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North made a 'welfare' state - Layton

Andrew Raven
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (July 11/05) - The federal government has mismanaged negotiations on the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline, NDP Leader Jack Layton said Wednesday.

The $7 billion project was one of several topics Layton discussed with News/North during an interview that touched on climate change, same-sex marriage and global poverty.

NDP leader Jack Layton says the federal government made serious mistakes with pipeline.

Layton was in Yellowknife to speak at the Assembly of First Nations annual meeting, where he was welcomed as an ally by National Chief Phil Fontaine.

News/North: How do you think the federal government has handled regulatory issues surrounding the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline?

Layton: Not well. You get the sense lobbyists for Imperial and Mobil are very active in Ottawa. Their voices are being heard a lot more than the communities.

News/North: Oil companies have balked at financial demands from aboriginal groups. What responsibility do the multi-nationals bear for addressing social problems - like alcoholism - in those communities?

Layton: They bear a huge responsibility. They are the ones profiting from (development). All you have to do is look at energy stocks. There are enormous profits to be made. But they will not (live up to those responsibilities) instinctively. That is why we have governments. Social and infrastructure projects up front are absolutely essential.

News/North: What are your thoughts on controversial head of the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board, Todd Burlingame?

Layton: Picking somebody not really from the North was a very bad decision. It sends out the signal that in the end this may be more about ensuring the tar sands get the (natural gas) they need.

News/North: The Northwest Territories are witnessing first hand the effects of global warming. Arctic shorelines are eroding, sea ice is receding and permafrost is melting. How has Ottawa dealt with climate change in the North?

Layton: It has been all hot air from the government. There is lots of talk but virtually no action. Paul Martin has promised time and time again to reduce (greenhouse gas) emissions, but they are up. We have had a lack of political will even though we have the most to lose.

News/North: The Northwest Territories is one four Canadian jurisdictions that do not allow same-sex unions. Even though parliament recently passed legislation that would allow gay and lesbian couples to marry, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said the issue was not dead. What are your thoughts?

Layton: There is an evolution underway. Mr. Harper may want to turn back the decisions that have been supported by the majority of Canadians, the courts and the House of Commons. But I would say everybody needs to be treated equally in our country.

News/North: The NDP propped up the federal government during a contentious budget debate earlier this summer, securing more than $4 billion extra in social spending. How long will NDP support of the Liberal government last?

Layton: We were never supporting the Liberals. We were supporting the budget.

The question this fall will be: what do the people want? We know the election is coming in six months. Do people want it earlier? So far I am not hearing that.