Federal NDP says 'grassroots' approach will be key in winning back northern Ontario voters
Leader Jagmeet Singh says healthcare and pharmacare among top priorities
The federal New Democrats say a "grassroots" approach will help them lure back voters across northern Ontario who cast their ballots for the Liberals in 2015.
Speaking to reporters in Thunder Bay, Ont. on Sunday, leader Jagmeet Singh said he believes a number of the party's policies will find favour among voters in the region when the next federal election rolls around in 2019.
"Northern problems and concerns have to come from the north, have to come from the grassroots," he said. "So we're committed to continuing to have that approach."
Three seats in the north, including the two Thunder Bay-area ridings and Sudbury, went red in 2015 after voters elected NDP members in 2011. Singh, whose party wrapped up a caucus retreat earlier in September where officials discussed struggles with waning support and poor fundraising, said the party intends to build on the "rich tradition" of support for the New Democrats in northern Ontario.
"If you look at the problems that people are facing, working class people are feeling squeezed out from the economy that's doing well, but not doing well for everyday people," he said.
Investing in healthcare and bringing in a universal pharmacare program are at the top of the list, Singh said, adding that his party will also prioritize housing.
The federal government has announced a $40 billion, decade-long strategy to tackle issues like homelessness, the shortage of new housing units and fixing up existing units that are inadequate.
Singh repeated previous calls from the NDP that the plan won't fully follow through on the promise, adding that most of the planned spending will come after the 2019 election.
"How many times in your life have you had a crisis where you said 'I can wait two years before I do anything about it.'"
Singh also pointed to environmental protection and combating climate change.
"Given the impact of climate change on increased forest fires ... here in northern Ontario, this past summer was pretty rough on a lot of communities," he said.
"That's an area we're committed to making sure we defend: our air, our water, our land, and do our part to protect this part of the world."
With files from Hannah Thibedeau, Kathleen Harris and Peter Zimonjic