I’ve been good friends with Joseph Planta for twenty years now and he is a big part of the reason why I got into writing in the first place. Over the years, I’ve interviewed him, just as he has interviewed me and now he’s ready to launch a new program with fellow Tupper Secondary alum Jackie Pierre.
To be made available through TheCommentary.ca alongside the existing “On the Line” interview series, the new podcast will approach a range of different subject areas. Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to chat with both Joseph and Jackie about this new venture. Here’s what we had to say:
Michael Kwan: Looking at The Commentary’s website, the archives go back to 2004, but I know it has existed longer than that, starting out as an email newsletter. Can you tell me a little bit of The Commentary’s origin and early days?
Joseph Planta: I wanted to write and I thought email would be a good way to get it out there and read. Then, websites and blogs came around and it just moved there, online in 2003/2004, and the interview program–they weren’t called podcasts yet–began in 2004. But really, I wanted to write and get read. I thought it was fun to write like the people I read in newspapers and magazines. It’s a lot of work, as you can attest, so that’s why I don’t do it as much.
Michael: Which is a big part of the reason why On the Line is now the primary feature on the site.
Joseph: Yeah, I reviewed books a lot, and in the course of getting books, one gets offered interviews. It’s just easier talking to author, taping it, and putting that up than transcribing it or writing around it. And I think as Jackie knows, I’d always been interested in broadcasting going back to Tupper, and before that Dickens.
Michael: Along the way, several fellow Tupper graduates have helped and contributed to The Commentary. Vishal Dhir and Richie Leung have provided much technical help, for example. And I was myself a contributor. Now, you’ve decided to welcome another one of our fellow alumni into the fold. Can you tell us about the new program?
Michael: Jackie, what was your reaction when Joseph first approached you with this idea?
Jackie Pierre: I thought it was a great idea! I’ve known Joseph since grade 3 and have always envied how passively smart he was. To be included in this venture with him is such an honor.
Michael: Passively smart?
Jackie: Yes. He’s really smart, but isn’t smug about it. He speaks when he’s asked… in class anyway.
Michael: I think both Joseph and I can agree that you can be quite opinionated and you’re not afraid to speak your mind. I think you have a blog too?
Jackie: Hahaha. I do have a blog that I unfortunately haven’t been able to keep up with, but yes, I am opinionated and will let my thoughts be known most times with either words or my eye rolls.
Michael: Would you say that, in general, your opinions align with one another or are you more likely to respectfully disagree?
Jackie: I think we respectfully disagree with each other for the most part.
Joseph: We’ve been friends a long time, and we’ve always had divergent views on matters. I like Lena Dunham’s Girls, and she doesn’t. I’m generally conservative politically, and I doubt that Jackie is. But key is that we get along regardless.
Jackie: Haha. Very true. I hate Lena Dunham and her show.
Michael: Speaking of politics, the federal election is scheduled for next month. If you could single out just one issue that matters to you the most, what would it be?
Jackie: For me, I would definitely have to say childcare. Affordable housing is another hot topic for me, but we really need to adopt a $10 per day childcare model here in Canada. Some provinces already follow this and it has proven to work economically.
Michael: How do you envision that working exactly? Both from a logistical and a budgetary standpoint?
Jackie: There’s a lot that goes with it. Essentially the plan would cost $1.5 billion over 10 years. It would create childcare spaces for parents that are currently not working so that they can stay home and take care of a child. Once those people are able to go back to work, they are now making a contribution back to the economy, which actually results in economic growth.
Joseph: I’d heard Jackie on CBC Radio talk about this, and I hadn’t thought much about it until then, as I don’t have children. So after looking into it, I think it would take political will more than anything. It’s just a matter of a government willing to make the investment. Financially, I don’t see how it couldn’t be done.
Jackie: Most parents are paying anywhere between $45 to $75 a day in childcare fees. If you only make $15/hour, let’s say, $120 day, and $50 of it going to childcare each day, it’s not worth it to work outside the home before deductions.
Michael: Joseph, what issue is most important to you?
Joseph: I think the economy is important, and good governance. At the end of the day, I doubt any of the parties will go out there and do an atrocious job governing the country, or will sabotage the economy.
Michael: As a conservative (lower case c), what is your perspective on the “Stop Harper” campaign against the Conservatives (upper case C)? These big social media pushes in particular are calling out more of the “evils” of Stephen Harper rather than applauding Mulcair, Trudeau or May. Is this just another attack ad, but from the masses?
Joseph: The Stop Harper campaign started just after he was elected in 2011, and it’s typical of the left who don’t like Harper, his party, or what they’ve done. I think there’s a lot you can knock Harper for, so it’s not unexpected. There was a lot of calling out of Justin Trudeau, for a couple of years now, since he became Liberal leader calling him ‘Justin over his head.’ So attacks aren’t a surprise. They can be effective.
Michael: The Canadian economy and the Canadian dollar have taken quite a dip in the last several months. The Stop Harper campaign might aim its cross-hairs on the prime minister for this. Is that fair? Is it time for a change?
Joseph: I think the Stop Harper campaign would want Harper out regardless. They’ll blame him for the economy’s drop, or the Senate scandal, or any various things they don’t like about him. I don’t know if it’s time for a change. I’ve voted for Harper every time, and will likely do so in less than a month. I’ll leave it up to the Canadian people to decide. I just have one vote. At this point, it looks like it’ll be a long night, election night, as it’s a three way race. I would add though, nine years is a long time, and as we’ve seen, this government has gotten sloppy. And if it’s not laziness, it could be they’re tired.
Jackie: We need to get rid of Harper. We are in need of a change.
Michael: What are your thoughts on vote splitting and strategic voting? If the Conservatives unite the right, but the left is split between two major parties (no disrespect to Elizabeth May)….
Jackie: Honestly, I’m not extremely engulfed in politics enough to speak fully on vote splitting, but my general thoughts are that it can be beneficial. I think we do need a good balance of each of the top parties. Of course we want more NDP, but yeah, a nice balance.
Joseph: I think vote splitting is over played to scare people. It applies in only a few ridings. Like in my riding, Vancouver Kingsway, the NDP gets an overwhelming majority. But it might matter in a few ridings. At the end of the day, people should just vote for who they want. If it costs a party from getting in, then so be it.
Michael: OK. Wrapping things up. Does the new program have a name?
Jackie: Two P’s in a Podcast, right?
Joseph: We have the same initials, and since our surnames start with the letter P, it works.
Michael: And when can we expect the first episode?
Joseph: Monday, September 28th.
Michael: Fantastic. Thank you both so much for your time and best of luck on this new venture!
New episodes of “Two P’s in a Podcast” with Joseph Planta and Jackie Pierre can be found every Monday at TheCommentary.ca.