From fourth place, Singh says he’d rather push Liberals than work with Tories

From fourth place, Singh says he’d rather push Liberals than work with Tories

The NDP and Liberals found themselves in a war of words during the fall election campaign

The New Democratic Party is sitting in fourth place after the fall’s divisive federal election and its leader Jagmeet Singh says he is not interested in partnering with the Conservatives to overwhelm Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal minority.

In a year-end interview with The Canadian Press, Singh acknowledged there could be political expediency in having his New Democrats turn to the Conservatives to either defeat or dominate the Liberals.

But Singh has no plans to go down that road.

“When it comes to the values that I have and have been pushing for, I don’t see an alignment with the values the Conservatives have pushed forward,” he said.

The NDP and Liberals found themselves in a war of words during the fall election campaign to prove which party was more progressive, especially after the New Democrats lost many of the seats they gained in the 2011 “orange wave” to the Liberals in 2015

In general, a weakened Liberal party is good for both the New Democrats and the Conservatives.

Despite this and despite the fact the NDP often struggles to differentiate itself from the Liberal party in its policies, Singh said he still couldn’t imagine teaming up with the Conservatives — even under a new leader, with Andrew Scheer’s recent resignation.

ALSO READ: Scheer’s resignation tips party into internal war over school tuition payments

“My goal isn’t to defeat the Liberals. My goal is to push them to do better,” he said.

Singh said he wants progressive laws that he believes are priorities for many Canadians, including to create national programs to cover drug costs and dental care.

However, Trudeau would be wise not to presume his offer of political help comes without strings.

“The frame that I take is — the Liberals need to work with somebody. They have 13 votes that they need in this minority government. So they need to get that support from somewhere. I put it out there that I am willing to be that person that supports them,” Singh said.

But if the Liberals’ goal is to simply “cruise along” and hold onto power, Singh said he’s out.

“My leverage and my encouragement comes from — if you need something passed that’s meaningful, I’m right here. I’m ready to do it. But I’m not going to be taken for granted. I’m not going to support them blindly if it’s not good for people.”

Singh and his New Democratic Party had a roller-coaster of a year, beginning with Singh spending much of his time in British Columbia in a bid to win a seat in the House of Commons. He won his Burnaby South seat in a February byelection, but appearances in question period and the halls of Parliament did not translate into an immediate bump for the party.

The New Democrats struggled with fundraising after finishing 2018 with nearly $4.5 million in negative net assets — the party’s worst balance sheet since 2001.

A mass of recognized and well-respected NDP MPs retiring dealt further blows to party morale.

The NDP wasn’t able to match the Liberals’ and Conservatives’ advertising during the campaign, thanks to its smaller war chest, and also only chartered a campaign plane for the last 12 days of the race.

Many pundits were predicting the NDP could lose official party status, thanks to these factors and low polling numbers at the start of the campaign.

However, Singh was able to turn his infectious, seemingly bottomless enthusiasm into upward momentum mid-race. Polling numbers started rising, crowds at his rallies started getting bigger and the spotlight started shining more positively in Singh’s direction.

But the momentum didn’t translate into enough votes to keep the NDP from losing seats.

The party was reduced to fourth place in the House of Commons behind the Liberals, Conservatives and Bloc Quebecois after winning just 24 seats, down from the 39 it held before the Oct. 21 vote.

The party’s losses were especially deep in Quebec, where it lost all but one of 16 seats the party had held onto in 2015.

Singh attributes this to his being new to the federal scene. This election was his “introduction to Canada” and to Quebec, “where I had the biggest introduction to make,” he said.

The campaign also saw heated debate among federal leaders over Quebec’s controversial law banning religious symbols like hijabs, turbans, kippahs and prominent crucifixes for some civil servants — a law that is widely popular among Quebec voters.

Singh admits the law, known as Bill 21, could have played a part in his party’s major losses in the province. Singh is a practising Sikh known for his brightly coloured turbans and he wears a symbolic knife.

“I think it was divisive as a bill and I think divisive bills will encourage or create more division. And that might impact me as someone, on first glance if there is something promoting division, because I look different.”

Many people face discrimination based on race, gender or country of origin, Singh said, and he hopes to be a voice for those people and show he’s willing to take a stand against it and to try to win over the “hearts and minds” of Quebecers.

Looking to 2020, Singh says he hopes to work with the Liberals to implement a universal, single-payer pharmacare program and national dental coverage and to see Indigenous communities finally given access to clean drinking water, housing and equitable child-welfare funding.

He says that even though Canada may be experiencing divisive politics and policies, he believes there is reason to hope.

“While we live in a beautiful place, it’s an incredible country, there’s so much more that unites us than divides us and there’s this real, strong belief that people want to take care of their neighbours. And I want to build on that feeling of camaraderie.”

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Quesnel RCMP Detachment is one of seven northern police buildings which can now connect directly to Prince George for daily bail hearings. (Observer File Photo)
Bail hearings going virtual in B.C.’s north

A court pilot project will see virtual courtroom cameras set up in seven RCMP detatchments

FILE – Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have agreed to sign a memorandum on rights and title with B.C. and Ottawa, but elected chiefs are demanding it be called off over lack of consultation. (Thom Barker photo)
Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, Lake Babine Nation get provincial funding for land, title rights

Government says it’s a new, flexible model for future agreements between Canada, B.C. and First Nations.

The fence option chosen for the 461 Quatsino Boulevard development is the red lines that border the site plan. The fence will be roughly six feet high with the exception of the fence bordering Cranberry Street which will be eight feet high. (Boni Maddison Architects photo)
Fence to be erected between housing project and Kitimat homeowners

Residents of the Cranberry Street area are finally getting the fence they want

Rising demand for police to perform well-being checks and field calls for people struggling with domestic violence cases is driving the city to formulate a ‘situation table’ to connect vulnerable people with the services they need. (News Bulletin file photo)
Situation Table comes to Kitimat to support vulnerable people

Situation Tables identify and help vulnerable people in need.

The property on which a residential school (pictured) that was torn down years ago in Lower Post is to be the location of a cultural centre. (Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre photo)
Lower Post residential school building to be demolished, replaced with cultural centre

Project to be funded by federal and provincial governments, Daylu Dena Council

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Nothing stopping provinces from offering AstraZeneca vaccine to all adults: Hajdu

Health Canada has licensed the AstraZeneca shot for use in people over the age of 18

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

(Black Press file photo).
UPDATED: Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Most Read