'I really can't call the odds' - Macleans.ca

‘I really can’t call the odds’

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The transcript of Jack Layton’s scrum after QP today.

Question: Alors monsieur Layton, qu’est-ce que vous pensez des propos de monsieur Ignatieff de ce matin et êtes-vous (Inaudible) qu’on ait des élections estivales?

Jack Layton: Je me demande pourquoi monsieur Ignatieff n’a pas appuyé ces changements pour l’assurance emploi il y a six mois quand on a eu une occasion en or de forcer le gouvernement de Harper à agir. Nous, nous avons présenté un projet de loi qui est devant la Chambre maintenant, qui peut améliorer notre système d’assurance emploi et on cherche de l’appui pour ce projet de loi où les amendements de la part du gouvernement, c’est encore une possibilité, mais évidemment on a eu aucune évidence que monsieur Harper veut vraiment prendre de l’action pour aider les chômeurs cet été. C’est dommage.

Question: Est-ce que vous trouvez les demandes de monsieur Ignatieff claires?

Jack Layton: Elles sont pas très claires. Je ne sais pas s’il peut dire qu’elles sont vraiment des demandes. Quand on exige quelque chose, on utilise les occasions qui existent pour faire changer la direction du gouvernement. Il ne l’a pas fait. C’était dans le – il y a cinq mois, dans le débat concernant le budget, nous avons dit que c’est essentiel d’améliorer le système d’assurance emploi pour aider les familles cet été et nous avons notre projet de loi qui est devant la Chambre maintenant pour le faire. Où est l’appui de la part des deux anciens partis pour ce projet ou les propositions pour les amendements là-dessus? Aucune, aucune proposition…

Question: Monsieur Layton

Jack Layton: …de leur part. Ils ne sont pas sérieux.

Question: Monsieur Mulcair disait en fin de semaine que d’avoir une élection cet été, ce serait de la folie pure. Est-ce que vous êtes d’accord avec ça?

Jack Layton: Bien on a une occasion en or d’agir avec monsieur Harper.

Question: Non, non, c’est pas ça ma question.

Jack Layton: La…

Question: Ma question c’est si vous êtes d’accord que d’avoir une élection cet été, c’est de la folie comme le dit monsieur Mulcair depuis trois jours?

Jack Layton: La grande question, est-ce que – est-ce que monsieur Harper va agir concernant l’assurance emploi, oui ou non? Monsieur Ignatieff a eu l’occasion de le presser. Nous avons souligné que c’est important de le faire avant l’été parce que les gens ont besoin de l’aide et c’est aussi essentiel que les fonds seront disponibles au municipalités pour les projets de construction cet été. On n’a pas l’évidence que le gouvernement prend pour sérieux (ph.) ces deux choses-là. C’est pourquoi on ne peut pas appuyer un tel gouvernement et cette direction.

Question: What are you going to do – what are you going to do about (inaudible)?

Jack Layton: Well, what we have is a vote that essentially would put into place the steps that were authorized by a budget which has failed to deal with the crisis. It has failed to get the money out the door. It has failed to help the unemployed who are trying to figure out how to make ends meet this summer. It is an approach which isn’t up to the task of what Canadians need and therefore, we certainly can’t support that kind of a budget, that kind of a budget implementation plan.

Question: Are you up to negotiations to change things? Are you, you know, up to talking to the government about changes to EI or what have you?

Jack Layton: I have been completely wide open to the notion that the government could come and amend our EI bill. It is the only vehicle before the House right now that could actually fix the situation before the summer, but we hear virtually nothing from the government that they have any interest in fixing employment insurance this summer.

Question: If there is something coming on EI for the self-employed, would that satisfy you?

Jack Layton: Well, they darn well should be coming forward with something. The House of Commons adopted that motion about two and a half months ago, two months ago. The NDP put forward a motion saying that there should be unemployment insurance available for the self-employed and the House of Commons adopted that, that principle. Why it takes the government so long to act is beyond me and we understand that there is nothing coming in this last week of Parliament to help those folks out or to help the people who are running out of EI or who have been disqualified from getting EI help this summer. There is basically no action being taken by Mr. Harper to deal with the situation we are facing today. That is the unfortunate part about what we have heard in the House today.

Question: Bottom line, bottom line, qu’est-ce qui pourrait vous faire changer d’avis? Quels changements pourraient vous faire changer d’avis pour l’assurance emploi, le bottom line?

Jack Layton: Le bottom line, c’est si le gouvernement présente un amendement à notre projet de loi concernant l’assurance emploi. On est tout – on est ouverts à le discuter. C’est ce que je viens de dire pendant quelques semaines et on invite le gouvernement à le faire, mais on a eu aucune évidence que monsieur Harper veut vraiment améliorer le sort des chômeurs et chômeuses cet été. .

Question: Donc vous êtes prêts à négocier, vous êtes prêts à négocier?

Jack Layton: Oui, nous avons un projet de loi devant la Chambre. Est-ce que monsieur Harper a une proposition à présenter, oui ou non? Jusqu’à maintenant, la réponse c’est non aux chômeurs et chômeuses.

Question: Monsieur Layton, et combien – est-ce que tous vos députés seront présents vendredi? Tous vos députés seront présents?

Jack Layton: Oui, sauf les actes de Dieu, oui. Alors j’espère.

Question: Donc 39 députés?

Question: So your position is…

Jack Layton: On rêve d’avoir 39. On en a seulement 36.

Question: Your position specifically on Mr. Ignatieff’s four conditions then and especially that condition on EI, what is your position on what Mr. Ignatieff said today and on EI?

Jack Layton: Well, I’m not precisely sure what he says, so he will have to explain that. Was it a condition? I listened carefully, it wasn’t all clear to me. I think if there is a proposal about how to fix EI, why not propose an amendment to our bill and get it passed by the end of the week? It has been done before, it could happen today and there would be tens of thousands of families that would get some help that really need it.

Question: (Inaudible)

Jack Layton: It is hard to say. I mean I listened fairly carefully to what was said including what was said in the House today, it is hard to say. All I can tell you is that as far as the unemployed getting any help this summer, it looks like neither of those two parties are very serious about making sure it happens. If they were, they would amend our bill and pass it by Friday.

Question: Monsieur Layton, Monsieur Layton (ph.) a dit que s’il y avait une campagne électorale par exemple, ça ralentirait l’acheminement des fonds pour les projets d’infrastructure. Est-ce que vous croyez que c’est vrai?

Jack Layton: Mais ils dépensent pas cet argent-là. Nous l’avons démontré, même le budget de 2007 qui a précisé certaines sommes qui peuvent être accélérées. Les chiffres indiquent clairement que le gouvernement Harper n’agit pas. Alors leurs pieds sont dans – sur le frein. Alors moi, je doute. Ça va peut-être arrêter tous ces communiqués de presse présentés par monsieur Harper mais on ne voit pas beaucoup d’action au chantier maintenant. Je pense que presque rien…

Question: Monsieur Layton, qu’est-ce que vous pensez que les – qu’il y a des anglos qui sont exclus de la fête de la St-Jean Baptiste au Québec. Vous, en tant qu’anglophone natif du Québec, il y a une St-Jean, donc le 23 juin, qu’il y ait des groupes – des groupes souverainistes qui refusent que des anglophones chantent….

Jack Layton: Je n’ai pas écouté ça. Moi, j’ai des – j’ai des plans pour être là. Alors c’est comme ça. On va voir ce qui va arriver.

Question: What do you are the changes of the government being toppled this week over their failure to do more on EI?

Jack Layton: No, no, I’m not an odds-maker or a gambler. I just take the position…

Question: No, you are a politician. You are the leader of your party. What are the chances, do you think there could – that we could be in an election?

Jack Layton: I really can’t call the odds. All I can say is here is what we are going to do. We are going to insist that there be help for the unemployed and if it is not there, we are voting against the implementation plan. We are going to insist that money flow rather than just press releases flowing and that certainly hasn’t happened. There is nothing much that can be done to change that in the next five days, but at least there could be help for the unemployed. The government doesn’t seem to be willing to take any action until the fall, if then.

Question: If there were an election, what would it be about?

Question: Is it not better a trickle than to have an election and stop the money altogether. How do you feel about that?

Jack Layton: Well, they can’t have it both ways. I mean they are saying all this money has gone out, but now they are saying this money that they announced won’t go out if there is an election. Which is it?

Question: But is there a risk of hurting the people you say you want to help in a sense by (inaudible) in the middle of the summer, when a lot of people aren’t paying attention, when frankly people won’t really know what the issues are?

Jack Layton: All I’m saying is fix the EI, get the money flowing. Neither of those things are happening. We have called for that from day one and it is unfortunate, the government hasn’t listened. All they have done is come out with press releases. Our job is to stand for what we have laid out needs to happen. That is what we are going to do.

Question: Besides giving money to the self-employed and fix EI, what else did you want to see?

Jack Layton: Well, we want to see money flow faster to the communities. We have got lots of announcements, but we haven’t seen the cash flowing. I have been talking to the mayors and it is not there, not even the money from the Bill Canada Fund that was announced and approved two years ago, repeated in 2008, a provision to accelerate that money was adopted and the money isn’t flowing. The fact is Stephen Harper doesn’t really believe in all this stimulus stuff. He is having to say it because he is under some political – in fact, it was because he was going to lose his job that suddenly he got religion, but it doesn’t look as though he really intends to follow through. That is our problem with the budget.

Question: (Inaudible)

Jack Layton: Well, it is not quite like that. I mean look, you have got municipalities that are starving. Some crumbs drivel off the end of the table or they are told they might. Some of them say that could be potentially a good thing. I have also talked to a lot of mayors who when I ask them “Has the money arrived so that you can create jobs this summer?” and they say to me, “No”.

Question: Last week you were saying that…

Question: (inaudible).

Jack Layton: I beg your pardon?

Jack Layton: Some Liberals seem to be counting on the fact that your party may blink on Friday night and you know vote for the estimates? Will that…

Jack Layton: I just advise people to look at history, take however many dozens votes in the past you might like to take.

Question: You will have 36 members there, 36 members voting against the government?

Jack Layton: Hoping that nobody gets sick and is unable to attend, that is certainly our plan.

Question: But you can – you can say categorically that you…

Jack Layton: We don’t have many yet.

Question: You can say categorically that you will vote against the estimates because ten minutes ago, you said you would wait for any news on EI?

Jack Layton: Well we have a bill in front of the House. If the government comes forward and says look we would like to amend your bill so that it can pass by Friday and fix EI, we would be delighted if that were to happen. It has not happened. I opened the doors to that possibility two months ago and we have heard absolutely nothing from the government including today.

Question: So you have a campaign going?

Jack Layton: Yes.

Question: You have a campaign going? You have a platform?

Jack Layton: Yes.

Question: How many candidates do you have now?

Jack Layton: Well, we have got quite a few and we feel very confident about the ability to have a campaign if it comes to it. You will note that we – we are not the precipitators here. In fact, our vote on our opposition day motion is to fix the pension system and to give some retirement security to seniors. The largest organization of seniors in Canada, the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, CARP has just launched a major national campaign in favor of our bill which will be voted on tomorrow. That is the kind of proactive approach we take, but if we are asked are you going to vote on the estimates which will implement the budget that you felt was not any good, my answer is we are not supporting that, that estimates vote because they…

Question: If there is an election, what will that election be about?

Jack Layton: Well, as far as we are concerned, it will be about the wrong direction on the economy that Stephen Harper has taken.

Question: Thank you.