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Ottawa could help with Newfoundland and Labrador’s fiscal crisis, Singh says

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh speaks with NDP MHA Lorraine Michael on Tuesday on Water Street in St. John’s.
Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh speaks with NDP MHA Lorraine Michael on Tuesday on Water Street in St. John’s. - Joe Gibbons

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was in St. John’s Tuesday for a series of photo-ops and meetings with supporters.

At a meet-and-greet at Memorial University — dubbed a “JagMeet & Greet” in his itinerary — he fielded questions about education, environmental issues, economic policy and more.

Speaking to reporters afterward, Singh was upbeat about his party’s prospects in Atlantic Canada, even though the NDP was shut out in the region in the 2015 federal election.

“We have to keep in mind that 50 per cent of people not only in Newfoundland and Labrador but across the Atlantic region voted for a party other than the Liberals, but the Liberals got 100 per cent of the seats,” Singh said.

In fact, that statement by Singh isn’t true, but it gives a hint about just how tough it will be for the NDP to regain a meaningful presence in Atlantic Canada.

The Liberals actually won an outright majority of the votes in all four Atlantic provinces, and in Newfoundland and Labrador they racked up 66 per cent of the popular vote.

When fielding questions from students at MUN, Singh said several times that he doesn’t want to resort to negativity, or suggest that politicians in other parties are bad people.

When asked about it afterward, he said he’d like to tap into the same enthusiasm that the Liberals rode to victory.

“I don’t believe that people are inspired by attacks alone. I think it’s really important to inspire people with a brighter vision,” he said. “And I think that there was a sense that people were hopeful about a lot of things that the current government was talking about, but there’s a sense of betrayal.”

Singh said he wants the government to decriminalize simple possession of all drugs, and the federal government should create a national pharmacare system.

He said he wants to “tear down the barriers” to post-secondary education by reducing tuition fees.

He said he’s happy to run deficits when the economy requires it, and a lot of his ambitious plans are “investments” that will create a long-term return.

“I also believe that there is actually a very rich opportunity for us to look at progressive taxation,” Singh said.

“Given what’s happened with the Paradise Papers, there’s actually an incredible amount of wealth out there that should be directed towards building up these programs in Canada.”

Regarding the province’s fiscal crisis, and the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project, Singh said there might be a role for the federal government to help Newfoundland and Labrador.

“Well, I think there’s historically been a role that federal governments have played. I think it’s important to acknowledge that we’re all in this together,” he said.

“We benefit if we all rise together. We benefit if we are taking care of one another.”

Singh was also asked whether he is a cat person or a dog person. He said he’s a dog person.

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