Singh townhall focuses on policy, not blackface controversy

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh in Windsor September 20, 2019. (File photo by Adelle Loiselle, Blackburn News)

Hundreds of people in Windsor gave NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh a very warm welcome, topping off a day of policy announcements and private meetings.

The room at the Fogolar Furlan Club was tightly packed Friday night for a townhall-style meeting.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh in Windsor September 20, 2019. (Photo by Adelle Loiselle)

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh in Windsor September 20, 2019. (Photo by Adelle Loiselle)

Much of the media coverage over the past few days on the campaign trail has been about photos released showing Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau in blackface almost two decades ago.  However, Singh barely touched on the controversy. Instead, he focused on his party’s platform.

Over the past 10 days on the campaign trail, Singh has promised to build half a million affordable housing units over 10 years, implement a universal pharmacare program, and offer those who make less than $70,000 and do not have dental benefits government coverage.

Related story: Singh touts plan for pharmacare in Essex

Many of the questions from the audience were about local issues with broader national significance, like the recent blockade at Nemak after the company announced it was closing shop in Windsor in the middle of next year. Nemak had accepted $4.5 million in government grants in recent years.

“One of the reasons this happens is when Conservative and Liberal governments have given money to companies, they’ve given it with no strings attached,” responded Singh. “What we would do is make sure that any investment we make comes with iron-clad conditions, requirements to keep jobs in our communities.”

Former Windsor City Councillor Ron Jones asked what an NDP government would do to help pensioners who lose out when companies go bankrupt, as was the case with employees at the now-defunct Sears.

“When companies go bankrupt — do you think the creditors and the financiers are worried about getting their money back? They’re not worried, because they’re given the priority,” said Singh. “Instead of making workers a lower priority when a company goes bankrupt, like what happened with Sears and pensioners lost 30 per cent of their pensions — we believe when a company goes bankrupt, workers should be the highest priority. They should be protected and defended at all cost.”

For years, the NDP has called on the federal government to bring in a national auto and manufacturing strategy. That is in the NDP platform.

Windsor West incumbent Brian Masse has also demanded action to lower cell phone and internet bills. That too is in the platform. Singh told the crowd his party would do what jurisdictions like Australia and the United States have done and place a cap on fees.

Masse is running against Liberal candidate Sandra Pupatello in Windsor West, along with Henry Lau of the Conservatives, Sean Quint Hunt of the Green Party, and the People’s Party of Canada candidate Darryl Burrell.

When asked if he would support lowering the voting age to 16, Singh told the crowd he favoured it, and thought that allowing students to cast their first ballots in high school would create a culture of democratic participation.

Earlier in the day, Singh met with Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens and students outside Blackburn Radio Inc.’s studios on Wyandotte Street East.

A sign at the NDP Town Hall in Windsor September 20, 2019. (Photo by Adelle Loiselle)

A sign at the NDP Town Hall in Windsor September 20, 2019. (Photo by Adelle Loiselle)

It was one of the few times during the rally that Trudeau’s scandal did come up. Singh admitted the discussion with students did centre on the controversy surrounding the Liberal Leader, but it went deeper than the question of whether it was racism or not.

“What we talked about was not a single incident, but a pattern of behaviour and how that has influenced decisions,” said Singh. “If you’re not powerful and well connected, then you don’t matter, and that’s what people feel like. And that hurts. And it has an impact on policies. And so, young people bring it down to the fact that, if the prime minister is going to in private make fun of people who are going through difficult times, it’s no surprise that the policies will also hurt people.”

On Saturday, Singh will campaign in Toronto. Green Party leader Elizabeth May has stops in Winnipeg, and Maxime Bernier of the People’s Party of Canada visits Verner and North Bay. Both Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and Liberal leader Justin Trudeau are taking a day off.

Canadians vote in the federal election on October 21.