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

How much does your city spend per person on snow removal?

Black Press Media compares 2018 ice and snow removal budgets of various Lower Mainland communities

Stock trading allegations dismissed against former Langley spiritual leader

Investors allegedly lost $740,000 investing through a local religious organization.

Langley photographer captures otters amid the ice

While photographing winter on the river, a local photographer was there when otters caught a fish.

B.C. BUDGET: Surplus $374 million after bailouts of BC Hydro, ICBC

Growth projected stronger in 2020, Finance Minister Carole James says

Young curlers compete in Langley

Optimist Junior Curling Division features U18 players

VIDEO: 8 things you need to know about the 2019 B.C. budget

Surplus of $247 million with spending on children, affordability and infrastructure

‘Bullet missed me by an inch’: Man recounts friend’s killing at Kamloops hotel

Penticton man witnessed Summerland resident Rex Gill’s murder in Kamloops

B.C. BUDGET: Income assistance raise still leaves many below poverty line

$50 per month increase included in funding for poverty and homelessness reduction

B.C. BUDGET: Indigenous communities promised billions from gambling

Extended family caregiver pay up 75 per cent to keep kids with relatives

B.C. BUDGET: New benefit increases family tax credits up to 96 per cent

BC Child Opportunity Benefit part of province’s efforts to reduce child poverty

B.C. BUDGET: Carbon tax boosts low-income credits, electric vehicle subsidies

Homeowners can get up to $14,000 for heating, insulation upgrades

B.C. man survives heart attack thanks to Facebook

A Princeton man suffered a heart attack while at an isolated property with no cell service

Abbotsford man sues Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party over trademark

Satinder Dhillon filed application for trademark same day Maxime Bernier announced the new party

New trial ordered over banning whales, dolphins at Vancouver aquarium

Park board’s appeal reverses previous decision that found it had no right to implement a ban

Most Read