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 press 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 Sunday, the NDP leader was set to canvass voters in downtown Vancouver and Surrey, a suburban city further inland, in an effort to speak to undecided voters, campaign officials said. He was scheduled to finish his public events by 3 p.m. Pacific time, a stark contrast to the Conservatives and Liberals, who are blitzing through multiple events before flying back east for election day.
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Singh’s campaign co-chair, Marie Della Mattia, said the schedule is typical of NDP campaigns as they try to free up staff and volunteers to ensure supporters get to the ballot box on Monday.
Reflecting on the campaign as it comes to a close, Singh said he has tried to give people hope that government services and supports can improve over the coming years.
“A lot of people come up to me and tell me, ‘I feel hope again,’” Singh said. “That, to me, has been one of my greatest honours.”