Pierre Jacob , a newly elected MP for the riding of Brome- Missisquoi in Quebec's Eastern Townships speaks to Digital Journal about the current NDP Leadership Race, fracking, cannabis in Quebec, and more in a 10 question interview.
The Honorable Member of Parliament is a recognized criminologist and professor who has specialized in instructing young offenders for over 35 years.
MP Jacob has served on the NDP Environment Committee for Quebec, and is now sitting on the Standing Committee of Justice and Human Rights.
Digital Journal reached him in Ottawa shortly before the beginning of the current session of Parliament.
Like many of the "new wave" of NDP MP's elected from Quebec the Honorable Member is fluently bilingual .This reporter would like to thank his Press Secretary David Patry for assisting with the translation of this interview.
Q)There is a lot of speculation about the NDP"s current Leadership race. Much of your party's victory in the last election was accredited to your past leader Jack Layton. What are your feelings about the candidates in the current race for leadership of your party?
MP JACOB: Jack Layton was a very charismatic leader with a mobilizing leadership. He left as a legacy to his MPs and citizens his vision of doing politics differently, his values of social justice and respect for the environment. Also the importance of not leaving anyone behind, whether they are young, adult or senior and working together to be optimistic in difficult situations. With the leadership race, the NDP leadership has significantly increased. to more than 120,000, 12,000 of whom are in Quebec. All the candidates are excellent and are helping to spread knowledge of the party and hope across the country.
I chose to support Thomas Mulcair, mainly for his considerable experience as a parliamentarian. He was elected three times as a member of the provincial parliament and was Minister of the Environment.
He became Jack Layton's first MP in Quebec and contributed with Jack to the part'y's influence. He is perfectly bilingual and would be able to defend the interests of all Canadians and Quebecers.With his strong expertise he is capable of becoming the next Prime Minister Of Canada and continuing the legacy of Jack Layton.
Q)How do you feel the federal government's Omnibus Crime Bill will impact the residents of Brome-Misssisquoi in terms of taxes, the court systems, juvenile offenders, prison populations and finally crime on the street?
A)The provinces have jurisdiction over the administration of justice and Bill C 10 would impose major costs on them. The Conservatives chose to take away the discretionary powers of the judges by imposing mandatory minimum sentences, thus eliminating their role in sentencing. With young offenders , we had a winning formula in Quebec. That's why our crime rate is the lowest among the provinces. Taking account of the personality of the young offender and the circumstances of the delinquent act were important factors in establishing the measure to take in each particular case. This will no longer be possible. It is however very important to have rehabilitation programs for these offenders because sooner or later these offenders will return to society.
The best way to take care of crime and to take care of the victims is to invest in the quality of the social fabric of our country. Investing in affordable social housing, education, health, and social services are all win- win solutions.
Q)How do you feel about the current notion to include e- petitions of 50,000 signatures or more as a springboard for an hour of discussion and debate in Parliament?
A)That could be an excellent way to counter the cynicism that prevails towards the political world. The misuse of gag orders by the Conservative Government remains the biggest obstacle to healthy democratic debate in Parliament.
Q)Jack Layton was in favor of legalization of cannabis in Canada. California and many other US States are moving ahead with this; what is the current status for medical marijuana in Quebec and what are the penalties for simple possession of cannabis in Quebec?
A)The reflection on the legalization of cannabis continues in Canada. Regarding the use of medical marijuana, the relevant legal framework applies.
The sanctions for the simple sanctions for the simple possession of cannabis in Quebec are governed by the criminal code and the relevant and applicable jurisprudence based on the offence.
Q)The Conservative Government's Bill C30 is being criticized for invading citizen's privacy; what are your feelings on this,do you feel that the government needs these powers to properly function?
A)Bill C30 is being criticized by everyone who is concerned about the respect for citizen's privacy. In Canada we have the Citizens Charter of Rights and Freedoms and courts have required that a warrant be issued by a Judge before there is any intrusion in the privacy of individuals.
Bill C 30 seeks to change this by making it too easy to access personal privacy through a simple administrative request by an investigator. The Privacy Commissioner and the experts are very concerned that the personal information of Canadians could be consulted without a warrant, which would violate the rights and freedoms of law abiding citizens. The NDP believes that we can effectively fight crime within the limits of the law without treating law abiding citizens like criminals.
Q)Unemployment figures for your riding are high and more and more constituents are living under the poverty line, how can we bring more employment to the Brome- Missisquoi riding?
A)By encouraging SME , mainly by lowering their taxes and promoting local purchases, instead of lowering taxes for big businesses like banks and big oil companies, like Stephen Harper is doing.These big industries pollute and relocate their businesses to developing countries to take advantage of cheap labour. Often during these relocations, employee's retirement savings are severely cut .We must also develop policies to encourage the retention of young people in our communities to ensure a new generation of workers. Our youth must explore the world, study in big cities, but we must encourage them to come back to Briome - Missisquoi to settle down and work.
Q)There is a call for Quebec to begin developing natural gas resources through the process of "Fracking" but environmentalists are concerned that this process will damage land and water resources permanently. How could this effect Brome- Missisiquoi?
A)I think the precautionary principle must apply for shale gas. Many municipalities have already adopted resolutions against shale gas exploration and development . We must expand our knowledge with reliable studies in order to ensure the safety of our precious drinking water resources.
Q)Magog, which is the largest city in your riding currently has no public transportation, what is your office doing about this, isn't local transport and transportation within the region important to those who are seeking work and the improvement of the local economy?
A)We respect jurisdictions in the transport section, the Government of Quebec and the municipalities manage public transportation in the riding. We have however asked the federal government to adopt a national public transit strategy in order to think about transport more broadly and uniformly. The NDP also asked for an increase in transfers to the provinces to fund public transport. Finally the NDP wants the federal government to transfer a larger portion of the existing gas tax to public transit.
This would help to reduce green house gas emissions and enable everyone to have affordable services in the upcoming budget, we're asking the Conservative government to put public transit at the top of it's list of priorities.
Q)Which pro -active approaches can the citizens of Brome- Missisquoi employ to help those fellow citizens who are under the poverty line get back to work?
A)Citizens can become involved in community resources for example food banks or specific events like the annual food drive. But volunteering and giving to charity don't fix everything.. The current government needs to invest to eliminate poverty and unemployment. Among other things the Conservative government's recent attack on Old Age Security risks wiping out all the progress made towards the elimination of poverty among seniors.
The current government also made cuts to employment insurance and numerous other social measures The NDP doesn't want to leave anyone behind. It is unacceptable that in a country as rich as Canada , there is so much poverty and unemployment among both both youth and seniors. It's time for the Conservative government to admit that it's corporate tax giveaways don't work and to develop a real strategy for employment.
Q)How can we invigorate and deepen our relations with the US - so that we may grow our tourist economy which as you know is an aspect that is very important to Brome- Missisquoi?
A)The two linguistic communities have a harmonious relationship. Our southern neighbors which visit Brome- Missisquoi come to enjoy the region's beautiful countryside and taste the local produce and regional delicacies. While here they also develop an appreciation of the uniqueness of the francophone and anglophone communities in each village.
One thing that did not help the region was when the Harper government reduced the hours on border crossings like Morse's Line, East Pinnacle, and Glen Sutton.This is an important issue which I am currently studying with my colleagues; we are trying to formulate the impact of these reductions in services to the local economy.