Singh says Prairie premiers ‘distracting’ from real issues, need to ‘do better’

Jagmeet Singh
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh speaks to reporters following a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

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.

“No.”

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.”

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How Trudeau’s Broken Promises Fuel the Growth of Canada’s Right

Martin Lukacs’ book ‘The Trudeau Formula’ finds the Liberals talk a good game, but don’t deliver.

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‘The Liberals effectively act as a kind of shock absorber of discontent and anger towards the elite,’ says Martin Lukacs, a journalist and author of the new book, The Trudeau Formula. Photo by EJ Hersom, Creative Commons license CC BY 2.0.

Talk a good game about transforming society on behalf of the 99 per cent, while secretly assuring the one per cent that they have nothing to worry about.

That’s the political strategy that defines Canada’s Liberal party, according to Martin Lukacs, a long-time investigative journalist and Guardian contributor whose new book The Trudeau Formula is being released this month. Activist and author Naomi Klein calls it “a must-read that brilliantly maps the inner logic of the Trudeau years.”

Lukacs told The Tyee that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s approach to politics serves the powerful.

“The Liberals effectively act as a kind of shock absorber of discontent and anger towards the elite,” he said. In his book, Lukacs describes sneaking into a private fundraising event for the Liberals in Halifax in April 2018. Corporate lobbyists circled federal ministers “like teenagers at a high school dance,” he writes.

Lukacs shared ideas with The Tyee on why Trudeau’s main strength is progressive marketing, how his broken promises are creating an opening for the scapegoating politics of Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, why the NDP is failing to take advantage of this political moment, and what it will take for ordinary Canadians to create transformative solutions for the climate emergency and extreme inequality….

Ultimately politicians won’t do anything unless their feet are put to the fire by a social movement.

On why a Green New Deal is political kryptonite to Trudeau

A Green New Deal is basically a clear, distinct roadmap to accomplish everything that Trudeau claimed he champions. It makes very clear that we have to learn to say no to opening new fossil fuel frontiers. Which of course is precisely what the Trudeau government has tried to tell Canadians can’t be done. A Green New Deal tells us that we actually have to engage in reparations and land restitution with Indigenous people.

That’s a frontal challenge to the establishment centrist politics of the Liberal party. And it’s precisely the kind of politics that could massively improve people’s material lives. You’d potentially create hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of good green jobs, unionized jobs. That raises people’s standard of living. That improves the deteriorating public services that we have. That also is the best way to defeat the rise of ugly right-wing scapegoating, which I don’t think the Liberals are capable of doing. If anything, the kind of policies that the Liberal government has put forward are going to feed and pave the way for the right wing to take power. MORE

RELATED:

Unions Should Go Big on a Green New Deal for Canada

On climate change, workers shouldn’t be left behind — they should lead the way.

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The Green New Deal, catching fire in America, is the kind of policy plan that Canadian unions could loudly champion. Photo via the Sunrise Movement.

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Top 5 Reasons the Green New Deal is Workable, Winnable and the Idea We Need Right Now.


This text is an edited excerpt from a speech given by Avi Lewis on the Leap’s “Green New Deal for All”  tour in June 2019.

1.The Green New Deal Will Be a Massive Job Creator, Swell the Ranks of Unions, and Increase Workers Rights For All, Especially The Most Vulnerable.

We know that investments in renewable energy and efficiency create many more jobs than investments in fossil fuels. 5 times more, per unit of electricity generated, according to one UK study.1 But that only scratches the surface of the transformation required to cut our emissions at least in half in a decade. When you start thinking about the rest of the low-carbon economy: health care, education, local agriculture, land and water defense, and other forms of care work, the job creation potential is far greater.

Imagine the job-creation from the range of programs in a real Green New Deal:

  • retrofitting every building in Canada in a decade,
  • building hundreds of thousands of new units of public and non-market housing
  • planting hundreds of millions of trees
  • building free electrified mass transit in every community
  • Universal daycare, rebuilding our education system with thousands of new teachers

These measures will create more than a million jobs – and even more when we include a federal jobs guarantee with at least a 15 dollar minimum wage, decent benefits, holidays and pensions.

And while we’re embarking on the greatest job creation program in our history, why would we not simply make it a goal to double the unionization rate in Canada, extending collective bargaining rights and protections to those millions of workers?

So, when people tell you that the GND will hurt workers, set them straight – tell them that the Green New Deal is a job program of epic proportions. A tool to fight for working people across this land that will leave no worker behind.

 2. Ignoring the Climate Crisis will Bankrupt us — But The Green New Deal is Our Chance to Create a Much Fairer Economy Than We Have Right Now

The economic damages of allowing global temperatures to rise by 2°C would hit $69 trillion globally.2 And we are currently headed for twice that level of warming, at least.

For too long, we have had climate policies that dumped the burden of paying for transition on working people while letting big polluters off the hook entirely. Moving forward, fairness in climate financing must be non-negotiable – and that means the polluters have to pay.

It’s not hard to figure out who we’re talking about here: the “Carbon Majors” – the 100 corporate and state fossil fuel giants responsible for  a whopping 71 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions since 1988. Also, the richest 10 percent of the world’s population, who produce almost half of all global emissions today.

Any climate policies that are going to be backlash-proof have to reflect that reality.  We can increase royalties on extraction. We can slash absurd fossil fuel subsidies. And we can sue for climate damages.

But it’s not just fossil fuel companies that are failing in their obligations to the rest of society.

If Canada’s top 100 corporations just paid their damn taxes at the legislated rate, we’d have an extra 10 Billion dollars in public revenue – each and every year.3

And then there’s an even higher annual amount that Canadian corporations are stashing in tax havens. More than $1.6 trillion dollars left Canada for offshore financial centers last year. If only 10% of that sum was offshored in order to dodge taxes, cracking down would generate $25 Billion a year. That’s a helluva down payment on a Green New Deal, and would begin to tackle inequality head-on. The Green New Deal is our opportunity to address structural inequality and tackle the climate crisis at the same time.

We can afford a Green New Deal, as long as we have the courage to do what so many political parties in this country refuse to do, which is to go where the money is, and get it back.

3.This is our chance to defend life on earth and Indigenous land rights at the same time.

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The bogus number at the center of the GOP’s Green New Deal attacks

Republicans’ estimates that the climate plan would cost $93 trillion are based on a think tank study that doesn’t endorse that total.

Mitch McConnell
Republicans have said that the Green New Deal would cost $93 trillion — more than enough money to “buy every American a Ferrari,” according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. | Somodevilla/Getty Images

Republicans claim the Green New Deal would cost $93 trillion — a number that would dwarf the economic output of every nation on Earth.

The figure is bogus. But that isn’t stopping the eye-popping total from turning up on the Senate floor, the Conservative Political Action Conference and even “Saturday Night Live” as the progressive Democrats’ sweeping-yet-vague vision statement amps up the political conversation around climate change.

The number originated with a report by a conservative think tank, American Action Forum, that made huge assumptions about how exactly Democrats would go about implementing their plan. But the $93 trillion figure does not appear anywhere in the think tank’s report — and AAF President Douglas Holtz-Eakin confessed he has no idea how much exactly the Green New Deal would cost.

The Green New Deal isn’t even a plan yet — at the moment it’s a non-binding resolution that calls for major action to stop greenhouse gas pollution while reducing income inequality and creating “millions of good, high-wage jobs.” But top Republicans have embraced the $93 trillion price tag, using it to argue that the climate plan would bankrupt the United States.

“Is it billions or trillions?” asked Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office. “Any precision past that is illusory.” MORE

The NDP’s only hope is a Green New Deal for Canada


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the US Congresswoman spearheading the Green New Deal, speaks at a community event on May 28, 2018. Photo by Corey Torpie, via handout.

Last night, Jagmeet Singh defied the doubters and critics, winning his seat in Burnaby South.

“If the NDP want to turn their fortunes around by October, their best (and maybe only) hope is to bring the bold vision of a Green New Deal to Canada.”

It’s a good result for Singh, and a breath of fresh air for a New Democratic Party that’s been struggling to raise money, floundering in the polls, and has seemed to be teetering on the edge of a very public internal civil war for the past few months. But, as Singh himself mentioned in his victory remarks, now the real campaign begins. If the NDP want to turn their fortunes around by October, their best (and maybe only) hope is to bring the bold vision of a Green New Deal to Canada.

If you haven’t heard of it yet, the Green New Deal is a political idea to tackle climate change with WWII-scale economic and social mobilization. Named for Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal agenda that pulled the United States out of the Great Depression, the Green New Deal has been rapidly picking up steam south of the border. Championed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and now supported by dozens of congressional representatives and senators (along with every major Democratic presidential hopeful), the Green New Deal has become a clarion call for action at the scale and pace of the climate crisis.

But the Green New Deal isn’t just a good idea. With the campaign and organizing savvy of the Sunrise Movement behind it, polling numbers show wide geographic and cross-partisan support (especially among youth). It’s become a winning platform for Democrats and, if they imported it in the right way, it could do the same for Jagmeet Singh and the NDP.

It’s no secret that, in 2015, Justin Trudeau’s success was due, in large measure, to his ability to outflank the NDP on critical progressive issues — including climate change. It’s also true that his majority victory was driven by a dramatic uptick in youth voter turnout — 57.1 percent of eligible 18-24 year olds voted in 2015 compared to 38.8 per cent in 2011 — that largely showed up for the Liberals.

It’s also clear that Canadians, especially young people, want to see more from our federal government when it comes to climate change.

A Mainstreet Research poll released last November found that 76.1 per cent of Canadians accept that climate change is real and caused by human activity, and that nearly 60 per cent of Canadians agree that the government has to solve the issue of climate change even if doing so impacts economic growth.

The good thing about a Green New Deal is that it would create jobs and support working families through a federal jobs guarantee program. Although we don’t have direct polling on such a proposal in Canada, a 2016 Iron & Earth poll found that nearly 70 per cent of energy workers support a time-bound transition to 100 per cent renewable energy in Canada. That same poll found that 80-95 per cent would support government programs to support workers through the transition. Among the general public, these numbers are even higher. MORE

Ontarians are voicing dissent by the thousands. Take Action!

While the provincial government continues to roll back progress made on environmental protection, Ontarians have made it clear that the vast majority want decisive climate action.

Before the government passed the legislation to eliminate the cap-and-trade system, a consultation process received 11,000 comments with more than 99 per cent in support of putting a price on harmful emissions and maintaining the cap-and-trade system that supports investment and clean energy job creation. Thank you to those who submitted comments. It’s unacceptable for the government to scrap a program that has such overwhelming public support.

You have another chance to tell the government that its new weakened environment and climate plan fails to protect Ontarians from climate risk and sets us on a dangerous path of missed economic, energy and job-creation opportunities. TAKE ACTION!

NB: This consultation closes at 11:59 p.m. on January 28, 2019

Economic reasons for a Green New Deal

Economic reasons for a Green New Deal
© Getty Images

“Step Up or Step Aside.”

The sign was one of hundreds from last month’s demonstrations in Washington, D.C., calling for a Green New Deal by the Sunrise Movement, a group of young people working to stop climate change and create green jobs. They’re fed up with inaction and worried about climate’s costs. As chairman of the Global Carbon Project, a non-partisan group of hundreds of scientists documenting greenhouse gas emissions, I agree.

Hearing talk of a Green New Deal, I feel excitement and, perhaps surprisingly, dread. Done well, a Green New Deal will repair the climate, make our businesses more competitive, and put far more people to work in green jobs, including wind and solar, than we’re losing in brown jobs, like coal mining.

Let’s start with economic reasons for a Green New Deal. The global economy is creating half a million new jobs yearly in renewable energy and employs more than ten million people. In the U.S. we’ve created a hundred thousand new solar and wind jobs annually, 12 times faster than in the rest of the economy. Green energy is putting people to work. MORE

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