New federal NDP leader talks health care during 1st stop in Atlantic Canada

On his first trip to Atlantic Canada as the leader of the federal NDP, Jagmeet Singh said he's committed to improving health care in Nova Scotia.

Jagmeet Singh says he believes a national pharmacare program will lower health-care costs

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Sunday he believes a national pharmacare program can help improve health care in Nova Scotia. (Stephanie Blanchet/CBC)

On his inaugural visit to Atlantic Canada as the leader of the federal NDP, Jagmeet Singh signaled his commitment to tackling health-care concerns in Nova Scotia. 

Singh, who's in the Halifax area until Monday, said he's hearing that the number of people without a family doctor is high on the list of problems. Implementing a national pharmacare program could be part of the solution, he said.

His predecessor, Thomas Mulcair, campaigned on universal drug coverage in the 2015 federal election. Singh said a plan that covers all Canadians will mean savings in the health-care budget. 

"If we can bring healthcare costs down, we can actually re-invest that money into hiring doctors and family doctors in particular," said Singh, who was at Christmas craft fair in Dartmouth on Sunday.

"As New Democrats, we are committed to health care and we want to fund it appropriately." 

East coast roots

Singh became the Ontario provincial party's deputy leader in 2015, and won a decisive victory in October to replace Mulcair as the federal leader after Mulcair stepped down.

But long before he made a name for himself as a criminal lawyer in Ontario, Singh lived in St. John's, N.L., from age two to seven. 

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was visiting Halifax and Dartmouth Sunday on his stop in Nova Scotia, part of a cross-country tour. (Stephanie Blanchet/CBC)

"I've got this strong connection to this region," he said. "It reminds me of my childhood and I'm really committed to making sure we focus on the issues of this region."

Austerity not the answer

In addition to health care, Singh said the big issues for Atlantic Canada include protecting the environment, especially coastlines.

He said under his leadership, the party will continue to invest in programs for Canadians. 

"If things are difficult and when times are down, I want to make sure it's clear that New Democrats don't believe in austerity," he said.

Trevor Beckerson, a member of the NDP who was at the event in Dartmouth, said he has hope for the new leader. 

"I think he's going to bring something definitely very different [from] the other two parties, and I'm really optimistic about how things are going to go," he said. 

Singh's stop in Nova Scotia is part of a cross-country tour that takes him to the Prairie provinces later this week. 

Clarifications

  • Jagmeet Singh became the deputy leader of the provincial NDP in 2015, not the federal NDP.
    Nov 13, 2017 6:10 AM AT

With files from Stephanie Blanchet