The arrogance of Jagmeet Singh

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CORRECTION: A previous version of this column misstated Cullen’s role within the NDP. He is the environment critic, not the leader in the house.

I have to wonder sometimes what it is NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh makes of all this.

Here he is the leader of a federal party, and yet basically an unknown.  A footnote to almost every political development.  Could it be he’s terrible at his job?  Because I’m beginning to think it is.

Whatever his failings to break through, you have to admire the man’s gall.

This week the nerve, the downright arrogance was on full display.

As the RCMP were breaking down a blockade set up by the Wet’suwet’en people of B.C.’s interior who are protesting the construction of a natural gas pipeline, the NDP leader was tweeting his outrage at what was taking place, and how he thought the government was failing.  That part is pretty standard.

But my god, you have to get past some real jaw-dropping stuff to get there.  See for yourself (emphasis mine).

“Very concerned with the ongoing situation at the Wet’suwet’en blockade.  [Nathan Cullen] visited the site yesterday in support of peaceful dialogue — UNDRIP requires us to do the tough work in difficult situations.  Where is the federal gov’t on this?  Trudeau cannot remain silent,” he tweeted.

The question should really be where is Jagmeet Singh on this?  Sending the local MP to any given event is a sign you don’t actually care about it personally.

While Cullen is meeting with the hereditary chiefs of Wet’suwet’en, Singh is off in B.C. campaigning for a just-announced Feb. 25 by-election in the B.C. riding of Burnaby South.

The absolute arrogance of a political leader tut-tutting his opponent for not speaking out, then doing only the bare minimum yourself.  It’s incredible, and the surest sign yet that Singh has no idea what it is he’s doing leading a federal party.

If Singh really wanted to show solidarity with the people of Wet’suwet’en, he could at least have the courtesy to show up.  But beyond just decency, it would lend the very real weight of a real federal party leader showing up to oppose a bunch of cops in battle dress suited for Kandahar, not the forests of the Coastal Mountains.  Instead he sends his deputy to do the leading.

Singh, of course, has put himself in this position.  When he ran for leader, he insisted his lack of a seat in the federal Parliament — he was an Ontario MPP at that point — was not a problem.  It may even be a bonus.  He could travel the country, connecting with people and spreading the good word of the NDP.  Leave the other politicians to their jibber jabbering from their fancy desks.

This summer, Singh put it this way in an interview with iPolitics: “I still provide the direction.  So I set the tone, I help make the decisions about where we’re going to vote on something.  I’ve got a team that implements my vision,” he said.

Some tone.  Some vision.

Not only has he failed to connect with Canadians, and failed to stake out any ground in the conversation for the NDP, but he’s also failed to hang onto many of the stalwart members of the NDP caucus who have decided they won’t stick around for the next election.

The volume of names is quite something.  Fin Donnelly, Romeo Saganash, Hélène Laverdière, David Christopherson, Irene Mathyssen, and Linda Duncan have all said they won’t run in the 2019 election.  So too for Kennedy Stewart, who was just elected as mayor of Vancouver.

So here Singh is, fighting to get a seat he said he didn’t need, while his environmental critic is out in the world, standing for a cause Singh and the party presumably believe in.

It’s starting to seem like all the glowing profiles about his well-tailored suits and social media savvy did him a disservice.  So to the easy time he had taking hold of the reins.  The party quickly handed itself over to Singh seemingly on the idea that after the dour reign of Tom Mulcair, they needed someone with some sparkle.

But after that sparkle, what’s left?  What do you get for all that pizazz?

What you get is a leader putting aside the duty of leading at a time when it could have done some real good.

The guy’s instagram is lit, though.

More from Robert Hiltz.     @robert_hiltz

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone.  They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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