Friday April 9, 2021 | NATIONAL
by Mary P Brooke, Editor | Island Social Trends
Today ahead of this weekend’s federal NDP convention in Ottawa, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh addressed media on a range of issues including the possibility of a federal election coming up soon.
Presently the NDP have 24 seats in the 43rd Parliament and the Liberals with 154 seats hold a minority government (the Conservatives hold 120 and the Bloc Quebecois 32, the Greens 3 and Independents 5). If an election is called this year — and many expect that to be sooner than later despite the difficult COVID-19 pandemic scenario across the country — Singh hopes to increase that seat count. In fact, he of course says — as any major party leader would — that he intends to become the next prime minister.
Clearly in the past year during the pandemic, Singh and the NDP have led a successful effort to genuinely and authentically change the everyday landscape for all Canadians.
Had it not been for the NDP’s strategic work within the parliamentary system to achieve CERB at a livable income level (ultimately landing it at $2,000/month), or wage subsidies that would actually mean employers could afford to keep employees on their payroll (pushing for the Liberals to go from 10% to 75% as the subsidy level), the overall economic well-being of Canadians would be much more difficult than it is right now.
Trudeau today on child care & basic income:
In a press conference earlier today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau indicated that a re-elected Liberal government might bend to providing more secure and reliable child care opportunities for parents in this country (universal child care has long been promised in the Liberal universe, but has never materialized). But on the issue of a universal basic income (a natural evolution from the CERB experience), he showed no interest.
To that, Singh remarked that child care is of course the underpinning of economic recovery for women and the economy overall. And that the dignity that comes from a basic income support is something the NDP is fighting for.
Not triggering an election, but getting ready:
“While we’re getting people vaccinated, I will not trigger an election,” said NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh today. But the political swirl around Canada is that the Liberals are likely to call an election sometime this year, perhaps as early as this summer.
“I take from his non-answer that he is ready to hold an election,” said Singh today regarding how the prime minister did not respond to his recent question in the House of Commons about whether Trudeau would be calling an election soon.
Lending the older vote to youth:
“Holding an election (right now) is the wrong thing to do. People want to see the priority in getting everyone vaccinated,” said Singh to media today. But when the time comes, it’s time to turn to supporting youth.
Singh as NDP leader hopes that Canadians who have voted for Liberals or Conservatives in the past will this time around consider voting for the NDP candidate in their riding. As one way of putting it, it’s about ‘lending their vote’ to the benefit of the younger generation by voting NDP this time, given the NDP’s demonstrated effort since the last federal election in 2019 to stand up for youth and families.
During the pandemic, the NDP pushed for and achieved better support for student supports (bringing pandemic supports aimed at post-secondary students on par with the CERB benefits) and again promoted the idea of moving toward free or cost-reduced tuition as a way to make post-secondary education available to all.
Youth will make history:
“I believe young people are going to make history in the next election,” says Jagmeet Singh. “Young people are already at the forefront of many social social justice movements, like Black Lives Matter, fighting for a society where everyone is included, and at the forefront of the climate marches to build a future that’s sustainable.”
He says that young people “already feel like the system is rigged against them… and they’re right”. He sees that “this is the first time ever” that a generation will have less opportunities to find a good job and own a home than the previous generation. “Youth don’t want to go with the existing status quo of the Liberals and Conservatives who have created this rigged system. They want somebody who’s going to fight for them.”
“I’m really proud that young people are turning toward us. I love the idea of young people asking parents and grandparents — hey we need help… the NDP are the ones offering this help for us. to make our future better.” He hopes young adults will ask older folks to “please lend us your votes, so we can bring in the changes that we need”.
“Young people are going to make history,” says Singh, in his vision of more NDP MPs being elected in the next federal election, which is likely this year. “I know young people can influence people around them, and I’m excited for what’s going to happen.”
Income supports & child care:
“We’ve already put out a couple of ideas around where we can start getting better income supports for people. We fought in the first place to make sure CERB covered as many people as possible to get the help they needed,” Singh said in response to a question from Island Social Trends. He said that seniors are not retiring with enough pension. “To lift them out of poverty we’re suggesting increasing the guaranteed support for seniors.” He also said people with disabilities continued to face significant barriers. The NDP would work to increase universal income support for people with disabilities, he said today.
And in response to Island Social Trends‘ question about expanding child care in Canada, Singh combined support for women in the workforce with improvements in child care systems. “One of the ways we can support women especially given the pandemic is to invest in child care. I’ts not enough just to talk about it,” Singh said. “Trudeau needs to be more than open to it, we need a concrete commitment.”
Singh articulated what everyone has now seen during this pandemic, that the socioeconomic impacts of the pandemic have disproportionately impacted women. “The rate of women participating in the workforce has dropped to levels of the 1990s,” Singh said today. “Decades of success or positive gains have been lost. We need to support women. One of the best ways is not just to talk about it, but to invest significantly and seriously in universal accessible affordable child care and early childhood election.”
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