Green Party Interview – Critic Erich Jacoby-Hawkins

As part of our special election coverage, Btchcoin interviewed representatives from each major party who are in charge of economic and financial policy. In this four-part series, we ask these politicians questions crowd-sourced from you, our readers.

Throughout the month of October, Btchcoin Contributor Nabeela Jivraj coordinated with Erich Jacoby-Hawkins, the National Revenue Critic for the Green Party of Canada, to answer your questions via email. The interview, transcribed below, has been edited for clarity and concision.

1. First up – What is your role? What does a National Revenue critic do?

My role as National Revenue Critic is to be the point person for the Green Party of Canada on tax policy. In addition to the traditional critic’s role, we also combine the portfolio with Ecological Fiscal Reform, which basically means our philosophy of using full cost accounting to discourage waste and encourage efficiency by taxing harms (pollution, waste) and removing taxes from things society wants, like wages and employment.

2. What’s the plan for childcare? Its so expensive that it often costs as much as what an average woman makes in a month. And in Toronto, where costs are already astronomical, it’s a cost that also eats into our finances. – Kathryn, Toronto ,ON

We completely agree that Canada needs a plan for affordable child care for all children. A Green government will collaborate with provinces/territories, local communities, Indigenous communities and the child care sector so that the principles of universality, affordability, quality, inclusivity and equity. We would dedicate additional resources to making a universal, affordable early learning and child-care (ELCC) system. Green Party plans for child care take into account not only parents’ convenience but also climate goals by reducing driving. Child care needs to be placed along existing transit routes, in neighbourhood schools, and other local buildints, workplaces, and transportation hubs.

A Green Party government will immediately begin to ramp up federal child care funding by adding $1 billion per year to achieve the international benchmark of at least one percent of GDP.

 And what about the plan for tuition support?

We will make college and university tuition-free for all Canadians students. We will finance this by redirecting existing spending on bursaries, tuition tax credits, saved costs of administering student loans, and the hundreds of millions of dollars of student loan defaults written off every year.

3. What’s the plan for rent control, and for preventing rent and housing prices from going more out of control? – Sukhi, Toronto, ON

On housing prices, we will legislate housing as a legally protected fundamental human right. We will appoint a Minister of Housing to strengthen the national housing strategy and, in collaboration with provincial ministers, target 25,000 new and 15,000 rehabilitated units annually for the next 10 years. We would increase the National Housing Co-investment Fund by $750 million for new builds, and the Canada Housing Benefit by $750 million for rent assistance for 125,000 households.

4. Does your party view climate change as an existential threat to Canadians? Why or why not?

We most certainly do. We see it as the defining challenge of our time. We will either take this opportunity to decarbonize our economy and preserve our health and that of the environment which sustains us, or suffer unthinkable consequences as our food, water, health and energy systems fail under a rising climate catastrophe.

4. What is your vision for balancing economic development with action to mitigate climate change? How can the economy be adjusted to grow more harmoniously with the environment?

We believe in the responsibility principle of not being allowed to force others to pay for the consequences of your pollution. With a polluter-pay system, individuals or businesses who reduce their footprint save, while those who pollute recklessly will find their actions unaffordable.

We will measure our economic progress through well-being, rather than gross domestic product. Economic policies will thus be seen through a lens of how they improve standard of living, reduce poverty, increase health or education, and similar measures rather than simple boost to GDP or average wealth, when much of the wealth in the average accrues to the already wealthy.

5. How does your party propose to ensure the high quality and quantity of future jobs in Canada? (Can you speak to salaries failing to keep up with the cost of living; the decline of job security and unionization; the rise of the “gig economy”)?

We will protect workers whose incomes and work lives are being and will be disrupted by AI and by the transition away from fossil fuels. We will enable the creation of new jobs in the green economy and facilitate the transition of workers from shrinking sectors into these new jobs. For more detail see Mission Possible, including the potential for 4 million new jobs in retrofitting existing buildings, plus many thousand more in building a coast-to-coast renewable energy corridor. We are looking at a “robot tax” to address jobs being replaced by AI and automation, and our Guaranteed Income will help those who don’t have full-time paying work. We would respect unions and reject back-to-work legislation as a bargaining tool.

6.What does “tax fairness” entail?

From a social justice perspective, tax fairness means that tax rates are linked to ability to pay through progressive taxation (the more wealth you have, the higher the rate you pay). To ensure that our progressive taxation system is truly fair, we will eliminate various loopholes that allow the rich or corporations to avoid fair taxation, and institute a 1% wealth tax on individual wealth over $20 million. The Greens also add a lens of environmental responsibility to taxation: those who pollute must bear responsibility (through full-cost pricing) for any environmental harms their actions cause, while those who whose efforts result in a smaller footprint will be taxed less.

7. What’s your stance on unpaid internships?

We would ban unpaid internships in private sector workplaces, with an exception for work-study or experiential learning placements associated with for-credit courses at post-secondary institutions.

8. Do you believe that the Canadian first-past-the-post electoral system needs to be reformed in favour of proportional representation (which the majority of democracies around the world have)? Why or why not?

The Green Party supports reforming our electoral system to a fair, proportional system. By March 2020, we will launch a Citizen’s Assembly on Electoral Reform with the mandate to make recommendations to parliament on an electoral system that would make every vote count. Changes would be implemented in time for the 2023 federal election.

We would also lower the voting age to 16.

9. What do you foresee to be the most divisive issues for Canadians moving up to the election?

The climate crisis is the defining and, sadly, most divisive issue of the 2019 election. Voters must choose between parties which either openly deny climate change (PPC), pay lip service but have no realistic plan to address it (Conservatives), acknowledge it but offer a plan which will fail to reach the reductions scientists tell us are necessary (Liberals and NDP), or have a plan which will meet or exceed the reductions necessary (Green Party). How each party will (or will not) address the climate crisis permeates through their entire platform, touching on taxation, changes to government subsidies toward fossil or renewable energy, the character of new job supports, and the direction we see for growing Canada’s economy at home in the wider world.

10. What provisions would your party prioritize in international trade agreements so that the majority of Canadians can benefit from globalization?

We would remove “investor state” provisions from all past and future trade deals so that foreign corporations or governments can no longer overturn laws passed to protect Canadian workers or the environment.

11. What would be your first priority in office: a “day 1” actionable item? 

We would establish a cross-party inner cabinet to deal with climate change without partisan considerations

12. What issues do you think you could partner with different parties to accomplish? 

We would happily partner with any or all other parties to address our common goals. All of the other parties have, at various times in the past, supported electoral reform. We could help craft a budget which reduces the deficit without spending cuts, by showing sources of additional revenue through closing loopholes or exceptions, particularly those used by foreign corporations or offshore tax havens. We would help improve any other party’s climate strategy by adding more elements so that reductions add up to where we need to be.