Federal NDP leader talks DFO, Greyhound, tariffs at 1st of 4-day B.C. tour

Jagmeet Singh was in Terrace Wednesday with Skeena-Bulkley Valley NDP MP Nathan Cullen

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is in Northern B.C. this week to meet residents and community leaders to hear their top concerns on federal issues.

Skeena-Bulkley Valley NDP MP Nathan Cullen led the four-day partial tour of his riding through several communities deeply affected by a clampdown on the salmon fisheries, and U.S. tariffs on aluminum.

The town of Kitimat is home to one of the largest manufacturing complexes in the province, the Rio Tinto’s aluminum smelter.

Singh and Cullen held a press scrum in Terrace Wednesday morning. Here are the highlights:

On fisheries

Following historic low salmon returns, Fisheries and Oceans Canada shut down all recreational salmon fishing in northern tidal and freshwater fisheries. Then on May 30, DFO allowed for limited marine sports chinook fisheries with a precautionary 25-30 per cent reduction in exploitation rates.

Singh said there needs to be a plan in place that works towards bringing salmon stocks back up to where they used to be, something that he says is lacking in the DFO’s current approach.

“These rivers can sustain significant abundance and it’s not enough to just divvy up an ever decreasing pie, that’s not going to get us back to the position where we need to be.”

He said he would like to see more of a focus on smaller, local fishing communities to create opportunities instead of looking to commercial and mass industry fishing, particularly when it comes to off-shore foreign fisheries.

“That’s where we aren’t doing enough to clamp down and measure what those sectors are taking. The focus has only been on small community fishing, which in comparison [has] very small numbers compared to what the off-shore commercial mass industry fishing is doing. I think that’s where we need to start focusing our attention.”

On healthcare

Speaking to an audience at a Terrace fundraiser last night in Terrace, Singh said he is committed to investing in Canada’s public health system and believes more work needs to be done to expand its services.

“And that’s why I believe in universal pharmacare, that’s the next step,” he said to an applause from the crowd. “We’re the only country in the world that has universal public healthcare but doesn’t have a form of universal pharmacare. We know that it’s a cost, but it’s an investment. There are millions of Canadians who can’t access medication when they need it.”

Singh pointed to a study from the University of B.C. that said millions of Canadians are opting to skip dosages or not take their medication as prescribed because they can’t afford it.

“That’s why its so important for us to defend it, to make sure that we invest in it to make sure that its there for us when we need it, and that’s not the case right now.”

On Greyhound

Earlier this week Greyhound Canada announced it would be ending its passenger bus and freight routes in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, cancelling all but one route in B.C.

Singh told reporters he sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the morning of July 11 requesting that the federal government provide funding to keep transportation between communities accessible.

“For some people, it’s the only way to get around. We’ve already seen the impacts of the Highway of Tears, the problems around hitchhiking and not having access to ways to get around the community… it’s a safety issue. It’s a public safety issue,” he said.

“That’s why I’ve called on the Prime Minister to step in and provide federal funding to keep this transportation going because it’s so important for people.”

On the national inquiry extension

Last month, the federal government announced the national inquiry for murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls would get a six-month extension to complete their work, instead of an the two years requested by inquiry officials.

Singh said he believes the government needs to start taking active steps forward in the interest of reconciliation.

“Whether its to ensure that we’ve got an inquiry that actually does justice, the fact that there are so many missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls, the fact that there is still a stark difference in terms of access to resources like clean drinking water, education and childcare services… there’s so much more that needs to be done,” he said.

”We’re not seeing concrete actions from this government, we’re seeing some words that are reassuring but that’s not enough. We need to see some concrete steps.”

On steel and aluminum tariffs

The federal government announced last month a list of retaliatory tariffs placed on American goods in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s imposed 25 per cent and 10 per cent tariffs placed on Canadian steel and aluminum.

Singh said he told the Prime Minister a month ago that the NDP is supportive of the federal government’s push-back response, but believes more work needs to be done to support workers affected by the U.S. tariffs. As an example, he cited Quebec’s decision to offer $100 million in loan guarantees to support the aluminum industry based in that province.

“We need to have the federal government sit down with those impacted industry workers to make sure we have a package in place to make sure workers are protected if there is an impact to their jobs.”

Over the long term, Singh recognized that tariffs are a “real problem” that will potentially have some serious impacts on both sides of the border.

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