To applause and cheers, federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says the party is using its current power in parliament to help people.
Fresh from a party retreat in the Maritimes, Singh is currently on a small tour of Northern Ontario. On Sunday night, he met with and spoke to supporters at Knowhere Public House on Elm Street. Earlier that day, he was on Manitoulin Island alongside Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing MP Carole Hughes visiting Canada’s first off-the-grid radio station (Great Lakes 103FM and Hits 100FM in Little Current) before sitting down with the United Chiefs and Council of Mnidoo Mnising.
Today, Singh is visiting the Club d’Âge d’Or de la Vallée in the morning to meet with local seniors before making an afternoon visit to Collège Boréal.
Singh met with and spoke to about 50 supporters at the Elm Street pub on Sunday night. He was joined by Hughes, as well as local NDP MPPs Jamie West (Sudbury) and France Gélinas (Nickel Belt).
“When the NDP has had power, we have used it to help people,” Singh said.
Two back-to-back minority governments have given the party more influence to push policy decisions and legislation than it has had in years. Singh likended the moment to how his historic counterpart Tommy Douglas leveraged a minority government to birth Canada’s health-care system.
Under his leadership, the NDP is doing the same thing, Singh said, forcing the ruling Liberals to move on a national dental care and pharmacare program, and on affordable housing, among other issues that put more money in people’s pockets.
“We forced the first expansion of our health-care system in a generation,” Singh said to loud applause.
In March, the Liberals promised a national dental care program in exchange for the NDP supporting them and preventing an election before 2025. The new dental care program is aimed at low- and middle-income families. The Liberals have pledged to have coverage in place by the end of this year for children under 12 with an annual household income of less than $90,000, with the full rollout to occur after that.
Singh also highlighted the national pharmacare program the NDP was able to wrestle out of the Liberals as part of the same prop-up deal, legislation that is supposed to be in place by the end of 2022.
Noting the rising cost of living, the NDP leader also said the party was able to get some action on affordable housing. Using the rate as it is defined for Sudbury, affordable housing projects were eligible for federal funding if 20 per cent of the project was classified as “affordable,” but the definition of affordable might surprise people, Singh said — affordable was defined as a one-bedroom apartment costing $2,600 a month.
“How is that affordable?” Singh asked the crowd.
The NDP was able to force a change, he said, so affordable in this region now means 40 per cent of a housing project is made up of affordable housing, which is defined as a one-bedroom apartment costing $960 a month.
Singh also said the party was able to force the Liberals to increase the Canada Housing Benefit by $500, and increase the GST tax credit to between $400 and $1,200 for eligible Canadians.
Asked to respond to the election of Pierre Poilievre as federal Conservative Party leader and criticism he uses outrage and anger to galvanize his supporters, Singh said he doesn’t agree with Poilievre’s tactics but people’s anger and frustration is very real.
The cost of living continues to rise and wages remain relatively stagnant, while corporations use the economic situation as an excuse to drive up prices, reaping record profits as a result — no wonder people are angry, Singh said.
But whereas Poilievre is stoking that outrage for his own gain, Singh said the NDP approach is to channel anger into construction action.