Federal New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh will run in an upcoming byelection in British Columbia.
A crowd cheered and clapped as Singh formally announced his nomination for the riding of Burnaby South at an event Saturday.
Singh told them he wants to have a strategy that will solve the housing crisis in Vancouver, reduce the cost of prescription medications and fight climate change by focusing on clean energy.
“What’s at stake is we’ve got a Liberal government that is not doing what people need,” he said.
“Instead of investing and dealing with the national housing crisis, they spent $4.5 billion on buying a pipeline,” Singh said as the crowd chanted, “shame.”
He promised that an NDP government would invest in building affordable housing, co-operatives and non-market housing, as well as provide income support to people.
Singh blamed the Liberals and Conservatives for the current state of the country, saying the two parties don’t get and don’t care what people are going through.
“We have a government that is not willing to do what people need. And we had a Conservative government that put us in this position in the first place.”
He added that people are counting on the NDP, and the party can’t let them down.
Singh announced his intention to run in Burnaby South in early August.
The riding was held by former New Democrat MP Kennedy Stewart, who gave it up on Friday to run for mayor of Vancouver.
The 39-year-old Ontario-born Singh, who doesn’t live in the riding, is opposed to the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline and has called for a more thorough environmental review of the project.
The government, he has repeatedly said, needs to invest in clean energy jobs.
The federal government’s approval of the pipeline was recently overturned by the Federal Court of Appeal.
The pipeline runs from Edmonton to Burnaby and has met with strong opposition in the Vancouver area.
Singh said the court ruling supported what Canadians have long maintained about the environment, then added “We have to stop taking First Nations to court.”
Among Singh’s supporters in the crowd was Allan Warner, a retired grade 6 teacher and resident of Vancouver Kingsway. He described Singh as a hard worker, intelligent and a good candidate.
Warner said Singh is not conservative like Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, and is more honest than Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“Liberals promise like the NDP and govern like Conservatives. At least the Conservatives promise to be conservative. Liberals promise to be progressive and they don’t always act that way,” he said.
If Singh wins the byelection, he has said he will also run in the riding in the general election in 2019.
The prime minister must call a byelection within the next six months, but Singh, who noted that he and his wife are currently looking for an apartment in Burnaby, said he wants the date set “as quickly as possible.”
Singh represented the Toronto-area riding of Bramalea-Gore-Malton in Ontario’s legislature from 2011 to 2017, and served as the provincial NDP’s deputy leader before replacing Tom Mulcair as federal leader last fall.
B.C. deputy speaker, Burnaby-Edmonds NDP MLA Raj Chouhan, said he thinks Singh has a “very good chance” of winning the riding in spite of being from Ontario because he has a high profile, which will give the issues that people care about a voice.
“What we have seen under the Harper government and even under Mr. Scheer… all they talk about is how to make it easy and more profitable for the top one per cent.”
Singh, he suggested, is in touch with the grassroots and understands issues affecting the common man.
The difference between Singh and Scheer is “like night and day,” he said.
Singh wrapped up a three-day caucus retreat in Surrey, B.C., this week amid criticism from party stalwarts about weak fundraising and his controversial decision to oust Regina MP Erin Weir over harassment complaints.
The party raised $4.86 million from 39,053 donors in 2017, down from $5.39 million in 2016, and way down from the $18.59 million raised in 2015.
Alex Chan a third year undergraduate student at Simon Fraser University who introduced Singh at Saturday’s nomination event, said he understands that the party has work to do raising funds, and will do it.
During the retreat, Singh delivered a campaign-style speech to supporters where he took several jabs at Trudeau, giving a glimpse of what could turn out to be a feisty campaign.
In an interview earlier in the week he acknowledged that it’s been tough to achieve his vision as a new federal leader although he has found the experience rewarding.
Singh also said he must do a better job of communicating with Canadians.
Hina Alam, The Canadian Press