A man who calls Bernie Sanders ‘a good friend’
By Craig Allan, Staff Writer
In the world of politics, it can be tough to stay in power. With political situations always in flux, it’s rare to find many Members of Parliament (MP) who can make it to a second term, let alone six. Peter Julian is one of those political stalwarts.
Having been elected in six straight elections as the MP for the NDP candidate for the Burnaby-New Westminster riding, Julian has been a rare constant presence in the ever-changing landscape of Canadian politics.
The Other Press sat down with Julian to discuss his life in politics, working with Bernie Sanders, what he has already accomplished, what he hopes to accomplish, and what he wants for Canada in the future.
Julian says what he most enjoys about being the MP of the Burnaby-New West riding is helping people. He believes that the reason why he has been able to gain more votes and more confidence from the riding is because he has a “really good staff, we work hard, and we advocate for people.” He also says he receives tremendous joy in his job because he gets to help people in need.
Julian says he is currently pushing for a national pharma-care act that will provide services like dental and prescription medication to the people most in need. “I’ve been told stories about people who are having trouble paying for their medication.” He also points out that he has talked with many families who say they are $200 away from being insolvent. He believes that things like dental should be covered by the national health plan and should be funded over tax cuts for the wealthy. He says he will keep fighting “until we have the kind of society in this country that really reflects what Canadians need.”
On what accomplishment he is most proud of in his time as the Burnaby-New West MP, Julian pointed to the banning of Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) from all products—a cancer-causing agent. He says he received support from over 200 cities on that issue. He also talked about a bill which compensated the families of firefighters and police officers who pass away in the line of duty. It had not been established in Canada until Julian brought it to the floor.
Though Julian may look like a pillar of success, he has experienced loss in the Canadian political landscape, as he ran for the provincial NDP in the 1989 Quebec provincial election. He looks back on it without malice, as his campaign only had $100 as a budget and he was not favoured to win. This failure would not deter him though, as he would continue to work to change the world. This included campaigning for presidential democratic nominee Bernie Sanders in his first re-election campaign in 1992—calling Sanders “a good friend.”
On the issue of tuition, which concerns many students, Julian believes in cutting the interest required for federal tuition loans, and halting interest payments on current outstanding loans. “For the cost of 8 billion dollars a year we can have interest free tuition payments like 18 other industrialized countries, and a good quality education.” He laments the fact we are closing the door on education while companies are getting discounts for things like the purchase of limousines from the federal government. Julian spoke very passionately about this issue and said that when Conservatives and Liberals say they can’t afford to give interest free tuition it boils his blood.
Connected to the issues of post-secondary students is also the fear of automation, and how it will affect their future. Julian points out the government actually offers subsidies to companies that automate their work, to which he would stop. He talks about how governments around the world are investing in more soft skills like childcare, and that Canada needs to go down that road as well.
While the NDP may be reeling from their lost seats in this past federal election, and suffering from the blow of losing Jack Layton to cancer back in 2011, Julian has hope for the party under Jagmeet Singh. He says he believes that Singh is the best choice to lead Canada. While no one can know for sure what the future holds for his party, or the country, Julian is steadfast in his desire to continue fighting for all Canadians and for his constituents in Burnaby-New Westminster.