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CUPE members watching Monday night’s English debate in Montreal noted that NDP leader Jack Layton had the most to say about the need to protect their interests and needs of working families across Canada.

Layton scored by promoting more progressive budgets, a more responsive Parliament and keeping services like health care public and out of the hands of profiteers. He also showed himself to be the best choice for women and younger people.

In fact, Layton was the first leader who talked about the urgent need for more women members of Parliament in Ottawa and who pushed for making sure that a new child care program be public and not-for-profit.

And Layton was the only leader who spoke throughout the debate about the concerns of younger voters, focusing on education, training and creating better jobs.

Indeed, polls published today show that the growth of Conservative support is being fuelled by affluent, older men who pollster Allan Gregg calls the “old, angry, white men.” But Layton’s vision is proving to be broader and more inclusive.

Layton had the most to say about child care, health care and other top concerns of Canadians, stressing the need to keep services public and well-funded.

He reminded Canadians that they don’t have to choose between corruption and Conservatives, and that their better choice is to vote NDP to keep government focused on peoples’ real needs.

Child care workers and parents gathered in a downtown Ottawa home to watch the second English debate. Here’s what they said:

Alaine Taylor-Ryan (parent with daughter at Capital Daycare Centre): “It wasn’t a surprise that child care wasn’t as big as it should have been, but there were lots of social issues left off the agenda tonight.

I guess the changes are small and child care wasn’t even an issue a few elections ago. Tonight’s [Monday’s] debate and this election are a start, but there is a long way to go.

The problem is that there is not enough child care and the whole gender issue plays into it because women do the bulk of the work and the leaders are all men and they can continue to ignore our issues.”

Katie Deering (parent with son at Capital Daycare Centre): “Because child care is such a woman’s issue and the leaders – except for Jack – didn’t mention women’s issues, it’s no surprise that child care didn’t play a larger role in tonight’s [Monday’s] debate.”

Leah Fournier (parent with son at Glebe Parents’ Day Care Centre and also works at the centre and is CUPE 2204 member): “I really like Jack Layton. He’s saying the right things and he is really our best hope for parents and child care workers.”

Shellie Bird (CUPE 2204 member): “At least child care is an issue now. Martin, Harper and Layton all mentioned it at some point during the debate. And unlike education, which politicians know they can’t ignore, child care tends to get pushed aside because Canadians still don’t think of it as a right.

They can’t ignore health care and education but they still feel that they can ignore child care.

Tonight was Jack’s opportunity to really tackle the child care issue – the NDP platform is so strong on child care – but he didn’t do it. He failed to own the issue and take the other parties to task for their lack of action.”

Ric Dagenais is a CUPE member running as the NDP candidate in Ottawa-Vanier. Last night, he and some of his supporters watched the debate at a favourite watering hole.

Dagenais thought NDP Leader Jack Layton stayed true to his key messages. “He was especially good on the whole urban violence issue,” Dagenais said. “He was the only one talking about attacking the root of the problem. I was surprised that Martin actually sounded like he sincerely believes banning handguns is the solution.”

Dagenais did have some criticism. For example, he noted that all four leaders consistently came up short on foreign policy. “The NDP is the only one that keeps bringing up the .07 per cent of GDP issue (amount of gross domestic product Canada should be spending on foreign aid). But on the whole, policy with regards to places like Haiti, Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel has been absent from the debate.”

He would have liked more emphasis on the unemployed. Also, “what about homeless people and seniors? What about stay-at-home parents?” He’s also concerned that too much focus on families could alienate those who don’t have children or elderly parents to worry about, especially the already elusive young voters.

Ottawa-Vanier incorporates the city’s wealthiest neighbourhood, Rockliffe, as well as one of its poorest, the historically Francophone district of Vanier. The trendy Byward Market area, with its students, hip condos, and numerous bars, restaurants and other small businesses, also lies within the riding. Immigrants, mostly from Arabic-speaking countries, make up 22 per cent of the area’s population.

CUPE Nova Scotia president Danny Cavanagh had this to say after watching the debate:

Stephen Harper and Paul Martin continue with the old-style politics of promise, promise, promise, but seldom deliver after becoming elected. They have to come to realize at some point Canadians are just fed up with undeliverable promises.

On the other hand, Jack Layton is saying to Canadians that they will stand up for working people. Clearly the proof is in the pudding. Layton and his team came through in the last federal budget for working Canadians.

The NDP plan is to make health care a not-for-profit, 100 per cent publicly funded system, a health care system where they will put in the required funding has to make us as CUPE members think about electing more NDP MPs.

“Both Martin and Harper made no commitments to a strictly publicly funded and operated health system, to education, to seniors or to the youth of today.

Their parties offered Canadians more promises with nothing attached except their dismal past records of broken promises.”

Stay tuned to our site for more comment on the election debates.

Download CUPE’s election issue sheets and use them at all-candidates meetings and other election events.