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

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

Growth projected stronger in 2020, Finance Minister Carole James says

Renovations will bring changes to George Preston Rec Centre

New facilities and upgraded plumbing are among the projects underway.

Controversial Langley condo developer fights extradition on U.S. fraud charge

Mark Chandler’s lawyer argued before the B.C. Court of Appeal Friday to keep him in Canada.

LETTER: Langley resident wants better snow clearing around transit stops

A transit user writes how difficult it can be to get to and from transit after snowfalls.

Snowfall warning: 5-10 cm expected in Lower Mainland

The snowfall will start Tuesday and carry on into the evening, before tapering off Wednesday

‘Our entire municipality is heartbroken’: Seven children die in Halifax house fire

A man and woman remained in hospital Tuesday afternoon, the man with life-threatening injuries

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

Minister says plans to fight poverty, climate change, focus of B.C. budget

The NDP said in its throne speech last week that affordability will be the hallmark of its initiatives

Most Read