FOR JAG­MEET SINGH, A BY­ELEC­TION BID WITHOUT A NET

StarMetro Edmonton - - BIG OPINIONS - Tim Harper

There is of­ten a pen­chant among Cana­dian politi­cians and pun­dits to over-an­a­lyze by­elec­tion re­sults and search too hard for tip­ping points or tec­tonic shifts that may be merely mi­rage.

But this time, it can­not be over­stated. The po­lit­i­cal fu­ture of Jag­meet Singh and the fore­see­able for­tunes of his fed­eral NDP now sit with vot­ers in the Van­cou­ver-area rid­ing of Burn­aby South.

No fed­eral leader in mod­ern his­tory has ever lost a by­elec­tion bid to gain en­try into the House of Com­mons. He can­not af­ford to be­come the first.

Singh, af­ter 10 months in the wilder­ness as fed­eral NDP leader, search­ing for the prover­bial safe NDP seat like Dio­genes search­ing for an hon­est man, has staked his fu­ture on a rid­ing his party won by a mere 547 votes in 2015.

In re­cent his­tory, Singh is the third fed­eral NDP leader to rise to the party’s pin­na­cle without ben­e­fit of a seat in the Com­mons. Both Alexa Mc­Donough and Jack Lay­ton re­sisted pres­sure to ask for a cau­cus mem­ber to give up a seat or seek a by­elec­tion path, and both waited un­til the next gen­eral elec­tion, win­ning at home. Mc­Donough waited 19 months; Lay­ton, 16 months.

Singh no longer has that lux­ury with a fed­eral vote still 14 months off. With lit­tle pres­ence in Ottawa, he has fallen into a po­lit­i­cal black hole and dragged his party with him.

In Oc­to­ber of last year, he in­her­ited a dispir­ited NDP with a man­date to lead it back to rel­e­vance af­ter a 2015 elec­tion de­ba­cle. He was to in­ject much-needed en­ergy into a party that had left far too much lame-duck rope for its de­posed leader, Tom Mul­cair.

In­stead, the fed­eral NDP has faded from the na­tional con­ver­sa­tion, the party’s fi­nances are pre­car­i­ous and the leader is work­ing without a salary.

Singh will run in a rid­ing va­cated by Kennedy Ste­wart, who is run­ning for mayor of Van­cou­ver.

Be­sides Ste­wart, David Christo­pher­son, the five-term MP from Hamil­ton Cen­tre, will not run again. That would have been a much safer NDP seat closer to home for Singh, but Christo­pher­son has cho­sen to fin­ish his term.

Hélène Laverdière, the party’s for­eign af­fairs critic, will not run again.

“HE HAS FALLEN INTO A PO­LIT­I­CAL BLACK HOLE AND DRAGGED HIS PARTY WITH HIM.”

DAR­RYL DYCK/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

The po­lit­i­cal fu­ture of Jag­meet Singh and the fore­see­able for­tunes of his fed­eral NDP now sit with vot­ers in the Van­cou­ver-area rid­ing of Burn­aby South.

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