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Singh promises new jobs for oilsands workers, Scheer targets 'corporate welfare'

Last Updated Oct 12, 2019 at 8:10 pm EDT

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, centre, greets supporters during a campaign stop in Brampton, Ont., on Saturday, October 12, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is pledging to help oilsands workers find new jobs outside the sector if his party forms government and implements its plan to combat climate change.

His party’s climate change plan calls for cutting subsidies to oil and gas companies as a way to fuel the transition towards renewable energy sources – part of a general pledge shared by the NDP, Greens and Liberals to cut emissions over the coming years.

But the promise does not always resonate well among oil industry workers who are hearing that they’ll be out of a job.

Singh is promising to take some of the billions in revenues the party is banking from taxing those whose wealth exceeds $20 million and putting it towards helping those workers in Alberta find new jobs.

He also said that New Democrat pledges to help retrofit homes and buildings, and build 500,000 affordable housing units would be avenues for resource-sector workers to apply their skills.

The future of the oilsands – key to Alberta’s economy – has been a divisive issue for New Democrats federally and provincially over the past few years, and has even rippled through the labour movement, with unionized workers in the oilpatch and building pipelines.

“These are ways for people with the skills in the resource sector to put those to use in other sectors,” Singh said during a campaign stop in the Toronto area.

“We can make that happen. It’s about commitments, it’s about having the courage to do it and we’re ready to do it.”

Singh said that oilsands workers in Alberta have told him that they want to find a path to more steady work outside the sector.

The NDP leader told a story about an oilsands worker who he met at an airport – although Singh didn’t specify which one, when the talk happened, or a the man’s name – who lamented that even as an engineer, he was still in the same position as his father who worked in the oil patch years earlier.

“And he says, ‘I’m going through the same thing my dad went through. I’m also facing now the fear of losing my job,”‘ Singh said.

“So no matter how hard people work in resource sectors, through no fault of their own – because of international, global markets, as commodities go up and down – people go through busts and booms. People deserve better than that. The good people of Alberta deserve better than that.

“So my commitment is this: I want to invest into programs and an economy that’s more sustainable, that’s more long-lasting.”

The NDP leader also committed Saturday to following through on a promise to help build a new hospital in Brampton.

Singh was scheduled to spend the remainder of the day campaigning in the Toronto riding of Davenport, which the New Democrats hope to reclaim from the Liberals.

On Saturday night, Trudeau took aim at Scheer during a rally in Mississauga, on Toronto’s western edge, trying to link proposed spending cuts in the federal Conservative platform to cuts made in Ontario by Premier Doug Ford.

Trudeau also said the New Democrats, when they’ve been the official Opposition, have been unable to hold Conservative governments to account – as in Ontario now and when former prime minister Stephen Harper had a majority – to make the case for voters on the left to go Liberal with their ballots.

“If you want progressive action, you need a progressive government, not a progressive opposition,” Trudeau said at the rally.

The event started about 90 minutes late – Trudeau’s campaign didn’t explain what caused the unusual delay – and saw the incumbent prime minister surrounded by exceptionally heavy security during and after the stump speech.

Campaigning in Atlantic Canada on Saturday, Elizabeth May says Canada needs a “national re-examination” of veterans issues and the Greens would begin it immediately if they won power.

“It’s so important that we properly care for those who are on the front lines caring for us,” May said during an announcement outside Charlottetown, where the federal Veterans Affairs department has its headquarters. “And we need to reassure young people considering a career in the Armed Forces that their future will be safeguarded.”

Many veterans are angry at both the Conservative and Liberal parties over changes to their pensions and poor access to supports for lifelong service-related injuries. Tens of thousands of veterans are waiting for disability benefits.

Wait lists grew quickly when Conservatives closed offices offering veterans services and cut staff in the department. The Liberals reopened the offices and have hired many case managers and other workers whose jobs are to see that veterans get care they need and are entitled to, but backlogs keep growing because of increased demand.

May said the Green party would go back to the way disability pensions were paid more than a decade ago, and extend pension payments to spouses of more veterans of both the military and the RCMP.

Those would be first steps toward a bigger reconsideration of how the nation cares for people who’ve served in uniform, May said, which the Greens would begin this December.

Early in the election campaign, also on Prince Edward Island, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer promised to clear the backlog of veterans waiting for benefits within two years.

Liberals under leader Justin Trudeau have promised to fast-track benefit approvals for conditions that have very high approval rates, so veterans don’t have to get past as many bureaucratic obstacles, and to make veterans eligible for $3,000 of mental-health treatment before having to get into the formal benefits process.

The NDP has promised across-the-board improvements in veterans’ care, including hiring more case managers and launching a review of the federal relationship of veterans much like the Greens’.

Andrew Scheer, campaigning in the riding of Burnaby South, which is held by Singh, is starting to lay out what he would do in the first 100 days of a Conservative government to end what he calls “`frivolous spending.”

The Conservative leader says he would name former B.C. finance minister Kevin Falcon and Yves Desjardins-Siciliano, former chief executive of Via Rail, to head a commission on what he calls corporate welfare.

The Tories are promising to cut $1.5 billion annually from federal subsidy programs to private-sector companies.

The commission would also recommend new performance measures for subsidies and review “innovation” programs to ensure the money targets domestic companies with benefits, profits and patents staying in Canada.

Scheer also took aim at Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau over each party’s spending promises, saying he’s feeling confident about Conservative chances on election day.

Trudeau was in the Vancouver suburbs yesterday but is spending most of today flying back east, for a rally in the Toronto suburb of Mississauga.

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