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

Horse carriage supporters to rally outside city hall

Owner of carriage company plans rally in response to Coun. Ben Isitt’s motion

UVic science and engineering research gets $18.8 million federal funding boost

Funding for engineering, science, sustainability research

Victoria woman competing for role as Maxim cover model

Winning model gets featured spread in magazine, cash price

Songbirds return to their roost in the West Shore

Tips, such as keeping roaming cats from ruffling any feathers, can attract more birds

VIDEO: Fun without sun: Hundreds enjoy Family Fest on Victoria Day

Families enjoy activities in Veterans Memorial Park

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of May 21

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Were you satisfied with the Game of Thrones series finale?

Millions gathered in front of their televisions Sunday night to watch the… Continue reading

Raptors beat Bucks 120-102 to even series at 2-2

Lowry pours in 25 as Toronto moves within two games of NBA Finals

Body of missing snowmobiler recovered from Great Slave Lake

Police confirm the body is that of one of three missing snowmobilers

Christmas morning burglar sentenced on Vancouver Island

Justin Redmond Feusse, 20, sentenced to 240 days in jail for Dec. 25 break-and-enter

So, do you know ‘Dave from Vancouver Island’?

Ontario man searching for fellow he travelled with in Europe 50 years ago

Toddler seriously injured after falling from Okanagan balcony

RCMP are investigating after a two-year-old boy fell from the balcony of an apartment in Kelowna

Cost jumps 35% for Trans-Canada Highway widening in B.C.

Revelstoke-area stretch first awarded under new union deal

Most Read