A new hope for the NDP
“One issue, which might cause him trouble in this region, is the party’s commitment to the Leap Manifesto, which advocates a swift end to the use of fossil fuels, including a moratorium on new infrastructure projects such as pipelines. It caused a rift last year with the Alberta wing, which Mr. Singh must now try and heal.”
At first blush, the new leader of the federal NDP may seem like a deeply rooted product of Toronto’s vibrant Sikh community with little connection to Atlantic Canada. Jagmeet Singh cut his political teeth in Toronto. It’s where he practiced law, defined his priorities and won election to the Ontario legislature. It all contributed to his impressive first ballot victory over three better-known candidates last weekend.
Actually Mr. Singh has a long association with the Atlantic region. He spent five early years in St. John’s, N.L. where his father attended Memorial University’s medical school. Last summer, Mr. Singh returned to Newfoundland with his brother and a friend to revisit his childhood.
He is a politician of many firsts. He was the first turbanwearing Sikh to sit as a provincial legislator in Ontario, the first to hold a deputy leader position and the first to lead a major federal party in Canada. He is fluent in English, French and Punjabi.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who capitalized on his youth to attract younger voters in 2015, is now the oldest major party leader at age 45. Mr. Singh and new Conservative leader Andrew Scheer are 38.
Mr. Singh’s decisive leadership victory continues the process of breaking down barriers and making Canada a truly more inclusive country. It confirms that Canada welcomes immigrants – Mr. Singh’s parents were born in India – and refugees who want to help build this country into a strong, caring nation.
Mr. Singh espouses a strong, social agenda. He supports electoral reform, universal daycare, national pharmacare and a progressive tax system. He wants to raise the minimum wage, supports measures to mitigate climate change and wants to decriminalize personal possession of all drugs.
One issue, which might cause him trouble in this region, is the party’s commitment to the Leap Manifesto, which advocates a swift end to the use of fossil fuels, including a moratorium on new infrastructure projects such as pipelines. It caused a rift last year with the Alberta wing, which Mr. Singh must now try and heal. He is cool towards contesting a seat before the 2019 election. A national leader will find it difficult outside the rails.
He’s also a pragmatist: “I firmly believe that you have to be in a position of power to influence change . . .” Former NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair tried that approach in 2015. He moved to a moderate, centrist platform to widen the party’s appeal and it backfired. How will Mr. Singh succeed where Mr. Mulcair failed?
There is much in Mr. Singh’s curriculum vitae for Atlantic Canadians to support. His N.L. connection is a good start but there isn’t much time to spare before the fall of 2019. The latest Corporate Research Associates poll last month shows Atlantic Canada firmly behind the Liberals and Mr. Trudeau. The Conservatives and NDP lag far behind.
Mr. Scheer failed to capitalize on his leadership bump from May. Mr. Singh has even bigger odds to overcome.