Singh improving, but NDP still in trouble

On most Fridays, federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh’s capital gains announcement would have garnered at least modest media traction.

But yesterday was not most Fridays. Not by a long shot.

The publication of Jody Wilson-Raybould’s submission to the justice committee — which included an audio recording of her Dec. 19, 2018 phone call with then Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick — pushed everything else to the side.

Offering wall-to-wall coverage of this latest SNC Lavalin development was a no-brainer for editors and news directors. But it’s still a shame more people didn’t get to hear about the NDP’s tax proposal or see Singh’s speech.

Addressing the Broadbent Institute’s Progress Summit in Ottawa, the newly minted MP described how Canada’s “rigged” taxation system disproportionately benefits the rich and powerful. He promised to crack down on offshore tax evasion, which robs the federal treasury of an estimated $3 billion a year.

Singh said his party would raise the capital gains inclusion rate to 75 per cent from 50 per cent. Workers pay tax on almost all of their employment income, he said. Why should investors get away with paying tax on only half of their investment income?

“Let’s make the wealthiest in this country pay their fair share,” he said.

The NDP says the capital gains tax hike would generate a further $3 billion in revenue. That would help pay for the introduction of universal pharmacare and the construction of new affordable housing units, Singh said. “We need to make sure we have the revenue to do it. This is one of our commitments to make sure we have that.”

After stumbling mightily in his first year as NDP leader, Singh has steadily grown into the role, particularly since his convincing Feb. 25 by-election victory in Burnaby South. He looks increasingly ready for what promises to be a tough, dirty and divisive election campaign.

Despite all this, the NDP’s electoral prospects remain grim.

The party is losing a large number of incumbents and hasn’t made any inroads in the opinion polls. What’s more, the 2019 election seems destined to be a Conservative-Liberal horse race that could see prospective NDP supporters vote for Justin Trudeau to prevent an Andrew Scheer government.

Tea leaves aside, the party and its leader are smart to stake out a more leftist position. Indeed, with Trudeau’s progressive bona fides in tatters, an opportunity may exist to surprise pundits and secure the NDP’s future.

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