NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh elected in Burnaby South – CityNews

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh elected in Burnaby South - CityNews
Singh fails to capitalize on late-campaign momentum as NDP loses seats
Singh, formerly deputy leader of Ontarios provincial NDP, was elected to Burnaby South this year in a byelection

As election night came to a close, the party's caucus had shrunk to roughly 24 seats, according to CBC's projections, leaving it finishing behind the Bloc Québécois.

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"These results are disappointing. There's no doubt about that. We had higher hopes," said Robin MacLachlan, a vice-president at Summa Strategies and NDP strategist.

"There are some candidates that seem to want to use this as an opportunity to bash other candidates versus actually talk about what they are going to do," said Yvonne Dresen. "It seems a little bit American politics – too much so, for me."

"The way I look at it is this: when we started the campaign everybody was writing the NDP's obituary and talking about how the NDP wouldn't be able to hold on to official party status. Had that happened, the Liberal Party would have a majority right now. Instead it's a minority and I think many Canadians are probably relieved at that."

Singh used his election night speech to add a positive spin to the results, promising to use the NDP's new position as the balance of power to fight for the party's core beliefs.

"If the other parties work with us, we have an incredible opportunity to make the lives of all Canadians so much better. We even have an opportunity to to change the way we do politics in this country," Singh said at a rally in Burnaby as the crowd chanted "Jagmeet" and "tax the rich."

Opinion: This photo of Burnabys Jagmeet Singh says a lot

Singh and the NDP rode a late-campaign bump in the polls, but that momentum failed to turn into actual seats. 

Voters who spoke to CTV News Vancouver on Sunday said they were disappointed by the party leaders perceived focus on warning voters about what other parties would do rather than laying out their own plans for Canada.

The night started off on a positive note for New Democrats, with Jack Harris retaking his seat in St. John's East, but the party's fortunes soured as the Quebec results trickled in.

Jagmeet Singh widening his lead in Burnaby South

The NDP appears to have lost most of its 14 Quebec seats to the Bloc, with Alexandre Boulerice being the exception in Rosemont-La-Petite-Patrie.

Several party loyalists told me that there were two turning points in the campaign. The first was his emotional response to the news that Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau had masqueraded in blackface. When confronted with racism in the past, Singh admitted he’d fought back with his fists. But at this stage in his life, Singh said he was concerned about all the kids for whom it brought back memories of being hurt, hit, insulted or made to feel less.

While Singh likely will fend off questions in the coming days about his future as leader, even before the results were made official he sent a message to party supporters emphasizing the need for teamwork in the days to come.

The Liberals need help to govern. How much they need and what they’re willing to do for it will have to wait until the seat count is finalized. Meantime, Singh will bide his time. He’s already talked to B.C. Premier John Horgan about his successful minority government and its agreement with its Green Party partners. But Singh won’t say if that’s what he wants. But Singh likes minority governments.

MacLachlan said questions about the viability of Singh's leadership were answered part way through the campaign.

It wasn’t until the campaign began that Canadians got to see who Singh is and see themselves reflected back. Among the most memorable moments was when he responded kindly to the polite face of Canadian racism — the grandfatherly Quebecer who confided to Singh that he’d do a lot better if he’d just cut his turban off.

Video: Jagmeet Singh aims to be Canadas first minority Prime Minister

"From his very constructive, measured reaction to the blackface incident with Justin Trudeau, how he managed to work with a less than ideal budget, but still managed to have viral moments throughout the campaign. He won every single debate he participated in. This is an investment for a long time," he said.

“Without making it personal, they didn’t seem to be having fun,” Singh said. “And if you’re not having fun, it either means that you don’t believe in what you’re doing or what you’re saying. You don’t think you have something worthwhile for people …

"The fact that he gets to work in a minority Parliament after his first election is a really important test for him."

Despite the seat losses, the NDP does appear to be in a position to extend its influence by propping up a Liberal minority government.

Singh took a risk in the final half of the campaign, positioning himself as a federal kingmaker if no party could secure a majority.

On Day 30 of the 40-day campaign, Singh began to lay down some of the conditions a Liberal government would need to meet in exchange for NDP support.

Liberal candidate Neelam Brar was a newcomer to the race. She has lived in Burnaby South for more than 20 years and claimed to have a long track record as an entrepreneur and a community leader.

Singh has said any negotiation would have to cover his six "urgent priorities," which are essentially a condensed version of the NDP's platform:

Singh first won the seat in February in a byelection held to replace Kennedy Stewart, the former NDP MP who vacated the seat after a successful run to become Vancouver's mayor.

A commitment to reduce carbon emissions, to end subsidies for oil companies and to deliver aid to oilpatch workers to transition them out of fossil fuel industries.

Jagmeet Singh will be watching results come in at a hotel in Burnaby, where hundreds have gathered to support the NDP

While the party has an interest in crafting policy, the NDP has another reason for not wanting to trigger an election soon — a financial one.

According to the party's annual financial return, which Elections Canada posted the week before the campaign started, the NDP finished last year with assets worth $4.7 million and liabilities totalling $9.2 million, leaving the party with a $4.5 million negative balance.

During the campaign, Singh — the first visible minority person to lead a major Canadian federal party — was challenged on Quebec's secularism law, which would prevent public employees from wearing religious symbols (such as Singh's turban) on the job. 

Video: Was it smart a move for Singh to bring up coalition talks?

He even faced a challenge from Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau about what the federal government should do about the law, which is still referred to as Bill 21.

Video: Was it smart a move for Singh to bring up coalition talks?

Singh said while he wouldn't challenge Quebec's religious symbols law in court, he hoped his presence in the province could change Quebecers' minds about wearing religious symbols.

Issues of race and culture delivered one of the more memorable moments of the campaign, when a man approached Singh during a whistle stop in a Montreal market in early October and urged him to "cut off" his turban to "look like a Canadian."

Video: Singh watches federal election results come in

"Oh, I think Canadians look like all sorts of people," Singh replied. "That's the beauty of Canada."

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