Surrey: Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh took aim at conservative politicians Wednesday while lambasting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for abandoning a campaign promise to bring in electoral reform.
Singh told his caucus during a retreat in Surrey, that Trudeau’s explanation for disavowing the promise was that he was worried a new electoral system might facilitate the rise of far-right, fringe parties.
“First-past-the-post didn’t stop Doug Ford from coming into power in Ontario,” Singh said, to laughs and applause from NDP members of Parliament.
“It didn’t stop him from using the notwithstanding clause to continue a petty vendetta against the City of Toronto, to abrogate our charter rights to continue this vendetta.”
Ford announced Monday he would invoke the rarely used clause to overrule a court decision and reduce the size of Toronto’s city council from 47 councillors to 25.
Singh, a former NDP member of Ontario’s legislature, also noted first-past-the-post didn’t stop Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer from appointing a former Rebel Media news director as his campaign head.
Conservative Party spokesman Cory Hann confirmed Hamish Marshall will be the party’s campaign manager but didn’t have an immediate statement on Singh’s comments.
The current electoral system also didn’t stop Quebec MP Maxime Bernier from launching an “anti-immigrant” political party, Singh added.
Bernier left the Conservatives to start his own party last month after butting heads with Scheer over supply management and making headlines with controversial tweets about immigration and diversity.
When an electoral system allows the views of a minority to win out over the majority, it doesn’t stop fringe politicians, it encourages them, Singh said.
“That’s why we’ve got to stop it. We’ve got to bring in electoral reform to bring power and voice to people.”
The caucus retreat has arrived at a challenging time in Singh’s year-old tenure as leader as he faces criticism from party loyalists about his effectiveness and weak fundraising.
He drew several standing ovations and cheers from his caucus during the broad speech. He also spoke at length about the NDP’s support of universal prescription drug coverage and its opposition to the Liberal government’s $4.5-billion purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline.
Singh cast the Liberals as a party beholden to wealthy donors and unable to challenge the status quo.
The majority of the richest and most powerful people in Canada donate to the Liberals because they know the party won’t address tax fairness by closing tax loopholes or offshore tax havens, he said.
“They won’t do that work. They know that they’re going to defend the interests of the wealthy,” he said. “It’s a great investment for the richest in Canada but the rest of Canadians pay the price.”
By Laura Kane, The Canadian Press