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Editorial: NDP must use chance for change

The NDP are in danger of becoming a one-trick pony in the North, if the recent visit by its leader Jagmeet Singh is any indication.

When Singh visited Iqaluit earlier this month he had an opportunity to talk about some of the many issues that Nunavummiut face and what will be done, but he chose to talk about climate change.

Climate change is certainly a major issue we are all facing today and those effects are amplified in the North, but climate change is a global issue that Canada must tackle as a whole.

It is an issue Nunavummiut care about, despite the fact that "fewer than 10 people showed up" to hear him speak (Nunavut News, Dec. 16 edition, NDP leader Singh wants 'bolder' legislation to tackle climate change).

It is all fine that Singh came to Iqaluit, met residents and had good photo opportunity donning orange seal skin parkas, but this could have been a chance for Singh to address issues he has tremendous power to effect.

Presumably he has the reigning Liberals' attention on climate change. They need the NDP's 24 seats – including Nunavut's recently elected MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq – to hold onto power, being that last October's federal election produced a minority government.
But why stop at climate change action?

What Nunavut needs more than anything, right now, is action on housing, food security, health care and any number of issues that tend to affect Nunavummiut more severely than other Canadians.

He and his party are perfectly positioned to hold Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's feet to the fire being as it is that the NDP holds the balance of power in the House of Commons.

If he is focused on these pressing needs for Nunavummiut, he certainly did not capitalize on the opportunity to talk about it while visiting the territory's capital.

Singh did mention how his proposed climate change legislation would pave the way for the "retro-fit economy" by providing good jobs and reducing the cost of living through the creation of more energy-efficient homes.

This is positive, but much more would have to be done in terms of education and training to be able to prepare workers for this potential future, not to mention dealing with over-crowding, heavy arrears, black mould and a general lack of proper housing. How does he propose building "energy efficient" homes when there's not enough of them as it is?

And how will his climate change legislation affect the mining industry, which has steadily been gearing up in Nunavut for years and providing a lot of opportunity for Nunavummiut?

The fact that many Nunavummiut are enduring third-world conditions within Canada's borders is appalling. He should be shouting that to the rafters in Parliament.

Right now people are dying of RSV, tuberculosis and whooping cough – illnesses largely absent elsewhere in Canada. They endure water boiling advisories, a suicide crisis and a laundry list of other complications.

Qaqqaq recently addressed a lot of these issues while speaking in the House of Commons and asked, "when will the government step up," but will the NDP step up themselves and leverage their power in this minority government and address long outstanding issues in Nunavut?

If so, Singh should be speaking loudly and clearly because Nunavummiut will be listening.