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Q&A with Quebec MP Tyrone Benskin

18 August 2011 No Comments

Tyrone Benskin

By Samuel Getachew

It has been mere months since the New Democratic Party scored its best electoral success under the leadership of the Hon. Jack Layton. The province of Quebec is where the NDP had its best result, winning 58 seats over the lone seat it held pre-election.

As the leader steps aside temporarily to fight a newly discovered cancer, Sway catches up with Tyrone Benskin, one of those NDP Quebec MP’s that benefited from the great historic efforts of the NDP as he reflects on his beloved leader and the controversial new temporary leader, Nycole Turmel.

SG: Congratulations on your great win. What has surprised you most about the position since you were elected?

Benskin: I don’t think I am so much surprised as excited. I think the biggest surprise, if any, was the feeling of awe stepping into the House of Commons for the first time and taking my seat. As far as the position itself, I am excited to already be working on some of the issues facing my constituents as well as the pride. I am energized by the passion they and the organizations they represent bring to the table in an effort to make their lives and their communities better.

Why the NDP?

I joined the NDP quite simply because I found that the values that make up the core of the NDP platform were really in line with my own – from a human perspective. Although it is a political party, the NDP still manages to focus on what is important to people and not simply for political gain. That was important to me as a candidate and it is important to me as a public servant.

You are the new critic of Canadian heritage for the NDP. What are some of the areas you would want to focus on and what changes will you be proposing?

The cultural portfolio is a sizable one. I think it is imperative that a government recognizes the importance of the cultural sector – of course economically, but more importantly its value to Canadians and the expression of their identity. As an artist, I am keenly aware of how difficult it is to function in an environment of uncertainty. As The Official Opposition Heritage Critic, I will make that importance clear to this government.

It is vital that there be a focus on stabilizing the sector with permanent investment in Canada’s extraordinary arts organizations, as well as a film and TV industry second to none. We need to build a reason for our talented artists and technicians to stay here in Canada and give them an opportunity to build home-grown careers. Also, tax averaging for artists is an issue that has been a long time on the agenda but little has happened. This is an important element to aiding and supporting our artists. The Conservatives need to stop undermining the efforts of Canada’s arts and cultural sector and start working with it.

Let us focus on your leader, the Hon. Jack Layton. I am sure you were shocked by his new battle like all Canadians. Tell us about Mr. Layton and the person and personality you have known over the years.

Jack Layton, like for so many of us, is a source of inspiration and leadership to me. I had the pleasure of meeting with Jack over the last eight or so years through the advocacy work I was doing. I have come to know him as a strong, passionate and dedicated individual and have every ounce of faith that he will not only beat this cancer, but will be back to lead us to the first ever NDP government in Canada.

Tell us about the new interim leader of the NDP Nycole Turmel and why you think she would be a great interim leader of the official party of Canada?

Nycole Turmel is a dynamic leader, and I’m looking forward to working with her. She is doing an excellent job helping our caucus prepare for the fall session. She was the unanimous choice by the caucus and federal council as she has played a leadership role in the party. Like Jack Layton when he became leader, Turmel has proven success leading a major pan-Canadian organization – she was the first woman to lead the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

She is ready to help the New Democrat team take on the Conservatives and get results on issues like pensions, health care and making life more affordable for Canadian families. I am confident the rest of Canada will soon discover what Quebecers have known for years – Nycole Turmel is a strong and dynamic leader.

Any parting words?

Thank you for the opportunity to share some of my thoughts with you and your readers. I am looking forward to hearing theirs.

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