VANCOUVER— Even though he skipped campaigning in Alberta and Newfoundland during the federal election, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says he hasn’t given up on oil-rich regions that might not jive with his party’s climate agenda.
As the NDP leader tours B.C. for the final stage of the campaign, Singh apologized for not visiting all regions of the country over the past 38 days — but insisted Canadians everywhere can count on New Democrats in the next federal parliament.
Since the campaign started Sept. 11, Singh has not stepped foot in Alberta or Newfoundland, provinces with significant fossil fuel industries. Singh also has not visited Prince Edward Island or any of the territories during the campaign.
The federal leader’s stance on oil and gas has long bristled his provincial counterpart in Alberta, Rachel Notley. The former Alberta premier and NDP leader has openly opposed the direction of the federal party under Singh’s leadership, telling the Star in June that federal New Democrats “need to go back to the drawing board and think about working people.”
At the time, Notley declined to say whether she would vote NDP in the federal election. She announced Friday that she would vote for the candidate in her Edmonton riding — but somewhat reluctantly. She will still challenge him on Trans Mountain, but believes Singh won’t be able to “assert those views” in a minority parliament.
Speaking to reporters at a non-profit housing community in Vancouver on Saturday, Singh praised Notley’s leadership as Alberta’s first and only NDP premier — from 2015 to April of this year — and said he’s thankful for her support.
“But I don’t take anyone’s vote for granted,” he said. “I know the people of Alberta need supports. They’re in a really difficult time, and I want to ensure that people in Alberta know that I don’t want to see any worker left behind.”
He added that he visited Newfoundland and Alberta “just before the election began,” and encouraged people everywhere to vote NDP if they want universal pharmacare, dental care for people who earn less than $70,000 per year, and more money spent on affordable housing.
Singh last visited Newfoundland when he went to St. John’s on Sept. 3, and was in Calgary and Edmonton almost two months ago, on Aug. 23 and 24.
“No matter where you live, if I haven’t been able to get there, I’m sorry,” Singh said Saturday. “But I can tell you this: New Democrats are going to fight for you.”
Throughout the campaign, Singh has criticized Justin Trudeau’s Liberals for trying to save the Trans Mountain expansion project by nationalizing the existing pipeline system — which runs from Edmonton to a port in Burnaby, B.C., where Singh himself is running for re-election — for $4.5 billion last year.
And while he has said he will never stop fighting to prevent the expansion project that would almost triple the amount of oilsands bitumen carried to and shipped off the B.C. coast, Singh has refused to say whether he would make cancelling the project a condition for supporting the Liberals in a minority parliament that the polls suggest is the most likely outcome of Monday’s general election.
Meanwhile, the NDP leader has been less eager to criticize liquified natural gas developments in B.C., where the provincial New Democrats govern in a minority parliament and supports the northern B.C. Coastal GasLink pipeline that is contested by local Indigenous leaders, as well as the planned LNG Canada export terminal in the coastal town of Kitimat.
Singh walked back his previous support of these projects earlier this year, but has since refused to clarify where he stands, saying only that he believes the B.C. NDP have the best plan to reduce emissions that cause climate change, and that he wants Canada to eventually shift away from the use of all fossil fuels.
Get The Lead newsletter
Start getting your whip-smart guide to Canada’s 2019 federal election in your inbox.
The stance has been attacked by Greens in the province, who are competing with the NDP in potentially tight races on Vancouver Island in ridings like Nanaimo-Ladysmith and Victoria. Elizabeth May’s party has accused the NDP of failing to oppose fracking — which the Greens would ban — while also supporting the B.C.’s governments financial incentives to the province’s LNG sector.
On Friday night, B.C.’s NDP premier introduced Singh at a rally in a packed high school auditorium in Victoria.
The federal NDP has pledged to spend $15 billion over four years on a climate plan that it says would allow Canada to exceed its emission target for 2030 while creating 300,000 jobs. The plan includes $6.5 billion for public transit, $3 billion for a “climate bank” to fund green tech developments, and pledges to retrofit all buildings in Canada by 2050 so they are energy efficient.