Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh. (Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS)

EDITORIAL: Federal NDP challenges evident on Kootenay campaign trip

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh tours the Kootenays in support of local MPs, proportional representation

It’s hard to ignore the feeling Jagmeet Singh was set up to fail.

The federal New Democrat leader was campaigning in the Kootenays this week as new poll numbers put him a distant third in popularity behind Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer.

The lack of a coherent party apparatus behind Singh is still evident. It’s at once disarming and alarming. There are none of the usual secretarial sit-ins on his interviews, no audio recorders on the table but mine.

That may be down to lacklustre fundraising, the leader’s lack of a seat in the House of Commons, or a simple trick of geography: The Kootenays are, after all, a happy long way from anywhere.

But the NDP leader doesn’t wear his poll numbers alone. And there’s precious little he can do about them for now, outside of showing up to party fundraisers and sniping at the Liberal government from the media sidelines.

Former NDP leader Thomas Mulcair carried the party to the edge of power in 2015 — the closest the New Dems have come to forming government — largely on the back of his predecessor Jack Layton’s groundwork, and his own strong performances in Parliament. For his troubles, Mulcair was turfed out in a leadership review less than six months later.

Singh, of course, remains without a seat in the House and without a date to earn one. The former Ontario MPP will run in a byelection in Burnaby South to fill the vacancy left by outgoing MP and new Vancouver mayor, Kennedy Stewart. But the Liberal government could call the byelection as late as March 2019, giving a victorious Singh scarcely a dozen weeks of scheduled parliamentary sessions in which to try to score points on his opponents across the floor.

“We’re quite surprised that the federal government chose to play politics with this and not call the byelections altogether,” Singh told Black Press Media on Saturday. “It is troubling that the government doesn’t believe that 300,000 Canadians have the right to representation.”

Singh was touring the Southeast Interior in support of Kootenay MPs Wayne Stetski and Richard Cannings, both of whom won narrow victories in 2015. But the leader was also here to vouch for B.C.’s divisive electoral reform initiative.

Singh has long been a supporter of proportional representation, and he renewed his vow to take pro rep national via referendum, if elected PM next year. “It would be a priority,” Singh said. “I would make it happen as soon as I can — as soon as possible.”

Never mind that public engagement with the pro rep project has so far been limp, with just 21 per cent of B.C. voters weighing in at last count Monday. For a ballot initiative ostensibly designed to make every vote count, an electoral overhaul decided by the better half of just one in five British Columbians doesn’t give Singh pause.

“There was an opportunity for everyone to engage and there weren’t barriers, per se,” Singh said. “If there were significant barriers to mass participation that could be raised, then I’d say there were problems with the decision.”

With just over a week to go before the mail-in referendum closes, one of the largest piles of discarded ballots in the province is likely to litter the NDP reformer-in-chief’s Burnaby riding, where just six per cent of votes had been cast by Nov. 20.

Welcome to B.C. and its politics, Mr. Singh.



todd.coyne@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Public meeting Wednesday to discuss Cottonwood Lake logging

Concerned citizens have invited experts and politicians

Allison Girvan named Nelson’s 2019 cultural ambassador

Singer, performer, director, choral arranger has distinguished herself nationally

Free shuttle running at Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital

Parking and main access have been ongoing challenges since KBRH construction began in October

Snowfall warning issued for Kootenay passes

Up to 35 cm of snow expected Monday night and Tuesday.

Business Buzz: The Buzz is Back in Nelson

Bob Hall is a volunteer director on the Nelson District Chamber of Commerce. His column appears in the Nelson Star once a month.

VIDEO: Ex-NASA engineer pranks mail thieves with glitter bomb trap

Package thefts are common this time of year, but YouTuber Mark Rober used his engineering skills

FortisBC says you can return to normal gas use following pipeline fire

Utility says increased pipeline capacity, warmer weather have allowed supply to reach normal levels

CSIS collected info on peaceful groups, but only in pursuit of threats: watchdog

Security Intelligence Review Committee says fears unjustified after reviewing evidence, testimony

Canada ranks 16th on annual gender gap list

This is the second year Canada has placed 16th in the World Economic Forum’s list

VIDEO: Tornado rips through city west of Seattle

Reports indicate five to seven homes damaged in Port Orchard, Wash.

Trial date postponed for man charged with killing Abbotsford police officer

Oscar Arfmann’s trial pushed back from January to May 2019

Privacy watchdog says legal cannabis buyers should use cash, not credit

Some countries could bar entry to individuals if they know they have purchased cannabis

‘A start:’ Alberta critical of Ottawa’s $1.6B package for ailing energy sector

A further $150 million is to be used for clean growth and infrastructure projects

New B.C. Lions coach DeVone Claybrooks adds eight to coaching staff

DeVone Claybrooks has filled out his staff for the 2019 season

Most Read