Monday, May 22, 2017

Leadership 2017 Candidate Profile: Jagmeet Singh

As I noted here, Jagmeet Singh's entry into the federal NDP's leadership race has attracted an enviable amount of notice from the media. But the combination of a relatively late start to his formal campaign and a lack of much definition so far does leave Singh with significant ground to make up. And it remains to be seen whether he'll be able to close the gap.


In a campaign which hasn't been marked by a lot of public notice, Singh's launch has already attracted more public and media attention than those of the current MPs in the race. And that represents an important factor both in standing out from the crowd of candidates, and in providing opportunities for the NDP as a whole to put its message forward.  

Meanwhile, the reasons for the media interest in Singh are also obvious pluses for him. He's well positioned to appeal both to specific audiences (as a regional candidate for urban Ontario, and as a voice for immigrant and non-white Canadians), and to people looking for charisma and professional credentials. And the fact that he's succeeded personally despite a difficult political tide in Ontario's most recent election offers reason for hope he can help the federal NDP do the same. 


The main point missing for Singh so far is any substantial policy focus. He has strong legislative credentials in policy areas including consumer affairs, law enforcement and labour. But none of those issues features prominently in his vague message so far; instead, he's saying little that hasn't been discussed in far more detail by the candidates already in the race.

Some commentators have also raised questions as to whether Singh will be able to maintain Quebec support for the NDP. But I'd consider that a secondary issue - both because he's also provided a well-thought-out answer to it, and because a campaign which succeeds in other areas should be able to convince voters that Singh can be a positive in defending and pursuing Quebec seats as well.

Key Indicator

Singh has already won a few key endorsements unveiled at his campaign launch, including former MP Mylene Freeman. But I'll be particularly interested to see which (if any) current MPs endorse Singh over their current caucus colleagues in the race - and if any substantial number do so, that should be an indicator that Singh will be difficult to stop.
Key Opponent

So far, Singh seems to be doing extremely pursuing both strategies and supporter groups connected to Charlie Angus. Either one should be able to win over supporters of the other based on their positive populist messages - and whichever lasts longer on the ballot should be very well positioned to win. 
Plausible Outcomes

Best-case: A groundswell of support carrying him to a first-ballot victory
Worst-case: A mid-tier first-ballot showing with little room for growth

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