A new hope for the NDP

The Packet (Clarenville) - - EDITORIAL - Rus­sell Wanger­sky East­ern Pas­sages

“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.

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