The NDP is kickstarting its campaign this weekend with stops in Ottawa and Toronto.
On Sunday, Leader Jagmeet Singh unveiled the party’s tour bus — covered with photos of Singh and accented in the traditional orange of the party — before departing for an event in Toronto. The day before was the opening of the NDP campaign headquarters in Ottawa.
Singh held a rally in the riding of Toronto-Danforth Sunday evening, the seat held by former party leader Jack Layton until his death in 2011.
Layton’s name was on everyone’s lips at the event as his widow Olivia Chow and son Mike introduced Singh to the crowd.
In return he thanked them for continuing Layton’s legacy, saying his policy priorities remain with the party today.
“This is a country where we believe in taking care of one another,” he said, vowing that’s what the NDP’s campaign will be about.
Singh said the election question his party wants to ask voters mirrors their French slogan: “Who can you count on to fight for you?”
The party has focused its campaign on measures like lowering the cost of medications, increasing affordable housing and fighting climate change. Singh said people are looking for a party that represents those things as they consider who to vote for on Oct. 21.
“They look around at who is going to fight for them. It’s us. We’re going to fight for them,” he told supporters, reinforcing his campaign message of “In it for you.”
Costing the platform
The party under Singh has proposed an ambitious health care reform, including covering all drugs, vision and dental care. Their platform was released in June, without full costing of that promise. Earlier this spring, a Liberal government-appointed advisory council on pharmacare estimated a single-payer system would cost $15 billion.
To help pay for the multi-billion dollar reform, the party would raise taxes on the wealthiest Canadians — those with wealth over $20 million annually. It also would raise corporate taxes, end fossil fuel subsidies, close tax loopholes and levy a foreign home buyers tax.
But another NDP platform promise does have a price tag.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) just released a cost analysis of the party’s proposal to cut interest from current and future student loans.
The report shows that plan would cost $432 million in 2020-2021 and would gradually increase to $598 million nearly a decade later.
The NDP are the first party this year to have a platform piece costed and the report released to the public.
The PBO can be used to cost out any campaign proposals during the 2019 campaign, and the subsequent reports will be published as the promises are announced by the parties.
Missing candidates, financial woes
Singh said as of this weekend 205 candidates would officially be nominated, with more announcements coming early next week bumping the number over 300. That still leaves a gap to fill before the campaign officially begins sometime this week.
The leader’s defence of the slow timeline has been that it takes longer to convince the diverse candidates the NDP is courting — like Indigenous leaders and women — to run for office.
At least one prospective NDP candidate, Sid Ryan, dropped his bid for nomination citing a sluggish process that wouldn’t leave him enough time to run a proper campaign.
Singh has said he hopes 50 per cent of his candidates are women. All the other parties have nominated candidates in more ridings than Singh’s team.
The NDP is currently straggling behind the Liberals and Conservatives in the polls, registering only 13.4 per cent nationally, with the Greens hot on their heels at 10.6 per cent.
They’re also struggling to fill their coffers. Elections Canada posted the party’s annual financial return online on Thursday, showing the NDP finished last year with assets worth $4.7 million and liabilities totalling $9.2 million, leaving the party $4.5 million in the hole — a low the party hasn’t seen in at least 17 years.