'Voting out of fear is a waste of your vote' says Jagmeet Singh, as coalition speculation continues
NDP leader says criticisms of Justin Trudeau wouldn't preclude him from working with a Liberal government
With the Liberals and Conservatives neck-and-neck in the polls, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is challenging the idea that people are throwing away their vote by choosing his party.
"Voting out of fear is a waste of your vote," he told The Current's interim host Laura Lynch. "Voting because two parties believe they own your vote is a waste of your vote."
Pressure has been ramping up on Singh since Sunday to clarify his position on the possibility of forming a coalition government with the Liberals to stop the Conservatives from gaining power.
On Sunday Singh told reporters he would "absolutely" join a coalition with the Liberals if the Conservative party won the most seats but failed to secure a majority.
But he appeared to backtrack on Monday, telling reporters "my focus is not on a coalition government. My focus is on this: If you vote New Democrat, you're going to get someone on your side."
When pressed on Tuesday by Lynch to clarify whether he would consider negotiating some coalition arrangement with the Liberals, Singh left the door open.
"I've only ruled out one party — I said I would not work with the Conservatives — so I've always been open to working with others," he said.
Jabs at Trudeau
But that didn't stop Singh from being highly critical of Justin Trudeau and the Liberal party, telling The Current that while Trudeau may "talk the good talk," he believed the Liberal leader had favoured powerful corporate interests over fulfilling his campaign promises.
Singh alleged that Trudeau had abandoned his pledges to end fossil fuel subsidies and lower drug prices after meeting with oil and gas and pharmaceutical lobbyists hundreds of times.
CBC News previously looked into the claim, and was not able to independently verify it.
"He makes nice promises when he's campaigning," Singh said. "Then he meets with the powerful lobbyists and abandons those promises."
But Singh said that these criticisms would not preclude him from working with Trudeau in government. He said that if enough New Democrats were elected, he believed they would have the power within a coalition to push through the kinds of policy changes they want to see, like a national dental care program.
Trudeau, on the other hand, brushed aside suggestions that he would consider a coalition in the event of a Conservative minority win.
"In terms of the NDP and the Greens, remember this: If you want progressive action, you need a progressive government, not a progressive opposition," he said in Fredericton on Tuesday.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer appeared to be using coalition speculation to boost his case for a Conservative majority.
"There is now a clear choice between our party and an NDP-Liberal coalition which will raise taxes, kill jobs, drive out investment, cancel big projects," he said Tuesday in Quebec City.
Changing 'hearts and minds' on Bill 21
Singh has faced criticism for refusing to say he would intervene on Quebec's controversial Bill 21, which bans public servants from wearing religious clothing at work.
He defended his stance to The Current, saying that as a lawyer he feels "it's important not to have political interference with this court challenge that the people of Quebec are raising."
He added that, as a majority of Quebecers currently support the religious symbols, he believed that fighting the law without first changing public opinion would backfire.
"If 70 per cent of people believe it's the right thing to do, they're going to find a way to bring it back," he said.
Instead, he said, he prefers to sway opinions in Quebec by demonstrating that he shares values espoused by many Quebecers, including his support for same-sex marriage and women's reproductive rights.
"You're not going to be able to build a better society unless you change and win over the hearts and minds of people," he said.
Written by Allie Jaynes. Produced by Max Paris.