Ot­tawa could help with N.L.’s fis­cal cri­sis, Singh says

The Western Star - - CLOSE TO HOME - BY JAMES MCLEOD jm­cleod@thetele­gram.com

Fed­eral NDP Leader Jag­meet Singh was in St. John’s Tues­day for a se­ries of photo-ops and meet­ings with sup­port­ers.

At a meet-and-greet at Me­mo­rial Univer­sity — dubbed a “Jag­Meet & Greet” in his itin­er­ary — he fielded ques­tions about ed­u­ca­tion, en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues, eco­nomic pol­icy and more.

Speak­ing to re­porters af­ter­ward, Singh was up­beat about his party’s prospects in At­lantic Canada, even though the NDP was shut out in the re­gion in the 2015 fed­eral elec­tion.

“We have to keep in mind that 50 per cent of peo­ple not only in New­found­land and Labrador but across the At­lantic re­gion voted for a party other than the Liberals, but the Liberals got 100 per cent of the seats,” Singh said.

In fact, that state­ment by Singh isn’t true, but it gives a hint about just how tough it will be for the NDP to re­gain a mean­ing­ful pres­ence in At­lantic Canada.

The Liberals ac­tu­ally won an out­right ma­jor­ity of the votes in all four At­lantic prov­inces, and in New­found­land and Labrador they racked up 66 per cent of the pop­u­lar vote.

When field­ing ques­tions from stu­dents at MUN, Singh said sev­eral times that he doesn’t want to re­sort to neg­a­tiv­ity, or sug­gest that politi­cians in other par­ties are bad peo­ple.

When asked about it af­ter­ward, he said he’d like to tap into the same en­thu­si­asm that the Liberals rode to vic­tory.

“I don’t be­lieve that peo­ple are in­spired by at­tacks alone. I think it’s re­ally im­por­tant to in­spire peo­ple with a brighter vi­sion,” he said. “And I think that there was a sense that peo­ple were hope­ful about a lot of things that the cur­rent gov­ern­ment was talk­ing about, but there’s a sense of be­trayal.”

Singh said he wants the gov­ern­ment to de­crim­i­nal­ize sim­ple pos­ses­sion of all drugs, and the fed­eral gov­ern­ment should cre­ate a na­tional phar­ma­care sys­tem.

He said he wants to “tear down the bar­ri­ers” to post-sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion by re­duc­ing tu­ition fees.

He said he’s happy to run deficits when the econ­omy re­quires it, and a lot of his am­bi­tious plans are “in­vest­ments” that will cre­ate a long-term re­turn.

“I also be­lieve that there is ac­tu­ally a very rich op­por­tu­nity for us to look at progressive tax­a­tion,” Singh said.

“Given what’s hap­pened with the Par­adise Pa­pers, there’s ac­tu­ally an in­cred­i­ble amount of wealth out there that should be di­rected to­wards build­ing up these pro­grams in Canada.”

Re­gard­ing the prov­ince’s fis­cal cri­sis, and the Muskrat Falls hy­dro­elec­tric project, Singh said there might be a role for the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to help New­found­land and Labrador.

“Well, I think there’s his­tor­i­cally been a role that fed­eral govern­ments have played. I think it’s im­por­tant to ac­knowl­edge that we’re all in this to­gether,” he said.

“We ben­e­fit if we all rise to­gether. We ben­e­fit if we are tak­ing care of one an­other.”

Singh was also asked whether he is a cat per­son or a dog per­son. He said he’s a dog per­son.

JOE GIBBONS/THE TELE­GRAM

Fed­eral NDP Leader Jag­meet Singh speaks with NDP MHA Lor­raine Michael on Tues­day on Wa­ter Street in St. John’s.

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