Our Times 3

Just watch him: Jagmeet Singh takes on the rich to build a better Canada

Aivalis: Singh and the NDP deserve the support of Canada’s left for offering a spark to a brighter tomorrow

Canadian PoliticsSocialism

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh before the English federal leaders debate, September 9, 2021. Photo from Twitter.

Jagmeet Singh and the NDP have come out with a bold costed platform that is a marked departure from Canada’s long neoliberal consensus. It makes a concise and powerful pitch: Canada is plagued by social and economic injustice that has only been intensified by COVID, and as we build out of this crisis, regular Canadians need help, and the rich have the responsibility and ability to contribute to a just recovery. And in taxing the rich, the NDP has shown that you can offer widely expanded social programs all while maintaining a healthy budget deficit.

Indeed, according to the Parliamentary Budget Office, the NDP’s plan is a highly ambitious one. It pledges $200 billion in new spending on everything from healthcare to climate change to reconciliation with Indigenous communities. All of it is vitally necessary and essential. But the question of paying for it is where the NDP strikes a blow. Simply put, they cover the vast majority of new spending with nearly $170 billion in taxes aimed at corporations and the wealthiest Canadians. This means that while the NDP are adding significantly more spending than either the Trudeau Liberals or the O’Toole Conservatives, they are pegged to run lower deficits over the next five years. This demolishes a common narrative that the NDP’s plans can only be realized with outlandish debt, as well as demonstrating the exorbitant costs of Liberal-Conservative handouts to the monied interests in our society.

What’s crucial here is that some of these platform elements are being recognized for the massive and immediate impacts they can achieve. According to a leaked Health Canada memo, the NDP’s dental care plan could significantly close the gap many millions of Canadians—particularly Indigenous and low income people—face when it comes getting basic dentalcare. And this is only the tip of the iceberg. But the point is crystal clear: Singh and the NDP have found a way to massively expand Canada’s system of social support funded almost entirely through modestly higher taxes on the rich and powerful.

What’s more, the New Democrats’ ambitions plan are clearly getting to Justin Trudeau. At times in this campaign, Trudeau has tried to suggest that the NDP is simultaneously impractical but also lacking ambition. But as Singh has gradually exposed and called out the Liberals’ massive giveaways to the rich, Trudeau retreated into well-worn talking points. While he said tax fairness is important, he felt the NDP were going too far: “The idea that you can go with unlimited zeal against the successful and wealthy in this country to pay for everything else is an idea that reaches its limits at one point, and I don’t think the NDP get that.”

In response, Singh was clear that this was evidence Trudeau is in the pocket of the billionaire class, and made a simple, pointed remark to the idea that you can’t increase taxes on the rich in Canada: “Just watch me.” This of course is a reference to an iconic remark made by Justin’s father Pierre Trudeau more than 50 years ago, when the former PM responded to a reporter’s question about how he planned to restore order in Québec during the October Crisis. But it encapsulates how Singh is more than prepared to take on the rich, even if it isn’t easy or simple. As he has noted so many times in this campaign, implementing a progressive platform will require a strong dose of courage.

What’s clear is that Trudeau’s attack on Singh has galvanized support behind the NDP leader in his plan for tax fairness. After his pro-rich tirade, #UnlimitedZeal trended in Canada, and has become both a tool to support Singh and criticize Trudeau.

Certainly, the NDP plan could be bolder. More action could be taken to make post-secondary education universally free, and even the dentalcare plan would be better if not based on a targeted plan. But this is the only progressive alternative being offered in this election to Trudeau’s neoliberal status quo, and the only plan that offers working people a just recovery out of this crisis.

Jagmeet Singh and the NDP deserve the support of Canada’s left for offering a spark to a brighter tomorrow.

Christo Aivalis is political writer and commentator with a PhD in History. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, Globe and Mail, Maclean’s, and Passage. He can be found daily on YouTube and at his new podcast Left Turn, Canada.


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