NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh listens to a question during a news conference in Ottawa, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. Thousands of federal New Democrats will gather online Friday afternoon to kick off a three-day policy convention that has already exposed some internal party divisions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh listens to a question during a news conference in Ottawa, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. Thousands of federal New Democrats will gather online Friday afternoon to kick off a three-day policy convention that has already exposed some internal party divisions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Singh seeks to rally New Democrats as testy policy convention wraps up

Delegates passed a resolution Saturday that demands Canada suspend arms dealing with Israel

Federal New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh took aim at the Liberal government Sunday, firing an opening salvo ahead of a possible election later this year.

Capping a three-day policy convention plagued with hiccups and frustrations, Singh sought to unite the grassroots around a message of fair treatment, financial relief and Liberal failures.

His unwavering focus on the Grits stood in contrast to remarks from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who made nary a mention of New Democrats in his keynote speech at a Liberal convention Saturday.

With the Liberals pledging national pharmacare and child-care systems — the party has backed both ideas since the 1990s but made little headway on either — Singh is leading the NDP further left on a plan to cancel billions in student debt, eliminate for-profit long-term care and impose a wealth tax.

Part of that push zeroes in on the “rich,” a word that appeared 15 times in Singh’s speech, often right after “ultra.”

“We’re not actually in the same boat. We’re certainly in the same storm. But some of us are in leaky lifeboats, while others are in luxury yachts,” Singh said.

“Liberals continue to side with those in the yachts.”

Singh also claimed credit for beefed-up wage subsidies, emergency response benefits and sick-leave payments during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Liberals like to take credit, but New Democrats get results,” he said.

Terry Beech, a Liberal MP and convention co-chair, responded by saying Trudeau Liberals are the only team with a plan to support Canadians and “keep people healthy and safe.”

“Canadians want a real plan with real solutions for real problems, and both Erin O’Toole’s Conservatives and the NDP have shown that they just don’t have one,” he said in a statement.

Singh, speaking from an Ottawa production studio in front of images of the 42-year-old glad-handing Canadians, addressed more than 2,000 delegates assembled online to debate and vote on resolutions that will guide the NDP campaign platform ahead of a potential fight at the polls.

He has consistently emerged as the most popular federal leader in recent public-opinion surveys, but the party itself often falls short of 20 per cent support.

If the three main opposition parties were to vote against the looming Liberal budget — set to be unveiled April 19 — the government would fall. Singh has promised his party won’t trigger an election while the pandemic persists.

Trudeau could decide to pull the plug himself and Liberal insiders suggest that may happen over the summer, provided the vaccine rollout continues apace and the pandemic, currently spreading like wildfire once again, is sufficiently doused.

On the hustings, Singh would be fighting for Liberal seats while also seeking to stave off challenges from Conservatives gunning for trade union votes and Greens explicitly targetting NDP supporters.

He took a parting shot at the Conservatives on Sunday, saying they “are no friends to workers” on issues ranging from sick leave to pharmacare and unions.

Singh’s speech also looked to shore up solidarity within the party at a convention that saw glitches and procedural delays threaten to sideline policy debate and create an impression of discord. The hiccups came amid simmering tensions over how far left the party should tack.

Delegates passed a resolution Saturday that demands Canada suspend arms dealing with Israel and halt trade with Israeli settlements, drawing condemnation from Jewish advocacy groups.

Singh told reporters Sunday he supported the proposal and wasn’t concerned it exposed him to charges of anti-Semitism, which B’nai Brith suggested it did.

“To achieve a peaceful resolution, we need to as an international community use our tools,” he said.

Singh affirmed his belief in Israel’s right to exist and said he is “vigilantly aware” that anti-Jewish hate resides across the political spectrum, stating he is “someone you can count on to fight against any form of anti-Semitism.”

Delegates complained some of the convention’s initial sessions lacked closed captioning, sign language and translation services, prompting an apology from organizers and a refund pledge to attendees living with disabilities.

Others spoke of perceived tensions between the party executive and the rank and file, as well as anxiety over an impending election.

“There is far too much emphasis on top-down approach and gate-keeping to allow grassroots to flourish,” said Jessa McLean, a two-time NDP federal candidate from Ontario running for party president.

“We are moments away from the writ being dropped, and most of us have no idea how to structure our campaign around mail-in ballots or how to organize digitally.”

Singh has said the party does not want an election but is ready for one, with a war chest roughly double that of the 2019 campaign.

Non-binding resolutions up for a vote Sunday included proposals to implement all 231 recommendations made by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, as well as a plan to establish a publicly owned telecommunications company to expand high-speed internet access.

Earlier in the convention, delegates voted overwhelmingly to raise the federal minimum wage to $20, impose a one per cent tax on fortunes over $20 million, mandate at least seven days’ paid sick leave for federally regulated workers and weave long-term care into Canada’s universal health-care system — in part by eliminating for-profit models from the system.

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusJagmeet Singhndp

Just Posted

(PQB News file photo)
Parksville Fire Department reminds residents of backyard burning and fireworks bans

Beach fires are always prohibited by provincial legislation

Parksville Coun. Doug O’Brien. (PQB News file photo)
Parksville Coun. Doug O’Brien explains opposition to 4-way stop at high-traffic intersection

‘None of us on council have the education or training to recommend traffic control systems’

The Parksville Civic and Technology Centre at 100 Jensen Ave. Chesapeake Shores film crew will be on location from May 17 until May 19, 2021. (PQB News file photo)
‘Chesapeake Shores’ to film at Parksville Civic and Technology Centre starting May 17

Public parking limited on Jensen Avenue and Craig Street during filming

Arrowsmith Search and Rescue manager Ken Neden, as he goes over the events of the Qualicum Falls river rescue on Dec. 12, 2020, for a United Kingdom television program “Unbelievable Moments Caught on Camera’. (Mandy Moraes photo)
UK TV show spreading news of daring Qualicum Falls river rescue across the world

Arrowsmith SAR trio share their accounts for ‘Unbelievable Moments Caught on Camera’

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
Body of UBC professor found on Salt Spring Island, no foul play suspected

Sinikka Elliott taught sociology at the university

The first Black judge named to the BC Supreme Court, Selwyn Romilly, was handcuffed at 9:15 a.m. May 14 while walking along the seawall. (YouTube/Screen grab)
Police apologize after wrongly arresting B.C.’s first Black Supreme Court Justice

At 81 years old, the retired judge was handcuffed in public while out for a walk Friday morning

Queen Elizabeth II and Clive Holland, deputy commonwealth president of the Royal Life Saving Society, top left, virtually present Dr. Steve Beerman, top right, with the King Edward VII Cup for his drowning-prevention work. Tanner Gorille and Sarah Downs were honoured with Russell Medals for their life-saving resuscitation. (Buckingham Palace photo)
Queen presents Vancouver Island doctor with award for global drowning prevention

Dr. Steve Beerman receives Royal Life Saving Society’s King Edward VII Cup at virtual ceremony

Former UFV Cascades wrestling coach Arjan Singh Bhullar is now the ONE heavyweight champion after defeating Brandon Vera via TKO in round two on Saturday in Singapore. (ONE Championship)
Former UFV wrestling coach wins MMA championship

Arjan Singh Bhullar captures ONE heavyweight title, first Indian origin fighter to achieve honour

Astra Zeneca vaccine waits for injection in a Feb. 3, 2021 file photo. A Langley man has become the second B.C. resident to suffer a blood clot following an injection. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
B.C. man required emergency surgery after AstraZeneca vaccination

Shaun Mulldoon suffered ‘massive blood clot’ after jab

Chilliwack’s Kile Brown, performing as drag queen Hailey Adler, dances and lip syncs in front of hundreds of people during the inaugural Chilliwack Pride Barbecue at the Neighbourhood Learning Centre on Aug. 24, 2019. Monday, May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of May 16 to 22

International Day Against Homophobia, Talk Like Yoda Day, Sea Monkey Day all coming up this week

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
MISSING: Salt Spring RCMP find woman’s car, still seek Island resident

Sinikka Gay Elliott is 5’3” with a slim build and dark brown short hair

The Sooke Animal Food and Rescue Society (SAFARS) helps make a difference to more than 50 feral cats in the region. (Contributed - SAFARS)
Vancouver Island volunteers making life easier feral cats

Food, veterinary services and more helps make a difference to abandoned cats in the region

Most Read