Singh’s a rock star, but will it save the NDP?

Edmonton Sun - - COMMENT - Lor­rie GOLD­STEIN lgo­ld­[email protected]­ @sun­lor­rie

Sud­denly, NDP leader Jag­meet Singh, dis­missed as an also-ran at the start of the elec­tion cam­paign, has be­come its rock star. But will he be able to pre­serve the NDP’S of­fi­cial party sta­tus, mean­ing at least 12 seats?

There’s no ques­tion Singh’s hav­ing a good cam­paign.

He was widely per­ceived as the win­ner of the English lan­guage lead­ers’ de­bate on Mon­day, in­clud­ing a break­out mo­ment in dis­tin­guish­ing the NDP from the Lib­er­als and Con­ser­va­tives, while Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau and Con­ser­va­tive Leader An­drew Scheer were ar­gu­ing over car­bon taxes and cli­mate change.

“I want to say this di­rectly to Cana­di­ans. You do not have to choose be­tween Mr. De­lay and Mr. Deny. There is an­other op­tion” Singh quipped, to laugh­ter from the au­di­ence.

On the night Trudeau’s black­face scan­dal broke, Singh said what the prime min­is­ter should have said to Cana­di­ans, in­stead of mak­ing his apol­ogy all about him­self.

In an emo­tional video, Singh struck the per­fect chord by reach­ing out to Cana­di­ans, es­pe­cially the chil­dren of vis­i­ble mi­nori­ties. “The kids that see this im­age, the peo­ple who see this im­age, are go­ing to think about all the times in their life that they were made fun of, that they were hurt, that they were hit, that they were in­sulted, that they were made to feel less be­cause of who they are,” Singh said. “I want you to know that you have value, you have worth, you are loved. And I don’t want you to give up on Canada and please don’t give up on your­selves.”

When a passerby in Que­bec, where Singh’s reli­gion is a con­tro­ver­sial is­sue, told him he should re­move his tur­ban to look more Cana­dian, Singh re­sponded po­litely but firmly: “Oh, I think Cana­di­ans look like all sorts of peo­ple, that’s the beauty of Canada … I don’t agree sir, this is Canada, you can do what you like.”

It was a gen­uine teach­ing mo­ment, Singh de­fus­ing the sit­u­a­tion so ef­fec­tively that his ques­tioner, as he walked away, told the NDP leader: “Al­right, take care, I hope you win.”

Not long ago Singh couldn’t buy me­dia at­ten­tion and a lot of it was bad.

It in­cluded crit­i­cism soon af­ter he be­came NDP leader that he wasn’t suf­fi­ciently crit­i­cal of Sikh ex­trem­ism; that the for­mer On­tario NDP MPP was un­pre­pared to lead the fed­eral party; that he waited too long to get a seat in Par­lia­ment; that he was lead­ing a de­mor­al­ized cau­cus into obliv­ion.

Now Singh’s on The So­cial jok­ing with its en­thralled hosts about his In­sta­gram DM re­la­tion­ship with Ri­hanna and how his fash­ion-de­signer wife of 20 months, Gurki­ran Kaur Sidhu, screamed into the phone “Riri is fol­low­ing you!” hi­lar­i­ously pro­claim­ing it, “the best day of my life … bet­ter than our wed­ding day.”

Singh’s clearly re­placed Trudeau of the 2015 elec­tion cam­paign as the coolest leader of the 2019 cam­paign. But a good de­bate per­for­mance and even a good cam­paign, doesn’t al­ways re­ward the leader with good re­sults.

Nik Nanos’ three-day rolling poll, which in­cludes re­sults up to Tues­day, pegs NDP sup­port at 13.4%, ac­tu­ally down from 16.6% at the start of the cam­paign.

That’s dan­ger­ously low for a party that has been on a pre­cip­i­tous de­cline ever since the 2011 elec­tion, when the late Jack Lay­ton vaulted the NDP to of­fi­cial op­po­si­tion sta­tus.

We’ll soon know whether Singh — run­ning on a tra­di­tional NDP tax-and-spend plat­form — can turn his party’s for­tunes around by Oct. 21.

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