Singh promises a ‘unique vision’ in plan for Quebec

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Singh promises a ‘unique vision’ in plan for Quebec

The leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP) Jagmeet Singh speaks with supporters at the Burnaby South by-election in Burnaby, British Columbia, on Feb. 25, 2019.

BEN NELMS/Reuters

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says his party will launch a Quebec strategy next week, aimed at winning back support in a province that holds a third of the party’s seats.

Mr. Singh won a by-election in Burnaby South on Monday night, giving him a seat in the House of Commons for the first time. But the win was dimmed by another by-election result: The New Democrats lost the Montreal riding of Outremont, the seat captured by former leader Thomas Mulcair in 2007.

That Quebec win launched the first stirrings of the Orange Wave that swept the province in 2011 and helped give the party official-opposition status in Parliament. Now, however, the NDP has 15 of 78 Quebec seats and is concerned about whether it can even hold those.

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On Tuesday, Mr. Singh said he will be going to Quebec next week with a new plan for the province.

“We’re really going to tighten, sharpen what our offer is for Quebec,” he said in an interview.

He did not provide details, but said he will lay out a “unique vision for Quebec” that continues the dream of former NDP leader Jack Layton, who was at the helm of the party at the time of the Orange Wave.

Karl Bélanger, a former press secretary to Mr. Layton and principal secretary to Mr. Mulcair, said the results in Outremont, show that all hope is not lost for the NDP in Quebec.

The NDP got 26 per cent of the Outremont vote, compared with 40 per cent for the winning Liberals. Mr. Bélanger said it’s a respectable showing.

“The growth potential is still there for the NDP, but Jagmeet Singh needs to find a way to connect with Quebeckers and to find the narrative that will appeal to them,” Mr. Bélanger said.

“That has yet to materialize.”

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Mr. Singh won Burnaby South with 39 per cent of the vote. The Liberals, represented by former provincial Liberal Richard Lee, were second with 26 per cent. Conservative candidate Jay Shin placed third with 23 per cent.

Mr. Lee, who came late to the race when another Liberal candidate withdrew over social-media postings about Mr. Singh’s ethnicity, said Tuesday that his team suffered because of low turnout and the fact that they did not have adequate time to contest the race.

In an interview, he said he is considering the possibility of running again in the fall federal election campaign.

Early on in his leadership, Mr. Singh had been content to remain outside the House, working on party matters. On Tuesday, he said that his thinking changed when the opportunity to run in Burnaby South arose with the departure of Kennedy Stewart, the riding’s NDP MP. Mr. Stewart went to to become the mayor of Vancouver.

Now, Mr. Singh is expected to take his place in the House in the coming weeks. “It gives me a new platform,” Mr. Singh said. “This is going to give me the opportunity to raise issues in the House. It’s going to give me a different profile.”

On the by-election campaign trail, Mr. Singh raised concerns about such issues as housing and pharmacare.

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In his victory speech on Monday, the NDP Leader said the scandal around SNC-Lavalin and the federal government shows a contrast between his party’s commitment to the interests of average Canadians and the federal Liberals attachment to well-connected supporters.

Mr. Singh has called for a public inquiry into the affair.

Mr. Lee said the SNC-Lavalin issue was not a dominant concern expressed when he or his team met with with voters. They were more concerned, he said, over issues such as housing and government supports for families and seniors.

Mr. Bélanger said being an MP is an opportunity for Mr. Singh to deliver his message to Canadians, through access to news organizations covering Parliament.

“That’s something that is harder to do when you’re crisscrossing the country visiting ridings where the national media is not present to cover you.”

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