Singh blasts Trudeau, O'Toole for helping big business, super-rich during pandemic

OTTAWA — New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh says he’s not interested in forcing a federal election with a second wave of COVID-19 looming, if he can work with the Liberals to bring much-needed help to struggling Canadians.

Singh’s comments Friday were his clearest yet on whether the NDP plans to support the minority Liberal government’s throne speech next week. The speech will be followed by a confidence vote that the Liberals must win to keep governing.

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The Liberals need the support of one party to carry on, and the fourth-place NDP have enough seats to make that happen.

Singh was to speak with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday afternoon, and he said he would make the case for the government to extend benefits for unemployed Canadians that the Liberals are planning to reduce.

"We are absolutely prepared to fight an election. But I want to be very clear about this point: it is not my goal to tear down government, it is not my goal to force an election," Singh said in a speech outside the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que., with Parliament as his backdrop across the Ottawa River.

"But we know with the coming second wave, with the help that Canadians need right now, our focus in on making sure that families, working people, small businesses get the help they need."

In the speech, and in remarks to reporters afterwards, Singh accused his Liberal and Conservative counterparts of doing the bidding of big business during the pandemic.

Singh took aim at Trudeau and Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole as he laid out the NDP’s priorities. He told his supporters that his two main political rivals are essentially in the back pocket of big business and the "super rich," who he said have profited massively during the pandemic at the expense of working people.

"Megacompanies like Netflix and Amazon pay virtually no tax in Canada," he said.

"Tax loopholes and giveaways continue to let the richest Canadians get away without paying their fair share. This isn’t an accident. The system designed by the parties of Justin Trudeau and Erin O’Toole doesn’t work for working people. It works for the rich and powerful."

Later, when he was answering questions about whether he would support the government, Singh said: "The richest have made profits in this pandemic, but everyday people have actually felt the pain. And so we need to get help to them."

He made clear that unless the Liberals focus more on working people than on bigger corporate interests, his party’s support will evaporate.

"If the Liberal government continues down a path where they’re more interested in helping themselves, they get caught up in scandal, and they’re not willing to do what’s necessary ... and they’re more worried about helping themselves, then we are prepared to fight an election."

Singh wants the Liberals to extend benefits for unemployed Canadians that he says they are planning to curtail.

He’s also called on the government to do more to help seniors, and address the crises in climate change and affordable housing.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 18, 2020.

© Virden Empire-Advance

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