VICTORIA—The Confidence and Supply Agreement between the federal Liberals and New Democratic Party depended on the enactment of NDP policy—and New Democrats will be pushing for more progressive change every step of the way, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh told delegates in his convention address.
Singh began by noting people’s increasing anxiety due to the pandemic, the skyrocketing cost of living, and the lack of affordable housing.
“It’s been a couple of really tough years. People are feeling it at the grocery stores, they’re feeling it at the gas station, and they’re feeling it when they’re trying to buy a home. Canadians are becoming frustrated, angry, and worried about the future,” said Singh.
“They’re also more distrustful of a system that’s been rigged to disadvantage working people and to advantage people at the top. Workers like you have seen big companies lay off workers while giving massive bonuses to their CEOs.”
The NDP leader drew a contrast between the governing Liberals and opposition Conservatives.
“The Conservatives are just focussed on themselves—they’re not really focussed on what people are going through. We were in favour of CERB, but the Conservative Opposition were missing in action. While people have been struggling, they’ve been absent,” said Singh.
The governing Liberals, meanwhile, could have lowered the cost of medication—but instead they caved to the pharmaceutical industry, costing the treasury $6 billion over the next ten years. Meanwhile, the Trudeau Liberals have provided more subsidies for fossil fuels sector, but no plan for workers who will be impacted by the climate crisis.
“As my friend Mark Hancock puts it,” he said, referring to CUPE’s national president, “Liberals are good at making promises, but it’s New Democrats who make sure they become reality.”
Following previous NDP leaders’ progressive example—the Tommy Douglas campaign for Medicare, Jack Layton’s for affordable housing—Singh said his own leadership is driven by a similar desire to lift people up.
“Canadians need certainty, stability and help,” he said. “With the Supply and Confidence Agreement, we used our power to obtain significant victories, and we only achieved these victories because you knocked on doors.”
Part of the agreement calls for the first expansion of our health care system with dental care, starting with children under 12 this year. In total, 6.5 million Canadians without access to dental care will now get it. By next year, a Canada Pharmacare Act will be introduced — a concrete step to ensure that everyone gets the medication they need. And the definition of affordable housing has been changed to better reflect people’s incomes.
“The deal also includes anti-scab legislation, including strikes and lockouts. It will get passed, and then we want to see that legislation passed across the country,” said Singh, drawing loud applause from delegates.
“You are some of our most ardent supporters, so you deserve to feel excitement about these changes. People are going to get dental coverage, access to medication, and more affordable housing, because of you.”
Singh said there is much more work to be done. While continuing the fight to make the super-rich start paying their fair share of taxes, the NDP will seek more justice for Indigenous peoples and massive investment in the health care sector. One encouraging outcome of the pandemic, he added, is that people are looking out for their neighbours, stepping up in meaningful ways to help people around them.
Singh closed his address by sharing how differently he views the world as a new father, which led him to give a more poetic name to the Confidence and Supply Agreement.
“When my daughter was born and I looked at her, I thought I want her to live limitlessly, free to pursue her dreams,” said Singh.
“So, my wife and I named her ‘Anhad’ because it means limitless: each time she says her name or hears her name, I want her to be reminded that she is limitless. And that’s why we call this agreement the Anhad Accord: because all children should be able to grow up and live without having to be afraid of whether they can afford to get their teeth fixed or care about their health. Let’s build that limitless future together, my friends.”