Debrief at the Desk: Lisa LaFlamme speaks with NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh
TORONTO – As talk of minority governments and future coalitions dominates the final week of the campaign, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is attempting to win over left-leaning voters by portraying his party, instead of the Liberals, as the true progressive choice to counter the Conservatives.
Singh has been making use of a recent bump in his personal popularity to drive home his key platform pledges, which include the introduction of universal pharmacare, the creation of affordable housing, scrapping the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, climate change action, a tax on the “ultra-rich,” and interest-free student loans.
In the fourth and final of CTV News Chief Anchor and Senior Editor Lisa LaFlamme’s interviews with the major federal party leaders, Singh discusses what he would do in a minority Parliament, Bill 21, and how he would work with premiers.
Lisa LaFlamme: Thank you so much for making time to join us tonight. I want to start with some clarification on the possibility of a minority government. You seem to have kind of wavered on the question of coalition. Do you support one or not?
Jagmeet Singh: So I'm open to anything. My plan is this: I believe that in the next Parliament, I want to be prime minister. I want to be able to implement the promises that we've made, the commitments we have to make people's lives better. But I'm open to working in any way that Canadians choose, whether it's in opposition, whether it's in a coalition, whether it's in a minority or whether it's in government. I want Canadians to win. That's my goal – whatever makes Canadians’ lives better.
LaFlamme: So if the Liberals end up with a minority government and Justin Trudeau comes to you and offers you a coalition deal including cabinet ministers, would you accept that?
Singh: So that's not my, it's not my priority to lay out exactly the path forward. It's just that my openness to doing whatever it takes to deliver on the things that Canadians need. So I'm open to whatever. I made it clear I'm not willing to work with Conservatives – but beyond that, I'm open. And my plan is this: I think that if Canadians vote New Democrats and they elect as many New Democrats as possible, like enough of us, we can form government. But if not, we can deliver on the things that we've talked about: pharmacare for all; dental care; the program to tackle the high cost of cell phone and internet. We can actually deliver real action for people fighting the climate crisis in a meaningful way,if you elect New Democrats.
LaFlamme: I want to get to some of those topics in a minute. But first of all, on something you just said – so if it does end up Monday night with a conservative minority government and you say you will not, in fact, I think this morning you said you don't respect conservatives--
Singh: I don't respect their cuts. I don’t respect the steps that they take. I don’t respect--
LaFlamme: So it wasn't conservative voters, you’re saying, why you didn’t go to Alberta.
Singh: Oh, no, of course not. I mean, my campaign is about including all people, respecting all people. But I don't believe that cuts are the right thing to do. I've fought provincially and I'll continue to vote federally against the idea of cutting services to people. I think it's wrong.
LaFlamme: So, OK. Andrew Scheer said today, first job one – if he gets the minority government or a majority government – is cutting the carbon tax Jan. 1. What would you do in that situation. if that's his first order of business? Would you vote that down and trigger a snap election? I think Canadians really want to understand what's on the table.
Singh: Well, I can make it really clear when it comes to the price on pollution. There is a price to pollution. And I believe that what we should be doing is making sure the biggest polluters pay their fair share. When Mr. Trudeau hasn't done is that he's in fact exempted the biggest polluters and put all the burden on families. I believe that the biggest polluters should be the ones who are paying their fair share.
LaFlamme: But would you vote down that in a minority situation? Would you vote down the bill? Andrew Scheer’s bill in January, which could possibly trigger an election?
Singh: I mean, it's too much of a hypothetical. I can tell you, generally speaking--
LaFlamme: It isn’t--
Singh: Yes, it is too much of a hypothetical. What I can tell you is this, that Canadians can expect from a New Democratic government to deliver the services that their families need. People can expect from New Democrats that we're going to fight for them. And that we’re certainly not going to work with Conservatives.
LaFlamme: So you won't. OK, you're not going to work with conservatives. So you would vote down their bills and you would potentially trigger a snap election.
Singh: What I'm saying is this, I can put it clearly: I'm not accepting your frame. I'm saying that what Democrats are gonna do is we're gonna fight for people.
LaFlamme: I guess people, Canadians, want to know, though. I mean, are they looking at another election sometime depending on the outcome?
Singh: But that's, that's one way of framing it. I'm saying that if New Democrats are elected, we're going to fight for the things that Canadians need. Whatever that means, we're gonna look at every scenario as it comes up and say ‘How does this advance the lives of Canadians with the priorities that we put forward? Does it help us build more housing? Does it help us build a better health care system? Does it help us tackle affordability? Does it help us tackle the climate crisis?’ Those are our values, and we're going to do everything we can to advance those things that Canadians need
LaFlamme: More than ever I think, this campaign, race has truly played a part in it, and you have been an inspiration to so many Canadians. On Bill 21, however, there are still those who were looking for more from you, this unwillingness to intervene in that Quebec legislation. What do you say to those Canadians who sort of look to you to put personal convictions ahead of political goals?
Singh: Well, what I've said very clearly on this is that there's a court challenge and that court challenge is going on right now. And they're doing exactly what they should be doing, which is to challenge a law that theydon’t agree with in Quebec, with the laws that exist to protect people. And that's importantthat We do not interfere with that. What I want to do is this. I know that if. There's 70 percent of people believe a certain law is good, then changing a law is not enough challenge, that law in court is not enough. I want to win over the hearts and minds of people. And what we're seeing is the work that we've done to show folks I'm someone that believes in the rights for women to choose. I strongly believe in women's rights to access people's rights, to access abortion services. I believe in the right to die with dignity. I believe in same sex marriage. I believe in the climate crisis and fighting it. And I wear a turban and I have a beard. And people are showing to wondering, Quebec, you know what? There's some of that. Whereas a religious symbol, but believes in all the same values as us. But then we have Mr. Scheer, who openly says he does not believe in a woman's right to choose. He is not supportive of the same sex marriage rights. And he's someone that doesn't really understand the urgency of the climate crisis. Maybe we've got it mixed up and we're seeing change happen. And that to me is the bigger goal is to win over the hearts and minds of people.
LaFlamme: You know the law, you know the wording of that bill. You have said that of Bill 21, you want this, you know, you will intervene when it goes to the Supreme Court.
Singh: That wasn’t exactly what I’ve said. What I've said is, I said that as a statement of fact, that any law that gets to the point where it's challenged and brought to the Supreme Court, any prime minister would then have to look at it.
LaFlamme: Isn't that leading from behind, though?
Singh: Well, no. I mean, I'm a person that wears a turban, that goes to Quebec regularly, gets asked this question every time I go there and gets to show the people of Quebec that maybe this isn't the way to go ahead, that divisive laws don't really build a better society – and we've seen the impact. We've seen discussions on Facebook and social media, people who were once very supportive of the law, saying, ‘You know what, maybe this doesn't make sense.’ We've heard it on talk show radios where people are saying, ‘You know what, Mr. Singh is someone who shares our values. This law doesn't really make sense. ‘
LaFlamme: I think there was a there was a collective gasp that day at that interaction at the Atwater Market in Montreal – the man who came up to you. Do you see that as racism or ignorance?
Singh: Well, I see it as something that exists and happensto a lot of people where they're told that they don't belong because of the way they look, and that they have to change to be welcomed in society. That happens all too often for many people, not just because of their appearance, but also their sexuality, their gender, the colour of their skin. I've met many colleagues, women colleagues who tell me about barriers they face because of their gender. So there's lots of barriers in society. And I want people to know I've experienced a little bit of those barriers and I want folks to know that I will fight as hard as I can to build a Canada where people don't face any barriers based on who they are.
LaFlamme: Now, the Canada you say you want to build and we've heard your pitch over every day, it depends so much on provincial support. And at the moment, the provinces, many of them are barely speaking to the federal government. So how are you going to push your goals with and get the support of the provinces?
Singh: Well, it's important that we work with provinces. Three of our goals, though, don't require provincial work. We want to waive all interest for students who have student federal loans. We want to make sure that there is a national dental care program, which would be a national federal program.
LaFlamme: But on the ones that require--
Singh: The third one is as to reduce the costs of cell phone and Internet. That's a CRTC fully, federally mandated. We can put in a price cap and make sure that data plans are truly unlimited. But with the plans that are provincial, we're going to have to sit down and do the hard work. I believe we've got powerful tools at the federal level where we can encourage positive things to happen. We can negotiate strong deals, and – with our pharmacare plan, for example. I can't imagine a province that when approached with this offer, you're already spending money on medication. Each province is, they already have a form of a pharmacare when people and patients go to a hospital. Most of their medication is covered. So provinces are already buying medication. What we're proposing is for the same amount that you're already spending, not a cent more, we'll put up $10 billion federally and be able to deliver medication coverage for not just the patients in a hospital, but for every person in the province. I can’t imagine a premier that could say no to that – and if they did, the political cost would be very deadly. And I think that that's the powerful force of this argument is that it's so compelling. It is so doable. And every other country in the world that has a universal health care system has pharmacare that's universal and public. We can do it here.
LaFlamme: Finally, what is your goal for Monday night? Give me a seatnumber.
Singh: My goal is to be prime minister of Canada. But at the end of the day, it's not about me winning. I want Canadians to win. So my goal is to make sure that Canadians win no matter what.
LaFlamme: OK. Thank you so much for spending some time with us on a very busy week, and we wish you luck. Thank you.
Singh: Thank you.