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Coffin, Rogers duke it out for NDP leadership


Childcare, carbon pricing to be top of mind for NDP

Two weeks ahead of their leadership convention, NDP leadership hopefuls Alison Coffin and Gerry Rogers laid out their cases Sunday afternoon for leading the province’s third party at the Bruneau Centre.

 Two weeks ahead of their leadership convention, NDP leadership hopefuls Alison Coffin and Gerry Rogers laid out their cases Sunday afternoon for leading the province’s third party at the Bruneau Centre.

 While the candidates ultimately had similar views on a majority of issues, the debate gave a good indication of where the policy direction of the New Democrats will be headed into 2019, regardless of who the party leaders will be.

Universal child care — either on the provincial or federal scale — is something both candidates voiced their support of multiple times as part of the answer to a number of issues raised at the debate.

Coffin says this province needs to look at the Quebec model of universal child care as a starting point.

“Enabling individuals to go to work improves well-being, sense of self, and being able to supply for families. Child care is not an issue that’s solely for women,” said Coffin.

“It’s a difficult situation and there are tangible solutions.”

Rogers says the federal government needs to step in and provide universal child care — something she says amounts to a broken promise by the federal Liberals.

“Trudeau has failed us on this. He promised that they would institute a federal child care program. We have to push the federal government to honour its commitment,” said Rogers.

“There’s no good reason for us to not have a public administered, publicly funded, publicly supported child care program across this whole country.”

Rogers pointed to child care as one way to help address the gender wage gap in the province, as well as a way to help address violence against women.

Coffin was crystal clear about what she thinks about political contributions:

“We need to ban corporate and union donations,” she said.

While the NDP sees the largest chunk of small, individual donations around election time, a ban on union donations could hurt the party, in the long run.

Ahead of the 2015 election, the NDP raised $330,000 from union donations — well over half of the total $446,622 raised. Of the remaining donations, $173,683 was from individuals, while $16,800 came from businesses.

Rogers was less clear about what she wants to see changed in terms of political donations.

Carbon tax is one area the candidates found some differences between them. Rogers says it’s up to polluters to pay the tax.

“I believe we have to have a carbon tax that has polluter pay and that we look at the oil and gas industry – but we also look at transportation and home heating,” said Rogers.

“Let’s tax the polluters — let’s not make it impossible for corporations — but let’s tax what needs to be taxed.”

For Coffin, while she’s ultimately supportive of a carbon tax, she was unclear about the exact model she believes will fit the province.

 “What’s going to be right for our province is going to be a delicate balance of what industry will support but also what industry is going to try and pass onto individuals,” said Coffin.

“We have to be very careful about the types of taxes that we’re going to incorporate.”

The provincial Liberals are set to roll-out their carbon pricing plan in the coming months, while the federal government has given the provinces until the end of this year before imposing its own model of carbon pricing.

The NDP convention, which will be attended by Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, takes place April 6-8 in St. John’s.

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