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Canada John Ivison: Jagmeet Singh's crafted play on 'selfish' Trudeau may serve NDP well in election

22:41  16 september  2021
22:41  16 september  2021 Source:   nationalpost.com

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Justin Trudeau et al. that are talking to each other: Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, left to right, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, and Conservative leader Erin O'Toole take part in the federal election English-language leaders debate in Gatineau. © Provided by National Post Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, left to right, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, and Conservative leader Erin O'Toole take part in the federal election English-language leaders debate in Gatineau.

TORONTO – Another day, another gross invasion of privacy as a political candidate (and the travelling media circus) expropriated someone’s lawn for a photo op.

Jagmeet Singh was in the Davenport riding, just west of Toronto’s downtown, to hammer home his party’s affordable housing plan. “Families can’t afford Justin Trudeau’s housing crisis and billionaire handouts any longer” was the message of the day – one Singh hopes will resonate in a riding the NDP held between 2011 and 2015; a riding that was lost by just 1,500 votes in 2019.

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If the New Democrats do take this riding on Monday, it probably means Trudeau will be looking for new accommodation.

The leader stood alongside a graph that simply read: “Trudeau’s housing crisis”, with a red line that rose from bottom left to top right, with no information on what it portrayed. The message was as clear as the details were vague. But that could be said about the NDP writ large.

Singh’s solution to the housing crisis is to build an additional 500,000 social and affordable homes over 10 years, with $14 billion invested in the first mandate of an NDP government.

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That big ticket item is part of a platform that would spend $215 billion (on top of the $100 billion in the last Liberal budget) on programs like universal pharmacare, student grants, dental coverage and Indigenous children’s welfare.

The platform would be funded, in part, by $166 billion of new revenue, generated by an “excess” profit tax, an increased top marginal tax rate, a rise in the corporate tax rate, a crackdown on tax havens and a wealth tax the party suggests will generate $60 billion over five years. The Parliamentary Budget Office was asked to validate that claim, which it did with the caveat: “A behavioural response is expected, reducing total exposure to wealth taxation. To account for this behaviour, each economic family’s net worth was reduced by 35 per cent”. Why 35 per cent? Who knows.

I asked Singh why Canadians should trust such vague calculations. “We are proposing things that haven’t been done in a long time. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try,” he said, which sounded like a tacit admission the party has no clue whether this proposed tax will raise $60 billion or 60¢.

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The nation’s billionaires – all 47 of them – will be relieved to know their ill-gotten gains (in the NDP’s eyes, all wealth is a sin) is probably safe. The New Democrats are polling near historic highs but are not going to form government next week.

Their real goal is to add to the 24 seats they won in 2019 and they look well-positioned to achieve that.

Singh has run an energetic campaign and, as his Davenport candidate Alejandra Bravo put it when she introduced him, he is “Canada’s most respected and loved leader”.

The scourge of the NDP in tight federal elections is the appeal by Liberal leaders to defect and prevent a Conservative victory.

Barack Obama will also have hurt the NDP cause by tweeting Thursday about his “friend” Trudeau and wishing him well in the election. Such an endorsement from the former U.S. president gives tacit approval for progressives to vote Liberal.

However, Singh is much better prepared – and crucially, the campaign is better resourced – to repel such last minute appeals than two years ago. He spent much of his press conference targeting Trudeau and his “selfish” election call.

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Questions about the health emergency in Alberta and about the announcement of a defence pact between the U.S., U.K. and Australia received the same answer – Canadians would have been better served if their prime minister had not called an election for his own advancement. “He called an election knowing full well that the fourth wave was going to happen. He decided to call an election instead of continuing to help people out. It was a colossal failure of leadership,” Singh said.

The NDP’s chances of retaining its vote share over the weekend rest on whether progressives are as disillusioned with Trudeau as Singh says they are. He has made the case that there is a cost to voting Liberal – pointing out that Canada’s emissions have grown faster than any of its G7 peers since the Paris Agreement was signed. On the cost of living, Singh has made much of the 4.1 per cent CPI increase reported by Statistics Canada this week and highlighted the contribution of rising house prices as a driver of inflation. “Since (Trudeau) became prime minister, the cost of buying a home has increased $300,000 and the cost of rent has increased by 21 per cent,” the NDP said in a press release.

Above all, Singh has played on the anger and resentment around the election call, which is discernible from the briefest of conversations with cab drivers and waiters across the country.

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Relieved Conservatives say their research shows that, while the NDP vote is “softening”, it has not nose-dived. That support is heavily-weighted to British Columbia, where polls suggest Monday will be a good night for the orange team. Alberta may yield more than the one seat the party currently holds, though Singh said his team is assessing whether he will visit the province, given the health emergency.

But it is, as usual, the performance in Ontario that will be key. The NDP came second in Davenport, Toronto Danforth, Oshawa and Kingston and the Islands in 2019. Singh visited all four ridings on Thursday – a sign that the party is not trying to save the furniture in seats it already holds. All four ridings have New Democrat provincial members at Queen’s Park, which suggests they are winnable.

The last days of a general election are not a time to be subtle and Singh’s message is as sophisticated as a brick through a window. “In this election, people can choose Mr. Trudeau, who is all talk and only wants to protect the rich. Or they can choose me and I will fight for them,” he said.  “Better is possible. We just need to vote for it.”

Singh may not be a master of detail but he is audacious – as he has shown by purloining Trudeau’s “better is always possible” catchphrase. He has learned from mistakes made last time and appears to be on course to strengthen his position as kingmaker in the next Parliament.

jivison@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/IvisonJ

Canadians head to the polls as political wildcards leave election outcome up in the air .
Canadians head to the polls today for the final day of voting in this 44th general election and surveys suggest the result is far from certain with as many as six parties in contention for seats in Parliament. More than 5.8 million Canadians have already voted in the advance polls, and Elections Canada has received nearly one million special ballots — a record-setting early turnout that suggests there's an energized electorate. Poll workers will start the vote count tonight, but the outcome may not be known until tomorrow after the many mail-in ballots are verified at hundreds of returning offices nationwide.

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This is interesting!