Jack came back

More than 200 attend NDP leader Jack Layton’s second talk in six months

NDP leader Jack Layton gives a talk in Ellis Auditorium to a roomful of students, faculty and community members.
NDP leader Jack Layton gives a talk in Ellis Auditorium to a roomful of students, faculty and community members.

From the U.S.’s ongoing healthcare debate to Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr, New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Jack Layton fielded a myriad of questions when he spoke in Ellis Auditorium on Tuesday night.

The town hall meeting was his second visit to Queen’s in six months.

“I’m calling on young people to become involved in the opportunities that help make change,” he said of his frequent visits to universities.

He has a special preference for Queen’s students, he said.

“When I’m across the country, all kinds of people are coming up to me and saying, ‘I heard you at Queen’s’ or ‘I met you at Queen’s and I’m getting involved in things in my community,’” he said. “Literally, from one end of the country to the other, I run into Queen’s graduates or students who are making a difference.”

Layton occasionally joked with the packed auditorium.

Once, someone asked him how students could get involved on campus.

“Of course, getting involved in the NDP club on campus would be one of the best possible choices that could be made,” he quipped.

He also told the audience that he set a record at York University for taking 14 years to finish his doctorate.

Layton spoke in defense of Canada’s public healthcare system, which has come under attack from some U.S. politicians in their healthcare reform debates.

“Rich or poor, no matter where you came from, no matter what previous illnesses, our system is going to be there for you,” he said.

When he was asked what the NDP is doing to bring Canadian citizen Khadr back from the U.S., Layton was less clear, saying his party would do everything in its power to defend the rights of Canadian citizens abroad.

Amanda Judd, ArtSci ’11, asked Layton if the NDP would support allowing the leader of the Green Party, which doesn’t hold a seat in legislature, to participate in future televised debates.

“I asked this question because it struck me as odd that the leader of the New Democrats would oppose the leader of the Green Party being in the debates as he did during the last election,” she said. “It’s counter-intuitive for a party which is all about equality to deny the opportunity for a democratic debate with all parties involved.”

Judd said she didn’t like his response to her question.

“Layton’s response ... was that he and the New Democrats have supported Elizabeth May being included in the past, which I wasn’t very happy with as he did oppose her inclusion in the last election,” she said. “That also didn’t answer whether, if there was debate on her inclusion this time, if he would stand up for the Green Party being in the debate. I hope he learned from the backlash he received last time and will not attempt to block her inclusion again.”

Some people also asked Layton what the NDP would need in order to support the Conservative Party’s minority government in a confidence motion today.

“If they’re willing to do some of the things that need to be done right now, like help for people when they’re out of work, creating jobs for young people, stopping credit card companies from gauging those who are in debt, then we’re willing to support those measures as they come along,” he said.

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