Federal New Democrat leader Jagmeet Singh speaks to delegates on the final day of the B.C. NDP convention at the Victoria Conference Centre in Victoria, B.C., on Sunday, November 19, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has lost touch with the struggles of Canadians, while Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre only pretends to care about regular people, federal New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh said Sunday.

Singh took political swings at his two leadership counterparts during a speech to more than 700 delegates attending the British Columbia NDP convention.

Poilievre’s public concern about affordability issues is an “act,” and Trudeau doesn’t understand what Canadians are going through with high living costs, he said.

“I have seen Trudeau’s government up close,” said Singh, whose New Democrats are in a confidence and supply agreement with the Liberal minority government.

“I shouldn’t be mean, but one of our MPs has described working with the Liberals like wrestling eels that are soaked in oil,” he said.

The Liberals spend much of their time trying to get away from issues rather than meeting them head on, Singh said.

“Trudeau’s out of touch Liberals, they delay and disappoint,” he said. “The reason is Trudeau doesn’t get what people are going through. He only acts when he is forced to, or when his political future is on the line.”

Poilievre, meanwhile, says he wants to help ordinary Canadians facing affordability challenges, but Conservatives are known for imposing cuts on public services, Singh told the provincial delegates in Victoria.

“With Pierre Poilievre, it is all an act,” he said. “He would make life so much harder for people. He claims to care about working people, but you never see Pierre Poilievre taking on rich CEOs.”

Singh said his New Democrats are pushing the Liberal government to bring in a dental care coverage program for all Canadians this year and will continue fighting for a universal Pharmacare program to cover prescription costs for everyone.

“I can promise you we will keep on fighting until the end to get the best results we can for people while we have this position of power in this minority government.”

But it’s not a “fun fight,” Singh added.

“We’ve got a fight against establishment Liberals and corporate Conservatives every day.”

B.C. New Democrats were at the convention this weekend debating policy and mapping strategy ahead of next year’s provincial election.

Premier David Eby told delegates on Saturday that his NDP government will focus on building more affordable homes and fighting climate change.

The government’s efforts to meet environmental goals will involve keeping a provincial carbon pricing program, Eby said, despite promises by the Opposition BC United to drop B.C.’s carbon tax if the federal Conservatives form government.

Later on Sunday, delegates overwhelmingly endorsed an emergency resolution titled “Saving Lives in Gaza and Israel,” which says the B.C. NDP will call on the federal government to back an immediate ceasefire in the conflict gripping the Middle East.

It says the party also calls for the immediate release of all hostages taken by Hamas militants on Oct. 7 during a series of attacks that killed an estimated 1,200 Israelis.

Israel immediately declared war on Hamas, began an airstrike campaign and cut off food, water and supplies to Gaza, which is home to 2.3 million Palestinians.

The territory’s health officials have said more than 11,500 people have been killed so far, two-thirds of them women and children, and another 2,700 people are reported missing.

The B.C. NDP resolution calls on Ottawa to advocate for urgent access for humanitarian aid in Gaza, and on both the federal and provincial governments to welcome displaced refugees from the region.

The party will “stand in solidarity with all Israelis and Palestinians who want to live free of fear, oppression, and violence,” the resolution says.

“I’m asking you … to reach out with love to transform our perspective not only in B.C., around Canada and around the world, to lead our cry on behalf of people against injustice,” said Mable Elmore, the B.C. NDP’s parliamentary secretary for anti-racism initiatives, who spoke in favour of the resolution.

New Westminster Coun. Jamie McEvoy, who also supported it, said people are being asked to take sides on the issue.

“We are on the humanitarian side,” he said. “As social democrats we bring the hope.”

Outside the convention hall, about 100 protesters were shouting “Free Palestine,” with some lying silent on the ground covered in white sheets stained with red.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 19, 2023.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2023. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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