OTTAWA—NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is challenging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to recall Parliament and refrain from calling a snap summer election as all parties prepare for a federal campaign that is widely expected to start soon.
In a letter to Trudeau that was obtained by the Star on Monday, Singh pledges his New Democratic Party is “ready to work” with the Liberal minority government on legislation both leaders have deemed important — stalled bills to ban conversion therapy and eliminate mandatory minimum jail sentences.
He also says the NDP wants to ensure emergency benefits for the unemployed aren’t cut and that Ottawa has a “national vaccination strategy” to increase COVID-19 inoculations before “another wave of sickness and death” crashes over the country.
“It is within your power to bring your ministers back off the pre-campaign trail, recall the House and get to work,” Singh writes.
“New Democrats are ready to return to Parliament and keep fighting for Canadians.”
Singh has repeatedly accused Trudeau in recent days of placing his own political interests ahead of the country by seeking an opportune time to call an election and win the expanded power of a majority Liberal government. As first reported by the Star, the NDP leader wrote to Governor General Mary Simon in late July to suggest she refuse if Trudeau asks her to start a general election because the minority Parliament isn’t functioning.
Singh argued to Simon that Trudeau has not lost the confidence of the House — indeed, the NDP has pledged for months to prop up his government to avoid an election during the pandemic.
Trudeau responded days later by blasting opposition parties for tactics to stall legislation in the House. The prime minister also said in late June that “we have seen a level of obstructionism and toxicity in the house that is of real concern.”
In his letter to Trudeau on Monday, Singh pushes back on those statements and contends the NDP’s 24 MPs have played a “critical and constructive role” in the minority Parliament elected in the fall of 2019. He says the party helped pass “important bills” like legislation that forces the government to report on progress reducing Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, as well as the bill that requires Ottawa to create a plan to overhaul Canadian law so it aligns with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
“There are also multiple cases where you were able to find all-party support to pass emergency legislation to provide help to Canadians facing the COVID-19 pandemic,” Singh writes.
He also blames the Liberals for failing to pass laws to ban conversion therapy and eliminate mandatory jail sentences, claiming they could have been introduced sooner. He points, too, to how Trudeau prorogued Parliament last year amidst the controversy over his family’s ties to WE Charity, a Toronto organization that was contracted to receive almost $ 50 million to administer a massive government program for student volunteers.
“If Parliament is dysfunctional, then you yourself have played a leading role in that dysfunction,” Singh writes in his letter. “Telling Canadians that minority government can’t work is misleading and breeds cynicism in our democracy.”
The Prime Minister’s Office referred a request to comment to House Leader Pablo Rodriguez’s office, which responded with a statement that did not address Singh’s letter but blamed the Conservatives for “deliberately” obstructing work in Parliament this year.
“By the end of the spring session, one thing was clear: the spirit of collaboration that once marked the early days of the Parliament was gone,” the statement said.
All party leaders, including Singh, have been touring the country during the parliament’s summer break to make announcements and draw attention to local candidates. Trudeau, meanwhile, has declined to answer when he might try to call the next federal election.