Pubdate: Sat, 10 Dec 2005
Source: New West News Leader (CN BC)
Copyright: 2005 New West News Leader
Author: Jeff Nagel
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


NDP leader Jack Layton says his party will press the Liberals to
maintain the federal moratorium on offshore oil exploration in B.C.

In a campaign stop in the province last Saturday, Layton accused Prime
Minister Paul Martin of remaining silent on the issue, while forcing
drilling critic David Anderson out of cabinet.

"He was the one person who would speak out on it," Layton said in an
interview. "He got dumped from the environment portfolio - that sent a
pretty strong message."

Layton touched on a series of resource issues in a swing through
Surrey and Burnaby ridings, where he mocked Martin's handling of the
softwood lumber dispute with the U.S.

"Now... you guys... you just stop that... or I'll talk again," he
said, mimicking the prime minister.

Instead of more talk, Layton said, Canada should place an export
charge on oil and gas that goes south and "let our American friends
know loudly, clearly and respectfully well in advance that we're being
forced to consider such an initiative because of the unfairness of the
actions of the American administration."

He said the charge should be designed to recover the $5 billion in
softwood lumber tariffs levied against Canadian forest companies over
a reasonable period of time.

Layton also pledged to explore whatever steps are possible to undo the
sale of Terasen Gas to Kinder Morgan.

"The Liberals in Victoria and the Liberals in Ottawa both said no to
any public input. That's wrong."

He took aim at the Conservative pledge to cut the GST by two per cent
over five years.

"Tax cuts are nice but they're not the top priority," he

If the NDP retains its influential position in another minority
Parliament, he said he will again seek to block corporate tax cuts and
force the Liberals to adopt NDP spending priorities.

He called long-term care for seniors, help for students and
environmental investments among the unfinished priorities.

NDP-forced budget amendments last spring only guaranteed two years of
funding for transit systems and affordable housing, he added. "We
think those investments are needed on an ongoing basis."

But he said select tax exemptions for purchases like energy efficient
hybrid cars should be approved.

"Right now, people are penalized - the government actually takes more
money from you when you try to do the right thing because those cars
are more expensive," Layton said.

"We also tie that to wanting those cars to be built here in Canada, so
at least it's some Canadian workers who have the jobs and they're
paying taxes."

He also pledges to continue to back the decriminalization of
possession of small amounts of marijuana - a bill that died with the
Martin government.

"Our view is there should be rules around marijuana use, personal use,
age, driving, trafficking, mass production and marketing," he said.
And Layton dismissed critics who say the stance helps organized crime.

"When something is criminalized to the extent that marijuana is you
have by definition created a context for organized crime," he said.
With just five seats out B.C.'s 36, a strong finish this election
could translate into big gains for the NDP.

How many does he hope for?

"More. A lot more."
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin