VANCOUVER—On the last day of a federal election campaign where Jagmeet Singh was all but written off as a contender for power, the leader of a newly invigorated New Democratic Party called on voters to entrust the NDP with at least enough influence to push the next parliament in a progressive direction.
“We know that the Liberals do not deserve a majority. They do not deserve your vote because they’ve let you down,” Singh said, speaking at an orange lectern in a downtown community centre as the characteristic drizzle of this west coast city spattered the panes of glass behind him.
“Vote enough new Democrats and we’ll form government. But vote enough of us either way, and we’re going to make sure that your life is better,” he said.
Singh’s final pitch can be seen as an implicit argument against strategic voting to keep the Conservatives out of power, a familiar line of reasoning that Liberals have trotted out as national polls suggest the race for power in the next parliament could be very close. In his final news conference of the campaign, Singh echoed a declaration that B.C.’s NDP premier made during a jam-packed rally in Victoria this week, that “Canadians should celebrate a minority government.”
“Minorities are a good thing. Yes, they are,” Singh said Sunday, after stating in French that New Democrat MPs will use whatever power they earn in Monday’s election to “force” the next parliament to the political left.
Last week, Singh laid out his “urgent priorities” for the next parliament, including pharmacare, dental care for Canadians that earn less than $70,000 per year, and more spending on affordable housing. The NDP will also press for the elimination of interest on federal student loans, “bold action” on climate change like the elimination of subsidies to fossil fuel companies, the implementation of its “super wealth tax” on the richest Canadians and a cap for cellphone and internet bills.
The possibility of the NDP implementing any of these policies seemed less realistic 40 days ago, when Singh launched the NDP’s election campaign at a Goodwill centre in London, Ont., amidst concern about the party’s limited war chest, retiring incumbents and low standing in the polls.
Since then, the NDP leader has seen a boost in voting intentions as Singh hammered the same left-populist message over and over: that Liberals and Conservatives are beholden to the wealthy and massive corporations, and that Canada needs to jack up taxes on the rich to pay for its expensive suite of priorities.
On Sunday, Singh summed up his campaign as “an incredible ride” that has seen the NDP leader speak to consecutively packed rallies in the days before the election, first in his political hometown of Brampton, where he first was elected as an Ontario MPP eight years ago, and then through B.C. as he hunkered down on the west coast to close out the race.
He accused Justin Trudeau and the Liberals of disappointing Canadians during their past four years in government, arguing they should have moved faster to implement pharmacare, build new affordable housing units and advance reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. And he accused the Conservatives of planning cuts to services as they seek to find savings to balance the budget in five years — a promise neither the Liberals or NDP are prepared to endorse.
Later, the NDP leader set out to greet voters in downtown Vancouver, where he strolled through the gay village amidst a steady rain and intermittent honking from passing cars, before stopping in to meet people as they ate brunch in a Davie Street restaurant.
After making calls from his campaign bus to NDP staff working phones to drum up support in Ottawa and B.C., Singh stopped in Surrey, a suburban city east of Vancouver, where he was swarmed by shoppers as he slowly made his way through the Guildwood Town Centre mall.
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Val Dmitrieff, 37, had just finished her shift as a store manager when she spotted the NDP leader engaging in his marathon of selfies and handshakes towards the food court. An American voting in Canada for the first time, Dmitrieff said she is still wrapping her head around how Canadians elect parliaments of MPs that form governments, rather than casting ballots directly for a prime minister.
That could be an important fact to keep in mind if, as Singh would hope, neither the Liberals or Conservatives score enough seats for a majority on Monday.
“We talk about environmental issues, we talk about health issues, we talk about the rights of the Canadian people, and out of all the candidates he actually voices what I want my prime minister to believe in,” said Dmitrieff.