March 17, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 87  

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Layton speaks at Western

By Jonathan Yazer
Gazette Staff
Leah Crane/Gazette
“NDP MEANS ‘NEW DOLE PARTY’ NOW.” Jack Layton, leader of the federal NDP, was on campus Tuesday to showcase his best Bob Dole imitation, albeit without the pencil in his hand.

New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton explained the reasons he should replace Paul Martin as prime minister yesterday during a speech in the University Community Centre atrium, attacking the Liberal party and outlining some of the programs an NDP government would implement.

During his address, Layton portrayed the Liberal party as fiscally irresponsible, in contrast to his own party. “NDP governments have had fewer deficits as a percentage of the years we’ve been in power than any other party, while the most have come from the Liberals,” he said.

“There’s a new kind of arrogance in the federal government — things have become sick. The Liberals are throwing away tax dollars like no one ever worked for them,” Layton said.

On the topic of education, Layton accused Martin of inflating student debt. “The average student debt load in 1993 when Paul Martin became minister of finance was $8,000,” he said. “Now it’s up to $25,000, and a considerable number have even more debt. This is supposed to be the point in their lives when students break free, but instead they suffer under a burden.”

He also expressed concern over the inability of some to afford post-secondary education and further stressed his belief in admission to university on the basis of merit.

“Those who go to college should be the ones with the good marks, and it shouldn’t have anything to do with the size of their parents’ wallets. We’re starting to deny something that should be a right,” he said.
Rebecca Coulter, a professor of education at Althouse College and former NDP candidate for London North Centre during last October’s provincial election, criticized Martin’s role in a roundtable discussion at Western last week. “He was here by invitation only and students weren’t able to get in,” she said. “The prime minister is running scared.”

Layton touched on a variety of global issues, signalling his support for the Kyoto Accord and his disapproval of a continental missile defense.

“Our focus is on the concepts of investment and building, especially in health care, education and our communities,” Layton said following his speech.

Yesterday’s event in the atrium was meant to promote the campaign of Irene Mathyssen, the federal NDP candidate for London Fanshawe who introduced Layton to the podium.

Mathyssen said she was looking forward to the time Martin places an election call. “We’re ready,” she said. “The [Brian] Mulroney and Martin legacies are not good enough.”

Stephen Maynard, a third-year civil engineering student, thought Layton’s words were inspiring. “Finally a voice not just for students, but for anyone who cares about this country, and change and real issues,” he said.

Noor Ladhani, a fourth-year medical student, explained that she was not sure if she supported the NDP. “I wanted to see what [Layton] had to say. There as a lot of substance to what he said.”



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