FOR JAGMEET SINGH, A BYELECTION BID WITHOUT A NET
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.”
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.