Canadians to reclaim our “shared destiny,” as former NDP Saskatchewan Premier Roy Romanow so eloquently put it in a widely discussed Walrus magazine feature article in the spring of 2006. We have a shared mission to undertake: to achieve our destiny and unique place in the world - building a society that values leadership concerning fundamental sustainability of life on the planet, that values caring for each other and educating one another irrespective of our personal means or backgrounds, that believes in prosperity with justice, and that is an effective clarion call for peace, equality, human rights and democracy in the world.

Canadians have the ideas that work to put these values into action. It is time to abandon the temporary detour that recent political events have created, and get Canada back on track.