opinion
Jagmeet Singh has already made history. But will his gamble work with Canadians?
By Sunny Hundal
21st October 2019

Regardless of how Jagmeet Singh does in the Canadian elections tonight, he has already made history.

As the first leader of a major party in the west of South Asian heritage, Singh has already broken a glass ceiling. Tonight he may break another.

Hardly anyone expects Singh to win the Canadian election outright. But he undoubtedly run a focused and positive campaign, relentlessly hammering his message on social justice on the campaign trail and even apps like Tik Tok.

He faced racism, notably when one man politely told him he would be better off shaving his hair off, but he casually brushed it off.

And in a way, that was the gamble.

This campaign could have been about the racism that Singh has faced. It could have been about Bill 21 - the discriminatory law in Quebec that bans turbans and hijabs in the public sector. Or he could have hammered Trudeau for wearing 'brownface'.

Focusing on either of those issues could have made Singh the center of attention. But it also risked a public backlash in parts of Canada. Instead, Singh stayed on target. Even as others urged him to raise these issues he has focused on healthcare, climate change and poverty.

One of his close campaign officials told me the strategy was always to win over enough people that the NDP becomes the 'kingmaker'. In that scenario Justin Trudeau needs Jagmeet Singh to get back in government. And Singh gets to push his agenda without winning the election.

It may just pay off.

He started the campaign with around 13% support in public surveys - now most pollsters expect the NDP to be near the 20% mark. Neither Trudeau nor Conservative leader Andrew Scheer have pulled ahead or dazzled the electorate. Both the Liberals and Conservatives are also languishing in the low 30s.

Canada uses the first-past-the-post system of voting, like the UK. Every 'riding' across the country will choose one MP. while some areas are concentrated with Liberal-leaning voters, some favor the NDP and some will opt for a Conservative candidate.

It's difficult to predict how many seats each party will end up with since it depends how their voters are distributed across the country. Since none of the parties has clearly pulled ahead of others, they may all end up without a majority.

If Jagmeet Singh does indeed emerge as the kingmaker, he has said he would support the Liberals rather than the Conservatives.

That is the result he is looking for. It would smash another huge glass ceiling. And he deserves it.





AUTHOR: Sunny Hundal is editor-in-chief of Barfi Culture
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