Financial inequality and environmental protection have dominated Jagmeet Singh’s conversations since he arrived on Vancouver Island on March 5, according to the federal NDP leader.
Singh said the same issues arose during his one-day stop in the Cowichan Valley on March 8.
Singh spoke with students at Vancouver Island University’s Cowichan campus Wednesday morning and held a public meet-and-greet with Alistair MacGregor, MP for Cowichan-Malahat-Langford, in Duncan in the evening.
The Valley was his last stop on the Island after spending four days meeting people and hearing their thoughts on the issues they face.
As for financial inequality, Singh said the government continuously states that the economy is doing well, but what he’s heard while travelling around Vancouver Island is that Islanders are just not feeling that’s the case.
“Statistics indicate that 80 per cent of the world’s wealth is going to one per cent of the world’s most powerful and wealthy people, and that means the economy is not working for the rest of us,” he said.
“The wealthy have tax loopholes that ensures that they don’t pay their fair share and we’re calling on the government to close those loopholes.”
Singh said that millions of Canadians, including many on Vancouver Island, can’t even afford to pay for their medications.
“It’s like the wealthy and the rest of us are living in two different worlds,” he said.
“In a country as rich as ours, it shouldn’t be this way. Everyone should be made to pay their fair share. We’re also advocating for the introduction of a universal pharmacare program that would cover all the medical costs for everyone. It can be done, it’s just matter of making it a national priority.”
Singh said there also needs to be significant investment in affordable housing units to help deal with the ongoing housing crisis in the Cowichan Valley, and across the region and country.
“The Liberals have announced an affordable housing program, but the money from that won’t be flowing for two years and that’s too long to wait,” he said.
“Cooperative housing is another option outside the traditional markets that offers a strong model on how to deal with the issue. There are a lot of tools out there that can be used to help deal with this, and many other issues as well.”
Singh said Vancouver Islanders have a lot of passion for the environment, and for good reason.
“This is a coastal and an agricultural region, so many people here rely on the environment for their livelihoods,” he said.
“We need to protect the environment and tackle climate change.”
While visiting Hecate Park in Cowichan Bay, Singh also pointed out that the Liberal government is failing to provide protections for marine wildlife, like the Southern Resident Killer Whale population, and have let salmon stocks continue their drastic decline.
He pointed out that in February, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau threatened to cancel the $1.5 billion in funding and protection measures contained in the Oceans Protection Plan if the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion is prevented from going forward.
“The Liberals are holding these whales hostage and threatening our entire coastal environment unless they get what they want,” Sing said. “That is unacceptable.”