As part of our ongoing effort to bring important information about how the 2019 Canadian Election will impact charities and nonprofits, Imagine Canada secured an interview with New Democrat Party (NDP) Leader Jagmeet Singh.
We posed a series of questions based on our policy priorities (which can be found here on our Charities’ Election Hub) to Mr. Singh in an email Q&A this week. Below are his answers.
Q: Mr. Singh, how would you describe your relationship with charity work in Canada?
Singh: I have a long and storied history with non-profits and the charitable sector. In fact, I studied law so I could support community organizations fighting poverty, keep tuition affordable, and advocate for equal access to justice for marginalized communities. I carry the lessons learned from those days into my politics now, and look forward to maintaining and building a stronger relationship with the nonprofit and charitable sector in Canada
Q: What does your party believe is the greatest challenge for charities and nonprofits in Canada today?
Singh: We believe the greatest challenge for charities and nonprofits in Canada is the accessibility to funding grants and resource streams. Outdated charity laws and a failure of communications have impaired the sector’s ability to modernize, which is causing an increasing gap in the level of service that the sector can provide.
Q: Canada has a looming social deficit - the growing gap between the demand for services provided by charities and the ability of society to pay for them. How does the NDP's vision of Canada include ensuring a healthy operating environment so that families have access to much-needed services in the future?
Singh: New Democrats recognize that there is a growing gap between available services and the ability to pay for them, and we believe that the federal government has a much bigger role to play in ensuring that gap is closed. In the long-term, we believe that we can lift individuals and families out of poverty by making investments to end homelessness, supporting the creation of social housing, making prescription medicine free, and improving access to mental health and addiction support.
We believe we can help support the front-line workers in these areas by offering these supports to the people who rely on the services charities provide. We also believe that the federal government can help Canadian charities by modernizing charity law and regulations.
Q: How can charitable sector leaders and frontline workers share their stories and concerns with NDP candidates this election?
Singh: New Democrat candidates are running in all 338 electoral districts across Canada. All of our candidates are holding public events, have accessible offices, and attend local candidates’ debates. I would encourage members of the charitable sector to reach out to their local candidates and engage in the electoral process – all of our candidates have open doors and are ready to listen.
Q: The Senate recently tabled Catalyst for Change, the report of the Special Committee mandated to study the charitable sector. In this document they recommended that a “home” for charities be set up within the federal government to advise federal departments on policy and legislation related to the sector. Does the NDP see a “home in government” for charities as a priority? If so, what form might this take? Do you have any other thoughts about this report?
Singh: New Democrats believe in modernizing Canadian charity law and funding levels in order to continue to support the good work of the charity sector. We are committed to building stronger relationships between the federal government and the charitable sector to ensure that funding levels are appropriate, are used in an effective and charitable way, and public confidence in the charitable sector is enhanced. We will work with stakeholders and organizations in the charitable sector to determine best practices within government to support the sector.
Q: The most pressing concern facing sector organizations these days is around resourcing and funding. In your opinion or platform, what is the government’s role in addressing this issue?
Singh: New Democrats believe that people should be able to receive support when they need it. In government, New Democrats would make significant investments in areas like health care, housing, pharmacare, dental care, mental health, and other essential services that people rely on. Knowing that the charitable sector is currently at the forefront of many of these areas, we believe that the federal government has an important role in advocacy and program delivery, along with making sure charities are properly resourced and funded to do their work.
Q: Were the NDP to form government or hold the balance of power, what is your party’s stance on the Social Innovation Social Finance recommendations, or its vision more broadly for Canada’s social finance strategy?
Singh: New Democrats believe in social innovation and meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals. We strongly believe in making investments in social development that improve housing and medical care, support persons with disabilities, advance reconciliation, and provide opportunities for young people.
Q: What is the NDPs vision for the relationship between government and the non-profit sector?
Singh: The NDP believes having a strong relationship with the nonprofit sector is essential for implementing good policy. We would actively work to maintain our strong relationship with the non-profit sector and make efforts to include its advocacy in consultations on public policy.
Q: Lastly, what area of the NDP's platform has the greatest opportunity for collaboration with the non-profit sector?
Singh: In our New Deal for People, we outline a section of our platform called “Taking Better Care of Each Other.” We believe there is a lot of overlap and common ground between this section and the services that the charity and non-profit sector offers and what the NDP aims to accomplish. We look forward to working with the sector on accomplishing our ambitious goals and making better choices.
Mr. Singh, Imagine Canada thanks you for your time.