The federal NDP leader has set his sights on this month’s by-election in Burnaby South as the first battle in his quest to become prime minister
1. What are constituents of Burnaby South most concerned about?
The biggest worry or concern that’s on people’s minds is housing. It’s everywhere I go, from homelessness to young folks not being able to find a place to rent, young families not able to find a place to buy, seniors who can’t find assisted housing.
There’s a massive crisis, people can’t find a place to call home, and we need to do something about it. The Liberals are saying wait until after the next election, and we’re saying that people can’t afford to wait; we need to actually build units now. The federal government needs to invest in co-operative and non-market housing immediately.
2. As prime minister, what would you do to help B.C. businesses?
A big one would be cost of medication. There’s a number of reports out of UBC, out of British Columbia in general, talking about how many millions of Canadians don’t have access to medication, and I heard a lot of stories from folks who work in the health sector when I was touring in Burnaby, and just heartbreaking stories from people that can’t afford the medication they need.
We want a universal system for all. It’s a solution that not only helps people who need access to medication, but it would also be a competitive advantage. If we have a single-payer universal system or universal coverage of medication, it would lower costs for businesses, create a more competitive environment here for businesses and also, most importantly, make sure everyone has access to medication when they need it.
3. Recent polling numbers for the federal NDP aren’t very favourable. Do you think people aren’t responding to your party’s message, or just not hearing it?
My experience is that there’s lots of love we’re receiving. People are really connecting with our message. But most importantly, people are disappointed with the approach the government has taken. The idea that housing’s a crisis but they’re being told to wait is leaving a lot of people disappointed.
On electoral reform, folks are disappointed that the government committed to something and hasn’t followed through. On the environment, folks feel really let down. On top of that, Canadians thought Mr. Trudeau would be different when it comes to democracy, that he’d be a defender of democracy, but by delaying the by-elections, he seems to be playing games with something as fundamental as democracy.
4. How do you evaluate the job that Premier John Horgan has done?
You can see the results: he’s actually made people’s lives better. In just a year and a half, people are seeing concrete improvement. Eighty thousand child-care spaces opened up, housing units are being built, the commitment to minimum wage–all of these things are directly improving people’s lives, and that gives people hope. I’m really inspired by that.
And following through on the [electoral reform] referendum is a stark contrast between the Liberal government, which campaigned on it and didn’t do it, and the New Democrats, who campaigned on it and did it.
5. As a supporter of fair trade over free trade, would you pursue a trade deal with China?
It’s really important for us to look at what a fair trade agreement would be. We don’t benefit as a country if we have agreements with countries that don’t have the same level of playing field in terms of paying their workers or environmental protections. If they aren’t on an equal playing field, then our companies can’t compete. And our companies can compete with the best of them.
So if we’re competing with companies that have similar environmental regulations and similar rights for workers, then we will win. We will compete and be successful, but if we’re competing against a country that doesn’t have those same protections, then no, it doesn’t make sense.