NDP leader Jagmeet Singh says that if his party forms government in 2019, getting Canada’s books back to balance will not be a top priority.
“In difficult economic times, I’m firmly opposed to austerity,” Singh told The West Block‘s Vassy Kapelos this weekend.
“I don’t have a firm line on balanced budgets. I believe that if we are able to, obviously we need to ensure that we have a robust budget that’s balanced, but there’s no way I would ever accept austerity.”
WATCH: Jagmeet Singh’s challenge will be keeping the NDP relevant
Singh’s goals for his party — and potentially the country — are ambitious to say the least. Things like free universal pharmacare, dental care, eye-care and post-secondary tuition are all part of a robust system of social programs, he argued, and his goal in the next federal election campaign will be to inspire Canadians to dream big.
But dreams cost money, Singh acknowledged. So how do you finance such a major expansion of the government’s support networks?
“One of the massive ways we can afford that is tackling the offshore tax havens that exist,” he argued. “Our current government doesn’t have the will, the conviction or the courage to do anything about it.”
The NDP will also continue advocating for the closure of the so-called stock option loophole, Singh added. At the moment, the rules allow company employees to pay taxes on only 50 per cent of their earnings from stock options as part of compensation packages.
Singh’s leadership has not yet translated into a big bump in support for his party. He does not yet hold a seat in the House of Commons and has not committed to running for one until the next election, in spite of several recent byelection openings.
The NDP’s disappointing performance in those races didn’t come as a shock, Singh said. The NDP, he argued, remains on the long path to recovery after suffering devastating losses in the last federal election.
“I’m, of course, not happy with the results but at the same time I’m not surprised by the results,” he said of the byelections, one of which was held not far from where he grew up.
“I didn’t expect that the two years that our party was not headed in the right direction could be turned around in just two months … I know the work that I’m setting out so do is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”
— Watch the full interview with NDP leader Jagmeet Singh above