OTTAWA — NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Tuesday a formal pact to prop up the minority Liberal government — including a coalition — is not on the table.
But he said he is "open to discussions" about closer co-operation with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to make Parliament work.
In his strongest indication yet that his party is prepared to work more closely with Trudeau to push through NDP priorities, Singh said: "We are open and there is not a closure on their part."
He said the "ball is kind of in their court" if the government wants to work together on policies on the NDP's agenda, including action to make housing more affordable.
Asked if he was pursuing a formal agreement to support Trudeau's government for a period of time in exchange for progress on NDP priorities, Singh replied that he was not seeking such a deal nor does he "inherently" want one.
However, he added: "What I want is to make sure people get help and if there is an agreement to get people the help they need I am open to hearing the government out on that."
Singh stressed that a coalition — a more concrete alliance that would see NDP members sit in cabinet — is firmly not in the cards.
"There is no discussion of a coalition and that is a firm 'no' from me. There is not going to be any coalition at all," he said. "But I am prepared to find ways to work together. … I want to make sure this Parliament works for people."
He said in postelection discussions with Trudeau he set out NDP priorities including action on climate change, affordable housing and extending paid sick leave.
Singh added he wants to see an immediate bill to extend paid sick leave and the NDP would support that legislation.
He emphasized his party would continue to oppose legislation that it did not agree with, warning Trudeau not to take his support "for granted."
The Liberals would have to go to the Conservatives for support if they wanted to bring in laws such as tax breaks for the super rich, he said.
He also called on the prime minister to immediately halt an appeal to a court decision awarding compensation to Indigenous children.
The government has described it as a "protective" appeal while it launches talks with the parties on reaching a settlement out of court.
In the last Parliament, the NDP supported the Liberal minority government on an ad hoc basis, backing laws it agreed with but not others. Singh said he would be prepared to continue this arrangement.
He did not rule out a form of closer co-operation this time, including a confidence-and-supply agreement whereby a smaller party agrees to support the government in votes on the budget and confidence motions, usually in return for concessions.
"There is no agreement. There has been no specific offer made, but what I did do is lay out the things I am concerned about … and I want to see some action on that," Singh said.
"To achieve those things we are willing to hear the government out on ways we can make these things happen. But our goal is to make sure life is better for people."
He accused Erin O'Toole of "making stuff up" for suggesting that a Liberal-NDP coalition was in the works.
The Conservative leader claimed Monday that such a coalition would mean billions in new spending to "buy" Singh's silence. The NDP leader said a coalition has not been discussed and O'Toole's characterization of him is "patently false."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 9, 2021.
Marie Woolf, The Canadian Press