London·Video

Here's what Jagmeet Singh would do about London's problems if you make him PM

By officially launching his campaign in this city, Singh is the first of the four main party leaders to visit London and he didn't hold back when it came to what he'd do about London's social problems if voters gave him the keys to Sussex Drive. 

NDP leader would declare drug problem a national emergency and cancel $15B Saudi arms deal

New Democrat leader Jagmeet Singh steps off the campaign bus moments before the writ is dropped Wednesday for the official launch of the party's federal campaign in London, Ont. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

Goodwill Industries might not seem like a natural place to launch a federal election campaign, but New Democrat leader Jagmeet Singh wants people to know he's serious about helping people, much like the social agency known for its thrift stores. 

"What we have now is a national crisis," he said. "You see it here in London."

What he sees is what we all see every day in this city. People who sleep on the streets, people who beg for change on traffic medians and people who are dying because they're addicted to drugs. 

Nationwide, only Vancouver hands out more free needles than London. Although the city got a supervised drug site to help with the number of overdoses, there are still close calls, or worse, every day. 

By officially launching his campaign in this city, Singh is the first of the four main party leaders to visit London and he didn't hold back when it came to what he'd do about it if voters gave him the keys to Sussex Drive. 

'It should be treated like a national crisis'

Jagmeet Singh says drugs, poverty should be treated 'like a national crisis' 1:30

"It should be treated like a national crisis," he said. "On day one of a New Democratic government, we would declare a public health emergency nationally, which would open up a lot of services and support and care at the front lines."

"We care about people and we're going to respond in a way that shows how much we care," he said. 

While he said he cares about poverty, he also pledged to cancel a deal that could put a lot of London's working people in the poor house.

Singh said if elected as Prime Minister, he would scrap the largest industrial contract in the city's history, a $15-billion deal between Saudi Arabia and General Dynamics, a London armsmaker for combat vehicles. 

"Canada has a lot of needs in its own military services," he said. "Those hardworking people can continue to have those contracts here in Canada or in other jurisdictions where there is not an oppressive regime like Saudi Arabia." 

PM needs to help the most vulnerable

Nicole Guillemette said more needs to be done to help vulnerable people like her son Terry, who has no education and nowhere to go once he's released from jail. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

Not far from where Singh launched his campaign is a place where people know poverty and all the problems that come with it all too well.

241 Simcoe St. is a London public housing building so notorious for drugs,  its been nicknamed "the crystal palace." 

Residents like Nicole Guillemette know that addiction can destroy lives. She thinks more needs to be done to help people rebuild their lives, especially if drugs land them in jail. 

"Give them an education and get them off drugs and alcohol," she said. 

Her son, Terry, is one of those inmates. She said thinking about his future prospects upon his release keeps her up at night. 

"I love him," she said. "When he gets out he has nowhere to go and he'll be on the street."

"I'm just hoping somebody will be there to help him out," she said. "He doesn't have an education." 

Jobs for people who want to work

Scott Matheson, who has no high school education and a criminal record, has had problems finding work for the last 10 years. He's moving to Vancouver where he has a job lined up. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

Fellow resident Scott Matheson said he wants whoever is elected Prime Minister to focus on jobs because he hasn't had one in a decade. 

"I got no education, I got Grade 9 and a criminal record," he said, noting he's moving all the way to Vancouver next month to work in asbestos removal. 

"I got a job lined up and a place to stay," he said. "I'll be getting 20 bucks an hour, plus I'll be working overtime." 

Helping the homeless

Ron said he wants whoever becomes Prime Minister to focus on housing the growing number of people who sleep on London's streets. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

Others, like a man who would only identify himself as Ron, said whoever is elected Prime Minister should start with one of London's most visible problems: all the people without a roof over their heads. 

"He could do something about the homeless, for one," he said, noting public housing in London and across the country could use a little help in the form of cash from the federal government. 

He said London's public housing agency has come under fire lately for not finding enough people a place to stay, even though there's room at the inn. 

"They have a whack of empty units in here they're not doing anything about," he said. 

About the Author

Colin Butler

Video Journalist

Colin Butler is a veteran CBC reporter who's worked in Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton, Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, Hamilton and London, Ont. Email: colin.butler@cbc.ca

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