(This is part two of an interview with Charmain Levy, recent candidate of the Quebec Solidaire party in the Pontiac/Aylmer. She outlines her party’s three-point alternative to the Couillard cuts, and considers the growing distance between the rich 1% and the other 99% of the population, pressures to privatize Hydro Quebec, rising daycare costs, and how to protest all these cuts. Part 1 appeared January 14.)
PJ: Earlier you mentioned that the Couillard reforms do not address the growing inequality of wealth between the richest 1% and the 99% of Quebecers. Should they?
CL: Mr. Couillard has made a clear choice not to increase the taxes of the most wealthy, nor to do anything which will discomfort them. The richest, those making over $500,000 per year, pay about the same tax rate as families earning the minimum wage. They can afford to pay more and they use more social resources overall, but they are basically exempt from paying their share.
Our middle class will really feel these cuts in the next couple of years. By 2016, daycare cuts will be felt as the population outruns our day care facilities. Young families will hurt.
We aren’t proposing to “tax the rich”, but we are saying everyone should pay their fair share of what it costs to run our society. The media cries that the rich will all leave Quebec, but I doubt it. Sweden and other Nordic countries have high tax rates on the rich, and they have not left. In fact they want recognition for
shouldering more than their share!
PJ: You mentioned several targets for privatization earlier – health services, schools, but what about Hydro Quebec? Right-wing think tanks all promote selling Hydro Quebec to private interests.
CL: I mentioned it, but without
knowing of any plans. I doubt Mr Couillard will go that far . . .
PJ: The Fraser Institute and the Montreal Economic Institute want it sold off . . .
CL: They see a big surplus of energy there, big profits. In the last twenty years, since NAFTA, Quebec has lost a huge industrial base, ever since China entered the World Trade Organization in 2002. Hydro Quebec is promoting electric cars now, and this is well advanced, but I don’t think this government would sell off all that. There’s our history here . . . Look, it’s true that many of these cuts, in fact the whole austerity program, is a cover for restructuring all of government, for making the population less involved. This is about ideology, as it is for Mr Harper. The cuts to welfare programs, training, youth jobs, these cuts are ideological. The Liberals believe they are entitled to all this money, and not the poor.
PJ: Grim news, Ms Levy! There are at least three more years before another election. What can ordinary people do to protest these cuts and to turn this big
ship around so it travels toward their
CL: We can do things. We should. Join the local organization of a politician you admire – help him or her get ready. And make sure to complain to your deputy, MNA André Fortin. Tell him what you are not happy with and why you voted. Nobody voted for these cuts, nobody.
PJ: And Letters to the editor?
CL: Certainly, everybody reads the letters pages in your newspaper! We have to be vocal – get out in the streets, when something’s organized. That proved very effective against Mr Charest’s cuts. Just don’t sit on your hands. Remember, we all stopped Mr Charest. We can stop these cuts.