Federal New Democrat leader Jagmeet Singh packed the warehouse area of Tin Whistle Brewing at the Cannery Trade Centre for a so-called JagMeet and Greet at the tail end of a Penticton tour Friday.
|Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh was met with plenty of fanfare at his JagMeet and Greet rally in Penticton’s Tin Whistle Brewing Company.
Dustin Godfrey/Western News
It was Singh’s first visit since his NDP leadership campaign, and a crowd of about 150 dwarfed the showing at his pre-leadership event at Craft Corner Kitchen, which drew closer to 40 people.
While the next federal election is still a year-and-a-half away, the event had the feel of a campaign rally, and came with a call for donations at the end, with at least one person answering the call for a $200 donation.
Singh was met with plenty of fanfare, with some attendees asking Singh for his signature, while others made the early prediction that he would be their next prime minister.
Though it was called an unscripted event, Singh did effectively follow talking points he has been repeating at various rallies and in the media.
Earlier in the day, Singh and member of Parliament Richard Cannings, South Okanagan—West Kootenay, toured various spots around town, including visiting trades students at Okanagan College and talking Indigenous issues at the Ooknakane Friendship Centre.
Between it all, Singh and Cannings made themselves available to media at a round table in a conference room in the Penticton Lakeside Resort, where Singh answered questions ranging from the Alberta-B.C. trade cold war to reconciliation to housing and the opioid epidemic.
On the Kinder Morgan pipeline
Singh told reporters he feels the federal government’s role in the Kinder Morgan pipeline dispute, which has led to threats of a trade war between the only two New Democrat governments in Canada in Alberta and B.C., is largely one involving the energy approval process.
When it comes to the National Energy Board, Singh called the process a “sham,” and noted the Liberal Party had campaigned on changing the energy evaluation process.
“It’s the federal government that broke its promise. It’s Prime Minister (Justin) Trudeau who broke his commitment to having a modernized environmental assessment process that would take into account the evidence, environmental concerns, concerns around diluted bitumen oil spills, concerns around the Indigenous communities,” he said.
“We’re in this position now because of the federal government. It’s the federal government’s responsibility, so we’re going to hold the government to account.”
Singh gave three criteria for approving an energy product: whether the project works toward meeting climate goals, whether it creates local development or is solely for export and whether it meets the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
“These are three concrete criteria — if a project can satisfy, we can look at it,” Singh said.
Under UNDRIP, governments would be mandated to obtain “free, prior and informed consent” from Indigenous communities when developing or approving developments on their lands, which has had a bit of debate as to whether that means a veto for every First Nation, for instance, along with Kinder Morgan pipeline.
Asked how he views free, prior and informed consent Singh only pointed to Bill C-262 from NDP member Romeo Saganash, but that bill does not appear to clarify any interpretation of the phrase.
On the opioid crisis
The opioid epidemic appears to show no signs of abatement, with about 4,000 people dying of overdose across Canada — 1,422 of which were in B.C., a province with about an eighth of Canada’s population.
Still, while the B.C. government has declared a state of emergency, the federal government has shied away from such a declaration.
“If Zika, on a Zika outbreak, resulted in 4,000 Canadians dying, you know there would be mobile centres set up tomorrow, there’d be centres set up everywhere to tackle the outbreak,” Singh said.
“This is a health-care outbreak. People are dying. We need to treat it like a public health emergency.”
But on a more broad scope, Singh said he would take a page from Portugal’s book on addictions and drug policy, where the government decriminalized simple possession in 2001 and has since seen a dramatic decline in things like drug-related crime, HIV transmission and overdose deaths.
“This current approach (in Canada) is not working. It’s not saving people’s lives, it’s not meaning that we’re seeing a reduction in addictions or the levels of addiction,” Singh said.
“It’s not helping people live better lives; it’s just not working. But we’re still doing it. We’re committed to this path that doesn’t really make any sense. It doesn’t achieve any of our goals.”
On the economy
Both with reporters and at the rally at Tin Whistle Brewing, Singh said the two biggest issues he has been hearing about are housing and the economy.
|Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh was met with enthusiasm from attendees from a wide range of ages, from the young to the elderly at a JagMeet and Greet rally Friday.
Dustin Godfrey/Western News
“The other issue that keeps coming up is this — kind of like this divide. And the divide is the government says the economy’s doing really well. And we’re being told the economy’s moving along, and people aren’t really feeling that, though, in their lives,” Singh said.
“On one hand you have the economy, numbers showing things are moving really well. Like, OK, that’s great, the economy’s going well, but it’s not actually helping me. I don’t see the benefits in my life.”
Singh pointed to an Ipsos survey conducted for MNP Financial, released in January, which showed 48 per cent of Canadians feel they are $200 or less away from financial crisis, though that number drops to about four out of 10 in B.C.
“That doesn’t seem like the economy’s doing well for those folks,” he said, adding that while the world economy is growing, including Canada’s, the vast majority of the growth is going to a small number of people.
“Last year, 80 per cent of the wealth generated in the world, including Canada, went to the top one per cent, the most wealthiest, the most powerful. So the evidence actually makes out how people. The economy may be working, but it’s not working for everybody.”
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