The January 19 nomination of Don Davies in a hall on Victoria Drive was like an NDP revival meeting.
Former Vancouver East MP Libby Davies was there. Former Vancouver Kingsway MP Ian Waddell was also present. So was NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.
As was a host of other high-profile New Democrats, including Burnaby North–Seymour candidate Svend Robinson, Health Minister Adrian Dix, Social Development and Poverty Reduction Minister Shane Simpson, Burnaby-Edmonds MLA Raj Chouhan, and New Westminster–Burnaby MP Peter Julian.
In his introductory remarks at the Meridian Hall, Julian described Davies—the three-term NDP MP for Vancouver Kingsway—as the best constituency politician in the Parliament of Canada.
Julian also praised Davies for being the first MP to raise his voice two years ago against the federal government's inaction "in the appalling carnage" of deaths from opioid overdoses.
"If the federal government had listened to Don when he spoke out, far fewer Canadians would have died in that ongoing crisis," Julian said.
In addition, Julian credited Davies for persuading the Commons health committee to unanimously support the idea of universal single-payer pharmacare in Canada.
The next speaker, Singh, said that Davies keeps on pushing for bold solutions. This not only applies to his advocacy for a national prescription-drug plan, but also in his desire to explore the possibility of a national dental-care program.
"You could ask any health-care expert and they'll tell you: dental health is a fundamental element of your overall health," Singh said. "So why don't we include dental health into our universal health-care system?
"I'm pretty sure Don's not going to be happy with that either... He's going to say we can go further," the NDP leader continued. "So why don't we complete the circle for our health-care system—eye care, mental-health services—all the services that we need and we know should be included in our health-care system? When it [medicare] was envisioned in the '60s, it was actually suggested that it should include all of these things."
Three of Davies constituents—Priyanka Agrawal, Carolina Gonzalo, and Bill Basra—spoke glowingly of his actions on behalf of their communities in his three terms of Parliament. And former MP Libby Davies talked about how New Democrats were fighters when they arrived in Parliament, even if they never receive the respect they deserve from the media.
Don Davies chronicles Liberal sins
The main event was the half-hour speech by Don Davies, in which the former labour lawyer laid out the case for voting NDP in the October 21 federal election and sending more of the party's MPs to Ottawa.
"Last election, the Liberals and their media allies were successful in convincing a lot of Canadians that they would bring progressive government to Canada," Davies said. "After almost a decade of an autocratic, corporatist Harper regime, Canadians were thirsty for a different approach. Because the Conservatives in Canada, as they governed, do not represent who we really are as Canadians—generous, tolerant, cooperative, and decent people."
Then Davies asked rhetorically what Justin Trudeau's Liberals had delivered.
The Vancouver Kingsway MP readily acknowledged that they promised hope and optimism. And he conceded that they did brought in a few positive and cosmetic changes, albeit mostly in tone.
But Davies also emphasized that Trudeau "betrayed electoral reform". And that wasn't the Liberals' only sin in government.
"They copied Harper’s climate targets," Davies stated. "They abandoned childcare after calling our plan, by the way, unambitious.
"They imposed a health accord on the provinces after promising to negotiate with them, like Harper did," he continued. "They delayed housing funding when as our leader Jagmeet Singh just said, we are in crisis.
"They refused to protect pensions, and workers across this country saw companies like Sears go bankrupt," Davies added. "While executives gave themselves millions of dollars in bonuses, pensioners who deferred their salaries all their lives saw that go down the tube.
"They ordered workers back to work, violating the most fundamental charter right in this country, the right to bargain collectively. They approved pipelines. Hell, they even bought one.”
By the point, the audience in the Meridian Hall was applauding loudly. But the NDP health critic wasn't finished.
“They increased fossil-fuel subsidies after claiming they would get rid of them," he said. "They postponed pharmacare. They gave billions of dollars to corporations, as our great finance critic, Peter Julian, has pointed out.
"They kept mandatory minimum sentences, which hurts the poor, the indigent, and our Indigenous youth more than it hurts anybody else," Davies added. "They sold arms to Saudi Arabia—an absolute monarchy, which is one of the most misogynist places on Earth and is responsible for creating famine in a neighbouring country.
"They abused omnibus bills and they cut off debate at a rate that would make Stephen Harper blush with envy. And that, my friends, is just a partial list."
Trudeau accused of governing from the right
By this point, the crowd of New Democrats was eating it up.
"Is anybody really surprised?" Davies asked.
The audience shouted in reply: "Noooooooooo!"
That's when Davies declared: "Because the Liberal Party of Canada has made it a national pastime to signal left and turn right in every election in living memory because that's what they do... They talk like progressives but they govern like Conservatives. Here in Kingsway, some of them even become one."
That last crack elicited tremendous laughter from those who remembered that former Vancouver Kingsway Liberal MP David Emerson crossed the floor to the Conservatives immediately after Stephen Harper was sworn in as prime minister in 2006.
Davies then elaborated on this point by reading from the Liberals' 1997 platform document.
It promised "a fiscal framework for the implementation of universal public coverage for medically necessary prescription drugs". This included a "national plan and timetable".
"Now in that time, they had nine years after that—two majority governments and one minority government—and they never did it!" Davies remarked. "So, when we say that Liberals signal left and govern right—when they promise progressive Canadians that they’re going to act progressively—this isn’t just rhetoric. This is the reality in this country.
"And it’s time we sent a message that Canadians are no longer going to put up with this kind of political hypocrisy and betrayal.”
In fact, Davies claimed that Liberals have a "far worse" effect on the Canadian body politic than Conservative because of their campaign tactics. According to him, that's because at least the Conservatives tell the truth about what they're going to do if they win power, even if the public doesn't like what it's hearing.
The Liberals, on the other hand, are more "corrosive", he claimed.
"It actually is more than just a betrayal of the specific promise," Davies said. "It tells Canadians that their votes don’t matter and our democracy is not working. And that’s what the Liberals do in this country."
This is why Davies told his supporters that Canadians cannot give the Liberals a blank cheque in the October election because they can't be trusted with another majority government.
MP raises prospect of a Liberal minority
Davies pointed out that during the Lester B. Pearson–led Liberal minority governments of the 1960s, New Democrats were able to make a huge difference.
"It was NDP MPs in Parliament who are responsible for bringing this country medicare, employment insurance, old age security, the Canada Pension Plan," Davies insisted. "Even our Canadian flag was a product of a Liberal minority government supported by NDP MPs.
"These are the kinds of programs that happen when the Liberals are held accountable and they need NDP MPs in Parliament, right beside them," he added. "Now, of course, we want an NDP majority government. And as Jack Layton said, do not let them tell you it can’t be done because it can be done and it will be done.
"But if we’re not going to have an NDP majority government, then let's have lots of NDP MPs there with enough votes in Parliament to actually force a government to bring in the kinds of programs that we know are so necessary for Canadians."
Among those is a national home-building program.
Davies called the housing situation a "national disgrace" not only in Vancouver Kingsway but in cities and towns across Canada.
“I’m told that after World War II, with returning veteran Canadian veterans, Canada built 300,000 units of housing in 36 months," the Vancouver Kingsway MP said. "Now we have the biggest housing crisis, I think, in Canadian history right now. We should be building 500,000 units of social housing in the next five years. We did it before. We can do it again.”
He also said it was a "national disgrace" that 20 percent of Canadians can't get the medicine they need when they need it.
He maintained that a national pharmacare program would save $4 billion per year and cover everyone if it was part of the single-payer health-care system.
But he told the audience that Finance Bill Morneau assured the Economic Club of Canada that this wasn't coming forward in this term.
"You need NDP MPs there to hold their feet to the fire to make this reality, just like we did for medicare," Davies said.
Then he moved to oral health care. He noted that six million Canadians did not go to the dentist last year because they couldn't afford the cost.
"You know what they say: we cover you from the tonsils back. And yet, oral health is as much a part of anybody's health as any part of your body. And it's time that we addressed that, as [former NDP leader] Tommy Douglas envisioned.
"It's time that we do the hard work to start exploring adding dental care to our universal public health-care system as well—and NDP MPs will fight for that."
In addition, he called for progressive policy changes to address addiction. Then he closed with some comments on the environment.
Davies pointed out that despite the risk of catastrophic climate change, the Liberal government has purchased the Trans Mountain pipeline system and wants to triple the export of diluted bitumen through Burrard Inlet.
He made the case that there's a great deal of money to be made in transitioning to a sustainable economy.
"Climate leaders, as Justin Trudeau claims to be, do not buy pipelines," Davies stated.
The event ended in wild applause as Davies was surrounded by his admirers, including Svend Robinson and Peter Julian.