Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh does not plan to bring down the federal government any time soon.
However, in a campaign-style visit to Prince Rupert Oct. 29, he told Black Press Media he is not afraid to do just that if the Liberals don’t live up to the agreement the two parties struck in March.
“Our goal, and my goal, has always been to do the harder thing, which is to force this government to deliver for Canadians,” he said. “In the current context of we just had a pandemic, we’ve got a cost of living that’s going up, interest rates are going up, people are feeling the squeeze, we want to get people some respect, some relief, some real dignity, and that’s what we’re fighting for.”
Singh arrived in the Northwest Oct. 27 along with Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Taylor Bachrach. First up was a private meeting with representatives of the Lax Kw’alaams First Nation Thursday evening.
Singh said he was particularly moved to hear the story of a man whose father had been of victim of the residential school system and how that intergenerational trauma had affected him.
“One of the things we try to do is reach out to Indigenous communities wherever we go to make sure we’re doing our part, doing my part as leader, to really walk the walk and reconciliation,” he said. “And I feel like on a lot of levels, one, it’s just the right thing to do justice for the first people of this land; we know there’s been a lot of injustice.”
Singh and Bachrach also met with the new mayor-elect, council-elect and city staff of Prince Rupert.
The NDP leader did not directly address the recent municipal election issue of eliminating the port tax cap, but said he supports a push to ensure municipalities have sustainable revenue.
“Their concern was those large corporations and large industries that have the means should be contributing more fairly,” he said. “And we think that’s a reasonable thing. We, in general, have been pushing, broadly speaking, that corporate CEOs should be paying what they owe, and given the big profits that we’re seeing, the massive record profits with the corporate sector that yeah, absolutely, they should be contributing what they owe.”
Last up before letting their hair down with a party for the NDP faithful Friday evening, Singh and Bachrach met with the North Coast Labour Council.
Singh said the workers they met brought up many issues from the cost of food, to the cost of living in general, education, health care and employment. He noted, though, that many of these other pressing issues come back to housing.
“If we want the workers to be here to take care of our aging loved ones, and the workers that we need for the jobs that are opening up, we don’t have homes for that, places for them to live, so then how can they come up?” he said.
He said the housing shortage is a massive problem he has been seeing all across the country. However, he believes there are meaningful solutions that he breaks down into two broad categories.
“There is taking the housing crisis seriously and mobilizing the capital at the federal level, the resources at the federal level, the likes of which we saw after the World Wars, so just a massive mobilization of federal funds to build houses,” he said.
“And that housing, it has to be mixed. It’s got to be rental housing, it’s got to be homes for people to buy. It’s got to include things like cooperative housing, not-for-profit housing, a real mix, a healthy mix of all sorts of housing, those that are low income and no income.”
The second broad category, he said, is stopping the speculation in the housing market.
“If you’re a first-time homebuyer, you’re going up against, in a lot of cases, this happens in Canada, corporations with deep pockets that are trying to snap up more land,” he said. “So, we’ve got to change the way we look at housing so it’s not about a vehicle to make lots of money, but a place for people to find something to call their own home.”
He believes that is an achievable goal.
“I think we can do that with tax changes with incentives, different incentives, changing the way we look at things like capital gains, and really targeting, making housing about people having a home and not about making it a stock market.”
Sing and Bachrach finished the day with a party fundraiser at the Highliner Hotel and Conference Centre, which Singh said was about having some fun.
“I think it’s important, you work hard, we fight hard, but it’s also important to have some joy,” he said. “So having a roomful of really great people, hope we’ll hear some good stories, and have some good laughs, maybe dance, there’s gonna be some music.
“We also want to raise some funds because I want to get Taylor Bachrach reelected. I think he’s a very strong member of Parliament, and I want to support him on that journey. There is no election that we know of, but we want to make sure that we’re ready, if there is one, we can fight it.”
Singh and Bachrach had originally planned to visit Haida Gwaii, but weather sidetracked the itinerary. They finished up the visit with an appearance at the farmers market in Terrace and meeting with Terrace mayor-elect Sean Bujtas.