Gloves finally come off in NDP leadership debate as candidates get chance to question each other directly

After a series of debates in which the NDP leadership candidates agreed on just about everything, the claws finally came out when they were allowed to each other directly during their fourth debate in St. John’s, N.L.

MPP was asked to take a clear stance on pipelines and to make a firm commitment to the NDP.

In a heated exchange with Ontario MP Angus, Singh refused to say whether he will run for the NDP in the next federal election if he doesn’t win the leadership, or if he will run again provincially in 2018.

Are you going to join us?

“You’re telling Canadians to have courage and join you. I would suggest that you could show courage and tell us, ‘Are you going to join us?’ Simple question,” Angus said.

“I will continue to serve in any way I can,” Singh replied.

Singh also hedged when Manitoba MP Niki Ashton and B.C. MP Peter Julian asked where he stands on pipeline projects such as Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. He’ll be releasing a climate change policy soon, he said, but he has to speak with B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley first.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press
Adrian Wyld/The Canadian PressNDP MP Niki Ashton speaks in the House of Commons on Oct. 25, 2016.

“I’m disconcerted by your non-response,” Julian said. “Why have you not made up your mind on Kinder Morgan?”

Despite the questioning, Singh seemed more at ease during this debate than during his first in last month. He was quick to point to a new policy package he released just before the debate, which would introduce two new tax brackets for those making more than $350,000 and $500,000, respectively.

He has also promised to increase the corporate tax rate to 19.5 per cent from 15 per cent. He would use the extra revenue in part to provide a basic for Canadians with disabilities and an increase to wage subsidies for low- workers.

Angus, perhaps the most adversarial candidate at Sunday’s debate, also took aim at Julian and Ashton’s proposals for free post-secondary tuition and Quebec MP Guy Caron’s commitment to a basic guaranteed income, questioning how much those promises would cost.

“There’s serious questions, and one is the price,” he said of Caron’s plan, which he claimed could cost $300 billion. Caron said the model he’s proposing would not cost that much.

For his part, Caron challenged Angus to come up with a plan for regaining NDP seats in Quebec. The Quebec MP is positioning himself as the only leadership hopeful who can defeat Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative leader Andrew Scheer in la belle province.

Gino Donato/Postmedia Network
Gino Donato/Postmedia NetworkCandidate Charlie Angus at the federal debate in Sudbury, Ont. on Sunday May 28, 2017.

Angus said he understands Quebec values because he represents a very francophone region of northern Ontario.

Still, there were subjects on which all candidates agreed. Last week’s announcement that the Liberal government will increase military spending to $32 billion over the next decade was roundly panned as pandering to the Trump administration.

“I will cancel those massive increases and put those resources to work for Canadians,” Julian said. “ should always be a voice for peace.”

The next will take place July 11 in Saskatoon. Party members will choose their new leader in October. 

Gino Donato/Sudbury Star/Postmedia Network
Gino Donato/Sudbury Star/Postmedia NetworkCandidates Jagmeet Singh, Guy Caron, Niki Ashton, Charlie Angus, Pat Stogran and Peter Julian listen to questions at the federal NDP leadership race debate in Sudbury, Ont. on Sunday May 28, 2017.

About Maura Forrest