NDP leader Jagmeet Singh talks Alberta, energy and economic justice

The new leader of the federal NDP, Jagmeet Singh, spent Saturday in Alberta, making stops in both Edmonton and Calgary, holding a series of "Jagmeet and Greets" with supporters.

Tour through Alberta did not include a meeting with Premier Rachel Notley

Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh during his stop in Calgary on November 18. (Russell Bowers/CBC)

The new leader of the federal NDP, Jagmeet Singh, has been crossing the country to introduce himself to Canadians and share his vision for the country's future.

He spent Saturday in Alberta, making stops in both Edmonton and Calgary, holding a series of "Jagmeet and Greets" with supporters.

Singh sat down with Daybreak Alberta to discuss Premier Rachel Notley, Canada's energy future and his vision for uniting Canadians.

Below is an edited transcript of that conversation.

Q: How do you feel about the reception this time to Alberta?

A: It's been incredible. I've had two days filled with so much love and outpouring of support. In Edmonton, we were at a pub and the basement was rented out for the event — we were at capacity, 170 people were there and then 60 people were braving the cold waiting to try to find their way inside.

In Calgary, we were supposed to have a meeting of 20-40 key volunteers that had helped out during the leadership campaign — that ballooned into over 200 people. 

Q: What do you think your supporters are recognizing in you?  

A: I think people really believe in the idea that we can build a better world. There is a very Canadian spirit of wanting to help one another — something I've noticed whether I'm in the Atlantic provinces or if I'm in the West Coast. There's this really strong sentiment of, how can we care for one another?

What I've tried to convey in the campaign is, let's dream bigger, let's dig deeper and figure out what are those things that we can do? Some of the things we've talked about is universal pharmacare, for example. That's the next big step in our universal healthcare system. We're literally the only country that has universal healthcare that doesn't have correlating universal pharmacare.

I also think that we can go further. Why is it that we don't include dental care and eye care in our overall healthcare package? There's also a really good argument to make that by including these other elements we can actually bring down overall healthcare costs, and I think that's a strong argument to make as well.

Q: It's notable on the stops that you've made in Alberta the groups that are responding to you are the youth and the Sikh communities. What do you see as the growth for the NDP with those communities?

A: I really want to reach out to as many communities as possible. I'm hoping that my message of love and courage, of this optimistic spirit that we can actually build a better country reaches out far and wide.

I do notice though that there is strong support for this message, particularly among young people and that's a demographic I think is really important. I think if we talk about the future of our country, it's going to be in the hands of young people, so tapping into their enthusiasm and passion is very important to me.

Jegmeet Singh's Edmonton meet and greet was at capacity with 170 people. Singh said another 60 people waited outside hoping to get in. (Anna Desmarais/CBC)

Q: In this trip to Alberta, you haven't met with Premier Rachel Notley. How would you characterize the relationship between the federal and provincial parties right now?

A: Personally I'm a big fan of Premier Notley. I think that the Alberta NDP has done a great job of showing what New Democrats do when times are tough. We don't' believe in austerity, when Conservatives are talking about slashing education and healthcare, New Democrats said, "we're going to invest in those two."

She talked about and has implemented minimum wage adjustment, she's talked about freezing tuition fees and implanted that for a brighter future for post-secondary students. I think all the work the provincial NDP in Alberta is doing speaks very closely to my values.

Q: It seems there is a bit of a divide between both parties' ideas on what to do with energy projects, pipeline projects and so forth. How wide is that divide and how do you bridge it?

A: I think it's important to note that what Premier Notley is doing is exactly what she promised to do — she promised to fight for her constituents, to fight for an economy here in Alberta.

My concern is not with Premier Notley, my concern is with Prime Minister Trudeau — someone who promised to implement a modernization of the environmental assessment process when it comes to energy projects. That would provide some clarity, some security in the sense that knowing that our projects would have the highest and most rigorous environmental standards. And he's  backtracked on that process and commitment.

Q: ​What is the NDP plan moving forward to deal with disruptions in the oil and gas industry and how technology will change it?

A: What it really comes down to across Canada is people are really concerned about good jobs and they want jobs that are not just the jobs of the next couple of years, they want jobs of the future.

So my job is to make sure that we protect workers, that we invest in new technologies, we make sure we have an economy that is robust, diverse, sustainable and that creates great jobs.

We can't achieve any of our goals, whether it's climate change goals or improving social justice, without having economic justice, which means good-paying, dependable jobs.

Q: Where do you see the party, what do you see as the big issues for the country to face in 2018.

A: I've talked about four big issues during my leadership campaign. There's a massive issue of inequality — it refers to income inequality, pay equity when it comes to gender justice peace and housing affordability, which is a national issue.

The second issue is climate change and how we need to tackle environmental impact. It's one of the massive issues of our generation.

Reconciliation was a third pillar for me, talking about how we can really achieve a nation-to-nation relationship with First Nations and Indigenous peoples and really build a society that is truly just.

Finally, it's not an issue that people talk about day to day, but there's something very aspirational about having electoral reform where people can see their voice reflected better in Ottawa. For me, this was a major opportunity to engage people, to turn back the tide of apathy and we've seen a government really abandon that promise.