Rogers: sovereign Canada paramount

Rogers spoke to the Journal at the Common Ground Jan. 13.
Rogers spoke to the Journal at the Common Ground Jan. 13.

Although Canadian Action Party (CAP) candidate Don Rogers could be considered a long shot to become the MP for Kingston and the Islands, the long-time politician has overcome similar obstacles before.

When the Toronto native first ran for Kingston city council in 1988—after moving to the city in 1980 because of his job with the National Film Board—he said many people told him he wouldn’t be able to get elected without the backing of generations of family history in the area.

“I showed them, I guess,” Rogers said with a smile. The University of Toronto graduate was elected that year and went on to serve on the council for 15 years before retiring in 2003.

“What I learned from 15 years in municipal government is that municipalities don’t have the resources to deal with the bigger problems,” Rogers said. So when the CAP—whose policies centre around a three-point platform of cancelling NAFTA, using the Bank of Canada and preserving Canadian democracy—first approached Rogers to run in the 2004 federal election, he was ready to be lured out of his retirement.

“If I really wanted to be an MP, I wouldn’t be running with the Canadian Action Party, but they’re the party I feel the most comfortable with,” Rogers said. “What makes it different from the other three parties is that we dig down to the two or three issues they’re avoiding.

“We say, how can we defend access to education [or any of the values espoused by the other parties] if Canada becomes a part of the United States?” Rogers said he sees a major problem with the current erosion of Canadian sovereignty, largely through American takeovers of Canadian companies. He cites MBNA, the American bank that issues credit cards for Queen’s and a number of other Canadian universities, and the exclusive contract Queen’s has with Coca-Cola, as key examples of Canadian institutions surrendering their sovereignty to our neighbours to the south.

“Queen’s University should be ashamed of itself,” said Rogers, who in October began paying his Citizens Bank Visa bill in pennies to express his anger with the company’s outsourcing of bill processing to the United States.

“All of these little things contribute to the idea that Canada is not a sovereign nation.”

He said the CAP would be prepared to cancel the free trade agreement, in order to negotiate a better deal with the United States or to return to a multilateral trading system.

“The morning after cancelling free trade [with the U.S.], the sun would still rise,” Rogers said. “None of the other parties have come out and said they would cancel the free trade agreement—they dance around it.”

But the CAP isn’t a one-issue party, Rogers said. He outlined specific alterations they would make to the financing of post-secondary education in order to make it more affordable, including a $1.25 million lump sum transfer to the provinces and freezing tuition at 1991 levels.

Rogers said he feels this sort of thinking will appeal to students.

“I hope students will recognize that we are different,” he said. “We’re blunt, you know where we stand, and I think students will respond to that. ... I think they have a major role to play because they have the biggest stake in the country’s future.

“We’re the party that looks over the horizon [by] making sure we have a country—one that’s unique, distinct and under our control.”

Despite his party’s underdog status, Rogers said he doesn’t think a vote for the CAP is a wasted vote—rather, he feels the inverse is true.

“The Liberals and the Conservatives are basically two peas in a pod, so I would suggest a vote for either is a wasted vote,” he said.

“A vote for a little party is a real vote. When you vote for a smaller party, you’re not necessarily voting to send a member to Parliament—you’re making a vote to express your displeasure with the bigger parties.”

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For profiles on Green Party candidate Eric Walton and independent candidate Karl Eric Walker, please see page 19.

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