It was a sea of orange as federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh's campaign bus rolled into a Barrie plaza this afternoon, much to the delight of a few dozen cheering, placard-holding supporters.
"This is awesome and the movement is building," Singh said moments after stepping off the bus. "Your energy and your passion, this is what it's all about. All of you I think would agree with me that for too long, governments in Ottawa, whether they be Liberal or whether they be Conservative, they've made life easier for the rich and harder for everyone else.
"But we are going to change that," added the 40-year-old party leader, to thunderous applause.
Singh touched on many issues that are critical in the region, including the opioid crisis and health-care.
With the opioid crisis across Canada, "thousands of people are losing their lives," Singh said. "Everyone's got stories. It is a crisis. If thousands of people were dying because of an illness that came to Canada, there would be an immediate response.
"We've got to stop this and our current approach is not working," Singh added. "On Day 1 of a New Democratic government, we would declare a public health emergency, providing the funding to front-line health-care providers immediately."
Singh said using the justice system to tackle opioid use doesn't work.
"People who are dealing with addiction, poverty or mental health and who are dying don't need to be put in jail," he added. "They need to be put in rehab."
The NDP leader says the federal government needs to have policies directly linked to the goals they are trying to achieve.
"Our current response is actually continuing the problem, so we've got to change it," said Singh, adding an NDP government would provide more resources, such as supervised injection sites, to front-line workers.
Singh also recalled a story from his personal life where his father was going through "horrible" addiction.
"We were lucky that we were able to find a bed that was available at a rehab centre," he said. "Many families aren't lucky. Many people try to find a bed and they can't find a spot. That should never be the case. In our country, if someone needs rehab, they should be able to get it."
Singh touched on several health-related topics, which are a common concern for Canadians of all ages.
"Think about the costs in your life. Dental care costs a lot, medication costs a lot. I believe if we come together and we invest in programs that help each other out, we can build a better world," he said.
Currently in Ottawa, "they seem to make decisions that only help people at the top," Singh said. "They don't help out you and your family. We see here in Ontario with Mr. Ford, they cut the services that you need. That's what Conservatives do. The Liberals, they talk a nice game, but do they actually make your life better? They end up breaking promises and not really delivering the care that your family needs, because they're working for the very rich and the very powerful.
"I don't work for them. I work for you and I'm in it for you," he added.
Singh said dental care is also something on the minds of voters during this election.
"We've got a really bold plan," he said. "It may be something the insurance companies are not going to like, but the people are going to like. We know that there's 4.3 million Canadians that don't have coverage. Our plan would immediately cover those 4.3 million people."
Singh said the NDP could implement its dental plan within 100 days of taking office and "it would be life-changing."
For the local NDP candidates —Barrie-Innisfil's Pekka Reinio and Dan Janssen in Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte — having the leader in the city put wind in their campaign sails.
"It's invigorating to have the leader come, stop by and be in our riding," Janssen said. "It shows that they believe in us and want to see us break through here in Simcoe County."
"The turnout is amazing," Janssen added. "To see so many come out to see Jagmeet join us here in Barrie means a lot, not only to myself and Pekka, but to all of the supporters that are behind us and the NDP."
Reinio said he couldn't agree more.
"People feel like he's a very positive campaigner, trustworthy and he's energizing," Reinio said in the parking lot outside his Little Avenue campaign office, where Singh spent more than an hour with local voters Wednesday afternoon. "His energy here is going to get us many more voters.
"We're going to put up a good fight, because it seems this riding is going to be either NDP or Conservative once again, just like we saw in the provincial election," Reinio added. "Hopefully, this will pull some more voters our way, because it's very winnable."
Reinio says he believes the NDP message is what people are looking for.
"In communities like Barrie, Innisfil, Springwater and Oro-Medonte, our priorities are regular people in communities like ours," he said.
On the topic of opioids, Reinio says his party has a plan.
"It's tragic what's happening in Barrie and other small communities throughout Ontario and Canada," he said. "Jagmeet has a plan for that and we're really pleased that he has a plan and he's made it a priority. I'm not sure if the other parties have made it a priority the way we have, but it's something that needs to be addressed."
Janssen said his party's leader has his finger on the pulse of Canadians when it comes to health-care issues.
"Those are important issues to people in our community," Janssen said. "I'm hearing at the doors that dental care does matter. People thay are not lucky enough to have a job that has benefits, they're falling behind when it comes to having a dental issue, or vision care, or mental-health care. It's all part of our head-to-toe health-care plan."
Ridings in Simcoe County have traditionally been Conservative over the years, but Singh says he believes the NDP can make progress here this time.
"We're got great candidates in this area... and that's a big part of it," he said.
The federal election is Oct. 21.