LONDON, Ont. — Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh began his party’s election campaign in southern Ontario by promising to tackle drug and health-care costs and climate change by going after big business and the wealthy.
Singh appeared in London, Ont., minutes after Justin Trudeau met with Gov. Gen. Julie Payette in Ottawa to dissolve Parliament and launch a 40-day election race.
The NDP leader fired his first salvo at escalating costs for medications, cellphone and internet services and housing, which he blamed on corporate greed, before accusing Trudeau and the Liberals of failing to live up to their promise to help average Canadians.
“Four years ago, Justin Trudeau charmed us with pretty words and empty promises. He said the right things, but he didn’t do them,” Singh told the roomful of supporters who turned out for his campaign-launch event at a Goodwill store.
“Behind closed doors, Justin Trudeau does whatever the wealthy and powerful corporations want him to do. It’s clear: Justin Trudeau isn’t who he pretended to be.”
Yet the NDP enters the campaign with a lack of resources following years of underwhelming fundraising numbers, the loss of many veteran MPs and a shortage of candidates. NDP officials confirmed the party had only 235 out of 338 candidates nominated on Wednesday.
There are also questions about how Quebecers will respond to Singh, who is the first member of a visible minority to lead a federal party into an election, given that Quebec was key to the NDP’s surprise second-place finish in the federal election in 2011 and returned a smaller but still sizable number of MPs in 2015.
Singh, who has been a vocal critic of Quebec’s controversial ban on religious symbols, Bill 21, acknowledged the challenge he faces in the province. But he also spoke about the importance of defending the French language and culture while expressing the hope his message will resonate there as much as across the rest of the country.
The NDP is also facing a challenge from the Greens, who are running neck-and-neck with the New Democrats in opinion polls at the start of the election campaign. Singh did not mention the Green party or its leader Elizabeth May by name during the campaign launch, but appeared to imply at one point that they offered little other than a promise to fight climate change.
“People tell me all the time that they’re worried about health care, affordability for housing and the climate crisis,” he said when asked about May and the Greens. “We provide a complete solution.”
The Canadian Press