Singh-led NDP bet­ter for Lib­er­als, worse for Tories

St. Thomas Times-Journal - - COMMENT - JIM WAR­REN Jim War­ren is a Lib­eral strate­gist who has worked for for­mer On­tario Pre­mier Dal­ton McGuinty and for­mer Toronto Mayor Mel Last­man

What if Jag­meet Singh loses his by­elec­tion? That’s the next big ques­tion fac­ing fed­eral po­lit­i­cal strate­gists from all par­ties if Singh loses the Burn­aby South by­elec­tion slated for 2019. Can he sur­vive as party leader? Will he still run in the fall gen­eral elec­tion?

A Singh-led NDP is a very dif­fer­ent op­po­nent for Justin Trudeau and the Lib­er­als in Que­bec than one with­out him. Singh likely will bring the NDP down in Que­bec enough that the Lib­er­als pick up new seats in the prov­ince.

A Singh-led NDP also is a very dif­fer­ent op­po­nent for An­drew Scheer and the Con­ser­va­tives in On­tario, as Singh sim­i­larly drags the NDP down in On­tario and cre­ates vote splits that make the Lib­er­als com­pet­i­tive with Con­ser­va­tives in rid­ings they might oth­er­wise lose.

The game plan to de­feat Jag­meet Singh is very dif­fer­ent than beat­ing, say, Char­lie An­gus or any other in­terim leader. This is true for both the Con­ser­va­tives and the Lib­er­als and they don’t know with cer­tainty that Singh is go­ing to sur­vive.

It raises many ques­tions about how the po­lit­i­cal par­ties can plan their strate­gies in ad­vance for 2019.

Since be­ing elected NDP leader in Oc­to­ber 2017, Singh largely has gone un­no­ticed and the po­lit­i­cal for­tunes of the fed­eral NDP party have floun­dered. The once, ris­ing su­per­star of the On­tario NDP, where he was an MPP, was ex­pected to be a me­dia dar­ling and bring the NDP to na­tional promi­nence.

Young, dash­ing and well-spo­ken, Singh was the­o­ret­i­cally go­ing to ap­peal to those Justin Trudeau sup­port­ers the NDP needed to win back to have a shot at form­ing gov­ern­ment or the of­fi­cial op­po­si­tion.

In­stead Singh has been the Alexan­dre Daigle of Cana­dian pol­i­tics. He was sup­posed to bring the NDP into the main­stream but in­stead he has iso­lated them.

Singh spends more time on­line re­view­ing ve­gan restau­rants in Burn­aby than do­ing what it takes to be a na­tional party leader. He tries to be cool and a hip­ster and this does not play well within his cau­cus.

The date of the by­elec­tion hasn’t been an­nounced but it must be be­fore March 18, 2019.

Burn­aby South is a tra­di­tional NDP seat. But is not a safe seat and Singh has not been polling well.

By­elec­tions by their very na­ture are un­pre­dictable. Wil­liam Mackenzie King was Canada’s long­est serv­ing Prime Min­is­ter and ar­guably most suc­cess­ful PM.

King ran for elec­tion to the House of Com­mons of Canada 16 times, in 10 gen­eral elec­tions and six by­elec­tions. He won 12 times and lost four times.

Toronto Mayor John Tory was re­cently re-elected but be­fore be­com­ing mayor he lost cam­paigns to be pre­mier as well as mayor.

So los­ing an elec­tion can lead to long-term po­lit­i­cal suc­cess. But I don’t be­lieve with the dis­ap­point­ment of Singh’s lead­er­ship to date that he can sur­vive a by­elec­tion loss.

When the by­elec­tion will be called and what re­sources Trudeau and the fed­eral Lib­er­als put into con­test­ing it, will demon­strate to what de­gree Trudeau and his back­room want a fight with Singh ver­sus a party led by some­one else.

An­drew Scheer and the Con­ser­va­tives are go­ing to lose some votes to Maxime Bernier and his new party. He needs Singh to right the NDP ship to en­sure healthy Lib­eral-NDP vote splits in On­tario to be com­pet­i­tive na­tion­ally.

The re­sults of the Burn­aby South by­elec­tion will have na­tional im­pli­ca­tions and could de­cide who the next prime min­is­ter of Canada will be.

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