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NDP leader pushes for stronger national shipbuilding industry

Jagmeet Singh speaks affordability and local concerns during Campbell River visit
North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh toured a Campbell River boatyard business on March 5, 2024. Photo by Marc Kitteringham/Campbell River Mirror

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh wants to build Canada’s domestic shipbuilding industry, which he says will help build the coastal economies and improve affordability for Vancouver Islanders.

Singh was in Campbell River on March 5 as part of a west-coast tour. The tour was part of a North Island-Powell River riding visit, during which he also stopped in Powell River and Comox before moving down island to Courtenay and beyond. Affordability was on the top of Singh’s mind as he toured the Ocean Pacific Marine Store and Boatyard in Campbell River, but so were ideas about how to build stronger local economies.

“We want to be leaders internationally,” said Singh about the national shipbuilding strategy. “We’ve got so much coastline in Canada, we should be (leaders). The strategy only works if we make the right investments in communities so they can get bigger, expand and grow their skill sets.

“This is a local business that we want to see continue to grow,” he said, gesturing at the boatyard behind him. “We want to see these businesses get the support they need, and we think the federal government should be doing that.”

While strengthening Canada’s shipbuilding industry is one idea to improve affordability, Singh said that he has been hearing from other people in the community about their concerns.

“We’re hearing from women, from Indigenous communities, and from working people that there’s been some progress made, and we can’t see that lost,” he said. One of those areas of progress was a bill that will enshrine the $10-a-day daycare agreements the federal government has with provinces into law. That bill received concurrence in the house on Feb. 29, and it is awaiting royal assent.

“I remember someone in my constituency got the pilot project in B.C.,” Singh said. “She said it changes her life, knowing it will be more affordable, and as soon as they heard about the pilot project, they decided they were going to try to have a kid … that’s how transformative it is.

“We thought it’s not enough to just have these agreements in place,” he said. “We will make the permanent … we want to expand it.”

Singh and the NDP’s plans include higher wages for child care workers, as well as more spots available across the country. The next federal election is just over one and a half years away. Singh and the NDP maintain their confidence and supply agreement with the Liberals, though pharmacare and dental care have both moved forward. Their priorities now centre around affordability.

“(Affordability) is the biggest question of our time. I’d say lots of people are feeling the squeeze, particularly around housing and groceries,” he said. Singh talked about his bill that would lower grocery prices, saying that part of the bill would set the penalty for corporations that profit from price gouging to three times whatever profit they made.

“So if they made $5 billion the penalty should be $15 billion now,” he said. “That’s deterrence. That’s gonna stop them from doing it. They see a threat of having to pay that level of fine. That’s a severe sanction that would stop them from ripping us off.”

That bill received second reading on Feb. 7.

To tackle housing prices, Singh said the NDP is focused on “real alternatives” like non-profit housing, cooperative housing and building with federal investments to help lower the upfront costs of new builds.

“We talked to builders and they said ‘well, I have to stay market rates for the land, I’m gonna pay market rates for my workers, I’m gonna pay market rates for the materials, and so the house is gonna be market rate,” he said. “We need federal land, money, and power to build affordable homes.”

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Marc Kitteringham

About the Author: Marc Kitteringham

I joined Black press in early 2020, writing about the environment, housing, local government and more.
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