Singh would cancel General Dynamics-Saudi contract

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and his wife Gurkiran Kaur Sidhu at his campaign launch in London, September 11, 2018. (Photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn News.)

The leader of the federal New Democrats returned to his old university stomping ground of London to launch his first federal election campaign as leader.

Jagmeet Singh addressed a room full of supporters and media at Goodwill Industries on Horton Street Wednesday morning, shortly after Governor General Julie Payette agreed to dissolve the 42nd Parliament.

“We have an exciting opportunity over the next 40 days,” said Singh. “We are going to bring a hopeful message to Canadians that we can build the country of our dreams. A country where everyone has a place to call home, health care when they need it, clean water to drink and clean air to breathe, a good job, and a bright future.”

Singh, who is the first federal party leader of colour, spoke about never imagining someone who looks like him could run for prime minister.

“Time and time again, people have told me what I couldn’t do. And now, kids come running up and say ‘seeing you do this, I think I can do anything,'” said Singh.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh launches his federal election campaign in London, September 11, 2018. (Photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn News.)

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh surrounded by supporters in London.

With his wife by his side, Singh promised an NDP government would launch a universal pharmacare and dental care plan, build more affordable housing, and focus on people-centric policy. To fund his initiatives Singh is proposing a “super wealth tax” on those who have amassed fortunes of $20- million or more.

“[Canadians] are done with governments that seem to prioritize making it easier for the very rich and making it harder for them. They want someone who is going to stand up and expand our health care system,” said Singh. “I am confident people will see in us champions who want to put them at the centre and heart of everything we do.”

In a matter that could have negative consequences for those running under the NDP banner in London, Singh again reiterated his commitment to cancel a controversial contract that sees General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) build armoured vehicles for Saudi Arabia. The vehicles are produced at the defence giant’s facility on Oxford Street East. The lucrative $15-billion deal, brokered by the then Conservative government in February of 2014, has repeatedly come under fire due to the Saudi’s human rights record.

“Those hard-working people [GDLS employees] should continue to have those contracts here in Canada or in jurisdictions where there is not an oppressive regime like in Saudi Arabia,” said Singh. “If there is any example of a time when we should be cancelling an arms deal it’s in the example where we have a country that is alleged to have committed murder of a journalist, that’s involved in the ongoing killing of the people of Yemen and that has been implicated in horrible human rights violations of its own citizens. This is a case that calls for ending that agreement, but continue with contracts here in Canada so that we continue to maintain those jobs.”

When asked about Singh’s stance on the Saudi contract, London West NDP candidate Shawna Lewkowitz was optimistic it would not be detrimental to her and other local New Democrat candidates on election day.

“We know that we are on workers’ sides all the time. That we fight on behalf of workers for good jobs, stable jobs, secure jobs and for the workers at General Dynamics that is not going to change. We are absolutely going to work side-by-side with them to find a solution to fine other contracts,” said Lewkowitz.

In the wake of the election writs being issued, officially marking the start of campaigning, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau spoke outside of Rideau Hall in Ottawa.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer kicked off his campaign from Trois-Rivieres, Quebec.

The Green’s Elizabeth May launched her campaign from her home territory of Victoria, British Columbia, while People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier started his election bid in the Toronto area.

Canadians go to the polls on October 21.