During a radio interview last week, NDP MLA Jagrup Brar expressed over the top admiration for nanny state communist Cuba. This begs the question, does Adrian Dix agree with Brar that state-run everything is the right model for British Columbia, or will Dix distance himself from his communist-infatuated MLA?
“Sometimes when people are most relaxed, such as after a refreshing holiday in the Caribbean, they are most likely to express their innermost thoughts. In this case, Jagrup may well have given us a glimpse into the secret desires of the BC NDP Caucus,” said Bill Bennett, MLA from Kootenay East.
According to Brar, who represents the constituency of Surrey-Fleetwood, Cuba is a terrific model for B.C. because, “The gap between rich and poor is not there or very minimal,” and “Because they have distributed their resources in a more fair way than us [sic].” (Radio India, Aug. 24, 2012)
MLA Brar also asserts that Cuba has a low crime rate because, “Guns are only issued to soldiers or police personnel. Otherwise, you can’t carry a gun or get a gun license under any circumstance.” (Radio India, Aug. 24, 2012)
“Jagrup’s interview should be a wake-up call for any British Columbian who values individual enterprise and individual freedom,” Bennett says. “While Cubans risk their lives in tiny fishing boats across shark-infested waters to escape one of the world’s last communist regimes, the BC NDP seems to suggest British Columbia ought to copy Cuba’s approach.”
“Frankly, Jagrup’s comments remind me of the politician who doesn’t think his microphone is on. I for one have zero interest in living in a state where individual effort and ambition is discouraged, where censorship is rampant and freedom of speech is non-existent. Mr. Brar should immediately retract his comments and apologize to the Cuban Canadians,” added MLA Bennett.
Audio (in Punjabi) of the interview can be found here: http://governmentcaucus.bc.ca/files/2012/08/RadioIndiaJagrupBrarAug24.mp3
A full translated transcript of the interview is below.
Transcript of radio interview between Radio India host Gurpreet Singh and BC NDP MLA Jagrup Brar
Friday, August 24, 2012
Interviewer: Gurpreet Singh (GS)
Interviewee: Jagrup Brar (JB)
GS: Mr. Brar, welcome to our program.
JB: Gurpreet ji, thank you very much.
GS: So Mr. Brar, you had recently gone to Cuba on a personal trip. While there, what did you notice about the health care system and welfare system and what were your thoughts on them?
JB: Gurpreet ji, overall my trip to Cuba was very pleasant. It’s a beautiful country. We spent seven days at a resort in a city called Veradero. It’s a beautiful city. During those seven days, we visited five provinces and looked at various cities in those provinces. We visited Havana, the capital city and also did a boat cruise. We also toured a monument erected to Che Guevera, who was a very big hero during the revolution. That was in Santa Clara. Also on the other side of the Island there’s a city called (inaudible) we also visited. We saw a lot of cities and a lot of villages. All in all if I was to make a statement of what I witnessed.
Based on my observations. The gap between rich and poor is not there or very minimal. Nor is there an individual who doesn’t have a place to sleep or food to eat. Nor is there a child who goes to bed hungry.
Nor are there any extremely wealthy billionaires who don’t have an idea of how much wealth they have and have numerous boats, planes or million dollar palaces. We traveled a lot, as I mentioned and met with many individuals whom I had the opportunity to speak with. The conversations I had with these individuals, I want to share those with you.
The first being on the issue of education. All the schools and education are totally free. There are no private schools. All schools are public schools. All the schools have uniforms. Even university and college education is free after finishing school, you have to write an exam. If you pass that exam, whichever degree you want to obtain, your admission is based on that. When you pass that exam, your university and college education is totally free. If you need to stay in a hostel all your room and board is covered. All your books are also free. In every province, they have erected three universities with lots of planning. One university is a medical college, for medical education; the second is for teachers and to train professors and the third is for general studies.
As for the topic of health care; um, I will say that despite us being a wealthy society, we have not yet been able to reduce university tuition fees. We are thousands of miles away from it, but over there it’s free.
GS: This is why there have been mass protests in Montreal.
JB: Yes. As you know in Montreal, there have been student agitations for a long time. In BC as well, the highest debt for students are the student loans which they have taken. Health care, as well, Gurpreet ji, people tell me is all free. There are no private clinics in the entire country. All the medications, not just getting the prescription from the doctors, but all of the medication is also completely free. Dental care, care for teeth, is also completely free.
This is the reason why in our country, even though we are considered amongst the wealthy nations, dental care is not free. For average citizens it’s a far gone situation but even for the poorest in our society we have not been able to provide free dental care. The wait time is very little compared to us.
When you go to your doctor, to see your doctor, after 5:00pm the doctors are closed but they have mega clinics where you can go and see a doctor and get any medication you need. In this essence, I touched upon it earlier, they have a government policy that no child there can go to sleep hungry. There, the government gives one litre of milk free to each child up to the age of seven. They ship the milk no matter where the child is.
Also I noticed all of the streets, the villages are very clean, Gurpreet ji, because in in the villages, they have removed all of the cattle and livestock and moved them to all of the outlying farms. All of the streets are clean and well cared for. The landscaping around the streets is well maintained. The landscaping is very nicely done, it is a very green country.
They have storms but there is no dirt or debris to be found anywhere. The people in the villages, their main transportation is by horse or bicycle. There are lots of people travelling by horseback or horse and buggy for some farmers or bicycles. The people are very beautiful, healthy and strong. People roam free in the streets whether in the cities or in the villages. I witnessed young women in the streets catching rides or waiting for the bus. A single woman can easily walk around the streets at 2:00 at night and no one bothers her.
This is the type of safe environment they have created. Whether it’s the city or the village, everyone is dressed the same. They wear similar clothes. Even my guide, he had travelled out of Cuba extensively and had even visited Canada. He told me that the “rat race” that exists in our society, doesn’t take place there. He said they enjoy their lives and live their lives to the fullest. That’s the type of life there. And the crime there, Gurpreet ji, you just spoke, before me, with a reporter in New York. No citizen there can get a gun. Guns are only issued to soldiers or police personnel. Otherwise, you can’t carry a gun or get a gun license under any circumstance.
In the same way, when it comes to drugs, especially in our country you have methadone or marijuana, they are so rare it’s almost as if they don’t have those drugs there. That’s why when it comes to gangs based on the drug trade, there are very few there. You’ll see there at night or day, there is no danger. You can safely walk the streets. As I said before, young girls walk the streets at night and there is no danger to anyone. When you compare it to our society, the Cubans don’t have as much right to free speech and lack the freedom to travel outside the country. People here can go to other countries and travel, if they have the means. However there, peoples incomes are less there.
But each citizens basic needs are completely being met. Also the business community there as a percentage, compared to ours, is quite low. No person there can open a business and become a multi‐millionaire overnight or after two, or five years because their system is different.
The final thing I want to say is, Fidel Castro who has stayed as President and now his brother Raul Castro is the President. Throughout the entire country you will not find a statue or picture or poster of them anywhere. I had gone with the assumption I would see lots of pictures of the President or statues of him everywhere. The only statue or posters they have of anyone are those of the National Hero, I mentioned before. He came from Argentina. He was a qualified doctor who helped them fight for independence.
Afterwards they even made him a Minister. He was Minister of industry and also in charge of the National Bank. He left Cuba and went to other countries to help them revolt where he was killed. His statues are all over the country. Huge statues have been erected all over in his honor. There is also a big memorial in his honor.
The last thing I want to say is that as far as the average citizens daily life is concerned, two things are famous. The first is the rum from there. You can go to any store, any pub, any hotel, anyplace. The Havana Rum is available everywhere and is very cheap. The second thing is the cigars from there are very famous.
This is my brief observation that the gap between the rich and the poor does not exist. As in our country, the downtown eastside in Vancouver, which people say is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and is a city in a wealthy nation. What we see there in the downtown eastside, we don’t see such a place in Cuba. It exists in a rich society but there, in Cuba, it is not. Because they have distributed their resources in a more fair way than us.
GS: Brar Sahib, when I went there, I also came back with the same impressions as you. There is no gap between rich and poor. The biggest thing is that there are no projections of Castro anywhere as you would expect to see in a dictatorial society, where there a lot of projections of dictators. I want to ask you, when you stayed on welfare for a month, Kevin Falcon made a comment on Cuba. He said that, that kind of poverty cannot come here. How do you weigh in on that?
JB: Look. Mr. Falcon. What he said, only he can tell you what he meant by it. The picture I’ve painted for you is what I’ve seen with my own eyes. There in Cuba, the type of extreme poverty that you see in our country; that you see in the United States, the countries that fly the banner of wealth. You won’t see this type of poverty there. As I told you before, I didn’t come across a single person that someone would be afraid to walk by. Every citizen there gets a place to sleep, a roof over their head, food to eat, everyone gets that. In our country you will see that in many cities, you will find many homeless people. You won’t find homeless people in Cuba. Whatever he meant by that statement and why he said, only he can explain that, but what I’ve seen is very different.
GS: Canadians travel to Cuba in large numbers. It is obvious that Americans have put restrictions which don’t make it possible for them to go. But here, our past Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau took a different stance and maintained a harmonious relationship with Cuba. This is the reason why Canadians can freely travel there in large numbers. Do you want to say anything about this?
JB: There, Gurpreet ji, there, you’re absolutely right, at this time their (inaudible) industry due to some global restrictions. Some of their economic limitations as you said, they were the target of the Cold War. Due to which they were unable to develop many of their industries properly, which they could have. They don’t have many trade relationships which they can develop. Cuba can, on a large scale, produce sugar cane and fruit and lots of coffee. Due to the sanctions placed by lots of countries who are under the influence of America they are not trading with them. This is affecting their economy. They have done beautiful work with their tourism industry. Which they have grown quite well. They have built beautiful resorts which are relatively cheap.
People from there, have immense respect for Canadians. They respect Canadians a great deal. As you mentioned, due to Trudeau. The connections he made. The respect our people gave to them. The largest number of tourists going there, are Canadians. The majority of which are people from Montreal. From Quebec. From Ottawa. From Toronto. Because from there, it is only a three hour, three and a half hour flight. From here, it is a six hour flight. Number two, are the Russians and Germans who are travelling there. There are many tourists coming from many countries. It is a very big industry for them, the tourism industry at this time. They are operating it very effectively. And there, as I said earlier, our people have a lot of respect.
GS: Lastly I want to know. When we talk about the post‐colonial era. At this time, it is a very big philosophical question. We say that we should forget the colonial mindset, but Canada and other wealthy countries are saying Cuba is lacking this and that. But do you feel there are things in Cuba that wealthy countries should learn?
JB: See, it is clear, Gurpreet Singh, the basic question is, how are the resources being distributed? The basic question that you have asked is, Gurpreet, how are the resources being distributed? In our countries, there is no doubt, that the resources and wealth are concentrated in the higher ups. Which are very few people, the big corporations. Whatever is left is with the middle class, and underneath them are the poor people. But generally if we look at a society, especially a healthy society, the thing to look at is how they treat the most vulnerable members. The people we refer to as poor people, what does society do for them? That is how you recognize a society. We have stayed behind in this respect.
Even though we have all the resources, the poor people, for a child of a poor person education has become so costly that if he wants to become a doctor, he cannot become one. If he wants to become a teacher, he cannot become one. The issue of equality becomes a question mark.
In this same sense, if we cannot provide a place to sleep for our people, then how can we describe the beauty of our country? The thing we need to learn is, the issue of medical, as I mentioned, medical services which are ones basic need, today in Canada, despite our system being okay. But if we compare it with theirs, there, even dental care is free. We have not been able to go that far.
With education, we are talking about providing affordable education. That debate is still going on. It should be affordable. We are not even using the word, free. But there, it is already free. Similarily, on the issue of crime. There, a person within the country is so free, that he is able to walk so fearlessly at night, that we can’t even imagine doing the same here. Here, in our own city, at night, which we consider (inaudible), we are scared to send our kids to school so they don’t become a target of drugs or gangs. These are not things they worry about there.
GS: Thank you Mr. Brar for participating in our program. We are thankful to you. We are grateful to you. Our best wishes are with you.
JB: Gurpreet thank you very much.
GS: Thank you.