New Delhi: Justin Trudeau won a second term as Canada’s prime minister in a tightly contested race, but the New Democratic Party (NDP) and its leader Jagmeet Singh have stolen the limelight.
Trudeau’s Liberal Party secured 157 of the 338 seats in the House of Commons, falling short of a majority by 13 seats. The Conservative Party was second with 121 seats, while the Bloc Quebecois won 32 seats and the NDP 24 seats.
The NDP lost nearly 50 per cent of the seats it had won in 2015 under previous leader Thomas Muclair. Nevertheless, Singh is being hailed as the new millennial political icon to watch out for — an increasingly popular choice for those disenchanted with Trudeau and Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.
Singh, a former member of the provincial parliament of Ontario, who led the NDP for almost 18 months without a seat in the House of Commons before winning a bypoll, was re-elected from Burnaby South.
Despite his party’s mediocre performance, Toronto Star dubbed Singh the new ‘kingmaker’ in Canadian politics for the way he has spearheaded a turnaround for his party, pulling it back from the “brink of irrelevance”.
Singh’s celebratory speech Tuesday, in which he said he was excited to deliver on the NDP’s promises, began doing the rounds on social media. “When we get back to Ottawa, every single day we are in parliament, New Democrats are going to be working to make sure Canadians’ lives are better,” he was quoted as saying by globalnews.ca.
Who is Jagmeet Singh?
Singh, the 47-year-old Indian-origin Sikh politician, is the first non-white leader of a national party in Canada’s history. A lawyer and human rights activist, he served as an Ontario MPP till he was named leader of the NDP in 2019. Canada prides itself on its multiculturalism and openness to immigration, but Singh’s race for prime ministership and role as a leader of a national party was widely considered historic.
“Just the idea of somebody like him who wears a turban leading a major national political party is a breakthrough in Canada,” said Toronto-based policy analyst Brittany Andrew-Amofah.
With his three-piece suits and colorful turbans, Singh has a distinct style. He is also active on social media platforms such as Instagram and Tik Tok, making him a leader popular among the young, millennial voter base. A 15-second Tik Tok clip by him promoting the NDP agenda went viral and garnered 1.3 million views in a day.
— Lisa Raitt (@lraitt) October 18, 2019
But apart from using the internet as a campaign tool, Singh has been appreciated for his calm handling of xenophobia.
At a 2017 event, he was confronted by an anti-Muslim protestor who yelled, “When is your Sharia going to end? We know you’re in bed with the Muslim Brotherhood!” Singh responded: “We support you, and we love you.”
On the campaign trail earlier this month, he was accosted by a man who suggested he “cut off his turban” to “look more like a Canadian”. He once again offered a calm and patient response to the racist comment.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was shaking hands with voters at Montreal's Atwater Market when a man told him he should "cut off" his turban to "look more like a Canadian."
— CBC News (@CBCNews) October 2, 2019
A Trudeau critic
Singh congratulated Trudeau on his electoral win, but he has long been a vocal critic of the Liberal Party, especially over its alleged inaction on climate change. He once targeted the PM for breaking his promises to the people of Canada, calling it a “pattern of behaviour”.
“The Conservatives have made their choice to help out the rich and powerful. Justin Trudeau has made his choice to help out the big polluters and the wealthiest corporations. They’ve chosen those at the very top. In this election, I choose you. I choose all of you,” Singh could be heard telling a cheering crowd in a video shared on Twitter Monday.
— Jagmeet Singh (@theJagmeetSingh) October 21, 2019
In his speech, Singh spoke about the “constructive” role he hopes the NDP will play in the new parliament, and said his party’s elected officials will soon head to Ottawa to tackle a number of issues, like the “real and urgent action” on climate change, making life more affordable for Canadians, and making sure the “super wealthy pay their fair share”.
He attributed Monday’s election results to a win not for any particular leader, but the people of Canada.
(With PTI inputs)