Jagmeet Singh’s First Anniversary As NDP Leader Bitter-Sweet As He Stares Down Bleak Future

TORONTO – On October 1, 2017, former NDP MPP from Ontario Jagmeet Singh attracted international attention, becoming the first-ever person from a visible minority background and first Sikh-Canadian to capture the leadership of a major Canadian political party, winning the race to lead the New Democratic Party (NDP) in the very first round of balloting

Canadian media gushed over his historic achievement — the National Post described his ascent as a “game-changer”, while the Globe and Mail called him “Justin Trudeau’s worst nightmare”. By the end of October 2017, he had a national approval rating of 40%, according to national broadcaster CBC’s Leader Meter.

However as he celebrates his first year in office, Singh’s fortunes have changed dramatically as he stares down a bleak political future with immediate sights set on winning a seat from Burnaby riding vacated by former NDP MP Kennedy Stewart, who is leading the race to be Vancouver’s next mayor.

Singh’s approval rating has receded to less than half, currently at 19%. The media has also turned against him over party’s falling fortunes. Recent opinion pieces reflect the trend — “Things are looking very ugly for the NDP and Jagmeet Singh,” said the Ottawa Citizen.

Singh’s early tenure and rise to power as NDP leader was met with one-sided negative media propaganda from the usual suspects including has-been politicians like Ujjal Dosanjh, who basically drove provincial NDP in BC into the ground after his first election to be an elected premier instead of just assuming the premier’s crown through leadership hustle.

Singh, soon after his victory, had also voiced support for self-determination in places like Punjab. But his tone has mellowed over recent months, and he even sent out greetings on India’s Independence Day this year.

However, Chris Cochrane, assistant professor of political science at the University of Toronto Scarborough, says that doesn’t mean the year ahead, leading to the October 2019 federal elections will follow a similar pattern. “I think the first year has been a year when the reality didn’t match expectations, but I think those were unreasonable given how deeply divided his party is,” he said.

The road to recovery for Singh will be through Burnaby South, the riding (as constituencies are called in Canada) where he will contest a by-election in the hope of finally getting elected to the House of Commons.

A loss may not be career- or leadership-ending, but the challenge will be far graver.

But the real challenge for the 39-year-old in the months ahead is if he can get his party to be a viable player for the federal elections with a “coherent agenda”.

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