Singh puts on brave face one year in as NDP faces existential questions

He was billed as a charismatic, dynamic injection of energy desperately needed by the NDP

One year ago, Jagmeet Singh was being hoisted into the air at a packed Toronto hotel as NDP leadership results rolled in.

The Queen’s Park politician was billed as a charismatic, dynamic injection of energy desperately needed for the federal wing of his party following two years of political losses.

He even took his victory party to a dance floor following his slam-dunk win.

Much has changed over the last 365 days.

This week, Singh conducted interviews from the vacated Centre Block office of the man he replaced — Tom Mulcair — where personal belongings have been stripped, vines hang over a fireplace and ginger candies sit on an unused desk.

Singh might be NDP leader, but he doesn’t have his own office on Parliament Hill yet due to lacking a seat in the House of Commons.

READ MORE: NDP’s Jagmeet Singh set to run in B.C.’s Burnaby South riding after nomination

Nonetheless, the 39-year-old politician isn’t rattled — on the outside, anyway — even if longtime New Democrats have concerns about his leadership, the party’s future, poor morale and slumping fundraising figures.

Singh said he has never chosen “an easy path.”

“Often, I didn’t have a choice,” he said in an interview.

“I’ve obviously faced a lot of challenges, but I’m looking forward to how I can overcome them all.”

One of the party’s central challenges is turning around the amount of money flowing into its coffers, considering it pulled in $4.86 million from 39,053 donors in 2017, a decline from the $5.39 million collected in 2016, and a steep drop from $18.59 million in 2015.

Is he worried about that? Apparently not.

Singh said he knew what he was getting himself into after two years of poor fundraising following the 2015 election, noting he is confident the numbers are heading in the right direction.

“The reason I’m not worried about it is because we put in a plan and things are turning around,” he said.

“That’s what I’ve got to do, sort of turn the ship around … things are getting better and more importantly, we’re putting out really meaningful ideas that are connecting with people.”

Singh does have the potential to generate much-needed excitement and hope, said former NDP MP Peggy Nash, but she said there is “no question” things seem to be much tougher for expected.

“My view from very far away is that this is a tougher job than candidates running for leader expect it will be,” Nash said, recalling when the late Jack Layton first became leader and how challenging he found it to grow into the job.

“I think there’s probably a lot of disappointment in how things have been going for the first year.”

As he turns his mind toward the 2019 election — as well as a byelection bid for the federal B.C. riding of Burnaby-South — Singh is focusing on evergreen NDP files like affordable housing, pharmacare and Indigenous rights.

He’s also pushing for the decriminalization of drugs to address the opioid crisis, though he said he hasn’t touched them.

“I don’t believe in drugs,” Singh said while noting he’s witnessed addiction “up close” and its impacts on a family.

“I’ve seen the pain and I want to reduce that pain and reduce addictions.”

And as for that criticism he has faced in the last year, Singh is letting it roll off his back.

“I’ve always faced criticism — it’s kind of been a part of my life,” he said. “There is criticism you can learn from, and there’s criticism you just kind of ignore.”

Beyond the responsibility he has to his party, Singh said he’s propelled by wanting to help people.

“I was only able to be here because people supported me and because social programs lifted me up,” he said.

“I know that many people need help and they need that support the same way I needed it. I’m only here because I got some of it.”

Kristy Kirkup, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Ferry connecting Port Hardy and Bella Coola expected to set sail this summer

Its first in-service route will sail in central coast waters on May 18, 2019.

BC Parks Student Ranger Program accepting applications for 2019 season

12 crews of four student rangers will work in regions throughout the province including Bella Coola.

Over $650,00 given to rural communities thanks to Rural Dividends

Five communities, including Williams Lake, are receiving $10,000 for project grants

Pregnant Cariboo firefighter tries to save own house from blaze

Julia Flinton and Anthony Sellars both worked on the 2017 wildfires

Road report for Highway 20

Fog patches and slippery sections; Drive BC

2-for-1: Total lunar eclipse comes with supermoon bonus

On Sunday night, the moon, Earth and sun lined up to create the eclipse, which was visible throughout North and South America

B.C. man charged in 2014 snake venom death of toddler

Henry Thomas was taking care of the North Vancouver girl the day before she died

Parole granted for drunk driver that killed BC RCMP officer

Kenneth Jacob Fenton will be able to attend alcohol abuse treatment, nearly three years after crash that killed Const. Sarah Beckett

Doug Ford says the Liberals’ carbon tax will plunge Canada into recession

The Ontario premier said there are already warning signs of difficult economic times ahead

Kamala Harris opens U.S. presidential bid in challenge to Trump

The 54-year old portrayed herself as a fighter for justice, decency and equality in a video distributed by her campaign

“Ocean Falls – After the Whistle” now available at Kopas Store

Over the course of its life over seventy thousand people lived in Ocean Falls

B.C.’s largest public-sector union wants inquiry into money laundering, drugs

Union officials say Premier John Horgan and Attorney General David Eby have not ruled out the possibility of a public inquiry

Woman offers luxury Alberta home for just $25 and a flair for the written word

Alla Wagner ran into health problems, which forced her to list the 5,000-square-foot estate at market value

46% of Canadians $200 or less away from financial insolvency: poll

45% cent of those surveyed say they will need to go further into debt to pay their living and family expenses

Most Read