Jagmeet Singh’s NDP circling the drain seven weeks from the election, polls show
Photos by Mansoor Tanweer/Book cover Simon & Schuster

Jagmeet Singh’s NDP circling the drain seven weeks from the election, polls show

It appears the young, social media–savvy former MPP for Bramalea-Gore-Malton, Jagmeet Singh, and his federal New Democrats are just not resonating with the public in this election season. While nationally the polls suggest a toss-up between the Liberals and the Conservatives, it’s as though the NDP — a party that has held official opposition status federally, forms the current Opposition in Ontario and has repeatedly held the reins of power in several provinces — is not even in the race.

With the election writ finally dropping this week, on or before September 15 (the deadline), the NDP are in rough shape immediately ahead of the start of the official campaign sprint to the October 21 vote. They did release their official election slogan last week, "In it for you". But numbers are not looking good for an orange surge.

Polling data aggregator 338Canada, as of the time of publishing, predicts the NDP will take 13.7 percent of the vote. That is a distant third compared to the Grits, who are expected to take 33.7 percent, and the Tories, which could take 34 percent. Seat projections make for some depressing reading for diehard New Democrat supporters. Roughly 15 seats are predicted to be coloured orange come Oct. 21, meaning the party will lose more than half its current count of 39. The Bloc Québécois are nipping at Singh’s heels with 14 projected seats.

Despite feel-good messaging that conventional wisdom says would be popular among Canadians — such as promises of national pharmacare, a living wage guarantee and an emphasis on environmentalism — Singh and his colleagues face a difficult task of turning around the party’s fortunes in seven weeks. 

Macleans, which used 338Canada in its reporting, is contending that the party is on the verge of collapse. More than half of the national ridings are still lacking NDP candidates. Only 171 have been named out of 338 ridings, Peel ridings among them. The vacant ballot positions include all of the Mississauga ridings except one; Mississauga-Malton is being contested by Nikki Clark. Singh promised Wednesday that the party would name more than 100 candidates in just a few days. But, as of Saturday, September 7, only three additional candidates had been named. 

NDP spokesperson Alana Cahill assures The Pointer, “we have two candidates nominated already (for Mississauga) and others are in the vetting process. We expect to have them nominated soon.” However, the party’s national website does not say who that second candidate is. Requests for clarification from Cahill have not been answered. 

In Brampton, the slate has been filled now, but the party was slow to name its candidates. Leader Jagmeet Singh, who did not even have his own seat of Burnaby South until February, was running in that byelection while the other parties were probably in the planning stages of their federal campaigns. 

“The NDP's process of democratic nominations takes more time than other parties, who have appointed candidates without a local nomination meeting,” Cahill said in her emailed response to The Pointer. She downplayed the party’s slow process, saying, “the only poll we’re concerned about is the one on election day.”

Yet for the ridings that do have orange candidates, the odds are not looking good. Of all the seats the NDP hopes to go for, polls suggest they stand a chance of winning 17, and eight of those are deemed to be toss-ups. The riding of Vancouver East is their only safe fortress of support, with another eight likely or leaning toward the NDP.

The lack of support has hit the party in the wallet as well. In August 2018, the party took out a $12-million mortgage against the Jack Layton Building in Ottawa, its headquarters. The move was in response to a need to balance the books due to dwindling membership and donations.

All five of the Brampton ridings are likely to remain red. In all except one riding, Brampton East with Saranjit Singh as its candidate, the NDP places third. They are, for all intents and purposes, tied with the Conservatives for second in Brampton East. The party is running with single-digit poll numbers in four out of the six ridings in Mississauga.    

The NDP appears to have peaked nationally in 2012, a year after becoming the official opposition to Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper. The Liberals had been decimated in the 2011 election. Despite the red wave that followed in 2015, significant pockets of orange remained across the nation. But since Singh was elected leader in October 2017, his party has not been able to rise to the level of popularity it achieved under Jack Layton and Tom Mulcair. This despite great name recognition and online viral appeal that preceded Singh’s rise to the leadership. 

His book, Love and Courage, describes in detail the September 2017 night at Professor’s Lake Recreation Centre in Brampton when a heckler accused him of being “in bed with sharia.” Singh’s stoic response, to drown out the heckler by getting the audience to repeat the words “love and courage,” garnered him much praise in international media, and the video of the confrontation went viral. At the time, he was still running for leader. His popularity peaked around that time, and he has not seen such numbers again. 

Indications of internal strife are beginning to come to light. It was reported earlier this week, apparently incorrectly, that 14 “disgruntled” New Brunswick NDP candidates had defected to the federal Green Party. Jonathan Richardson, a member of the party executive, told media that “the NDP no longer has a path to any winnable seats in New Brunswick. Thus I will be resigning my seat on the federal executive of the NDP and my membership to the party and I’ll be joining the Green Party of Canada.” 

Since then, it has come to light that some of the claims of defection may not be true. “A letter circulated by the Green Party of Canada falsely reported former provincial New Brunswick NDP candidates leaving the NDP and joining the Green Party,” read a party statement provided by Cahill.

In it, Jean-Maurice Landry, Hailey Duffy, Madison Duffy and Betty Weir affirmed their support for Singh and said they are “disappointed that our names were added to this letter without our consent.”

The incident sparked a war of words between Singh and Green Leader Elizabeth May. Singh accused the Greens of spreading misinformation, and May accused Singh of using strong-arm tactics to rein in some of the candidates. 

The party’s election machine appears to be in a shambles at the moment. Singh, who cut his political teeth in Brampton, has an uphill battle ahead of him if he hopes to maintain official party status, something he is precariously close to losing. 


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Twitter: @mansoortanweer

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