The national leader of the New Democratic Party was in Nelson on Tuesday, meeting the public on the street and in a public forum, and serving ice cream cones at the mall.
Jagmeet Singh was accompanied by Kootenay-Columbia MP Wayne Stetski.
He said the NDP wants to focus on housing, health care, rural transit, post-secondary tuition and climate change.
“Young people are worried about the future of the planet,” said Singh. “Seeing all these reports, you can see it in the eyes of young people.”
He said the NDP has a plan that would reduce greenhouse gases and create jobs by retrofitting buildings, investing in infrastructure, making zero-emission vehicles affordable, banning single-use plastics, and taking on big polluters.
Transit is part of that plan.
“I am proposing partnering with cities to deliver better public infrastructure and transport, and partner with regional municipalities to connect communities. We need to provide funding that will connect rural communities.”
And the NDP has ambitious plans for affordable housing, he said.
“We commit to investing heavily in building co-op housing and affordable rental homes,” he said. “We plan to build half a million new homes over 10 years.”
Singh said the NDP would bring in a pharmacare plan and would also cover vision and hearing care.
“We are not going to stop with medicare for all. There is no reason why we can get complex open heart surgery but we cannot get dental care, vision and hearing care.”
He said an NDP government would make the Guaranteed Income Supplement automatic, because many seniors who are eligible don’t apply for it.
His government would replace loans with grants, he said, to make post-secondary education free.
Singh said the Liberal government’s failure to deal with these issues is a choice.
“They prefer to help the people at the top and make it harder for everyone else.”
Asked about recent calls for the NDP and the Greens to join forces to avoid splitting the left-wing vote, Stetski said the Green Party’s constitution would not allow this.
“Elizabeth May and I are buddies in Ottawa and we talked about this,” Stetski said. “Last year the Green Party passed a resolution at their convention that said they must run a candidate in every riding in Canada.”
He said that in any event the electorate doesn’t like parties making backroom deals.
Stetski won the 2015 federal election over the Conservative candidate by fewer than 300 votes.
Asked why he thinks the NDP is far behind the Conservatives and the Liberals in the polls, Singh said, “Historically this has always been the case. The two take up a lot of space, have a lot of influence, connections, money, can advertise more, and be more present.
“We represent the reality of most people … It is hard for us to get out there because the old boys club are muscling their way in and blocking out our voice.”
He said the campaign is a time for voters to re-evaluate and ask if things have gotten better in the last four years. “People will come back with ‘no’ to this question,” he said.
It was Singh’s second visit to Nelson since becoming NDP leader. He previously visited in November 2018.