Jagmeet Singh stakes NDP leadership on Burnaby South byelection

Risky bid: The NDP narrowly won the riding in 2015

Jagmeet Singh often starts conversations with Burnaby South residents by asking a question: “I want to take on the government in Ottawa. What do you need me to do?”

Singh has lacked a voice in Parliament since he became NDP leader in the fall of 2017. The former Ontario legislator finally has a shot in a B.C. byelection, but it’s a risky bet with his political future at stake.

The New Democrats narrowly won the riding by about 550 votes in 2015, and experts say while recent Liberal turmoil has helped Singh, there’s still a month before the vote on Feb. 25. He had a rocky first year as leader, they add, and losing a byelection would likely end his tenure.

Singh, 40, said he’s not thinking about what would happen if he loses.

“I’m not worried about my own political future. I’m worried about the future of this country,” he said in an interview. “I’m confident that if we continue to hit doors and work hard like we are, and we’re working so hard, that we will win here. We’ll do very well.”

The leader has faced criticism for weak fundraising, low support in the polls and his handling of harassment allegations against a caucus member. Singh said the past “number of years” have been difficult for the NDP, but he’s seen an upswing.

“We’ve seen some positive movement in our donations. But more importantly, I’m focused in on the fact that people are feeling let down, and their sense of resentment at the options they have,” he said, referring to the Liberals and Conservatives.

READ MORE: Liberals reject Karen Wang’s hope for ‘second chance’ in byelection vs. Singh

Nathan Cullen, the NDP MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley, said struggles are normal for a new federal leader and he has seen improvements in Singh, including a deeper understanding of national files.

There is risk involved in the byelection, but Singh’s chances are “very good,” Cullen said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau put “maximum pressure” on the New Democrats by delaying calling the byelection for several months after Kennedy Stewart stepped down to become Vancouver’s mayor, said Gerald Baier, a political science professor at the University of British Columbia.

“If Singh did lose the byelection and you’re asking those kinds of questions about his leadership, they really don’t have a lot of time to pick a new leader to go into a fall election,” Baier said.

The strategy suggests the Liberals still see their path to winning the next election as making sure they can draw support from the centre-left that might otherwise go to the New Democrats, Baier said, adding the NDP’s “internal dissension” gives the Liberals ammunition.

Laura Kane, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

A campaign encourages families to put down their phones and talk this Mother’s Day

OpenTable’s #DiningMode gets Okanagan restaurants on board with a no phone policy while dining

Okanagan experience for the Blue Man Group

The world tour of the Blue Man Group came to Penticton this week for two shows.

Olympian Andi Naude retires from freestyle skiing

Penticton native skied in 62 World Cup single and dual moguls events in her career

Federal funding helps women at risk safely leave sex trade

The SAFE eXiting from the Sex Trade program in South Okanagan helps women

Syrup commercially produced from Summerland maple trees

Maple Roch produces 50 bottles of syrup after trees in the community were tapped

VIDEO: Driver in bizarre hit-and-run at B.C. car dealership turns herself in

Police believe alcohol was a factor in incident causing estimated $15,000 in damages

‘B.C. cannot wait for action’: Top doctor urges province to decriminalize illicit drugs

Dr. Bonnie Henry says current approach in ‘war on drugs’ has criminalized and stigmatized drug users

B.C. woman, 76, challenges alcohol-screening laws after failing to give breath sample

Norma McLeod was unable to provide a sample because of her medical conditions

New report on 2017 wildfires calls for better coordination with B.C. First Nations

Tsilhqot’in National Government documents 2017 disaster and lists 33 calls to action

Okanagan experience for the Blue Man Group

The world tour of the Blue Man Group came to Penticton this week for two shows.

B.C. youth coach banned amid sexual harassment, bullying scandal: Water Polo Canada

Justin Mitchell can’t take part in Water Polo Canada events or clubs

Wilson-Raybould: Feds want to just ‘manage the problem’ of Indigenous Peoples

Former federal justice minister speaks at First Nations Justice Council meeting in B.C.

Okanagan College names new fundraising director

Helen Jackman will join the college as executive director of the Okanagan College Foundation and director of advancement

Most Read