If Jody Wilson-Raybould wants to testify a second time before the House of Commons Justice Committee but isn’t given the chance, that amounts to "an obstruction, absolutely,” says NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.
In an interview with CTV’s Question Period, Singh called the contradictory testimony from Gerald Butts, Prime Minister Trudeau’s former principal secretary, “incredulous” and “simply unbelievable,” and he’s urging the Liberals to let the former attorney-general respond.
“Given all that, Ms. Wilson-Raybould should have the chance to come to committee and provide her rebuttal to what’s been put forward,” Singh told CTV’s Evan Solomon.
Singh enters the House of Commons Monday as the Liberals continue to deal with the SNC-Lavalin affair. Whether or not Wilson-Raybould will be granted the opportunity to return to the committee will be decided in a debate behind closed doors on Tuesday.
When Singh takes his seat in the House of Commons, he will do so as the first person from a visible minority to lead a federal party. He said he understands the historic weight of the moment.
“I remember when I was growing up as a kid, I would never have thought that someone like me, someone looking like me, would ever run to become prime minister -- would ever even have that opportunity,” he said.
“And I know there’s a lot of people counting on me, because there’s far too many Canadians who feel like they don’t belong, who feel like they don’t matter. And I’m hoping that the same way I’ve been able to get to this point because people broke barriers for me, I’m hoping that maybe I can break some barriers for others.”
POLLS: NDP LAGGING BEHIND
With a federal election coming in October, Singh won’t have any time to waste in winning over voters – particularly progressives who supported the Liberals in 2015.
In the latest Nanos Research tracking poll, released on March 12, the NDP ranked third, at 18 per cent, well behind the Liberals, at 33 per cent, and the Conservatives, at 36 per cent.
Still, Trudeau came out on top as the preferred choice for prime minister, with 32.5 per cent support, followed by Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, at 25 per cent. Singh captured just 7.4 per cent – virtually tying Green Leader Elizabeth May, at 7.1 per cent.
Those numbers hint at an uphill battle for Singh. Touching on his election strategy, Singh said the NDP will “provide a real contrast” to Trudeau’s Liberals.
“Right now we see a scandal where there’s political interference, where well-connected executives of a corporation have a direct line of access can call up the prime minister of his office and get laws changed and can see attorneys-general that are being pressured to change their position,” he said.
“Instead, we want to say to people, listen, we don’t believe that’s the way government should operate. We believe government should be on people’s side working for people and putting forward their priorities.”
The Liberals are set to unveil their latest budget on Tuesday—Singh’s second day on the job. Details on a Liberal pharmacare plan could be unveiled.
The NDP has already proposed a universal, public pharmacare program if elected. Anything short of that, Singh says, simply isn’t good enough.
“We’re not looking for a U.S.-style patchwork system, which is what the Liberals are going to propose. We’ve heard that, we’ve seen them hinting at it. That is not good for Canadians. It doesn’t help all Canadians. Millions of Canadians will not be protected by that type of plan,” he said.
“What we want is a universal, national, public, single-payer, medication-for-all program, much like we’ve seen in other countries where it’s effective at giving everyone the care they need, reduce costs and (it’s) just something that makes sense.”
Asked how he’d pay for the ambitious plan, Singh said he would make “different choices” than the Liberals and crack down on tax havens and other systems the benefit the richest of the rich.
“I believe that a universal medication coverage for all is possible. We could cancel some of those types of initiatives that are not benefitting Canadians and there’s revenue that we’re proposing in our budget,” he said.
“We’re saying there’s other tax havens, there’s CEO stock option loopholes, there’s a number of things we can do to close that revenue that we’re losing and bring it into our country and invest in programs like this.”
CALLING OUT HATE
Singh also touched on the horrific mass shooting in New Zealand, where 49 worshippers were killed at a mosque in Christchurch during Friday prayers. He said politicians in Canada who flirt with hateful extremist groups, or don’t loudly call them out, should be held responsible.
Singh drew a direct line between hateful political rhetoric and hate-motivated shootings, specifically citing the case of Quebec mosque shooter Alexandre Bissonnette, who killed six people and injured 19 others in 2017.
“That type of rhetoric has to be called out. We have to name it. What happened in Quebec was born in Quebec. That was born in Canada. Not someone who came in as a refugee or an immigrant.”
When it comes to immigration, Singh said, the conversation cannot devolve into pointing fingers at outsiders.
“When people start blaming and using inflammatory language around immigration and refugees, it creates a climate for hate and fear to grow,” he said.
“There can be legitimate discussions around what is the appropriate approach to take to our immigration system, but it can’t include dog-whistle politics that are particularly inflammatory against people who are already marginalized. And we’ve seen that happen before. That needs to be denounced.”
TURNING POINT FOR NDP?
Monday marks a significant milestone for the NDP: it’s the first time since October 2017 that the party’s leader has sat in the House of Commons.
Asked whether he’s nervous for his first day, Singh admitted: “You know, a little bit.”
“It’s the big leagues. Anyone who’s looked at politics in Canada, anyone who’s looked at our system, looks at this as the pinnacle.”
Singh already knows what he’ll ask as his first question in Parliament – and he offered a broad hint.
“How do we make life better for Canadians, housing affordability, medication coverage for all, the environment. This general topic of area, you’ll hear me focus on.”
The Weekly Nanos Tracking is produced by the Nanos Research Corporation, headquartered in Canada, which operates in Canada and the United States. The data is based on a dual frame (land + cell-lines) random telephone interviews with 1,000 Canadians using a four week rolling average of 250 respondents each week, 18 years of age and over. The random sample of 1,000 respondents may be weighted by age and gender using the latest census information for Canada. The interviews are compiled into a four week rolling average of 1,000 interviews, where each week the oldest group of 250 interviews is dropped and a new group of 250 interviews is added.
A random telephone survey of 1,000 Canadians is accurate ±3.1 percentage points, plus or minus, 19 times out of 20.