Jagmeet Singh and the newest new NDP - Macleans.ca

Jagmeet Singh and the newest new NDP

Paul Wells: The NDP was born from the hope that things can change and in Jagmeet Singh it has picked the young, optimistic outsider

Jagmeet Singh, centre right, sits with his mother Harmeet Kaur, centre left, father Jagtaran Singh, left, and campaign manager Michal Hay, right, as it's announced he has won the first ballot in the NDP leadership race to be elected the leader of the federal New Democrats in Toronto on Sunday, October 1, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Jagmeet Singh, centre right, sits with his mother Harmeet Kaur, centre left, father Jagtaran Singh, left, and campaign manager Michal Hay, right, as it’s announced he has won the first ballot in the NDP leadership race to be elected the leader of the federal New Democrats in Toronto on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Suspense is overrated anyway. Jagmeet Singh’s first-ballot thumping of his opponents in the NDP leadership contest makes big history: in the 150th anniversary year of Confederation, a major political party has finally broken the country’s uninterrupted string of white faces at the head of national parties. The scale of Singh’s victory makes him, at least for several months to come, the uncontested and comfortable leader of his party, in contrast to the 12 consecutive ballots in the Conservative race that had Andrew Scheer in second place before Scheer finally eked out a win. And Singh’s victory completes the inversion of the youth-vs.-experience argument that dominated the 2015 election campaign.

A bit about that last part first. In December 2013 I ran into Justin Trudeau at an Ottawa movie theatre. He was taking the kids to see Frozen, but he paused to talk shop at the concession stand. He was pleased with the news that Stephen Harper had handpicked a former communications director, Dimitri Soudas, to be the Conservative Party’s executive director. It was a sign Harper would stick around until the 2015 election. Trudeau liked the contrast: “I need ‘old,’ ” he said.

Well, now he has it: Born on Christmas Day 1971, in Singh and Scheer he’ll face two children of 1979 in the next election, along with whoever will then be leading the Green Party (one suspects it’ll be the same person who always does). Trudeau cannot run 2019 as a repeat of 2015. The erstwhile avatar of youth, change, optimism, style and an ecstatic embrace of diversity is now outbid on most of those attributes by Singh. As for the last element of his 2015 appeal, a tendency to smirk when his elders lectured him on arithmetic, that’s not wearing well either.

RELATED: Five key takeaways from Jagmeet Singh’s NDP leadership speech

It’s no mystery why some of the happiest spectators to the Singh upset were Conservatives. Conservatives lose when the Liberals capture most of the left-of-centre vote. (They would lose if the NDP did the same, but with the partial exception of 2011, it’s never happened.) Justin Trudeau picked up more NDP support in 2015 than Conservative support, and everything he does suggests he’s been planning to crowd the NDP on his way to re-election.

WATCH: Jagmeet Singh speaks about victory

That path is now—well, not definitively blocked, but complicated. Liberals I talk to aren’t terrified of Singh, but they don’t write him off either. Every knock against Singh for youth or inexperience is one that would have applied to Justin Trudeau, not long ago. The two even share a strength: conspicuous organizational muscle. Even though he wasn’t a candidate, Singh was billed as the guarantor of federal NDP strength in the Brampton region in the early days of the 2015 election. That didn’t pan out. Navdeep Bains and several of his young protégés swept all those ridings. All hands are well aware their rematch will be one of the central dramas of the next election, and the way Singh just swept the leadership suggests he has been working on his chops.

The NDP more broadly has had a weird couple of years. The party cashiered Tom Mulcair on the floor of its Edmonton convention last year, and voted to “study” the Leap manifesto, a decision to which it devoted no perceptible follow-through. The party’s lone Quebec leadership candidate, Guy Caron, was endorsed by a former leader, Alexa McDonough, and by Jack Layton’s best strategist, Brian Topp; for all that, Caron came a distant fourth in a four-candidate field. One Quebec MP has already threatened to quit the caucus if Singh became leader, and there’s conspicuous nervousness over the prospects of a Singh-led NDP in a province where it’s common to debate religious headgear. Singh is clearly eager for the test and confident of his chances. Probably it’ll be healthier for the NDP to confront these stereotypes than to try to mollify them.

One final quirk of this swiftly aging, ever-New Democratic Party. It is becoming remarkable how often the party reaches outside its parliamentary caucus for renewed leadership. Tommy Douglas was still in Saskatchewan provincial politics when the he became leader of the newly-christened NDP in 1962. Audrey McLaughlin had been an MP for barely two years when she became the party’s leader in 1989. Alexa McDonough was not an MP when she won. Nor was Jack Layton. Tom Mulcair had more parliamentary experience, on the day he became leader, than his three most recent predecessors combined. The experience, like that of Caron, Charlie Angus and Niki Ashton, seems to have disappointed New Democrats more than it impressed them.

The NDP was born from the hope that things can change, not at the edges but fundamentally and in a rush, and whenever it has been tested it has fallen back on that hope. The party knew Jagmeet Singh less well than any of the candidates he beat, but it is used to leaps of faith. One day one will pay off.



Jagmeet Singh and the newest new NDP

  1. The big question, which is the elephant in the room, not only will Quebec, not except a PM of this country wearing any religious symbol, but will the rest of the country except it, but journalists are afraid to talk about it. I would not elect a PM in this country wearing any religious symbols, and don’t of they war a white collar around their neck, or a chain on a cross around their neck. That does not make me a racist, it makes me a non believer in faith and ideologies. l like my church and state separate from one another. Canadians didn’t like Tom Mulcairs beard either, and he never wore it as a religious symbol, he wore it as an angry person.

    • Dude. JT has a sacred religious symbol tattoo’d to his arm.

      • Actually it’s a Haida raven and a globe. He got them at two different ages.

        • I agree. The raven is a sacred object of the Haida. No different than a cross to the Christian or the Kirpan to a Sikh.

          • No, it’s just a raven.

      • I don’t give much credence to tattoos, i have a few of them, got them when i was drunk, sorry for getting them today. That was just a symbol of solidarity with the Haida Gwaii, Trudeau was only becoming a man back then, he needed to show some kind of manly tradition, as a man, and what better why to show your manhood, get a tattoo. It has nothing to do with promoting religion. The NDPs numbers haven’t budged with all the chatter of a new leader coming forward, and i still don’t think the needle will move much higher, NDP rank and file don’t want to leave a door open for the cons to ever govern again, they know what happened when Jack Layton succumbed to Harper back in 2006, they will not succumb to that kind of cleavage again by dividing the left. Singh is also still a ‘Lame Duck’ leader, he can’t even ask Trudeau a question in the HOCs, at least Trudeau and Sheer had a seat before they were elected, they could get right down to work, at day one, this guy Singh has to find a seat.

        • The raven is a sacred object of the Haida. No different than a cross to the Christian or the Kirpan to a Sikh. I don’t think you can pick and choose your religious symbols. That’s the problem the government is running into.

          • Just a raven.

      • I can also say, Trudeau or Sheer, didn’t receive as many love letters from the MSM as Singh has received, even the right wing news papers praised Singh, because they saw Singh as the next coming of the conservative party, just knowing that the NDP are the ace in the hole for them to get back in government. The Cons are just rubbing their hands waiting for ‘Bernie of the North'(Singh)to just rain on the Grits parade.

        • I sure hope you’re right-if the man child and his spending spree don’t end soon, he’ll have dug a financial crater we can’t crawl out of!!

          • IMF says we’re booming so quit with the nonsense

  2. Implementing progressive social and environmental policies will require a robust federal budget which the NDP must champion. A bold program is a recognition that the market will not solve all problems and that a government truly dedicated to public purpose must put its money where its mouth is.

    During the recent financial crisis when big banks and credit card companies experienced liquidity problems, the federal government came to their rescue with a generous $200 billion support program. The same fiscal capacity (which comes from owning a central bank with sovereign currency) could also fund a Just Transition framework that would provide immediate relief as regions moved toward sustainable and environment-friendly jobs. Studies suggest that alternative investments in renewable energy, conservation, public transit and building retrofits (rather than pipelines) would create between 3 and 34 times the number of direct jobs.
    The NDP must sharply differentiate itself from conventional economic policies and boldly go where no party has gone before.


    Modern Monetary Theory in Canada

  3. Nice to see some younger blood at the leadership of the major parties.
    Congrats to Singh! Congrats to Canada!

    • Congratulations, Mr Singh. Now it’s time to leap.

    • All three are younger blood!!

  4. Given his tax policies, Singh sounds like an old time tax-and-spend dipper.
    Guess it was hoping for too much that a Singh government would do the economically sensible and efficient thing and raise additional revenue via a GST hike.

    See: h$$p://www.jagmeetsingh.ca/tax_fairness_agenda

    The proposed introduction of an estate tax is especially unjustifiable as this tax would be on assets that have already been taxed – pure money grab (not that I have to worry about exceeding the $4M threshold). It’s “interesting” that he wants to exempt primary residences, as this would create a battleship size loophole.