Tuesday January 31, 2023 | LANGFORD, BC
by Mary P Brooke, Editor | Island Social Trends
Near the end of a full week on Vancouver Island, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh made a pit stop in Langford on Thursday January 26.
The national party leader undertook a few targeted visits along with local MP Alistair MacGregor (Cowichan-Malahat-Langford): one with students at Belmont Secondary School and the other with mayor and council at Langford City Hall.
“How often do students get to meet a national political leader?” said Alistair MacGregor, MP (Cowichan-Malahat-Langford) last week.
Both events were closed to all media (party staffers took photos), but Island Social Trends interviewed Singh afterward.
Visiting with students:
Belmont Principal Laura Fulton hosted the two politicians in her school.
Jagmeet Singh had been to Belmont Secondary School before, a few years ago, pre-COVID. During that visit he and MacGregor addressed the public and students in the Learning Commons area, then answered questions. This time the visit with students was in a classroom, with two classes combined… a little more private and perhaps less disruptive compared to using the larger commons.
Politicians always appreciate having access to conversations with youth, as the youth vote is coveted by all parties given the likelihood of repeat voting along the same party lines through adult years. The minimum voting age in Canada is 18, but teens are already thinking about their community, their society and their world well before that age.
“Their questions really put me on the hot seat,” said Singh later that afternoon. They wanted to know his policies on things and how he would fix certain things. “They had some good solutions and great points, things I hadn’t necessarily considered,” said Singh.
The youth posed questions about helping people with affordability, at one point drilling down on a specific example of helping a single mother with kids. Singh said he explained to the students that the NDP’s approach is to “help everyone who is struggling”.
He did go into some detail about more options for affordable quality child care. He outlined the national dental care program which will be expanded (from its present helping families pay for dental for kids under age 12) to cover all kids 18 and under by this year-end.
The students at Langford’s only high school were apparently keen to hear (or be reminded) that the federal portion of interest on student loans has been permanently eliminated, something that the NDP recently achieved by pressuring the current Liberal minority government.
A relatively new school within School District 62, Belmont Secondary School operates at (and in some ways beyond) capacity in the fast-growing west shore region of Greater Victoria.
Meeting with Langford city council:
Jagmeet says he was fascinated to hear about the nearly complete turnover of Langford council. Only one incumbent — a councilor, not the mayor — was reelected to the City of Langford council in the October 15, 2022 municipal election. Apparently that sort of turnover is rarely seen in cities across Canada.
“Municipal leaders have a very close tie — in the immediate sense — with everything to do with citizens,” says Singh. He was at one time a provincial MPP in Ontario before becoming the national leader for the NDP, and clearly recognizes the connection between residents and their municipality.
He listed off library, community centre, garbage pickup, and water supply as some of the many key things that citizens rely upon from municipal leadership and decision-making.
Singh said he heard in the closed meeting with Mayor Scott Goodmanson, together with councilors Kimberley Guiry, Colby Harder, Mary Wagner and Keith Yacucha, that council is “worried about sustainable growth”. But that they intend to do “public engagement in a civic way” to find out what people are really thinking.
Mayor Goodmanson outlined to Island Social Trends that a series of meetings will be held in or about the various neighbourhoods of Langford, as needs and challenges differ around the city of now over 50,000 people.
Singh found the discussion followed along similar lines to NDP concerns regarding the cost of living for rent and groceries, and more broadly the issue of housing availability and cost. He said that Langford mayor and council recognized the role that local government can play in addressing some health-care delivery concerns.
There is presently a family doctor shortage in the west shore just like in many areas of BC and across Canada. In some cases that might have to do with lack of office space availability, something that local government could have a hand in resolving.
Not at the Langford city meeting last Thursday with Singh were Lillian Szpak (who was away on vacation) and Mark Morley (who was at his day job).
This year in Ottawa:
Jagmeet was of course thinking ahead to this week, with the House of Commons getting back to business in Ottawa on January 30.
The NDP continues to use its influence on the Liberal government through the Liberal-NDP supply and confidence agreement that was signed about a year ago. The agreement in theory will put off an election until 2025. The NDP can break the deal at any time, if they feel their demands for people are not being adequately met.
The Canada Pharmacare Act “has to be tabled and passed” this year. Singh calls it “a major milestone” in support for all Canadians. Together with the dental care achievements, these are huge steps forward in the footsteps of the original universal health care ushered in under the leadership of Tommy Douglas long ago.
The NDP will be holding the Liberals to account on dental and pharmacare, something Singh repeated in Ottawa today. Anything short of achieving those goals are in the realm of deal-breaker for the supply and confidence agreement.
Both dental care and pharmacare were ideas presented in parliament in the last session.
Wrapping up in Victoria:
Singh’s Vancouver Island tour — which began at the beginning of last week in northern parts of the island, through Campbell River, Qualicum Beach, Nanaimo, Duncan, Cowichan and Langford — wrapped up in Victoria on Friday evening, January 27. He and Laurel Collins, MP (Victoria) held an event in Victoria.
Singh said he still isn’t quite used to ‘no snow’ and the greenery of winter on Vancouver Island. He has lived with his wife in Burnaby for several years now (where they are now raising their daughter who just turned one), but he grew up on the east coast and worked in Ontario for most of his career until becoming national leader and relocating to BC where he is the MP elected in Burnaby South.
NDP goals for 2023 (Jan 20, 2023)
===== ABOUT THE WRITER:
Mary P Brooke, B.Sc., Cert PR is a long-time journalist, delivering news through a socioeconomic lens through Island Social Trends.
Based on the west shore of south Vancouver Island, her publication IslandSocialTrends.ca covers news of the Greater Victoria area, south Vancouver Island, with insights on BC and national issues.
Ms Brooke has consistently covered SD62 news at the board and committee level since 2014. Mary Brooke was a school trustee candidate in SD62 Belmont Zone (Langford, Colwood, Metchosin, Highlands) in October 2022.
===== ABOUT ISLAND SOCIAL TRENDS:
Island Social Trends emerged in mid-2020 from a preceding series of publications by founder/editor Mary P Brooke and published by Brookeline Publishing House Inc. The series is, so far: MapleLine Magazine (2008-2010), Sooke Voice News (2011-2013), and West Shore Voice News (2014-2020), and Island Social Trends (2020 to present). | ARCHIVES: POLITICS | FEDERAL NDP | SD62 West Shore | EDUCATION