Jagmeet Singh’s convention speech: ’Some of us are in leaky lifeboats, while others are in luxury yachts’ [Full transcript]

In his national convention speech, the NDP leader praised his party’s success pushing for pandemic aid, and called on the ’ultra rich’ to start paying their fair share
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh rises during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, March 23, 2021.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh rises during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, March 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Jagmeet Singh spoke at the NDP national convention on Sunday afternoon. His speech, which came a day after Justin Trudeau’s own address at the Liberal party convention, was harshly critical of the government’s handling of the pandemic. Singh called out the ‘ultra rich’ and corporations that profited during the pandemic at the expense of small businesses and workers. Here are his remarks: 

I want to begin by acknowledging that I come to you from Ottawa, in the traditional lands, the traditional unceded lands of the Algonquin nation. And anytime we acknowledge the Indigenous territories that we speak on, I think it’s important for us to also commit collectively to fight for justice for the First People of this land.

[Translated from French] a big thanks to all of you for being here in this virtual convention. I would have much prefered that we could be together in person, but I know we’re living through difficult times. But I want to give thanks to all our volunteers, our activists, everyone who’s part of our movement, thank you very much for your involvement and your work. Thanks to you we were able to elect New Democratic MPs. And we had the opportunity really to improve the lives of  people. We were able to improve the situation of many people thanks to you. [French ends]

I’m sad that we couldn’t be in person. I know that there are so many moments, special moments, that we enjoy in person, in the hallways, and I know we’re missing that. And these are difficult times. But I want to take a moment to thank each and every one of you. Because of you, because of everyone that’s a part of our movement, all the volunteers, all the activists, because of all of you we’ve elected incredible New Democrat MPs—24 of my incredible teammates—and all of us together in Ottawa have fought to make life better for people.

And it is really because of you that we have been able to achieve significant victories for people. So thank you to all of you. All the people that make up our movement. And we know there’s so much more that we need to do. But thank you for being a part of this movement. Thank you for being part of this party. Thank you so much.

I know that this pandemic has been tough. It’s impacted us massively. We know so many people have been hurt by this pandemic. People have lost their jobs.  Small businesses have been forced to shut down, maybe never opening again. And we know that people have lost their lives.

This pandemic has hit us all. But it has specifically and disproportionately impacted some people. We know that Indigenous communities that have already struggled with historic  and ongoing injustice because of a lack of access to clean drinking water, access to health care resources, overcrowded homes, have felt the impact of this pandemic even more so.

We know women who have already borne so much the brunt of this pandemic being stretched to max having to deal with child care and care for their aging and loved ones on top of losing job or trying to find a way to get to work without any adequate child care. This pandemic has disproportionately impacted women. And we’ve seen it also in the fact that women are now with the lowest job participation rate since decades. And that is so wrong.

[Translated from French] So loss of employment struck women very hard, there was a disproportionate impact on women. And I wanted to acknowledge this. And also we saw a wave of violence against women. Eight women died of femicide in Quebec. This is a pandemic within a pandemic. [French ends]

Racialized people have been hard hit by this pandemic. Many of the frontline workers, whether it’s in transportation, or in factories, logistics and warehouses, are people that are racialized, personal support workers, and they have been disproportionately impacted by this pandemic. They’re the ones that are getting sick because they can’t afford to stay home and have to go to work.

And we know that young people have been hard hit by this pandemic. A lot of the jobs young people work are no longer there. The the entry level jobs, the jobs that they would start off at are just not there. On top of having to deal with the crushing student debt that they’re dealing with, and the record high housing prices, yhis has been very tough on young people, and they mention particularly impacts on the mental health.

And we know that this pandemic has impacted seniors, particularly those in long term care homes, particularly for profit long term home.  These seniors amongst the most vulnerable have borne the brunt of this pandemic with their lives. And that is a National Shame.

[Translated from French] Successive cuts made by the Liberals and the Conservatives in health care transfers have contributed to this problem, which our elderly people in long term health care homes are facing. These long term for profit health care homes have created the problem. We had to send the Canadian Forces in to protect our elders. This is a national shame. We have to change a situation quickly, we have to eliminate profit seeking in long term care homes, once for all. No one should be making profits on the backs of our seniors.[French end]

Democrats knew right when this pandemic hit that people were going to be hard headed, and that they would need supports. And what we saw throughout this pandemic, was that Justin Trudeau wanted to give the least support possible. But New Democrats fought for the maximum health for people every step of the way.

[Translated from French] For example, the wage subsidy Justin Trudeau wanted to only cover 10 per cent of workers salary. With 10 per cent, that’s really the equivalent to nothing, it’s just a symbolic gesture. But we fought and we won. We got them to increase the wage subsidy to 75 per cent. It meant that we were able to cover 75 per cent of the salary of the workers and we were able to save 1,000s of jobs. We did that. We also know that with the CERB that Justin Trudeau started with $1,000. $1,000 is not even enough to cover rent. So we doubled the Canadian emergency response benefit to $2,000 so people were able to pay their bills, pay their rent and be able to live. [French ends]

We know that young people, instead of helping young people, the Liberal government was more interested, Justin Trudeau was more interested in helping his friends at WE than actually getting help to the people in need.

[Translated from French] Students were completely left out by the Liberal government, especially in terms of direct financial aid. We New Democrats fought for students, and we were able to deliver direct aid to students. We did that. And again, with a program of paid sick leave. This is an essential tool for protecting workers. Workers should never have to choose between going to work sick or staying at home without being paid. We are the ones who started this program for paid sick leave. [French ends]

We were the first to bring it forward. We fought to make it happen. But we know it needs to be better. It’s still not good enough. We need to make sure that it’s not only improved, but we make it permanent so never again in this country will any worker have to worry about going into work sick or staying at home not knowing if they’re going to be able to pay the bills because they have no pay.

You know what we have seen in this pandemic that the Liberals like to take credit. But New Democrats like to get results, we fight to get results. And we need to continue that fight because the situation now is getting very urgent. We know that across this country, the third wave is hitting hard, with variant spreading people ending up in ICU. And it’s not about blame. And we’ve seen Justin Trudeau try to blame conservative premiers and conservative premiers trying to blame Justin Trudeau. Leadership is not looking for excuses. It’s looking for solutions. And what we need right now is a plan with all hands on deck to get every single person in our country vaccinated, particularly essential workers. They need to get vaccinated, and we need a paid sick leave that actually works for everyone. Now. Lives depend on it.

One of the things we notice throughout this pandemic very clearly, is that the Liberals have shown again and again, how they’re in it for the ultra rich, and they’re not in it for you or your family. And I want to give you a couple examples. The Liberals didn’t hesitate to forgive billions of dollars of corporate debt. New Democrats believe we need to be forgiving student debt. Liberals profited off the backs of students by charging interest on federal student debt to the tune of billions of dollars. New Democrats believe we need to remove interest entirely and forever, permanently off of student debt.

We see again and again when Liberals make decisions, they benefit the ultra rich, and you end up paying the price. And that is wrong. With pharmacare. The Liberals, they passed a motion recently again in their convention. They’ve been promising this for 24 years, decades of promises. And they continue to break it. And most recently, we gave them a chance. We put forward a bill to bring in universal pharmacare for all and they voted against it. The only ones that benefit from the Liberal government voting against pharmacare is Big Pharma. It certainly doesn’t help working families. So again, they chose Big Pharma over people.

[Translated from French] Nobody should be forced to choose between paying for their drugs or for their groceries. Liberals chose to protect the interests of the major pharmaceutical companies, rather than keeping their promise to establish a universal pharmacare that was entirely public. We New Democrats, we fight for you and for your health. [French ends]

The climate crisis is a crisis that has not gone away. We know that is threatening everything we value. But what’s the Liberal track record? What has Justin Trudeau done on climate crisis? He bought a pipeline; he gives millions of dollars away to the oil and gas sectors with fossil fuel subsidies, and he continues to let the biggest polluters off the hook. While Conservatives don’t believe that the climate crisis is real, the Liberals don’t act like it’s real. And really, what’s the difference? We needed immediate action now to actually protect our environment.

[Speaking in French] People in Quebec and everywhere in Canada want a federal government that will fight climate change as though they really want to win this fight. The Liberals bought a pipeline and continue to subsidize the major oil companies. They prefer to prioritize the interests of major polluters, rather than fighting the climate change crisis. The Conservatives say that there is no climate crisis. We New Democrats, we work for a fair and sustainable recovery. We’re fighting against climate change with the desire to succeed. [French ends]

We’re in the third wave, but we are getting vaccinations. And we know that we will get past this pandemic. We need to start looking towards recovery. And in this recovery, a question that keeps on arriving is that who will pay the costs of this pandemic? And who will pay the cost of the recovery?

We know people are worried about this question. And I want to answer this clearly. It should not be you or your family’s, workers, small businesses that have to shut down, workers that lost their jobs. It shouldn’t be you that has to pay the cost of this recovery. Who should it be then? We say very clearly, it should be those who profited off the pandemic, the ultra wealthy, the ultra rich, large corporations that made record profits, that don’t pay taxes in Canada, but make profits off Canadians. They should be the ones.

I’ve heard it said that in this pandemic we’re all in the same boat. I disagree. We’re not actually in the same boat. We’re certainly in the same storm. But some of us are in leaky lifeboats, while others are in luxury yachts. In this storm, the Liberals continue to side with those in luxury yachts.

[Translated from French] Most people in Canada are living in difficult situations. But the richest have become even more rich. And big business like Amazon and the web giants have made record profits because of the pandemic. Justin Trudeau allowed the riches to avoid to pay their fair share of taxes by hiding billions of dollars abroad every year. We New Democrats, we want to make the richest pay their fair share, these rich people who have profited from the pandemic, so that we can better help those people who really need it. But when we talk about getting the ultra rich to pay their fair share, the Liberals and the Conservatives don’t want to hear anything about it. [French ends]

It’s surprising because when we look at the Liberals approach, they wanted to make it seem like they cared. They wanted to make it look like they’re doing something for you and your families. But when it came down to their choices, they didn’t choose you and your family. Let’s make that really clear. What were their choices? When it came to medication coverage? Who did they choose? Was it people? No, they chose Big Pharma. When it came to long term care and protecting our seniors. Who did the Liberals choose? Did they choose protecting our seniors and caring for the most vulnerable? No, they chose to protect the big profits of for profit long term care homes. What about climate change? Well, clearly, again, and again, instead of choosing protecting our planet, the Liberals chose to protect big polluters.

What about one of the most fundamental questions of justice in our country, the fact that Indigenous people still don’t have access to clean drinking water? What was the Liberal government’s choice when it came to cleaning water for Indigenous people? They chose not to do it.

What about making the ultra-wealthy pay their fair share? The Liberals again chose to side with those at the very top, the ultra wealthy and didn’t pursue making them pay their fair share. But it shouldn’t be a surprise, this is who the Liberals really are. Even when New Democrats gave them an opportunity to do the right thing. At every occasion, the Liberals chose to side with the ultra wealthy. They made it very clear, they are simply not in it for you. We are we. We will continue to be.

Now what about the Conservatives? We’ve heard them say that they are friends to workers. Yeah, that they are the friends of workers. Well, I say very clearly the Conservatives are no friends to workers when they deny them paid sick leave. They’re no friends to workers when they deny pharmacare. They’re no friends to workers when they protect profits in long-term care. And they’re certainly no friend to workers when they make it harder to join a union.

These Conservatives are no different from the previous ones. They believe in cutting the services that people need, and making it harder for everyday people.

[Translated from French] We have seen people who have difficulty making ends meet while the rich are getting richer. We have seen small businesses that have to close while the Amazons and Facebooks of this world are making record profits. This has to change, and it must change now. But it’s not Justin Trudeau’s Liberals who will change this. Nor the Conservatives, who have never been on the side of workers.

While the Liberals and Conservatives prioritize their friends and the richest, we are ready to work for you. [French ends]

Because we can do better. We’ve shown what we can accomplish when you elect New Democrats. How we can fight for people, and deliver the help that people need. How we can improve the conditions of people.

But imagine what we could do if we had more New Democrats elected. Imagine what we could do if we formed a New Democratic government. Imagine all the things we can do.

We can take better care of each other with better health care, including universal pharmacare for all, and getting profits out of long-term care. We can uplift young people by tackling student debt. We can have true reconciliation with Indigenous people, starting with making sure that every Indigenous community in this country has clean drinking water—as a starting point, and building on that.

We can have a more equal Canada by tackling hate, racism and discrimination in all its forms. We can take on the climate crisis by investing in a sustainable recovery, that creates good jobs, that helps reduce our emissions.

We can do all of this, but only if we have a government with the courage to do it. The courage to stand up to powerful corporations and the ultra-rich. To make them pay their fair share. New Democrats have that courage.

We have that courage. Canadians are better off with more New Democrats elected. And I need your help to elect more New Democrats in this election so we can make those changes to lift people up. So I need you to get out and volunteer. I need you to make phone calls, to donate, to help people to vote. Talk to your friends and your family. Let them know all that New Democrats achieve to make people’s lives better, and how it would help them to have more of us.

[Translated from French] My friends, I need your help. Volunteer. Make calls. Make a donation. Speak to your friends, to your familiy, to your neighbours. Explain to them what the NDP did during this pandemic, and tell them that we haven’t finished our work. People need to know that they cannot count on the Liberals to do the right thing, and that’s it’s only with a strong NDP team that they will be well-served. New Democrats are fighting for you. [French ends]

We’ve always fought for you, and we always will.

Merci, and thank you so much.