'It is fair to say there are some worries.': Singh prepares for challenging 2019

By The Canadian Press
December 10, 2018 - 10:00am

OTTAWA — After a year as leader of the NDP, Jagmeet Singh is facing his biggest political fight: trying to secure a seat in Parliament amid anemic fundraising, polls that show his party stuck in third place, and a growing list of veteran members of Parliament who will sit the next election out.

A party leader who can't win a seat customarily steps aside, though it hasn't happened in a byelection since the 1940s. Singh won't say what he'll do if he loses the byelection in British Columbia's Burnaby South expected in February.

"I am confident that we will win," Singh said in an interview on Monday. "I am confident that our message and the solutions that we're proposing will connect to people."

Singh, a seatless leader since October 2017, said it's "fair to say" some in the New Democratic Party have worries about its prospects. He said he tells New Democrats to remember their constituents.

"I remind our team that we are there fighting for those folks to make their lives better and they count on us," he said. "I think there are some worries around some of the difficulties we've had over the past two years and the fact those two years have put us in a bit of a tough position."

Singh's confidence isn't shared universally by current MPs and longtime members, however.

Several privately grumble about Singh's leadership, party fundraising and the beleaguered state of the party that's left many wondering whether they will even put their own names on ballots in 2019.

The remaining MPs who won seats in Quebec in the NDP's "orange wave"of 2011 — there were 59 of them after that breakthrough election and only 16 after the 2015 vote — are particularly concerned. In one Quebec byelection earlier this year, the NDP placed fourth in a riding it won in 2011 and then lost narrowly in 2015.

Over the weekend, NDP MP Fin Donnelly joined a growing list of incumbents who will not seek re-election in 2019.

Donnelly has represented the British Columbia riding Port Moody—Coquitlam, previously called New Westminster—Coquitlam, since 2009. He said it's time for him to spend time with family.

"I have every confidence in NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and my local NDP community to carry (our) vision forward, and I look forward to the opportunities the future holds," Donnelly said.

The party is struggling, meantime, with the challenging of finding numerous new candidates to replace veterans.

In Quebec, MPs Romeo Saganash and Helene Laverdiere are not seeking re-election and former NDP leader Tom Mulcair gave up his seat in Outremont, Que., in August.

Ontario MPs David Christopherson and Irene Mathyssen and Alberta MP Linda Duncan have also announced that they are not running in 2019.

Former B.C. MP Kennedy Stewart resigned his seat in September, about a month before he was elected mayor of Vancouver.

B.C. MP Murray Rankin also said he will consider the issue of re-election over the holiday break, adding he will make an announcement in early January.

Singh insists he's "really confident" in the party's prospects for the 2019 election, adding the caucus is "united" in its determination.

"I feel people are really pulling together," he said.

He also pointed to the recent nominations of Matthew Green, a Hamilton city councillor known for his advocacy on systemic discrimination, and Andrew Cash, a former Toronto NDP MP, as evidence of momentum going into the next election.

—Follow @kkirkup and @janicedickson on Twitter

Kristy Kirkup and Janice Dickson, The Canadian Press

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