The McGill Tribune sat down with Matthew Dubé, who found himself thrown into Ottawa’s political arena after his surprise victory in last May’s election, to discuss Jack Layton’s legacy and the future of the NDP. A former McGill student, he spent the summer between his constituency and Ottawa, preparing for the first session of Parliament which opened this week.
What was it like working with Jack Layton? How will Jack’s vision and values continue with the party?
One of the great things I’ll always remember is how he treated everyone with the same sort of respect, and as someone who’s younger than the average politician, I really saw that. In the first conversation I ever had with him, before I was even a candidate, I got to speak to him for a good 15 minutes. For a leader of a federal party, that’s precious time. At the same time, you know he left us with a great project to continue with. None of us expect to fill his shoes and I don’t think any of us want to either, we have to take our own shoes and continue on the path he set us on.
How does the NDP feel about the Conservatives’ renewal of their anti-terrorism legislation?
First of all, we find the comments Stephen Harper made on The National referring to “Islamicism” as a major threat to Canada absolutely shameful. Security is important for the NDP, but at the same time there’s nothing indicating that we’re at risk in any way and right now people’s priorities are issues like the economy, especially job creation and security. We feel these security issues are non-existent and it’s divisive politics, plain and simple. The Omnibus Crime bill, jokingly referred to as the Big Brother Bill, is problematic and illustrates that Conservatives’ priorities are out of whack.
Have you formally endorsed an NDP leadership candidate?
For myself I think that it’s a bit early to say. Leadership was obviously on people’s minds [at the NDP’s general caucus] in Quebec City. We are potentially going to be supporting different candidates but no one has a problem with that. From feedback I’ve been getting in my riding there’s a lot of hope in Quebec that Thomas Mulcair will present himself as a candidate. As for my own personal endorsement, I’m definitely going to see once all the candidates are there and official, and I can make the decision then.
What do you see as challenges for the NDP stemming from the Leadership race?
At the end of the day our goal is to make sure that rather than be something divisive that this be a discussion of ideas. Lots of candidates do have connections to Quebec, which is a natural consequence of the breakthrough that happened in this province in the last election. Thomas Mulcair and Brian Topp, like Jack Layton, are McGill graduates. I compare the process to a family debate at the dinner table about politics. It can get heated at times and not everybody necessarily agrees 100 per cent but at the end of the day it’s shared values, it’s a family and we definitely want to be in government in four years so we’re all going to work together.
Do you feel you and your peers’ electoral success says something about youth empowerment and breaking out of the mould that young people, especially those who want to get into politics, find themselves in?
People had some reservations about the number of young people who got elected—and that’s fair. At the same time [we younger MPs know] that we’re hard workers, that we can have just as much a say and impact as someone from another generation. At the end of the day, it’s up to us to show that to people. It never hurts to have a new set of eyes on the problems we face as a society. We want to show people that young people can people work positively in this environment and contribute in an important and positive way.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
—Compiled by Anand Bery