The freshly minted leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party, Jagmeet Singh, is still a central focus national news. His victory is popularizing the NDP and has the party aiming to reclaim the territory lost in the last election. The 38-year-old, soft-spoken, lawyer’s, rise could mean serious changes in the Canadian political landscape, but while the leader finds his footing the Tories will reap the benefits.
Since the loss of Jack Layton, Singh is the first candidate to offer the party a chance of federal success.
Success, but not a victory.
Prepare for Singh in the opposition chair and another federal Conservative majority.
His most recent campaign victory came as no surprise. He commanded a strong lead in the polls before receiving a windfall of positive media coverage in the wake of a deft handling of a confrontational – and confused – heckler.
Since then, his strong stance on the environment, drug-reform and savvy social media presence has held the attention of Canadians. The dapper Newfoundlander is offering a progressive alternative for voters.
Trudeau’s Liberals were swept into power, promising reform but have consistently failed to deliver. Singh however comes backed by the credibility of the long struggling NDP.
In 2011, Quebec and Ontario showed how shaky support for Liberals had become. For the first time since the formation of the dominion of Canada, the Grits did not form the government or the official opposition. Quebec could easily go Orange again. Since Jack Layton’s NDP, made history when it pushed the Liberals into third place. They would lose most of these gains in 2015 under the weight of the Liberal steamroller.
During this election, Trudeau was, in rhetoric, far more to the left than Mulcair. While the last two years have shown this to be blatantly false, it does show that there is support for more socialism in Ottawa.
The NDP has been playing a long game, that has finally begun to pay off. It is not unreasonable to think that within the decade they could form a government. The reality is that unless longtime Liberals, and the wildcard of Quebec, can be converted, the next federal leadership will be under the blue banner of the Progressive Conservatives.
Quebec is problematically secular in its policies. Ultimately this is the battlefield that Singh will have to make the most gains on. His recent appointment of Quebec MP, Guy Caron, to the position of parliamentary leader, is the first step in the right direction.
Without the support of the francophones, the only hope for anything other than a PC government, is the resurrection of the boogie man in Canadian politics, a coalition.
Coalition governments are not uncommon elsewhere in the world but here in Canada, they have been neither lasting or popular.
In 2008, the NDP and Liberals made a concerted effort to topple Harper’s government. The parties agreed to a coalition, under the control of, then Liberal leader, Stéphane Dion. The Bloc Québécois offered to contribute their voice to the confidence vote. This action would have succeeded in forming the government, had Harper not convinced the Governor General to a very brief prorogation of parliament.
The new Liberal leader, Michael Ignatieff, dissolved the agreement after obtaining budget concessions from the Conservatives and the move was not well received by voters and critics alike. Many were uncomfortable with the alliance of the separatist Bloc, even though they were never actually a part of the coalition.
To form a coalition now would be equally disastrous for the NDP, even if it spared Canada another term of PC control. The Liberals would never agree to unite under Singh, and working under Trudeau would diminish the momentum he has been building.
The move that would easily and quickly disaffect new NDP voters and while alienating long-term supporters who have regularly endured years of losses while building the party to its current state.
Even though Singh is still a relative newcomer to politics, he must make his brand synonymous with his party. He cannot be a blank canvas for senior party members to paint with, but a personality that will steer policy.
Opposition leader would be the best position for the new upstart to find himself. After defeating the Liberals, Singh could score further political capital fighting against Conservatives. If he can maintain momentum during this period it could open the floodgates of potential support from both young and traditionally Liberal voters.
Political dynasties change like Canadian seasons, slowly at first, then all at once.