The Liberals and Conservatives are polling way ahead, but the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh has arguably made the most of this campaign so far.
Justin Trudeau and Andrew Scheer are struggling to emerge from scandal with clearly defined visions. Singh doesn’t have that problem since he’s been communicating his vision for weeks, without the burden of unflattering photographs or fake resumes.
According to one poll by Campaign Research, Singh’s approval rating jumped from 22 percent to 33 percent in about a month.
The first person-of-colour to lead a major Canadian party, 39-year-old Singh was once known for unprompted gaffes. But for the past week and change he’s been hitting all the right notes, prompting pundits to declare his (somewhat late) arrival.
Take this past Saturday for example, when Singh visited Northern Ontario’s Grassy Narrows reserve, a community that’s been struggling for years with mercury poisoning in their water supply.
A Global reporter asked Singh whether he was just writing a “blank cheque” when pledging $1.8 billion to fix the drinking water crisis on numerous First Nation reserves across the country. Trudeau made a similar promise in 2015 and has been criticized for implementing band-aid solutions that still left some communities with unclean water.
Singh turned the tables on the reporter by asking whether he’d have asked the same question if cities like Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver had a problem with their drinking water.
After the Liberals decided to challenge a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal’s ruling on compensation for Indigenous children who suffered under the on-reserve child welfare system Friday, Singh now has a golden opportunity to build Indigenous support.
Not a bad weekend on the campaign trail especially considering Rihanna started following him on social media. NY Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also liked his one of his tweets, recalling that time NDP MP Niki Ashton got an international boost from a selfie with Bernie Sanders.
Then there are the debates.
Abacus Data recorded that only eight percent of viewers left with a negative impression of Singh after last Wednesday’s French language debate in Montreal—the lowest among all four candidates. Some say he did even better than the first debate in Toronto, which most observers thought he won.
It’s safe to say that Singh has now emerged as the stronger progressive candidate, a position he’s snatched from Green leader Elizabeth May, whose party was surging this July. He also has a final chance to go at Trudeau in tonight’s leadership debate, the first English debate that the prime minister signed up for this campaign. It’s a chance for Singh to solidify his position as the clear progressive choice.
He has a chance to use the momentum built on a few powerful media moments.
Canadians saw him gracefully handle and dispatch the man in Montreal who told to “look more like a Canadian” by cutting his turban.
They also responded well to the heart-felt statement Singh gave in response to Trudeau’s brownface and blackface scandal.
None of this means that Singh has a chance at being prime minister. The NDP are trailing at a distant 14 percent in national polls. It also doesn’t mean that he’d live up to all his promises and rhetoric if he won. Trudeau made a bunch of promises throughout the 2015 campaign that he’s failed to fulfil. There’s no hard evidence to support how Singh would do much better.
But it’s probably safe to say that, with two weeks left until election day, the NDP leader has found his voice.
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