Singh: First-past-the-post en­ables ‘fringe’ can­di­dates like Doug Ford

The Daily Press (Timmins) - - COMMUNITY LISTINGS - Laura Kane

SUR­REY , B.C. — Fed­eral NDP Leader Jag­meet Singh took aim at con­ser­va­tive politi­cians Wed­nes­day while lam­bast­ing Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau for aban­don­ing a cam­paign prom­ise to bring in elec­toral re­form.

Singh told his cau­cus dur­ing a re­treat in Sur­rey, B.C., that Trudeau’s ex­pla­na­tion for dis­avow­ing the prom­ise was that he was wor­ried a new elec­toral sys­tem might fa­cil­i­tate the rise of far-right, fringe par­ties.

“First-past-the-post didn’t stop Doug Ford from com­ing into power in On­tario,” Singh said, to laughs and ap­plause from NDP mem­bers of Par­lia­ment.

“It didn’t stop him from us­ing the notwith­stand­ing clause to con­tinue a petty vendetta against the City of Toronto, to ab­ro­gate our char­ter rights to con­tinue this vendetta.”

Ford in­voked the rarely used clause on Wed­nes­day to over­rule a court de­ci­sion and re­duce the size of Toronto’s city coun­cil from 47 coun­cil­lors to 25. Pro­test­ers and most of the Op­po­si­tion were ejected from a chaotic leg­is­la­ture as Ford rein­tro­duced the coun­cil-cut­ting bill.

Singh, a for­mer NDP mem­ber of On­tario’s leg­is­la­ture, also noted first-past-the-post didn’t stop Con­ser­va­tive Leader An­drew Scheer from ap­point­ing a for­mer Rebel Me­dia news di­rec­tor as his cam­paign head.

Con­ser­va­tive Party spokesman Cory Hann con­firmed Hamish Mar­shall will be the party’s cam­paign man­ager but didn’t have an im­me­di­ate state­ment on Singh’s com­ments.

The cur­rent elec­toral sys­tem also didn’t stop Que­bec MP Maxime Bernier from launch­ing an “an­ti­im­mi­grant” po­lit­i­cal party, Singh added.

Bernier left the Con­ser­va­tives to start his own party last month af­ter butting heads with Scheer over sup­ply man­age­ment and mak­ing head­lines with con­tro­ver­sial tweets about im­mi­gra­tion and di­ver­sity.

When an elec­toral sys­tem al­lows the views of a mi­nor­ity to win out over the ma­jor­ity, it doesn’t stop fringe politi­cians, it en­cour­ages them, Singh said.

“That’s why we’ve got to stop it. We’ve got to bring in elec­toral re­form to bring power and voice to peo­ple.”

The cau­cus re­treat has ar­rived at a chal­leng­ing time in Singh’s year-old lead­er­ship as he faces crit­i­cism from party loy­al­ists about his ef­fec­tive­ness and weak fundrais­ing.

He has an­nounced he will run for a seat in Par­lia­ment in Burn­aby South, a rid­ing held by New Demo­crat MP Kennedy Ste­wart who is cam­paign­ing to be­come Van­cou­ver’s next mayor.

Sev­eral cau­cus mem­bers de­fended Singh on Wed­nes­day when re­porters ques­tioned how well-known he was in the rid­ing, and whether the party has fallen be­hind un­der his lead­er­ship.

“Ob­vi­ously, we have a lot of hard work to do,” said NDP House Leader Ruth Ellen Brosseau, adding Singh has vis­ited her rid­ing in ru­ral Que­bec three times and he’s well­liked there.

“He’s work­ing re­ally, re­ally hard. The fundrais­ing, ob­vi­ously, the num­bers weren’t as we would have hoped. But in an elec­tion year ... I’m very con­fi­dent we’re go­ing to be do­ing a lot bet­ter.”

The leader could im­prove upon “un­der­stand­ing and bring­ing for­ward con­cerns of ev­ery­day, real Cana­di­ans,” Brosseau said, and raise those is­sues in the House of Com­mons while of­fer­ing con­crete so­lu­tions.

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