Young people have a right to be angry and frustrated at the lack of action on climate change solutions, said NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh at the global climate strike rally outside the B.C. legislature on Friday.
“I’m here to support the young people. I’m here to support folks that are telling their leaders they’ve had enough and they’re frustrated and they’re afraid of the future, and I want them to replace that fear with hope and optimism and let them know I am here for them,” said Singh during a election-campaign swing through Vancouver Island.
Thousands of people gathered at the legislature as part of a worldwide climate strike.
Government leaders “have promised to do things and they haven’t followed through,” Singh said in an interview. “It’s a betrayal of these young people’s future. I want to let the young people know I will not let you down. I will fight for you and make sure we have a bright future for you.”
Later Friday, he addressed a packed room with about 500 to 600 NDP supporters at the Victoria Conference Centre, promising help with housing, pharmacare and universal dental care.
Singh said it could all be paid for by ending government subsidies to energy companies and a tax on the wealthy, those who have $20 million or more.
He accused Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau of caving to demands of drug and energy companies.
He said NDP research shows the Liberals have held meetings with lobbyists from the drug industry 575 times and the energy industry 1,500 times in the last four years.
Singh said Trudeau has failed to bring in a pharmacare program despite Liberal promises over the past 22 years and failed to end subsidies to energy companies as he had promised.
When he asked the crowd if Andrew Scheer and the Conservative Party would do any better, his audience roared with laughter.
Singh said the NDP stands apart from the Green Party because New Democrats are just as committed to social justice issues like housing and health care as they are to addressing the climate crisis.
He said an NDP government would take action on climate change and put people to work with an initiative to retrofit every home and building across Canada with effective heat insulation.
Later, during a question-and-answer session, he fielded questions smoothly, with only one obvious dodge.
He failed to address a query about what he might do over the Site C hydroelectric dam project in the Peace River region.
Earlier in the day, Singh said a New Democrat government “would use all of our skills to stop” the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and create a coastal fund to protect salmon, reinforce the coast guard and clean up derelict and abandoned vessels.
He pledged to create a $40-million plan to safeguard Canada’s coastlines.
“Real commitments to treat the coastline as the precious resource that it is and treat it with the stewardship and protection as opposed to threatening it with 700 per cent increase in toxic tanker traffic,” he said.
“We would really make sure we put all our effort and our might into building an economy that is sustainable, where we are not emitting fossil fuels.”
Before travelling to Victoria, he was in Ladysmith on Friday morning, speaking at a park overlooking the harbour. Asked about Trudeau’s meeting with climate activist Greta Thunberg in Montreal, Singh said: “It’s obviously Greta’s choice who she wants to meet with.”
Green Leader Elizabeth May, who represents Saanich-Gulf Islands, attended the climate strike rally in Montreal along with Trudeau.
Singh said it wouldn’t make sense for him to fly across the country burning fossil fuels to be at the Montreal events.
It’s the fourth consecutive day Singh has campaigned in B.C. where the NDP won 14 seats in 2015.
Asked about his continued criticisms of Trudeau, when it’s the Green Party that has two seats on Vancouver Island, Singh said it’s because he’s fighting to be prime minister and right now Trudeau is in power “and is my target.” The NDP won the Island’s other five seats in the last election.
The Greens are campaigning to hold onto the seat of Green MP Paul Manly in Nanaimo-Ladysmith, which the NDP lost in a byelection in May.
— With files from Richard Watts and the Canadian Press