NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says Liberals already know what he wants to hear in this month’s speech from the throne in order to win the support of New Democrats and help stave off a fall election.
“I haven’t had a direct conversation with the prime minister but I’m very confident that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberal government know what we want,” Singh told reporters at a press conference in Brampton, Ont. Thursday.
The NDP leader reiterated that his party isn’t trying to “find a way” to see the government fall over the throne speech on Sept. 23, which will mark the return of Parliament. Trudeau has said the speech will spell out the government’s revamped focus in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier: Singh weighs in on Bill Morneau’s resignation as finance minister
Trudeau’s minority government only needs the support of Singh’s 24 MPs to survive a confidence vote on the plan.
“We are ready but it’s not our goal,” Singh said, when asked if the NDP is prepared to fight another campaign. “Our goal is to help out families. Our goal is to do exactly what we’ve been doing throughout this pandemic, which is to get help to people in need.”
The NDP leader said he is looking for “three major things,” in particular: a plan for a better “social safety net,” improvements to the health care system, and a focus on a “just recovery.”
Singh said he wants to see paid sick leave for all Canadians and reforms to the employment insurance system to “make sure EI is there for every Canadian, whether you’re freelance, contract, (or) you work precariously.”
In July, the federal government reached a deal to provide provinces and territories with $19 billion to support the reopening of their economies. It saw the feds pick up the tab for a “temporary income support program” to provide up to 10 days of paid sick leave to discourage workers with precarious employment from reporting for work when they are unwell.
Liberals have also announced they will expand EI with the goal of moving everyone on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), set to end on Sept. 27, to that system. A new benefit that pays $400 a week for up to 26 weeks will replace the CERB for those ineligible for EI, such as “gig” workers and those on contracts.
Singh said the NDP needs to see universal pharmacare in the throne speech, too.
“When people lost their jobs, they lost their benefits, they lost their ability to buy medication,” he said. “In a pandemic, the idea that Canadians could not afford their medication is so wrong. And so that’s why we’re going to continue to push for that.”
Throne speeches are written by the government and read by the Governor General. Though they outline legislative goals, governments aren’t obliged to follow through on those promises.
The Liberal throne speech delivered in December, weeks after the federal election, called pharmacare the “key missing piece” of universal health care in Canada. “The government will take steps to introduce and implement national pharmacare so that Canadians have the drug coverage they need,” it stated.
Singh said Thursday his concept of a “just recovery” from the COVID-19 crisis means investments to make communities more “livable” while fighting climate change, such as spending on public transit.
“The government already knows our priorities,” Singh said. “But if the government continues down a path where they are focused on themselves, getting caught up in scandals, and hurting Canadians, we’re ready to explore any option.”
PM: Values underpinning throne speech ‘obvious to everyone’
Trudeau told reporters in Toronto Wednesday his government has “no interest in seeing an election this fall,” but will bring forward an “ambitious and responsible plan” to help Canadians now and build a stronger future for the country. He would not say if that plan will include measures to slay the ballooning federal deficit, pegged at more than $343 billion in July’s fiscal report.
Trudeau said the values that will underpin the throne speech should “be obvious to everyone” because they are already government priorities. He said such principles include tackling the “inequities” the COVID-19 crisis exposed and recognizing “the future of jobs and opportunities for Canadians involves making sure that we’re reducing our carbon emissions.”
Asked if he planned to seek out the input of opposition leaders before presenting the throne speech, Trudeau spoke generally. He said his government has been collaborative throughout the COVID-19 crisis.
“Every step of the way we have consulted with opposition leaders, we have worked with them, we’ve worked with members of all parties who come forward to highlight gaps and issues and concerns that they have about Canadians who need help because of this pandemic,” he said.
“We will continue our engaged approach and make sure that we’re listening carefully to proposals put forward by the other parties.”