Jagmeet Singh is on thin ice and the NDP lacks capable replacements
Many don’t remember much from the 2017 NDP leadership race, as it was a runaway victory for Jagmeet Singh, but looking back, a lot of the current poor performance of the New Democrats can be linked to the lack of good candidates to lead the party.
Although Singh’s New Democrats did surge in the polls before last night’s election, the results they achieved prove the party is a far cry from what it was under Jack Layton.
Charlie Angus is probably not a name many people will recognize, despite having been a well-liked MP from Timmins-James Bay since 2004, he came second in the NDP leadership race with 19.4% of the vote.
During the leadership campaign, Charlie was considered a close front runner, alongside Mr. Singh, gathering most of his support from veteran New Democrat members who liked his dedication to getting back to the NDP’s roots.
Although Charlie is popular in his riding as well as with a sizable portion of the party, he isn’t popular among other NDP MPs. Only two of the 44 NDP MPs endorsed his leadership run. Both Guy Caron and Niki Ashton who got fewer votes than Charlie still received more endorsements.
This is certainly attributable to Charlie’s handling of Thomas Mulcair’s transition out as the NDP leader.
Charlie, despite advocating for the NDP to return to its grassroots heritage, quickly gained a reputation for top-down leadership.
NDP MPs said that weekly caucus meeting’s time was mostly taken up by “head table” with Angus and the leader doing the talking, handing out orders, while blocking input from backbenchers.
Mulcair was voted out as the leader in April 2016 and during the time leading up to that event, Angus failed to satisfy anyone. Quebec NDP MPs thought Angus was unfairly attempting to push Mr. Mulcair out before a new leader was selected; while other MPs, unhappy with Muclair, thought Angus had been too harsh in trying to quash the issue.
This behaviour, according to other NDP members, is typical of Charlie Angus who is said to advocate the populist position in order to benefit his career.
After coming in third place in the leadership race, Niki Ashton, MP for Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, also added to the general discontent in the party.
Despite losing in what was a fair election, Ashton accused the media of having not given her any exposure, despite coverage being about equal between all three losing candidates, going as far as accusing the media of sexism for partially focusing on her pregnancy during the race.
At the very least this backhanded excuse shows NDP members why Ashton was probably not ready for leadership to begin with.
Although Niki and Charlie do not represent all New Democrats, the fact that the choices for leadership, including Mr. Singh, were so inadequate shows the party is in a tight spot.
It may be that the NDP has been so hampered by its own politician’s ambitions for power that actual talent and leadership qualities have been sidelined. Jagmeet himself during the 2019 election seemed more focus on gaining personal popularity within the shrunk base of his party than proving himself a worthwhile alternative to the Liberals and Conservatives.
Following the NDP’s major loss last night, likely only getting to prop up Trudeau’s Liberal government, due to the poor shape of the NDP, Singh may find himself on thin ice as party leader, with no viable replacement.
The parties that could potentially hold the balance of power in the Liberal’s minority government had very different takes on Thursday’s Throne speech when they responded in the House of Commons, Friday.
While the separatist Bloc Quebecois stood in defence of Quebec’s autonomy, the New Democrats assumed their traditional role as defenders of the poor and marginalized.
Bloc leader Yves-Francois Blanchet took particular issue that the speech lumped Quebec in with provinces and territories as one of “the regions of Canada.”
“Let’s make something clear. Quebec is not a region of Canada. Quebec is the land that the Quebec nation shares with a number of First Nations,” Blanchet told the House of Commons, reminding MPs of his party’s raison d’etre.
“Although we may not be aiming specifically for this… Quebecers know that the Bloc is a party based on the concept of independence.”
Blanchet also said that in defending Quebec’s autonomy on matters of healthcare and environmental assessments, “The Bloc is not only representing the national assembly of Quebec but also the voices of the other provinces.”
The separatist party leader also said that Quebec voters turned to his party “because they can’t identify with any federal party.”
“They’re not all sovereigntists, but they’re nationalists,” he said.
Bloc support at the polls tripled their seat count (10-32) in the Commons while the number of NDP candidates were nearly cut in half, from 40 down to 24.
New Democrat leader Jagmeet Singh, whose enclave was relegated to fourth party status after October’s election in a Bloc-surge, accused Liberals for “profiting off student debt” while waiving government loans to corporations.
Singh was also skeptical about the Throne speech’s promise to lower the cost of telecommunications services by 25 percent.
“In Canada we pay…some of the highest cellphone and internet fees in the world. It’s not a coincidence because the government has allowed the telecoms to do this,” said Singh.
“Access to the internet is not a luxury, it’s a necessity…(and) the cost of cell phone and internet services are impeding people in their everyday lives.”
Affordable and available housing, as well as making good on a national pharmacare plan that consecutive Liberal governments have paid lip service to, also formed Singh’s response to the Throne speech.
“Across Canada people are making difficult choices every day, about cutting their pills in half or going without the life-saving medication that they need,” he said.
“What is it going to take for the Prime Minister to keep his word and to deliver pharmacare that covers all Canadians?”
The New Democrat leader also suggested that Trudeau talked the talk on indigenous reconciliation, which also prominently featured in the Throne speech, but that the government’s actions fell short of walking the walk.
“I can’t wrap my head around it,” said Singh. “(They) ignore a human rights tribunal ruling, delay the funding to end the discrimination and continue to take indigenous to court.”
At the beginning of October, the federal government filed for judicial review of a Canadian Human Rights tribunal ruling ordering $40,000 in compensation to First Nations children taken from their communities under the on-reserve child welfare system.
Canada’s economic and energy woes, reemerging separatist sentiment in Quebec and the west as well, and kowtowing to China – amongst other perceived foreign affairs failures – punctuated Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer’s attacks of Thursday’s Throne speech.
“Times of fear bring times of division and Canadians are afraid for their country,” Scheer told the House of Commons, accusing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of “four years of unserious, entitled government.”
“We must put a stop to the divisive policies that have pitted province against province, region against region.”
The second day of the 43rd Parliament for Trudeau’s diminished, minority government gave Conservatives their first chance to respond to Liberals’ roadmap for the legislative session, where Scheer broached matters facing the nation that the Throne speech omitted.
“The Government of China continues with an expansionist agenda that is threatening Hong Kong’s vibrant democracy and, indeed, the safety and security of the people of Hong Kong themselves,” said Scheer, questioning Canada’s $256 million investment in the Chinese-controlled Asian Infrastructure Bank.
“The same Chinese dictatorship continues to hold two innocent Canadians hostage, as a retaliation of Canada fulfilling our legal obligation to arrest and extradite Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.”
Scheer categorized Canada’s recent United Nations vote for a North Korea-motion singling out Israel, as “abandoning” the Jewish state in exchange for a temporary seat on the UN Security Council.
“But most of all – we would really appreciate hearing the Prime Minister talk about Canada’s deteriorating relationship with the United States. One that was only exacerbated by his own conduct at this week’s NATO summit,” said Scheer.
“We understand that President Trump is a challenging negotiator. But the Americans are our partners all the same. No international file is more important to Canadian jobs and livelihoods than the ratification of the new NAFTA.”
On the domestic front, Scheer reiterated the party’s rejection of a carbon tax against “a chorus of voices from elite corners of Canadian high society demanding that our party abandon our opposition to (it).”
“…The Conservative Party under my leadership will always oppose a carbon tax – because we know the real cost it imposes on real people,” said Scheer.
“The entire point of the carbon tax is to make essentials more expensive.”
Scheer also promised to repeal new environmental legislation ushered in under Trudeau’s previous government – Bill C-69’s project assessment overhaul and C-48; the northwest coast oil tanker ban – blaming these policies for investment capital flight and percolating national unity rifts.
“The damage done over the past four years is significant. Today 175,000 Albertan energy workers are unemployed. Proud Canadian companies like TransCanada and EnCana are moving their business to the U.S,” Scheer said before turning to the rise of separatism in Quebec.
“After only four years of Liberal government, the Bloc came back with 32 separatist MPs.”
The Opposition leader also took aim at foreign cash that is funnelled to Canadian eco-activist groups, “to permanently shut down Canada’s energy sector and drive hundreds of thousands of Canadians out of work.”
“They have already done lasting damage to the economies in Western Canada – and to the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of families… every single Member in this House… should be expected to stand up and be counted; Do you stand with the activists or do you stand with the workers of Canada?”
After Scheer’s speech, New Democrat MP Charlie Angus took issue with Scheer’s “conspiracy theory of foreign radicals who are attempting to undermine our industry.”
“If we have to go along with his conspiracy theories or they will break up the country, I would tell the member to drop that language,” said Angus.
Scheer replied that he’s not worried about foreign radicals in Angus’ party, because “in the NDP, they’re all domestic.”
When it was Trudeau’s turn to reply, the prime minister told the Commons he decided not to read a prepared speech, but instead decided to speak off the cuff and chastised Scheer for failing to make mention of “Indigenous reconciliation”, a centrepiece of the Throne speech written by the PMO.
Where Trudeau found some common ground with Scheer was over tax cuts for low and middle income Canadians, a Liberal campaign promise also included in the Throne speech.
“The change we made, is we made sure as we lower taxes for low income ends and middle class, we don’t actually give any extra advantage to the wealthy,” said Trudeau, who cited the Canada Child Benefit that “(doesn’t) send cheques to millionaires, like mine and the Leader of the Opposition.”
While the Conservatives and New Democrats have vowed to vote against a pro-forma bill agreement on the Speech from the Throne, it remains in the government’s purview to call it for a vote.
Barring that eventuality, the first confidence test for Trudeau’s minority government could come next week if a vote is called on Supplementary (spending) Estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2020.
Jason Kenney was spotted on-field wearing an “I 🖤🍁 OIL & GAS” sweater at the 107th Grey Cup last night, with most of the Calgary crowd in attendance greeting the premier to loud cheers.
Kenney, the leader of the United Conservatives that won the province from the Notley-led New Democrats, has been a vocal supporter of the province’s natural resource industry.
Though not all were pleased with the gesture, as some saw the sweater as a way to divide Canadians during a time in Canada’s culture intended to unite Canadians from all walks of life.
The sweater has been the centre of controversy for months now.
Two months ago, visitors at the Parliament buildings in Ottawa a security guard stopped them from entering a tour because they were wearing pro-oil and pro-gas shirts.
Chris Wollen, of Calgary, said he and his fiance were wearing “I (LOVE) (CANADIAN) OIL AND GAS” shirts when a security official told them that the shirts would prohibit them from entering the tour.
“The security officer mentioned that if we were to come back with our ‘I love Canadian oil and gas’ shirts on, that we wouldn’t be allowed to do the tour because you’re not allowed to wear any shirts that are too political,” Wollin told CTV News Calgary.
According to the Parliament of Canada’s website, “participating in any form of demonstration inside the buildings is prohibited, including wearing items or clothing with visible political messages.”
But the sweater hasn’t always been as controversial as it is now.
In 2016, former premier Rachel Notley wore a hoodie by the same pro-oil group, Oil Sands Action.
According to Oil Sands Action’s website, the group is “an entirely volunteer created grassroots movement encouraging Canadians to take action and work together in support of our vital natural resources sector.”
“We’re strong supporters of Canada’s oil sands and the resource sector generally because we know how important these industries are to Canada’s present and future prosperity,” the site reads.
Alberta’s NDP Finance Critic Shannon Phillips has compared Jason Kenney’s politics to the tactics of “strong men” in Syria and Hong Kong. She also compared Kenney’s policies to Joseph Stalin’s tactics in the manufactured famine of Holodomor.
Last week, Kenney move to combine both the Electoral Commissioner’s Office with the province’s Chief Electoral Office. This was a hotly contested decision, however, as the Electoral Commissioner was levying over $200,000 worth of fines towards Kenney’s UCP.
Speaking in Alberta’s Legislative Assembly, Phillips called Jason Kenney’s tactics “a strong man maneuver … we wouldn’t want in a democracy to be apart of a party that was referred to as a strong man maneuver.”
Phillips went on to say that she “knew that many of the members have deplored strong men in other parts of the world. We were at the Holodomor memorial today, and we have deplored some of the actions that we have seen in Hong Kong … we have deplored the invasion of Turkey into northern Syria … I don’t think anyone wants to be associated with that language.”
For some context, Phillips was comparing Kenney’s move to disband the office of the electoral commissioner (a body established by the previous NDP government) with Stalin’s Massacre of the Ukrainians and other modern and deplorable global incidents.
In the past, Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley wore a wristwatch with strongman Che Guevera on it.