Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Jagmeet Singh on Transit

with 4 comments

I am not a member of the NDP and haven’t really been following their leadership race, but congratulations to Jagmeet Singh for securing the leadership. He says (on his blog)

a Jagmeet Singh-led government will:

Adopt a National Public Transit Strategy: Canada is still the only country in the G8 without a national transit program and people across Canada are looking for more affordable, reliable, and accessible public transit options. Congestion in our urban centres is hurting both our economy and our environment. A Jagmeet Singh-led government will implement a National Public Transit Strategy that will provide the long term and predictable funding for public transit that cities and communities across the country are seeking.

This appears under the “Carbon Emission Reduction” section. Good.

Now perhaps some of the dippers who read this blog can explain to me how a leader can impose his will on the rest of the party. I come from a UK Labour Party background where policy commitments of this kind have to be endorsed by the annual Party conference (convention in North American parlance). While a leader can espouse a policy, it is the membership at large which determines policy. And if you have a taste for such things try a search for “Clause Four” to see where that leads to.

I am, as I said, heartened by this commitment. But to what extent is this reflective of what the party rank and file actually want? Aren’t the big supporters of the NDP the union members in the car industry?  Isn’t that where most of the big bucks come from in the national party? 

The last bit has been deleted in response to a comment.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 1, 2017 at 7:34 pm

4 Responses

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  1. There are no union donations allowed to Federal Parties in Canada. Only individuals may donate, and there is an annual donation limit.

    Rick Lebitschnig

    October 3, 2017 at 2:00 pm

  2. I did not know that! Thank you for posting that comment.

    Stephen Rees

    October 3, 2017 at 3:03 pm

  3. I’m not an expert, but I’ll try to answer some of your questions.

    A National Transit Strategy has been part of the NDP platform for years. So, no controversy there. Jagmeet is also an avid cyclist and pushing for a National Cycling Strategy, which the NDP has championed in the past as well.

    The party members decide on official policy, but the election platform is decided by the leader. This article explains the difference:

    Most transit jobs in Canada are unionized. The drivers are part of unions and the people making buses at New Flyer in Winnipeg are all unionized. So transit has always been a good fit for the NDP. It appeals to the environmentalists and the union members. Harder issues are when unions and environmentalists disagree – like oilsands pipelines or the Site C dam.


    October 4, 2017 at 6:50 am

  4. Jagmeet Singh, chief “dipper,” may one day hold the balance of power. I expect to see some voters swing back to the NDP or possibly the Greens in Metro Vancouver simply because Kinder Morgan may well be on its way by the next election. Some of the swingers will have to weigh their options, though, because another Conservative government could result from vote splitting. After all, a million of them voted strategically to defeat a true tyrant last time and settled for Trudeau, who will be doing some political math next time about losing seats and cabinet ministers in BC and Alberta simply because of his decision to approve KM.

    KM is now in court fighting against indigenous people who have a constitutional right to adequate consultation. They could lose on the basis that these rights do not amount to a veto (a favourite argument by Alberta), and given KM’s obnoxious arrogance, the flames could be fanned after a favourable KM court win so that a significant electoral backlash may befall the Liberals and Conservatives should the NDP and Greens make significant gains in the Metro and Van Isle over putting our coast at risk for another province’s gain. On the other hand, Trudeau and his local MPs may breathe a sigh of relief if First Nations succeed in killing KM because that would remove an inconvenient political problem. Still, a good percentage of the Liberal vote cannot be put into the bank next time.

    Singh could do worse than to work out a strategy where co-operation with the Greens in BC is sought and one where they would back a Liberal national government under agreement on certain policies, like a national transit plan or killing an unneeded pipeline that only exacerbates the problem of perpetually weak economics from low value-added raw resource exports, not to mention climate change.

    Ignoring the politics for a moment and focusing on policy may be helpful. Given our long, long history of underpopulation and our hewers-of-wood mentality, urbanizing the suburbs catalyzed by electric rail-based transit, supplying grants to retrofit housing and commercial-off-retail buildings for much greater energy efficiency, and modestly increasing the annual rate of immigration has the potential to create a larger domestic economy that will supply the wealth to pay for transit and more equitably assist an ageing population, to increase per capita living standards, and decrease per capita emissions. The car-dependent suburbs filled with low density, inefficient detached houses and single-use zoning are two of the biggest sources of emissions in Canada. The third is coal-fired power. Only the latter is being dealt with to a large measure at present.

    In this light Jagmeet Singh and the NDP and Greens need to be taken more seriously. Canada’s future is not in natural resources in the hinterlands, it’s about developing powerful urban economies based on innovation, technology, knowledge, diversity and urban efficacy in our four largest city-exurbs.

    Alex Botta

    October 4, 2017 at 12:18 pm

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