NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh didn’t get to meet world-renowned climate campaigner Greta Thunberg, but he did shake hands and pose for selfies with many committed young climate activists at British Columbia’s legislature.
Singh attended a climate strike rally in Victoria on Friday after an earlier campaign stop where he said a New Democratic government would commit $40 million to help protect Canada’s coastline. He did not make a speech at the rally, but he waded through the crowd, stopping to hold impromptu conversations with people.
Security officials at the legislature estimated the crowd at more than 3,000 people, with the majority being young students who took the day off school.
“There’s so many young people,” Singh told one supporter. “It’s all youth. It’s so cool. It’s the coolest and it’s inspiring.”
Many of the youth protesters in Victoria carried homemade cardboard protest signs with various slogans, including “There is no Planet B,” “Fossil Fool,” and “Act Now For the Future.”
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau met with Thunberg in Montreal on Friday prior to a climate protest there. The Swedish teen said she gave Trudeau the same message she has given other political leaders – that he’s not doing enough.
Green Leader Elizabeth May attended the Montreal climate protest. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer campaigned in B.C. but did not attend any climate protests.
Earlier Friday, Singh said at an event in the city of Ladysmith that his party’s proposed coastal fund would protect salmon, reinforce the coast guard and clean up abandoned vessels.
Singh also said the NDP would fight against the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which would significantly boost tanker traffic off the B.C. coast. He repeatedly took aim at the Trudeau government’s decision to buy the pipeline and unfinished expansion work for $4.5 billion of taxpayers’ money.
Singh acknowledged he was making his environmental plan announcement on a day when people across the country, and around the globe, marched as part of an expanding international movement to condemn government inaction on climate change.
“People around the world are taking to the streets, particularly young people, and they’re demanding that leaders listen to them,” Singh said at a park overlooking Ladysmith’s harbour.
“They’re calling out the betrayal, they’re saying: ‘How dare you betray our futures.’ They’re angry and they’re frustrated and they’re right to be.”
He then tried to shift the focus to his Liberal opponent: “Here in Canada Mr. Trudeau, in the face of a global crisis, in the face of a climate crisis, bought a pipeline for $4.5 billion.”
Singh said the Liberal government has maintained subsidies for the fossil-fuel sector and exempted the biggest polluters from its carbon-pricing program.
“It’s clear that he works for the powerful – the people at the very top,” Singh said.
It was the fourth consecutive day Singh campaigned in the province, where the NDP won 14 seats in 2015.
While Singh’s words at public events have largely been focused on Trudeau’s record, the NDP is believed to be battling a stronger push by the Green Party, especially on Vancouver Island.
The NDP lost the riding of Nanaimo-Ladysmith earlier this year to Paul Manly of the Greens in a byelection.