OTTAWA – NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says that clearly “people are feeling neglected” by Ottawa, but that the way the premiers of Alberta and Saskatchewan are going about raising those concerns are “distracting” from the “real” problems.
In an interview with Evan Solomon, host of CTV’s Question Period, Singh said that the issues and pressures Albertans and Saskatchewanians are facing are real, but are being felt in “many provinces.”
While discussing what his priorities will be for the new Parliament, including more action on climate change, Singh was asked about the ongoing conversation around western alienation and the requests being made by Premiers Jason Kenney and Scott Moe and what the NDP caucus’ response would be to the Liberals moving ahead with targeted measures for that region of the country.
“I want to see commitments at the federal level to help out those folks,” Singh said during a wide-ranging interview in which the NDP Leader also spoke about the intersection of his personal and spiritual beliefs, and why propping up the Liberal minority may be dependent on the promises in the throne speech.
“People are feeling neglected and ignored by Ottawa,” Singh said. “What Conservative premiers are doing is distracting from the real problem.”
He cited the health care and education systems, and the challenge in finding jobs as examples of the “real” issues.
Singh—who has just one elected MP in Alberta and none in Saskatchewan— opposes the Trans Mountain pipeline project that many in Alberta view as integral to their economic stability, and supports tougher environmental regulations.
As CTV Edmonton reported last week, Kenney announced that he would be creating a “Fair Deal Panel” to look into ending several arrangements with the federal government, including opting out of federal cost-share programs like a proposed pharmacare plan that Singh is a vocal proponent of; and enacting a system in which schools need provincial signoff before entering into federal government agreements.
In the interview Singh suggested that Alberta has to diversify its economy instead of doubling down on oil and gas. The Kenney government has previously said that becoming less dependent on oil and gas is a long-term initiative, though there have been steps taken.
“They need to do better,” Singh said.
“They need to be an economy that’s not subject to the whims of one commodity that might go up and down in price and that could completely upturn their economy,” Singh said. “What they need to do is this: They need to be committed to job creation, they need to be committed to making sure they have a diverse economy that creates real opportunities that aren’t subject to the global whims of a market that can go volatile up and down.”
Singh said he is open to looking at the equalization formula to make sure that it’s still working and fair.
“The future we know is a future where we’re fighting the climate crisis while creating jobs. There has to be a path that’s laid out where we show workers that there is a path to create jobs… that’s what people need to see and to hear and to feel, so that they’re not worried about their future,” Singh said.
SINGH WANTS ‘CONCRETE’ LANGUAGE IN THRONE SPEECH
In addition to action on climate change and job creation, Singh said that he wants to see “timelines” and “some real concrete commitments” for pharmacare and dental care in next month’s Liberal throne speech, otherwise he is prepared to vote against it.
“I want something concrete,” Singh said, downplaying questions of whether he is over exaggerating the bargaining position he will have in forth-party status, given the Bloc Quebecois’ indicated intention to work collaboratively with the Liberals so long as they stay out of provincial secularism matters.
Singh said it’s different to have the support of an NDP caucus that he says will be “fighting actively” for improvements to Liberal initiatives than the backing of a party that would just “not get in the way.”
“The Liberals can work with other people, there’s no question about it. The difference is that we’re actually fighting for things that Canadians want,” Singh said.
SAYS PERSONAL, SPIRITUAL BELIEFS ALIGNED
In light of Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer being asked about his personal and religious views on social issues like same-sex marriage, Singh was asked whether as a Sikh he believes that being gay is a sin.
He was asked whether he supported same-sex marriage.
“Yes.. I support it all the way.”
And does he support the right of women to access abortion?
“Yes, absolutely, without any question.”
Singh said that his personal and religious beliefs are “completely aligned.”
“My beliefs spiritually are fully in line with supporting same-sex marriage, supporting a woman’s right to choose. I have no, any sort of ambiguity with my personal, spiritual beliefs,” Singh said.
Asked whether it was appropriate for these kinds of questions to be asked of federal leaders, Singh said that he thinks it gives people confidence in his stance.
“In my case, people can be very confident that both my spiritual, my personal, my beliefs as a leader are all in line with my values, which are to support a woman’s right to choose, which is to support same-sex marriage, which is to fight for equality and fairness for Canadians, so people can have that confidence with me.”