New Democrats stand 'united' to push Liberals on housing, pharmacare

New Democrat MPs wrapped a three-day caucus retreat vowing to fight for struggling Canadians and to pressure the Liberal government to deliver affordable housing, pharmacare and better living conditions for Indigenous communities.

Leader Jagmeet Singh wraps up three-day caucus retreat with pledge to fight for Canadians in need

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh waves to reporters as he arrives for the second day of a three-day NDP caucus national strategy session in Surrey, B.C., on Wednesday September 12, 2018. (Darryl Dyck/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

New Democrat MPs wrapped up a three-day caucus retreat today vowing to fight for struggling Canadians and to pressure the Liberal government on affordable housing, pharmacare and better living conditions for Indigenous communities.

In a closing news conference in Surrey, B.C., NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said the caucus had tough discussions about the party's struggles with sagging support and poor fundraising. But he said MPs emerged as a team ready to hold the government to account and build momentum going into next year's election.

"More than ever, we are united in our determination to make people's lives better," he said.

Singh said the Liberals were quick to find $4.5 billion to build a pipeline expansion, but have shortchanged critical programs to help the most needy Canadians.

"We know that the Liberals have said a lot of good things. They've talked about helping people out, but at the end of the day they have not delivered what people need," he said.

Singh ended the news conference by saying MPs will now get down to work building a policy platform and organizing the party base, before trading high-fives with caucus members.

Quebec MP Alexandre Boulerice said NDP MPs are fully aware that they're running out of time to prepare for the election.

"We're not exactly in the position we would like to be," he said.

Must work harder

"We have to step up and we have to improve our fundraising, communication, social media, tours, but everybody knows that and everybody's ready to work harder ... the leader, leader's office, but also all the caucus."

MPs said publicly that they believe the party is getting back on track.

One reason for that optimism is Singh's decision to name Marie Della Mattia as national campaign co-chair for the 2019 election.

She has provided advice on strategy and communications to seven victorious NDP campaigns in four provinces. She was campaign adviser to B.C. Premier John Horgan in 2017.

Weir wants NDP nomination

Earlier today, ousted MP Erin Weir said he still plans to seek the NDP nomination in his Regina riding, even though he has been blacklisted. Weir, who was expelled from the caucus after an independent investigation substantiated claims of harassment made against him, accused Singh of overreacting to the situation, then compounding his error.

"It's okay to make mistakes if you can apologize for them, as I have," he told CBC News in an interview. "The problem here is that he's just doubled down on this poor decision and dug in his heels and I do see that as creating a problem, obviously for me, but I think also for him and for the party as a whole."

NDP spokesman Guillaume Francoeur said Weir will not be permitted to seek the nomination under the NDP banner.

He said Singh has been "very clear" that he will not allow Weir to run as an NDP candidate, a decision consistent with the Elections Act.

Repercussions in Saskatchewan

"As Mr. Singh stated, his decision is final. Anyone who wishes to seek the nomination to be an NDP candidate must undergo a thorough application process and ultimately be approved by the national director and elected executive officers of the NDP," Francoeur said in a statement.

Singh said again today he has no intention of changing his mind about Weir.

"We had a fair process, I made a decision and I'm sticking to it," he said.

Weir warned there could be repercussions for Singh and the NDP if the leader bypasses the will of a strong local riding association and appoints his own candidate.

He would not say if he would consider trying to run as a Liberal.

Public Safety Minister and Saskatchewan MP Ralph Goodale, meanwhile, would not say if Weir would be welcomed into the Liberal team, saying only that all candidates must go through a stringent green-light process.

"That's a hypothetical question that I really won't speculate about," he said. "The fact of the matter is, there's considerable turmoil within the NDP ranks."