Jagmeet Singh should resign.
Under normal circumstances, that’s what would happen. But the circumstances aren’t normal.
Let’s be honest: the NDP election results were awful. Not as awful as many expected at the beginning of the campaign, that is for sure. But awful nonetheless. The worst since 2004, in fact.
Many New Democrats started dreaming of an Orange Wave 2.0 when Jagmeet Singh’s personal numbers took off after the official english debate. Voting intentions followed soon after, poll after poll, and talks of an #UpriSingh were all the rage amongst NDP supporters on social media down the stretch.
But that surge didn’t actually materialize at the voting booth. Yes, there was some bright lights for the New Democrats to smile about. The NDP is back on the map in the Atlantic, with the return of Jack Harris in St. John’s East. Mumilaaq Qaqqaq, a 25 year old Inuit woman, became the first NDP MP elected in Nunavut in 39 years. Winnipeg Centre returned to the NDP fold, Leah Gazan defeating Liberal MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette in a significant upset. Rookie Heather McPherson retained Edmonton Strathcona for the NDP, the only non-conservative MP between Manitoba and the Rockies.
These moral victories are not enough to hide the fact that the NDP is down 20 seats from 2015, after losing over 600,000 votes, or 4% of the vote. Popular and capable MPs were lost, including Ruth Ellen Brosseau, Tracey Ramsey, Sheri Benson and former leadership contender Guy Caron. The party fell to fourth place in the House of Commons, behind a resurgent Bloc Quebecois.
In Quebec, the Orange Wave has turned into an orange drop, with New Democrats losing everything they had left in Quebec, except for Alexandre Boulerice, the sole survivor. No more NDP MPs from Saskatchewan, the cradle of the party. During the leadership race, Singh’s team was touting a breakthrough in the GTA as a selling point. That breakthrough didn’t materialize, neither in the 905 nor the 416. Even British-Columbia didn’t deliver as much as NDP strategists were hoping for, with a net loss of three seats. And in both PEI and New Brunswick, the Green Party has overtaken the NDP as the third option.
Jagmeet Singh is the first leader in the entire history of the federal CCF-NDP to lose seats after the party did so in the prior election. In every other case, the party rebounded.
M.J. Coldwell’s CCF lost 15 seats in 1949 but got 10 back in 1953. The CCF lost 17 seats in 1958, which resulted in the CCF merging with the CLC and 11 new seats for the newly formed NDP under Tommy Douglas. Douglas rebounded again in 1965 after losing two seats two years prior. Ed Broadbent grew back the party in 1979 after David Lewis resigned, following the loss of 15 seats in 1974. The same Broadbent lost two seats in 1984 but rebounded with 13 more in 1988. After the 1993 disastrous results under Audrey McLaughlin, Alexa McDonough brought the party back to life and official status in 1997. When McDonough resigned after losing seats in 2000, it paved the way for Jack Layton to again increased NDP numbers in the next election in 2004.
Singh supporters are already saying that it took Jack Layton four elections to become the most popular leader in the country and that he too, should be given the chance. Unlike, say, Tom Mulcair, for whom it was one strike, you’re out. 44 MPs were not good enough.
Funny enough, you can find plenty of New Democrats who blame Singh’s poor results on Mulcair, somehow, which is a sad way to ignore the failings Jagmeet Singh has shown since he won the leadership in 2017. Other New Democrats also argue that turfing Mulcair after his first try was a mistake that shouldn’t be repeated. And that 24 MPs are now plenty good.
NDP strategists also believe that Singh’s personal popularity rise during the election is a sign of good things to come: the potential is there. The same potential he showed during the NDP leadership race was back in time for the election. Too bad he was missing in action for the two years running up to the election. Singh ran a good campaign, exceeding expectations, especially in the debates. He looked like he was the only one out there having fun, his social media game was on point and his personal numbers went through the roof.
Yet the name of the game is winning seats and growing the party. Singh failed on both counts. Losing not as badly as you thought you would should not be good enough. However, other leaders also had a difficult election night. Justin Trudeau lost 27 seats and his majority. Andrew Scheer won more seats and grew the Conservatives’ vote share, but Quebec and Ontario turned their back on him. The Greens momentum fizzled and Elizabeth May is back in the curtains of the House of Commons.
So as luck would have it, Jagmeet Singh’s NDP now has a clean balance of power. That balance of power, coupled with exceeding expectations, mean that New Democrats are actually quite happy with Singh right now. Despite the disappointing results, the loss of votes and seats, on paper, Jagmeet Singh has more power in Parliament then he did going in. Victory! Let’s dance the night away!
But how strong of a hand does Singh actually have to bargain? Of all the federal parties, the NDP is in the worst shape financially and organisationally. They would have the most to lose if the Liberal government was brought down in the near future and a snap election was to be called – another reason not to enter a leadership race at this time.
Justin Trudeau and his PMO knows this. Don’t assume the Liberals will be pushed around by NDP demands. There will be no coalition or any kind of formal agreement either. The Liberals will try to govern alone and drag the NDP along for the ride. How much of what the Liberals do will Singh be able to take credit for (or be blamed for) will now be his record going into the next election. Which is just around the corner.
Photo Credit: CBC News
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