Despite their political differences, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said he was not critical of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s handling of the two Michaels case, as Sunday marked 1,000 days of detention of the Canadian men in China.
Singh made the comments during an interview with The West Block’s Mercedes Stephenson on Sunday in Quebec City, Que.
Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were detained in China in December 2018 in what is largely viewed as retaliation for the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou for extradition to the United States on fraud charges.
On Aug. 11, Spavor was convicted of espionage by a Chinese court and sentenced to 11 years in prison. There has been no word yet on the fate of Kovrig.
“When it comes to Mr. Spavor and Mr. Kovrig, this has been a very difficult matter and I feel like Canada is doing the best we can,” Singh said.
Canada launched the Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention in State-to-State Relations in February, which calls upon all states to put an end to arbitrary detention.
While China has denied that Kovrig and Spavor’s arrests were a retaliatory measure, officials have also suggested that the pair could be released if Meng is allowed to return home to China and the case against her is dropped. Canada has refused to entertain such an exchange.
Liberal Leader Trudeau has repeatedly condemned China for the “arbitrary” detentions and consistently ruled out a prisoner swap, trading Meng for the two Michaels, despite pressure from several former Canadian diplomats and parliamentarians.
Trudeau, currently running for re-election as Canadian prime minister, has said doing so would undermine Canada’s “independent judicial system.”
Singh acknowledged the complexity of the case, adding that efforts were being made.
“I think we have just got to continue to apply whatever pressures we can, using our diplomatic tools and working with international allies to apply that pressure on China to secure the release of these Canadians,” he added.
This weekend marks 1,000 days since Kovrig and Spavor were arrested in China. To mark the sombre milestone, on Sept. 5, their supporters will walk 7,000 steps through Ottawa, from Windsor Park to Major’s Hill Park.
The detentions have soured relations between Canada and China.
Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole has gone as far as urging Canada to consider boycotting the 2022 Beijing Olympics.
Pledge to make rich pay
Meanwhile, Canadians will head to the polls on Sept. 20, two years earlier than scheduled after Trudeau called the snap vote last month.
More Canadians are warming up to O’Toole and Singh, a new Ipsos poll conducted exclusively for Global News suggested Saturday — but Liberal Leader Trudeau is still seen as the best choice for prime minister.
Read more: The NDP wants a wealth tax. Would it work?
Singh said both his competitors will be “bad for Canadians,” blasting them for siding with the super-rich.
“Erin O’Toole will be bad for Canadians because he has cut health care and people want to invest more in health care,” he said.
“I think Mr. Trudeau would be bad for Canadians because he’s promised to bring in things like pharmacare, campaigned on it, and then broke that promise.”
As part of NDP’s election campaign, Singh has proposed a policy that would tax anyone making over $210,000 at 35 per cent per year. It would also slap the super-rich — anyone with over $10 million in wealth — with the one per cent wealth tax on anything over that amount.
Singh would also impose a 20 per cent foreign buyers’ tax on residential property purchases and a temporary COVID-19 “excess profit tax” of 15 per cent, applicable to extra earnings by big companies.
“I’ve made a decision where I stand, which is for people, for our public health-care system, for making sure the richest pay their fair share.”
When it comes to COVID-19 vaccine passports, Singh has called for a national system and criticized Trudeau for not implementing one sooner.
Trudeau says Ottawa would certify provincial vaccine passports but that it could take a year to create a full federal program.
Singh said having a federal document that shows people’s vaccination status would make it easier for Canadians to travel across Canada and internationally.
“I think having a document that the federal government produces, which shows proof of who you are and that you’ve been vaccinated would just make life easier.”
— with files from The Canadian Press