Canada

John Ivison: Singh pitch to hold the balance of power

The final day of the campaign sees the NDP visit ridings held by its opponents, a recurring theme of the past few days

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BURNABY, B.C. — As political parties across the country girded for the last battle of the 2021 federal election, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh abandoned the pretense that he might become prime minister tomorrow.

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Instead, there was a subtle shift in his rhetoric, appealing to people who want the NDP to be a constructive influence on a minority Liberal government — the most likely outcome according to an aggregation of opinion polls.

“If you want somebody who’s going to fight, that’s what we’ll do. We’re not in Parliament looking to make it not work. I’m looking to make government work for you. That’s our goal,” he said at a roadside rally on a patch of wasteland in the rain.

It says something about Singh that he is upbeat in all weathers, even when he is asked whether he plans to resign if he loses seats. He said he is confident of success – though he did not define what would constitute an NDP win. “I’m proud of the campaign we ran,” he said. “I like to think about how much people have been inspired because they feel like someone’s on their side.”

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Singh pointed to the NDP’s role in increasing the wage subsidy from 10 per cent coverage to 75 per cent during the height of the pandemic. “We saved a lot of jobs,” he said.

The final day of the campaign sees the NDP visit ridings held by its opponents, a recurring theme of the past few days. The first event of seven was in Burnaby North-Seymour, currently held by Liberal, Terry Beech. If NDP candidate, Jim Hanson, wins, it will suggest the New Democrats are on course to double their seat count from 24. More likely, Singh will add a handful of ridings across the country.

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There remains a brand problem for the New Democrats over their cavalier disregard for generating growth and creating jobs. This is a party that has a fetish for small businesses and an animus toward big businesses. But at some point, successful small businesses turn into big businesses and become deplorable in New Democrat eyes.

The NDP will have to be content to be a powerbroker until it cares more about creating wealth and less about squeezing Canada’s 47 billionaires.

Singh makes a campaign stop in Cranbrook, B.C., on Saturday. A cavalier disregard for generating growth and creating jobs continues to hamstring the New Democrats.
Singh makes a campaign stop in Cranbrook, B.C., on Saturday. A cavalier disregard for generating growth and creating jobs continues to hamstring the New Democrats. Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

It is ironic that the most recent polls suggest Justin Trudeau might yet win his coveted majority. He is equally prone to the criticism that he enjoys spending other people’s money more than generating more of it.

But the Liberal brand, built by prime minister’s with a much more balanced perspective, seems to have survived the distinct lack of enthusiasm for the current leader. So much of what he announced in two elections remains unfinished. The Toronto Star spoke for legions of voters when it endorsed Trudeau “very reluctantly”.

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Ontario, in particular, remains immune to Erin O’Toole’s attempts to re-brand his Conservative Party as one more unabashedly centre-right. At the same time, that moderation appears to have upset the party’s angriest supporters, who have turned to Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party.

The Conservative Party’s superior get-out-the-vote effort may make a mockery of the pollsters. 338 Canada, which analyses polls and makes electoral projections, gave the Liberals a 68 per cent chance of winning the most seats and the Conservatives a 31 per cent chance. As others have pointed out, Donald Trump was given just a 29 per cent chance of winning in 2016.

But the polls probably have to be off by more than 5 per cent to allow the Conservatives to win the seat count. A big, embarrassing miss remains possible but that’s not the way to bet.

[email protected]
Twitter.com/IvisonJ

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