Singh turns whispering campaign into a powerful talking point
NDP leadership hopeful said he is committed to building nation-to-nation relationship
New Democrats have a decision to make about social democracy.
As they begin voting Monday for their next federal leader, will they have the “love and courage” to choose a mixed martial arts fighter from Brampton — a politician who relies on jujitsu sloganeering instead of slagging his opponents?
Or are they too leery of what Jagmeet Singh represents — wary of what the electorate at large will think — to embrace him as an upgraded, updated, unconventional social democrat?
In the home-stretch, Singh has finally emerged as the favourite to finish first — if only New Democrats would stop second-guessing themselves about his suitability, electability and winnability.
Coming out on top hasn’t come easily for the rookie candidate who so handily out-hustled, out-muscled, out-moneyed and outshone his federal rivals in the public eye. The final vote — staggered over the next few weeks — will say as much about the state of the party as it does the country.
Is an aging political movement with an outdated fealty to ideology ready to change with the times by embracing a new generation of social democratic fighter?
Singh doesn’t just look different. He sounds different.
Never mind that he would be first party leader to wear a turban — attire he couldn’t even wear to work in Quebec if that province enacts its notorious legislation barring public servants from wearing religious symbols.
Indigenous communities must have a veto over energy projects proposed on their territory for Canada to push forward reconciliation, NDP leadership candidate Jagmeet Singh says.
“If it is truly a nation-to-nation relationship, then we can’t have projects on the land of another nation without that nation’s consent,” Singh told the Star’s editorial board during a wide-ranging interview Friday.
Energy projects, such as pipelines, would be considered, said Singh, the current MPP for Bramalea-Gore-Malton, if two other conditions are also met: if the project complies with the party’s climate change targets and if it creates local opportunities and jobs as opposed to strictly exporting material.
Singh opposes all the currently proposed pipeline projects, including Kinder Morgan, Energy East and Keystone XL.
“It’s pretty fundamental; there re- ally isn’t any way around that. It’s a fundamental and real step to reconciliation.”
Singh said his progressive platform and personal charisma, fused with traditional NDP values and his own unique experiences fighting for workers’ rights and racial justice on a provincial level, will inspire people to get involved in politics, join the party and vote NDP.
“We made a case that I was going to grow the party and inspire people, and our team did exactly that,” Singh said. “I ran to win, and we are running a campaign to win. And so my only plan is I’ll be the federal leader, and I’ll be running in a federal seat.”
Along with previous NDP promises for national pharmacare and universal daycare, he is advocating for higher taxes on wealthy Canadians, the decriminalization of petty drug possession, a basic income for seniors and Canadians with disabilities, ending unpaid internships, federally imposing a $15 minimum wage, as well as a number of policies geared toward LGBTQ rights.
The leadership candidate said the NDP’s downfall during the 2015 federal election was the result of a miss-
“There is no question that we need to have power to influence change, but that power can never come at the cost of principles.” JAGMEET SINGH ON THE NDP’S FALL IN THE 2015 FEDERAL ELECTION
ing emotional connection between the campaign and Canadians, as well as a lack of authenticity and a promise to balance the budget, which is traditionally associated with the promotion of cuts and austerity.
“There is no question that we need to have power to influence change, but that power can never come at the cost of principles,” Singh said. “There is absolutely a way to pursue both your principles and the pursuit of power.”
Along with looking at intergenerational wealth, Singh promised to make the wealthy pay more taxes and to support the most vulnerable Canadians, including seniors living in poverty, the working poor and people living with disabilities.
Singh said that his team has signed up the most members than any other candidate in Quebec.
“We are going to reach out to people who never considered voting for NDP before and we will inspire them to vote for us,” he said. “We are going to grow in Quebec.”
With a platform focusing on “love and courage,” Singh, 38, received international attention for his composed and calm response to an angry heckler shouting racist remarks at him during a celebration with longtime supporters in Brampton last week.
On Friday, he told the Star’s editorial board that his response to the heckler may have been misconstrued by the public.
Responding with calm and love, he said, is one of the many courageous ways to respond to racism and bigotry, adding that those who had stood in the heckler’s way and others who called out the racism directly were also important responses. “Love and courage means many things. I chose one way, but it’s not the only way,” he said.