For the first time in its history, 150 years after confederation, Canada has a person of colour leading a major political party. On Oct. 1, the NDP leadership race concluded with Jagmeet Singh beating the competition, taking more than 53% of the votes cast – a far cry from his closest rival at 19%. But what does his success mean for federal politics and for Canada going into the next election?
It is speculated that the NDP’s agenda will likely swing back to the left, away from Thomas Mulcair, the previous leader’s focus on capturing Conservative voters. His approach is widely blamed for the collapse of the NDP in the 2015 election – the NDP went too far to the right, and the Liberal party poached their support in Ontario and the Maritimes. With Singh in command, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau won’t be able to pull off the same strategy.
Singh’s victory has Conservatives cheering – if the NDP and the Liberals compete against each other for left-wing and centre voters and split the vote, it may allow the Conservatives to regain ground and perhaps take a minority government. If you’re new to politics and thinking ‘that’s ridiculous, how does more left-wing votes mean a right-wing victory?’ You should probably write a letter to Trudeau and ask him how that electoral reform’s going.
One of Singh’s largest problems is already apparent. A furious debate over religious symbols is raging in Quebec – Quebecois voters are likely to take issue with Singh’s religious values, threatening the NDP’s domination of their province since 2011. Martine Ouellet, the leader of the Bloc Quebecois party, has condemned Singh for not respecting the separation of church and state.
Another important thing to recognize is that with the new Conservative and NDP leaders, Trudeau is the oldest party leader at 45 years of age, compared to both of his opponents – both Singh and Conservative party leader Andrew Scheer are 38 years old. This will likely signal a shift in tactics for Trudeau, who will no longer be able to present himself as the young upstart out to overhaul the country. Regardless of the results in two years, one thing’s for certain – it’s going to be quite a whole different race than last election!