As It Happens

Jagmeet Singh says it's 'ridiculous' to claim Canada can't afford head-to-toe health care

In an interview with As It Happens host Carol Off, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh rejects Liberal claims that his party's new platform isn't realistic.

NDP leader's new platform includes national pharmacare, vision, dental and mental-health coverage

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh delivered his party's ambitious new platform last week. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)


NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says he rejects Liberal claims that his party's new platform isn't realistic. 

The NDP unveiled a plan Sunday that promises, among other things, to reform Canada's health-care system to include universal pharmacare as well as coverage for vision, dental, mental health and long-term care. 

Singh spoke to As It Happens host Carol Off about his party's platform heading into the October federal election. Here is part of their conversation.

I am asking about the pharmacare coverage ... because, at the same time the Liberals say they're going to do something quite similar. How do you distinguish yourself from the Liberals on what seems to be their central plank of their platform?

Actually, the Liberals have no plan. They have not released any plan whatsoever to indicate that they're going to bring in universal pharmacare. At most, the finance minister has alluded to a patchwork system, which is not at all what our plan is. Our plan is a plan to cover every single person in our country.

But I think [Finance Minister Bill] Morneau is saying that he is looking to be fiscally responsible and if there is going to be something, it has to be within reason. ... What you're offering is pretty expensive, don't you think?

I think that Finance Minister Morneau's claim is ridiculous. He's prepared to spend $15 billion on a pipeline. He gave $14 billion away to the largest corporations last year in the fall economic statement. And we've just heard from the Parliamentary Budget Office that billions of dollars, hundreds of billions of dollars, have not been contributed because the CRA under this Liberal government has not done its job to ensure that the wealthiest, the richest corporations aren't paying their fair share.

So I reject that assertion that Canadians are told that they can't have something like universal pharmacare when every other country in the world that has a universal health-care system also has medication included.

We can do it, and we've laid out a plan to do it. We're going to ask the richest of the one per cent — those who have $20 million or more in personal fortunes — we're going to ask them to contribute one per cent. And with that, we will absolutely cover the cost of this plan.

There's so much benefit from the system and I reject any assertion that it's not achievable. It is achievable. 

Singh arrives to speak at the Ontario NDP Convention in Hamilton, Ont., Sunday, where he unveiled the new party platform. (Tara Walton/The Canadian Press)

You've also promised that your pharmacare coverage will be available next year. The Liberal health minister says that's simply not realistic. What do you say to that and to the Liberals saying that you can't possibly deliver this next year?

The Liberals are going to say that because they don't have the courage to deliver it and they want Canadians to just settle for substandard service. We have all the infrastructure in place right now. The federal government purchases medication already. Each provincial government purchases medication, because when you go to a hospital your medication is covered. 

There's already systems in place. What we're saying is that we can actually combine the existing structures, use what we already have, and build it better — and we can deliver the system for all.

You're pledging $15 billion over four years for a climate plan. But at the same time, we can't seem to find out where you sit on the natural gas development in British Columbia, the liquefied natural gas. What is your view on that? Are you supportive of that project?

British Columbia has a plan, and they have a plan that incorporates all of their measures into their plan to reduce emissions. So I'm confident in the fact that they've got a plan.

My problem is that the federal government does not have a plan. They don't have a plan and now they've approved a pipeline, which will dramatically increase our emissions. They've got no plan to incorporate this massive increase in emissions into a national climate change plan.

I'm pretty sure that everyone noticed you didn't answer the question there, so I'll ask again. Will you go ahead with ...

I said very clearly that British Columbia has a plan.

But no, would you go ahead with a liquefied natural gas development in B.C.?

No, let's not let the viewers be misled. I said very clearly British Columbia has a plan that incorporates all of their emissions into a reductions plan. 

If in an election, the possibility that there will be a Conservative minority ... what willingness might you have to go into some kind of left coalition with other parties?

I'm absolutely open to working with anyone who wants to support my plan to bring in universal pharmacare, anyone that's willing to work with me to bring in our climate action plan that protects jobs and reduces emissions. I'm willing to work with any progressive partner that wants to work with me to implement things like proportional representation and our expansion of the health-care system.

So anyone who's willing to work with me on these progressive values, I'm ready to sit down work and with them. I strongly doubt that that's going to be any anyone that's in the Conservative Party.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes an announcement on the Trans Mountain pipeline with Minister of Finance Bill Morneau. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Could you see yourself in a coalition with Justin Trudeau?

I don't want to presuppose the outcome of an election that's four months away. I think Canadians expect that a leader of a national party is running to become prime minister and that's what I'm going to do.

But, as I said before, I would be willing to work with anyone who wants to work with me to implement these important changes that Canadians want to see happen.

Just finally, I want to ask you about campaigning in Quebec, because Quebec has been very important. [Late NDP leader] Jack Layton was so successful there. It has been an important base of new support for the NDP. At the same time, the government has passed a law that would make it illegal for you to be a policeman or a teacher if you were wearing your turban.

Or a judge.

Or a judge, yes. So how do you campaign in that province, given the popularity of a law that would actually make it difficult for you to work there?

It's not something that's unanimous. There's many Quebecers that ... shared the sadness I had when Bill 21 was passed. There's many Quebecers that shared my sadness that young people who dreamed of becoming a teacher now can no longer become a teacher. Or young people that wanted to serve their communities, to serve their cities by protecting them, can no longer do that. Or people that dreamed of being a judge one day can't do that.

A significant number of Quebecers elected representatives who voted against this bill and parties have come out against it, municipal parties and provincial parties in Quebec.

This doesn't speak to the openness of Quebec, the history of Quebec being a progressive place that has solidarity with fellow citizens that results in some of the best social programs in any province.

I'm going to speak to those Quebecers who say this is not our values, this is not what we want to see happen and we're saddened by it.

Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from CBC News. Produced by Kevin Robertson and Sarah Jackson. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.



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