BRAMPTON, Ont. — NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is pledging to help oilsands workers find new jobs outside the sector if his party forms government and implements its plan to combat climate change.
His party’s plan calls for cutting subsidies to oil and gas companies as a way to encourage a transition to renewable energy sources _ part of a general pledge shared by the NDP, Greens and Liberals to cut emissions over the coming years.
But the promise does not always resonate well among oil industry workers who are hear in it a pledge that they’ll be out of work if the New Democrats get power.
Singh is promising to take some of the billions in revenues the party is expecting from taxing those whose wealth exceeds $20 million and putting it toward helping those workers in Alberta find new jobs.
He also said that New Democrat pledges to help retrofit homes and buildings, and build 500,000 affordable housing units, would be avenues for resource-sector workers to apply their skills.
The future of the oilsands — key to Alberta’s economy — has been divisive for New Democrats federally and provincially over the past few years, and has even rippled through the labour movement, with unionized workers in the oilpatch and building pipelines.
“These are ways for people with the skills in the resource sector to put those to use in other sectors,” Singh said during a campaign stop in the Toronto area.
“We can make that happen. It’s about commitments, it’s about having the courage to do it and we’re ready to do it.”
Singh said oilsands workers in Alberta have told him that they want to find a path to more steady work outside the sector.
The NDP leader told a story about an unnamed oilsands worker whom he met at an airport who lamented that even as an engineer, he was in the same unstable position as his father who worked in the oil patch years earlier.
“And he says, ‘I’m going through the same thing my dad went through. I’m also facing now the fear of losing my job,’ ” Singh said.
“So no matter how hard people work in resource sectors, through no fault of their own — because of international, global markets, as commodities go up and down — people go through busts and booms. People deserve better than that. The good people of Alberta deserve better than that.
“So my commitment is this: I want to invest into programs and an economy that’s more sustainable, that’s more long-lasting.”
The NDP leader also committed Saturday to following through on a promise to help build a new hospital in Brampton, a suburb northwest of Toronto that Singh represented as a member of Ontario’s provincial legislature.
Singh spent the remainder of the day campaigning in the Toronto riding of Davenport, which the New Democrats hope to reclaim from the Liberals.
To do that, Singh touched on an issue the riding’s NDP candidate, former MP Andrew Cash, believes helped in his defeat: electoral reform. The Liberals promised to change the voting system as part of their 2015 campaign platform but abandoned the pledge once in office.
Singh linked the failed promise to efforts by the Liberals to push strategic voting on the left to prevent Conservative candidates from winning ridings where the Liberals and NDP split votes.
“In the most cynical of moves, (Trudeau) is saying because we’re afraid of the Conservatives, vote for us,” Singh said.
“But if you had brought in electoral reform, it wouldn’t be that problem. … That fear wouldn’t exist.”