NANAIMO, B.C. — Restoring a respectful approach to dealing with First Nations would be the issue Tom Mulcair would most want to be remembered for if he becomes prime minister, but the first piece of legislation his government would introduce is a hike on corporate taxes, the NDP leader said Sunday.
It may — at this point in the campaign — be a lot of blue sky with the New Democrats trailing both the Conservatives and Liberals in national public opinion surveys.
But Mulcair clearly sees better relations with the aboriginal community as a vote-getter in British Columbia, and particularly on Vancouver Island.
New Democrats see that, coupled with the ramping up of opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which makes B.C.’s forest industry unions nervous, as a powerful pitch in a province where they’re eager to frame the waning days of the campaign as a contest between them and the governing Conservatives.
Mulcair, speaking early Sunday in Nanaimo, B.C., said peace with First Nations communities is not “correcting an historic wrong,” but a pressing social issue when viewed in the prism of the growing number of murdered and missing aboriginal women.
“There’s no issue I’ve spent more time on since becoming leader of the Opposition,” Mulcair said later in the day at rally on K’omoks First Nations reserve, near Courtenay.
If elected, he said, the NDP would establish a cabinet committee that would “ensure every single thing our government does respects three things: treaty rights, inherent rights and Canada’s obligations to our first people.”
Mulcair underscored a recent endorsement of the Assembly of First Nations for the party’s Indigenous issues platform — something the group also did with the Liberals’ policy. The issue is one potential area of cooperation between the two parties should the Oct. 19 vore end with a minority government.
Mulcair also played upon anxiety about the Trans-Pacific Partnership and what it would mean for the preservation of environmental regulations in the face of international corporate power, another hot button issue in the province.
He pledged to reopen negotiations with the 11 other partner nations, while brushing aside skepticism that such a move would be possible at this late stage. The NDP doubled down on their TPP opposition Sunday by taking to the airwaves with ads that attack both the “secret” Conservative deal and Justin Trudeau for remaining silent on whether the Liberals endorse it.
The first piece of legislative business for an NDP government would be to hike the corporate tax rate, as part of a budget that would be introduced next spring, Mulcair said.
“We’re going to require Canada’s largest corporations to start paying their fair share, raising their taxes from 15 to 17 per cent,” he said to cheers of the roughly 500 people who turned up in this picturesque city’s conference centre.
The proposals would raise $3.7 billion, according to the NDP.
Some economists question the wisdom of hiking rates on big corporations while cutting them for small- and medium-sized businesses, a plan the Conservatives call a job-killer. Mulcair rejected the notion as “totally false” in a pre-taped television interview broadcast Sunday.
“There’s no credible evidence of that and I’ll tell you why: If those corporate tax reductions were going to be good for jobs, we wouldn’t have 300,000 more unemployed today than when the (economic) crisis hit in 2008,” Mulcair told CBC’s Power and Politics.
Mulcair has also insisted that the rate proposed by the NDP is not that far off of the 17.5 per cent corporations paid — on average —throughout most of the Conservative government years.
Murray Brewster, The Canadian Press