In a historic election, MPP and Deputy Leader of the provincial New Democratic Party Jagmeet Singh has been chosen to lead the federal NDP. Despite a late entry into the NDP leader race and early opinion polling having his chance of success at two per cent, Mr. Singh has defeated his three opponents in the first round of voting on October 1, winning with 53.8 per cent of the vote. A powerful force on social media, Singh’s campaign allegedly signed up thousands of new NDP members across Canada during his run against MPs Charlie Angus, Niki Ashton, and Guy Caron. His election to leader of the NDP will make Mr. Singh the first person of colour to lead one of Canada’s three major political parties.
Born in Scarborough, Ontario but raised between St. John’s and Windsor, Singh is the son of immigrant parents from the state of Punjab in India. Singh studied law at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School and became a practicing criminal defence attorney before entering politics in 2011. Singh rose through the ranks of the Ontario NDP quickly, due to his pursuit of progressive legislation on issues ranging from auto insurance to racial discrimination. Singh has received favorable praise from publications such as GQ and Toronto Life for his stylish fashion and charisma. In a notable generational change, Singh is now the second-youngest head of a federal party in Canada (Singh is but a few months older than Conservative leader Andrew Scheer and eight years junior of Liberal leader and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau).
Identifying himself as a social-democrat, Singh is supportive of a fifteen-dollar an hour minimum wage, equal rights for temporary workers, protecting Old Age Security for Canadians, and tax reform. A social progressive, Singh is a staunch defender of LGBTQ+ rights, criminal justice reform, reproductive rights, and closing the gender wage gap. Singh has also committed to reducing carbon emissions and reconciling with Canada’s Indigenous communities. However, recently Singh has raised controversy in the news, firstly by promising to impose a sales tax on streaming companies such as Netflix and also by stating he would ‘respect’ the decision of a sovereign Quebec if the province chose to separate.
With a considerable online presence and on-the-ground organizing skills, Singh may be able to return the NDP to its status of the Official Opposition in Canadian Parliament that the party held following the 2011 election. In the 2015 election, led by MP Tom Mulcair, the party lost 59 seats and was returned to third place.
Justin Gniposky, NDP member and an organizer with one of Canada’s biggest unions, was optimistic about the NDP’s future under Singh. “Canadians now have an NDP leader who can present a strong progressive vision for our country while challenging the status quo at the federal level”, Gniposky commented. “While Canadians get to know Jagmeet, I feel increasingly optimistic about what he and the NDP can accomplish in the 2019 federal election and what this dream realized would mean for all Canadians.”