Federal NDP will soon be debt-free and ready to build up war chests

OTTAWA – The federal New Democrats believe they will soon be able to pay off their 2021 election debt, but will wait for year-end fundraising totals before marking the occasion.

The exact amount of money raised during the latest 2023 fundraising blitz will be clear at the end of the month, when the totals must be reported to Elections Canada, NDP leader Anne McGrath said Monday.

The party has less than $1 million left on a $22 million election loan as of 2021, and recent fundraising efforts should allow it to pay off the debt in the coming months, McGrath said.

Once this is done, he said the party will begin creating a war chest for the next federal election, which must be held sometime before October 20, 2025.

“It’s usually a great time when we finally pay off election debt and can finally start accumulating funds for the next campaign,” McGrath said.

“We have been investing in the preparation of the elections and we have been paying the debt.”

The NDP’s confidence and supply agreement to keep the minority Liberal government afloat runs until June 2025. An election could come sooner if that agreement falls apart.

If that were to happen, the New Democrats would be prepared to field a full slate of candidates, more than 30 of whom have already been nominated, McGrath said.

In fact, preparations are already underway, with nomination meetings and surveys underway to determine what trends might be emerging, he added.

The federal NDP will soon be debt-free and able to accumulate war funds. #NDP #cdnpoli

But McGrath said he doesn’t expect a vote before 2025.

“There is still a lot of work to do, especially with our supply and confidence agreement with the Liberals,” he said.

“My hope is that we can get more done before there is an election.”

That to-do list includes drafting and agreeing with the Liberals on a framework for a new pharmaceutical care program, which is due to be tabled in the House of Commons in March.

McGrath said she is “pretty confident” a deal will be reached, even though the NDP rejected a first draft in the fall. Leader Jagmeet Singh has said his party would only accept legislation that lays the groundwork for a universal, single-payer pharmaceutical care program.

“I think there is good will on both sides and a desire to reach an agreement,” McGrath said.

“I’m concerned about the influence of some of the major pharmaceutical companies. We’ve seen the kind of influence they’ve had. But at the same time, I think there’s a desire in the public for us to strengthen our health care system and protect it.”

The New Democrats have vowed to abandon their deal with the Liberals if a pharmaceutical deal fails. But instead of forcing an election, they would decide vote by vote whether or not to support the government.

The Liberals are 12 seats away from a majority in the House of Commons, meaning they need the support of at least a dozen opposition MPs to pass laws and survive confidence votes.

New Democrats, who have long campaigned for universal access to prescription drugs to be part of the public health care system, believe pharmaceutical care is an issue that separates them from liberals.

The Liberals campaigned on a promise to implement a national pharmaceutical care program in the 2019 election, but made no such promise when they returned to the polls in 2021.

New Democrats hope to make health care a priority for voters in the upcoming election, citing a similar strategy in Manitoba that helped propel Wab Kinew to the premier’s office last fall.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 8, 2024.

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