John McCormick, executive director of the Nanaimo Region John Howard Society, meets with Jagmeet Singh, federal NDP leader, and Sheila Malcolmson, Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP, during a visit to CODE Community Dental Clinic on Wallace Street on Tuesday afternoon. GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin

NDP leader talks equality and inequality during visit to Nanaimo

Jagmeet Singh is touring the region and is in Nanaimo today, March 6

The federal NDP leader is on Vancouver Island this week and is hearing about inequality that he and his party wish to address.

Jagmeet Singh is touring the region and is in Nanaimo today, March 6. He toured the CODE Community Dental Clinic this afternoon before a scheduled meet-and-greet at the Bee’s Knees Café this evening.

Singh said it’s been one of his commitments to tour the country as much as possible and meet with as many Canadians as he can. He said during his travels, he’s heard that the economy isn’t working for everyone.

“In the post-budget environment, one of the things the government’s saying to people is the economy is doing so well, it’s booming, it’s humming along,” he said. “And then when you speak to people, they’re kind of like, well, if the economy’s doing really well, why don’t I feel the benefits in my life?”

He’s heard how people live paycheque to paycheque and said Canada can do better as far as creating affordable housing, bringing in pharmacare, investing in social programs and addressing income inequality. Not all of those things are wholly dependent on the outcome of the next federal election, Singh said.

“When you’re in a position of power you can implement the change you want to see happen. But in the meantime, it’s not going to stop us from pushing this government and we’ve seen some of those results,” Singh said, suggesting the NDP has advanced the discussion on pharmacare.

His visit to the Nanaimo dental clinic was tied to his recent call for medicare to be complemented by universal pharmaceutical and dental care.

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With International Women’s Day coming up on Thursday, March 8, Singh and Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Sheila Malcolmson were asked about recent federal budget announcements related to women’s equality.

Malcolmson said her party’s work on pay equity could lead to the Liberal government introducing legislation on the file, as it was mentioned in the budget but without attached funding.

Singh said he acknowledges there were announcements he liked in the budget around gender equality, including investment in women’s entrepreneurship and measures to combat workplace harassment.

“There are some positive signs, but I think Sheila nailed it when she said that if you’re talking about implementing pay equity legislation without any funding, how can you actually do it?” he asked.

Malcolmson said her party’s “No. 1 disappointment” in last week’s budget was that there were no new dollars for child care spaces.

“We contrast that to the [B.C. budget]: $1 billion for child care and they’re going to get new spaces fast. And this budget federally? Nothing,” Malcolmson said. “And we’ve heard that the No. 1 barrier women face in participating in the economy is the lack of affordable child care.”

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