While well-versed in theory by virtue of her professional biography as political scientist, Sabine Singh is starting to enjoy the more practical aspects of politics during her second run as the standard-bearer for the New Democrats in Saanich-Gulf Islands.
“Yes, they are very different worlds — politicking and academia,” she said. “But that’s OK. It is very down-to-earth and I love door-knocking and meeting everybody. It’s really fun.”
In fact, that is what she has been doing for the first two days of the campaign, hitting the streets and reintroducing herself to the public. During the fall campaign of 2019, Singh placed fourth in a five-person race, finishing with 8,657 votes, well behind incumbent MP Elizabeth May, but seemingly undeterred to try again, this time in the midst of a pandemic during the equivalent of a campaign that will be more like a sprint to the finish than a marathon when Canadians head to the polls on Sept. 20.
Singh acknowledged that the length of the campaign will play a factor. “We are going to have to try very hard to get our message to as many people in a very short period of time,” she said. “It’s going to pose massive challenges.”
So what is the NDP’s message? “We are the only party in Canada that understands social justice and environmental justice are interlinked. It’s very important that we cannot fight the climate emergency that we have without addressing poverty, homelessness and affordability as well. What we want to do as a team, is make sure that the rich are paying their fair share of taxes. So for instance, they made record profits during the pandemic and we want to take a certain amount of money and use it for the services that we as Canadians need.”
By making life more affordable for people, they will be able to make better environmental choices, she said. “We can’t all afford Teslas, or whatever.”
The Canadian government cannot afford to hand tax cuts to large corporations, as the country recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic and deals with the challenges of climate change, she said. “We need to be fixing some of these massive problems and make sure that we have the infrastructure for transit and for things that will actually help us deal with the climate emergency.”
If the New Democratic argument in favour of economic redistribution is familiar, it may not generate sympathies, never mind votes in a riding that includes some of the wealthiest postal codes in Greater Victoria, and beyond.
“I think everybody benefits and that is what we are starting to see and understand,” she said. Singh said her party’s economic platform would impose higher burdens on the wealthiest Canadians while benefiting the public at large. “We are talking about the one-per cent,” she said. “We may have some of the one-per cent in our area and riding, but it’s really a small amount of people. Amazon didn’t pay any taxes in Canada — that is a problem.”
This criticism of corporate excess may be reflective of changing attitudes across western societies (see the introduction of minimum global taxes for corporations and other proposals), but it remains to be seen whether their coattails are long enough to sweep Singh into office and turn the federal New Democrats into a genuine national force whose influence goes beyond regional redoubts in English-speaking Canada like Vancouver Island.
Singh for her part acknowledges the obstacles ahead, but won’t let them pre-determine the outcome. “We have bold problems and they need bold solutions,” she said. “Yes, we never held government, but if there is any time, now is the time because we have these problems.”
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