NDP unveils Quebec platform, promising more power on immigration and language – CBC News

NDP unveils Quebec platform, promising more power on immigration and language - CBC News
New Democrats pledge more funds, expansion of language law in Quebec
NDP's Jagmeet Singh starts week two in the province which was once his party's stronghold, promising more powers to Quebec on portfolios including the environment, language, immigration and justice. 

Singh presented his platform for the province, dubbed Ensemble pour le Québec, in Sherbrooke today. 

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It includes allowing the province to have specific powers and flexibility, including the right to withdraw from federal programs but still receive the federal financial compensation.

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He is positioning his party as "an ally to Quebec and the French language," building on the work of the late Jack Layton in the 2006 federal election — whose popularity in the province has been unmatched by any NDP leader since.

The NDP has struggled to recover its pre-2015 strength in the years since the last election, but it’s heading into the fall campaign with an experienced team of strategist and organizers at its back.

Facing the nation: leaders tours hint at parties vulnerabilities, seats in play

"At the beginning, some people didn't think Jack was someone who could excite Quebec and maybe some people don't think Jagmeet can. But Jack was a builder, he was optimistic and Jack and Jagmeet have similar progressive values that resonate in the province," said Marie Della Mattia, NDP campaign co-chair.

The party leaders sprint across the country in the run-up to the election hints at where campaign strategists think their team can make inroads, or—depending on the state of the electoral map and public opinion polls—where they need to play defence, say political observers. 

Singh's proposals include giving Quebec the final word on environmental evaluations for major infrastructure projects on its territory, such as pipelines. 

He would also allow the provincial government to apply Bill 101, Quebec's law to protect and strengthen the French language, to national companies with a presence in Quebec, such as banks and the telecommunications sector. 

This will be an opportunity for Singh to communicate his campaign platform and how his party plans to make life more affordable for Canadians. 

All of Canada's Supreme Court judges would be required to be able to read and speak in French. 

SHERBROOKE, Que. — NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh extended a hand to Quebec nationalists on Sunday, promising the province new powers and funding in a bid to revive the so-called orange wave of support that carried his party to official Opposition status eight years ago.

The platform offers more money to Quebec cultural organizations, particularly those whose goal is to promote and protect the French language. 

He also pledged more money to help integrate immigrants, increased powers in areas such as environmental assessment and trade agreements, and to expand the province’s language law, Bill 101, to cover all federally regulated companies in Quebec.

Singh would allocate $73 million more to Quebec's immigration ministry. The funds would allow the province to invest in programs teaching French to and integrating newcomers. This program was announced last week.

The NDP leader was forced once again to explain why he would not commit to joining any court challenges of Bill 21, which would prevent Singh himself from working as a teacher or a police officer in the province. As a Sikh, he wears a turban.

No unilateral agreements would be made with web giants to stream content in Canada without consulting with Quebec. The NDP also promises to make sure companies like Netflix pay federal taxes.

Singh said that while his party is a federalist one that “continues to work towards national unity,” he has no problem welcoming former separatists as candidates, as long as they share the party’s progressive values.

The NDP would consult with Quebec before signing major international trade agreements. Quebec dairy farmers were upset by the new Canada-U.S.-Mexico Agreement (new NAFTA) deal signed in 2018, which allowed more American milk products into the country.

The Sherbrooke riding is held by the NDP’s Pierre-Luc Dusseault, who became the youngest MP in Canadian history when he won the seat in 2011, one of 59 NDP MPs elected in Quebec that year as part of a massive surge of support.

Quebec support for the NDP has been eroding since Jack Layton's Orange Crush in 2011 when they took 59 of the 78 seats.

Under Tom Mulcair's leadership the party was reduced to 16 MPs in 2015. Singh's team is focusing on how Layton won over Quebecers.

His speech was warmly received by supporters, who later broke out into a rendition of Gilles Vigneault’s “Gens du Pays” — a song considered an anthem of the province and its sovereigntist movement.

The choice of Sherbrooke to make the announcement is symbolic. It's where Layton presented the party's position on asymmetrical federalism, recognizing Quebec's specific character. 

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SHERBROOKE, Que. — NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh extended a hand to Quebec nationalists on Sunday, promising the province new powers and funding in a bid to revive the so-called orange wave of support that carried his party to official Opposition status eight years ago.

The 11-page platform for Quebec included an expansion of the provinces language laws and the right to withdraw from federal programs with financial compensation.

He also promised to find a way to get Quebec to sign the Constitution, on its own terms, although he did not explain how he would solve a problem that has long proven a political impasse.

"The fact that historically Quebec has not signed the Constitution is a mistake that should not exist," Singh told supporters gathered in the conference room of a hotel in Sherbrooke, Que.

He also pledged more money to help integrate immigrants, increased powers in areas such as environmental assessment and trade agreements, and to expand the provinces language law, Bill 101, to cover all federally regulated companies in Quebec.

The Sherbrooke riding is held by the NDPs Pierre-Luc Dusseault, who became the youngest MP in Canadian history when he won the seat in 2011, one of 59 NDP MPs elected in Quebec that year as part of a massive surge of support.

But hes among the few who are still there; things reversed dramatically for the party in 2015, and NDP held only 14 seats in the province at dissolution.

Singh said the document he presented builds on the work of past party leader Layton, and Tom Mulcair, though he intends to capture the support of Quebecers by being himself.

Identity issues loom large in Quebec, which recently passed a law that prevents civil servants in so-called "positions of authority" from wearing religious symbols on the job.

The NDP leader was forced once again to explain why he would not commit to joining any court challenges of Bill 21, which would prevent Singh himself from working as a teacher or a police officer in the province. As a Sikh, he wears a turban.

Singh, who opposes the bill but says it would not be right to "interfere" in a challenge, rejected the notion that he lacks political courage.

"I have the courage to come to Quebec, Im a guy with a beard and a turban and Im running for prime minister," he said.

He faces a formidable challenge, given that some polls have placed his party as low as fifth — behind the Liberals, Conservatives, Green Party and Bloc Quebecois.

In response, Singh said he was focusing on the "only survey that matters": the Oct. 21 election day.

"We can make gains because we have a bold program, we want to address climate change, we want to recognize the importance of Quebec," he said in French.

"So I have a lot of confidence that we can make gains but well leave the decision up to Quebecers."

The NDP have had trouble nominating candidates in Quebec. They had to let one go after allegations of domestic violence, and lost another — Pierre Nantel — who defected to the Greens.

Nantel has since suggested hes a separatist, prompting his new party boss to suggest that if hes that committed to those views, he wouldnt be allowed to run.

Singh said that while his party is a federalist one that "continues to work towards national unity," he has no problem welcoming former separatists as candidates, as long as they share the partys progressive values.

"We welcome people who may have had positions that were very much in terms of separation as long as they want to work with us as a party and believe in our values of working together," he said.

His speech was warmly received by supporters, who later broke out into a rendition of Gilles Vigneaults "Gens du Pays" — a song considered an anthem of the province and its sovereigntist movement.

Singh stopped off in the NDP-held riding of St. Hyacinthe later Sunday, and is expected to make other stops in the province in the coming days. The party says hell be leading the NDP charge in Quebec throughout the campaign.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh speaks to supporters during a campaign stop in Sherbrooke, Que., Sunday, September 15, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld