Over the past two weeks, all of the attention in the #cdnpoli scene has been on the SNC/PMO scandal. This story has grabbed the attention of the public and held if firmly, as it seems with every day a new detail or twist in the story has come. In doing so, this story has monopolized our attention for good reason. That’s meant that other stories that we thought just a month ago we would be talking about non-stop have simply fallen off to he wayside.
The biggest of those stories comes to an end on Monday, and that is the by-election campaigns in Burnaby South, York-Simcoe and Outremont. While York-Simcoe should stay in the Conservative fold and the race to replace Tom Mulcair in Outremont would usually draw the most attention, it is the race in Burnaby that has the biggest potential effect on the near political future for many.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is trying to win his way into Parliament by holding this seat in the People’s Republic of Burnaby that the NDP have held most or parts of now going back since before I was born. When you look at the NDP in that time, this seat has been held by the likes of Svend Robinson, Bill Siksay and Kennedy Stewart during the highest of NDP highs and lowest of NDP lows. So, in a time when the party current sits in one of those low ebbs, it’s no surprise that getting this win has big consequences around it.
The campaign in Burnaby-South got off to a crazy start, which I pointed out early on. Since then, we’ve seen a new Liberal candidate come onto the scene and the campaign really get into full swing. There have been debates, with the last one getting very nasty, seemingly thanks to the influence of the People’s Party candidate. But other than that, thanks to the big story in Ottawa the by-election campaign has been able to go along at its own pace without anywhere near as much attention on it.
For the NDP, that’s the best thing that have happened. Having had to deal with another two weeks of “If Jagmeet loses, what happens?” questions would have made a hard fight that much harder. Thanks to the Liberals early campaign slip-ups and now the SNC/PMO scandal, that’s given Singh and team a shot of oxygen and energy that was really needed.
But let’s not forget that despite all of that, the stakes here are high for Jagmeet Singh, his leadership, and the NDP team itself. Two more caucus members from Quebec announced yesterday that they are not running again, and there are other MPs like Nathan Cullen and Murray Rankin who have yet to publicly announce their intentions. The national polling numbers continue to slide and there are been few to no rays of hope there. And that’s all without talking about the fundraising numbers.
Now over a year and a half into the job, people are asking if Jagmeet Singh’s leadership has been a flop and there have been many stories and such out there saying that Singh can’t stay as leader if he doesn’t win. Needless to say, this is far from the best situation the NDP has found itself in and probably at the worst possible time with an election coming this Fall.
So for the NDP, the by-election on Monday is make or break. Given everything that’s happened over the course of this campaign and the past two weeks in Ottawa, Singh should win. This is especially true given that the situation in Burnaby looked dicier than it does today. If Jagmeet can’t win this seat, in this circumstance, with all the resources the team has there, against a government in the middle of a scandal, with a new far-right party taking vote away from the Conservatives and no Green candidate at all, then I don’t know how you can defend that and stay on. Does that mean if he loses that should Jagmeet go? I’m not totally sure of that yet, count me as being on the fence. But is it fair to have that discussion and fair to have people think it is time? Absolutely but New Democrats won’t have long to figure that out.
But if Jagmeet pulls this out on Monday, it will offer him the chance to start to shine in the House of Commons and raise his profile. Personally, I’ve been curious how Singh, with the background of a defence lawyer, would have looked in the House this past week asking questions and putting this Prime Minister on trial like Tom Mulcair once did. Like it did for Mulcair, maybe it would have really offered him a second chance to make a great first impression on the voting public. Whatever the performance he put in, something tells me it would have been better and more natural than the performance that Andrew Scheer gave us this week.
And for all the other parties, this result will do a long way to determining their futures too. Will this be the start of an NDP resurgence or mark another pitstop in their slide? For the Liberals, will this result in being able to focus more on the middle and not having to worry about the left flank? For the Conservatives, they always say that they need a strong NDP to have a chance, so will they have that? For the Greens, will they finally be able to stop nipping at the NDP’s heels in the polls and maybe overtake them in parts of the country in a national campaign? Jagmeet’s future will go a long way to determining all of that. So, you know that everyone will we watching Monday nights results closely to see what happens but come Tuesday morning, we’ll have a few more answers to long-outstanding questions that will go a long way to determining where our Fall elections goes.