Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is not looking for a spring election, but he says that if one were to be called, his party would be ready.
“I really think that Justin Trudeau should be solely focused on getting everyone vaccinated. Getting the vaccine is the top priority on everyone’s mind. Everyone wants to know what’s their out date, when are they going to get vaccinated, when are their loved ones going to get vaccinated so that we can get past this. So I think that’s going to be the priority,” Singh told Daily Hive in an interview.
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“But we are ready for an election. We don’t want one, we don’t think it’s the right time given the variants, given the vaccines are available and how it should be a priority. But we are ready. We are in a better position than we were in 2019.”
Singh credits part of that preparedness to his young supporters.
“I really believe young people are going to make history in this next election. They are fed up with a rigged economy that seems to be benefiting those at the very top, and the wealthiest continue to get richer but working people continue to struggle,” he said.
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“And on top of that, young people are the ones that have felt this pandemic… They’re the ones that have been, I think, the hardest-hit along with women and racialized people.”
But during the 2019 federal election, Singh and the NDP’s vision of an orange wave sweeping across the country didn’t exactly happen as planned.
The party won 24 seats, placing behind the Conservatives and Bloq Quebecois.
But that was two years ago, and Singh says he’s confident the NDP has shown up for Canadians — especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We were there for Canadians,” said Singh, adding that his party pushed to increase the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) payments to an extra $1,000 a month for millions of Canadians.
“Students got the Canadian Emergency Student Benefit because we fought for it and we made it happen. We were able to increase the wage subsidies, and we were able to bring in paid sick leave for the first of its kind at the federal level,” he added.
“Those are all things we fought for and we achieved.”
Earlier this week, Singh ramped up promises for something else he says he wants to fight for: small businesses.
He introduced a plan to support small businesses during a campaign-style event where he spoke from a local bakery in Surrey, BC.
The plan includes pushing the wage subsidy and rent program to continue after the pandemic, introducing a hiring bonus to pay the employer a portion of EI and CPP for new or rehired staff, and a cap on credit card fees.
Singh said some small businesses are paying nearly 2% credit card fees, which he said is a “pretty significant fixed cost they have to pay when they have to run the credit card through, and now with folks [being] less likely to use cash with [the] pandemic, it’s become more of an issue, these credit card fees, so we want to cap it at 1%.”
He also vowed to tax the “pandemic profiteering” of large corporations “that have made excess profits.”
“We know that the wealthiest corporations like Amazon, Netflix and Google — online web giants — made record profits in this pandemic, but they have not paid their fair share, and when companies make profit off of Canadians and don’t pay taxes here, it’s effectively a subsidy,” he added.
As for Trudeau and the Liberals, they have rolled out a freeze on EI until 2022, an extension of the wage subsidy and rent subsidy, and the expansion of the Canada Emergency Business Account.
Singh confirmed that there will not be legislation introduced with this plan. He said instead, the NDP will use public pressure and continue to address the issue in parliament.
“We’ve laid out our plan,” stated Singh. “We want the government to take this plan and make it happen and run with it, but really we are raising our concern that so far the Liberal government has really ignored small businesses.”