NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh listens to a question during a news conference in Ottawa, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. Thousands of federal New Democrats will gather online Friday afternoon to kick off a three-day policy convention that has already exposed some internal party divisions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh listens to a question during a news conference in Ottawa, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. Thousands of federal New Democrats will gather online Friday afternoon to kick off a three-day policy convention that has already exposed some internal party divisions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Singh seeks to rally New Democrats as testy policy convention wraps up

Delegates passed a resolution Saturday that demands Canada suspend arms dealing with Israel

Federal New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh took aim at the Liberal government Sunday, firing an opening salvo ahead of a possible election later this year.

Capping a three-day policy convention plagued with hiccups and frustrations, Singh sought to unite the grassroots around a message of fair treatment, financial relief and Liberal failures.

His unwavering focus on the Grits stood in contrast to remarks from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who made nary a mention of New Democrats in his keynote speech at a Liberal convention Saturday.

With the Liberals pledging national pharmacare and child-care systems — the party has backed both ideas since the 1990s but made little headway on either — Singh is leading the NDP further left on a plan to cancel billions in student debt, eliminate for-profit long-term care and impose a wealth tax.

Part of that push zeroes in on the “rich,” a word that appeared 15 times in Singh’s speech, often right after “ultra.”

“We’re not actually in the same boat. We’re certainly in the same storm. But some of us are in leaky lifeboats, while others are in luxury yachts,” Singh said.

“Liberals continue to side with those in the yachts.”

Singh also claimed credit for beefed-up wage subsidies, emergency response benefits and sick-leave payments during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Liberals like to take credit, but New Democrats get results,” he said.

Terry Beech, a Liberal MP and convention co-chair, responded by saying Trudeau Liberals are the only team with a plan to support Canadians and “keep people healthy and safe.”

“Canadians want a real plan with real solutions for real problems, and both Erin O’Toole’s Conservatives and the NDP have shown that they just don’t have one,” he said in a statement.

Singh, speaking from an Ottawa production studio in front of images of the 42-year-old glad-handing Canadians, addressed more than 2,000 delegates assembled online to debate and vote on resolutions that will guide the NDP campaign platform ahead of a potential fight at the polls.

He has consistently emerged as the most popular federal leader in recent public-opinion surveys, but the party itself often falls short of 20 per cent support.

If the three main opposition parties were to vote against the looming Liberal budget — set to be unveiled April 19 — the government would fall. Singh has promised his party won’t trigger an election while the pandemic persists.

Trudeau could decide to pull the plug himself and Liberal insiders suggest that may happen over the summer, provided the vaccine rollout continues apace and the pandemic, currently spreading like wildfire once again, is sufficiently doused.

On the hustings, Singh would be fighting for Liberal seats while also seeking to stave off challenges from Conservatives gunning for trade union votes and Greens explicitly targetting NDP supporters.

He took a parting shot at the Conservatives on Sunday, saying they “are no friends to workers” on issues ranging from sick leave to pharmacare and unions.

Singh’s speech also looked to shore up solidarity within the party at a convention that saw glitches and procedural delays threaten to sideline policy debate and create an impression of discord. The hiccups came amid simmering tensions over how far left the party should tack.

Delegates passed a resolution Saturday that demands Canada suspend arms dealing with Israel and halt trade with Israeli settlements, drawing condemnation from Jewish advocacy groups.

Singh told reporters Sunday he supported the proposal and wasn’t concerned it exposed him to charges of anti-Semitism, which B’nai Brith suggested it did.

“To achieve a peaceful resolution, we need to as an international community use our tools,” he said.

Singh affirmed his belief in Israel’s right to exist and said he is “vigilantly aware” that anti-Jewish hate resides across the political spectrum, stating he is “someone you can count on to fight against any form of anti-Semitism.”

Delegates complained some of the convention’s initial sessions lacked closed captioning, sign language and translation services, prompting an apology from organizers and a refund pledge to attendees living with disabilities.

Others spoke of perceived tensions between the party executive and the rank and file, as well as anxiety over an impending election.

“There is far too much emphasis on top-down approach and gate-keeping to allow grassroots to flourish,” said Jessa McLean, a two-time NDP federal candidate from Ontario running for party president.

“We are moments away from the writ being dropped, and most of us have no idea how to structure our campaign around mail-in ballots or how to organize digitally.”

Singh has said the party does not want an election but is ready for one, with a war chest roughly double that of the 2019 campaign.

Non-binding resolutions up for a vote Sunday included proposals to implement all 231 recommendations made by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, as well as a plan to establish a publicly owned telecommunications company to expand high-speed internet access.

Earlier in the convention, delegates voted overwhelmingly to raise the federal minimum wage to $20, impose a one per cent tax on fortunes over $20 million, mandate at least seven days’ paid sick leave for federally regulated workers and weave long-term care into Canada’s universal health-care system — in part by eliminating for-profit models from the system.

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusJagmeet Singhndp

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
A judge has found an Edmonton woman guilty of manslaughter in the death of her five-year-old daughter. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton mother found guilty of manslaughter in death of 5-year-old girl

The woman was charged and pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and assault with weapons, including a belt and a spatula

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Alberta identifies 2,042 new COVID-19 cases Saturday

Central zone has 2,917 active cases

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Jason Kenney urges federal government to push U.S. for surplus COVID-19 vaccines

‘It makes no sense for our neighbours and regional states to be sitting on doses that we cannot use,’ the premier said

Winfield 4-H Club. (Photo Submitted)
Winfield & District 4-H Beef Club News

The 4-H Club gives an update on how what the club has been up to this year

Dr. Karina Pillay, former mayor of Slave Lake, Alta., is shown at her medical clinic in Calgary on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
10 years later: Former Slave Lake mayor remembers wildfire that burned through town

Alberta announced in 2011 that an unknown arsonist had recklessly or deliberately ignited the forest fire

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman travelling from Alberta found dead in B.C. park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

A caribou grazes on Baffin Island in a 2008 file photo. A last-ditch attempt to save some of Canada’s vanishing caribou herds is a step closer after a scientific review panel’s approval of a plan to permanently pen some animals and breed them to repopulate other herds. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kike Calvo via AP Images
Parks Canada captive caribou breeding proposal gets OK from scientific review panel

Wolf density in Jasper is low enough that the animals would not be expected to be a major threat

People pass the red hearts on the COVID-19 Memorial Wall mourning those who have died, opposite the Houses of Parliament on the Embankment in London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. On May 3, the British government announced that only one person had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kirsty Wigglesworth
For a view of a COVID-19 future, Canadians should look across the pond

Britain, like Canada, is one of the only countries in the world to delay second doses for several months

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

Canada’s chief public health officer is reminding Canadians even those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from transmitting the COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Post-inoculation, Theresa Tam says the risk of asymptomatic infection and transmission is far lower but not obsolete

Jennifer Coffman, owner of Truffle Pigs in Field, B.C., poses beside her business sign on Thursday, May 6, 2021, in this handout photo. Her restaurant and lodge have been hit hard by a closure of a section of the Trans-Canada Highway and by the British Columbia government discouraging Alberta residents from visiting during the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Jennifer Coffman, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
‘Why we survive’: B.C. boundary towns struggle without Albertans during pandemic

Jennifer Coffman’s restaurant is located in the tiny community of Field, which relies on tourism

A rodeo south of Bowden drew a huge crowd on May 1 and 2, 2021. (Photo courtesy Mom’s Diner’s Facebook page)

Most Read