OTTAWA – Days after images and video came to light of Justin Trudeau doing brownface and blackface, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has not ruled out the potential to work with the Liberals in a minority government scenario.
In an interview on CTV’s Question Period, Singh was asked whether the three separate instances of behaviour that Trudeau himself has called racist and offensive would now preclude the NDP from sitting down with the Liberals should the outcome of the Oct. 21 be that no one party wins a majority of the seats.
Singh said that he remains open to working with “anyone” who would want to work on advancing the progressive policies that are at the core of the NDP’s platform.
“What I want to make clear is there are certain things that are going to help Canadians out, and if there’s people who want to work with me to make that happen, I’m prepared to sit down and have a conversation,” Singh said.
“I’m running to become prime minister so I’ll take the support of anyone who wants to work towards goals that will improve people’s lives.”
However, Singh has already said he would not prop-up a Conservative government in a minority situation. Singh made that pronouncement after the Liberals revived a 2005 video of Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer speaking against same-sex marriage. It’s a video Scheer has not apologized for, saying though that he thinks the matter has been settled.
“I’ve only ruled out, Mr. Scheer very clearly, for a very specific policy reasons. The fact that his policies seem to be very unclear around his candidates, around a woman’s right to choose, and around same-sex marriage and LGTBQ communities, and the climate crisis. So based on all these policy uncertainties that he’s presenting, I’ve made it very clear that I will not be able to support him,” Singh said.
In order for any party to form a majority government they need to win 170 of the 338 seats in the House of Commons. As current polling stands the Conservatives and Liberals remain neck-and-neck for first, with the NDP looking to be the party most likely to be the ones holding the balance of power in a minority. Though, with less than a month to go before voters go to the polls, things can change quickly.
That was evident this week when the blackface and brownface visuals hit the Liberal campaign hard, throwing them into damage-control mode as the controversy made international headlines.
Singh is the first federal party leader of colour running to be prime minister, and his response to the controversy has received praise across the political spectrum. In Sunday’s interview Singh said that he has still not had the Trudeau-requested meeting in which the Liberal leader wants to apologize personally for his past actions. Singh said even if he does ask for forgiveness, it’s not on him to accept that.
“No one person can be proxy for all the people that have been impacted and hurt,” Singh said.
As part of the continuing series of leaders’ interviews on CTV’s Question Period, Singh also spoke about his plans to pay for a growing list of progressive promises, and how he’s approaching campaigning in Quebec.
Will take budget ‘very seriously’
Singh has made a series of policy promises on the campaign trail so far including:
- A national pharmacare plan which includes $10 billion a year to ensure all necessary medications and medical devices are free;
- A universal dental care plan that would offer free coverage for low income and uninsured Canadians that would cost $1.9 billion in the first year;
- And free tuition for post-secondary education.
Asked how these promises and more will be paid for by an NDP government, Singh said it comes down to “a matter of choices,” citing a few of the high-cost decisions the Liberal government made in the last four years, like purchasing the $4.5 billion trans mountain pipeline and billions more going to wealthy corporations as decisions the NDP would not make.
“We would choose to invest in people,” Singh said. He is also eyeing a “super-wealth tax” as a way to bring in money to cover the suite of services the NDP are promising to implement. The tax would be one per cent on wealth for anyone with a net worth over $20 million, which the Parliamentary Budget Officer has estimated could raise around $70 billion in the next decade.
As for whether it’ll be enough to see balanced budgets in the short-term, Singh said that the NDP “have a plan to take the budget very seriously.”
“That means looking at investments in people, and revenues to pay for it, but we’re not going to run a deficit like Mr. Trudeau did, just to give billions of dollars to billionaires,” Singh said.
Bill 21 ‘divisive’
Singh also spoke about the party’s prospects in Quebec where the NDP currently hold 14 seats—a fraction of the seats the party once had in the province—and where the debate over the controversial secularism Bill 21 continues to play out.
Already in this campaign Singh has unveiled a suite of Quebec-specific policies, including:
- Allowing Quebec to withdraw from federal programs while still being eligible for financial compensation;
- Allow Quebec to have a veto over federal projects like pipelines, and on judicial appointments;
- And support expanding the provincial language law Bill 101 to cover federally regulated companies in Quebec.
Asked if he was looking to play into nationalist support in an effort to shore-up the party’s political future in the province, Singh said that wasn’t the case.
“What we’re saying is that we recognize Quebec is unique, and I’m proud of that,” he said.
He also restated his positon on Bill 21, saying he would not join the court challenge, but supports it because he thinks the law, which bans public service workers from wearing or displaying religious symbols or clothing while at work, is divisive.
“I don’t want to interfere with that court challenge. It’s a very important core challenge and I support it… I’m also campaigning in Quebec, and I’m going to Quebec and saying to people in Quebec: ‘Look, I’m a guy that grew up in Windsor, I fell in love with the French language. I believe that you should build laws that unite us, this is a divisive law,'” said Singh.