NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh summoned the legacy of Tommy Douglas — the father of universal health care in Canada — while unveiling his party’s 2019 election platform today, pitching voters on a plan to dramatically expand that system to cover drugs, mental, dental, eye and hearing.
“Seventy-five years ago yesterday, Tommy Douglas was elected the premier of Saskatchewan, where he led a movement that gave us medicare and, ever since, being Canadian means doctor visits, hospital care — without having to worry about how to pay for it. That was a powerful dream, but we know that dream is not complete. We can take it further,” Singh told a crowd of supporters in Hamilton on Sunday morning, netting a standing ovation.
“It’s time for the party that brought medicare to Canada, to take another major step forward.”
The reference to NDP lore comes as Singh, whose third-place party has been struggling in the polls, tries to differentiate his party from the governing Liberal Party and stave off a strengthening Green Party.
New wealth tax proposed
Breaking with tradition, the NDP launched its election platform before MPs take off from the House of Commons for the summer and just three months before the campaign period officially launches.
At the heart of their platform, called “A New Deal for People,” and shortened to NDP, is a pledge to reform Canada’s health-care system to first include universal pharmacare and later another suite of services, like dental, eyecare and hearing.
“This is our roadmap to the possible,” said Singh, adding it would save families who already have an insurance plan $550 a year.
To pay for the seismic shift, and other platform promises like drug decriminalization, improved child care and enacting all recommendations of the missing and murdered Indigenous inquiry, the party is proposing a new one per cent wealth tax on those with a net worth of more than $20 million.
“To bring these commitments forward we need to be daring, we need to have imagination and it means we need to have the courage to dream,” Singh told the audience at the Ontario NDP convention, who are his former colleagues at Queen’s Park.
“The courage to, not only dream of a better future, but the courage to make that dream a reality. Like our friend, Tommy said, ‘Dream no little dreams.'”
Douglas has been name-dropped a few times in the last month of politics.
Canadian actor Kiefer Sutherland, the grandson of the former Saskatchewan premier, took to Twitter earlier this week to ask Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Ottawa MPP Lisa MacLeod to stop using his grandfather’s name for political gains.
In a Financial Post editorial, MacLeod argued that Douglas would have approved of Ontario Progressive Conservatives’ attempts to move toward fiscal discipline.
No costing yet
“I knew Tommy Douglas and you Sir, are no Tommy Douglas,” Sutherland wrote.
The Liberals have also been looking to create a drug plan. On Wednesday, a government-appointed advisory council recommended a $15-billion single-payer pharmacare plan and the federal health minister says Ottawa is considering next steps.
While the NDP platform promises some big ticket items, there’s little costing in it.
The party says the Parliamentary Budget Officer, an independent officer of Parliament, will review the plan and more numbers will be released, likely closer to the Oct. 21 election.
This election is the first time the PBO, which typically reviews government spending and policy initiatives, will make itself available to asses the fiscal soundness of party platforms.