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Deborah Coyne is the 1st to answer 6 questions.

A couple of weeks back, as I did with the OLP candidates, I submitted a series of questions (6 of them) to the LPC leadership candidates, making it clear that answers would be posted to this blog, and by extension of being on the various aggregates, as well as active on Twitter and Facebook, all over the internet and the social media world in general. A couple of these were even suggested by some LPC members, when I solicited for what type of common questions they wanted the candidates to be asked. Some were rather provocative, and I included them, if only to see what we got for replies. The first to send in her responses is Deborah Coyne. As with the Ontario Liberal Leadership candidates replies, I present them unedited, and without comment from me; I reserve comment until the end after we see all the candidates who reply, and what their answers are (and those who don’t).

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1) The Idle No More Movement has, as you know, recently sprang up. What do you think the Liberal Party should do to respond to the frustrations behind the Idle No More protests? Is there anything you think the LPC can do to get the First Nations people’s more active in the political process, or are there any policy options you would propose that engage aboriginal communities for regional solutions that empower at the local level but meet national goals?

The Idle No More movement has taken on such strength because it hit a chord, not just among Aboriginal Canadians, but among all Canadians who just will not tolerate anymore the fact that Aboriginal Canadians are living in such shameful conditions, and cannot understand why, after so many years, we are still failing as a country to eliminate this reprehensible situation.
I believe that the federal government must lead on improving the lives of aboriginal peoples. I discuss how the federal government can work towards a cooperative framework in my essay “A Way Forward for Aboriginal Canadians.”
We must take firm steps towards abolishing the Indian Act, and it begins by working cooperatively with First Nations government on a new governing framework. One that removes the yoke of the Indian Act, establishes accountability for First Nations leaders with their communities, and establishes the economic framework not only to improve living conditions, but to grow and prosper.
Furthermore, as important as it is that the answers come from these communities, it is also important that all levels of government are involved in creating a framework for aboriginal self-governance. My proposed Council of Canadian Governments will involve all levels of government, including First Nations leadership, to establish among other things development goals for Aboriginals in a coordinated and coherent way.

As far as empowering First Nations to engage in the political process, we need to show that we are a party that is open, that will listen, that shares the concerns of indigenous Canadians, and can serve as a vehicle for meaningful change.

2) Do you feel that the Liberal Party still needs to do any modernization with regards to running a 21st century election campaign, and if so, what do you think needs to be done?

There are many examples of other campaigns and innovative techniques that the Liberal Party can learn from. The Obama campaign, for example, was innovative in many ways, from its engagement with ordinary Americans in an open policy process to the use of big data and micro-targeting techniques to identify likely supporters and target them with specific messaging. We have already seen individual campaigns and regions of our party experiment with these techniques; we should learn from their experiences and adapt what works nationally.

Innovative campaign techniques, however, will mean nothing without the right message. Part of our problem in recent years is that Canadians no longer have a sense of what the Liberal Party has distinctly stood for. That must change. I want to position our party as the voice of strong national leadership that brings all Canadians together to work on issues of national priority, and for One Canada.

A more effective campaign also requires a more open and modern Liberal Party. That means open nominations, where the riding picks its candidate, not the leader. It means an open, member-driven policy process. It means more free votes, and less power wielded by the Prime Minister’s Office. I have released a proposal for party reform that outlines some of these proposals at length.

3) Stephen Harper and the Conservatives claim they are the best economic stewards of the economy, and this claim seems to have resonated with some voters, at least last election. What are the real philosophical differences between you and the Conservative party regarding the economy, and what would you present to the Canadian electorate as an alternative economic vision or set of policies to convince them your vision was better then theirs?

While history has shown Liberal governments to be better stewards of the economy, Canadians do not want to hear about the past. They want to hear about our plans for the future, and that must include a comprehensive plan for the economy, and for job creation. We need to offer Canadians both an alternative economic vision and the specifics that permit us to pursue this vision.

We face a crippling infrastructure deficit in our towns and cities. If this infrastructure deficit is left unaddressed, our economy will lack the solid foundation it needs to grow and prosper in the future. I have a plan to make sure that we eliminate this deficit by creating a non-partisan Canadian Infrastructure Financing Authority to pave the way towards more robust and innovative financing and investment partnerships.

We need to overhaul employment insurance because, right now, it is not there when so many Canadians need it. In government, I would make sure Canadians have access to the skills and training they need to get good jobs. As one initiative, I would merge the various workforce development programs into a single transfer to the provinces, funded from general revenues, and allocated according to the provincial share of unemployed workers.

We need transparent predictable policy around trade and investment. A government under my leadership would provide the transparency and predictability that the Harper government has not. We would welcome foreign investment based on reciprocal rights of investment for Canadian businesses.

We need to help students get a quality education that leads to good jobs without crippling debt. I propose a plan to have the federal government take the lead through a national strategy on post-secondary education that fosters creativity and ingenuity, ensuring greater access and removing lack of income as a barrier for qualified students.

I also have plans to overhaul an exemption-riddled tax system, finally complete our national economic union, and break down all the barriers to productive economic activity across provinces. And we must develop our natural resources for the long-term, guided by independent science and stringent environmental standards. All of that goes into building a more competitive and sustainable economy, and that is why it is such a key priority for me.

4) In a hypothetical situation where Liberals win back power and all of the current Liberal Leadership Candidates win their seats, in your opinion, where do you think each of the other candidates skills would best fit in a Liberal Cabinet?

I think it would be presumptuous for me to begin picking portfolios in a hypothetical Liberal government. We have a long way to go before we can earn the support of Canadians, to show we have learned from our past mistakes, and to show once again that we are ready to govern the nation on their behalf. I will say that we have a strong field of leadership candidates each of whom bring something unique to this race, and we need them all on the Liberal team in the next election. I have committed to seeking a Liberal nomination in the next election whether I am successful in this leadership campaign or not, and I hope all my fellow candidates would join me in that commitment.

5) Stephen Harper and the Conservatives have dismantled or gutted a lot of programs and policies since they were first elected; that has picked up pace since their May 2011 Majority Government. If you were Prime Minister, what would be the most important program(s) or policy(s) you would reinstate or re-create?

There are certainly many decisions made by the Conservatives with which I have disagreed. As leader of a Liberal government, my focus would be primarily on implementing my vision of One Canada for All Canadian and addressing the challenges facing the county as I see them, rather than creating a list of Conservative initiatives to undo. That said there are many deleterious Conservative policies in the areas of environmental protection, science and criminal law that will require particularly urgent attention.

6) There has been a lot of talk about not just electoral reform, but internal Liberal Party reform. The open nomination process comes to mind as one that a few candidates have advocated.  Regardless of whether you support open nominations in ridings, going a step further, would you support an open nomination process in a situation where a member or members of a ridings membership was not happy with an elected MP  – or even a Cabinet Minister – and wanted to primary them by running against them, or would you protect that MP and/or Cabinet Minister from being challenged?

I support an open nomination process, period. That includes no protection for incumbent MPs. All MPs would need to keep the support of their riding membership, and re-earn their nomination in an open nomination process. I have released a proposal for party reform that outlines this at more length, and I also issued a challenge to my fellow candidates to join me in promising open nominations. I was pleased to see several of them join me in this pledge.

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