On Sunday, October 1st, Jagmeet Singh was elected as the party leader for the New Democratic Party. Most people probably recall commuting to work or class on the morning of Monday, October 2nd and seeing Jagmeet’s face and name splashed across the cover of every newspaper and flooding every timeline. But who exactly is Jagmeet Singh? And what will his leadership mean for the New Democratic Party (NDP) and Canadian politics more broadly?
Jagmeet Singh, is surely the youngest and most social media savvy politician in Canadian politics today, but Singh’s appeal does not stop there. His personality and platform come together to form a strong political force in the federal realm. Fortunately, the NDP’s and Singh’s platform is built to appeal to a large variety of people.
Due to his age, Jagmeet Singh has a lot more recent experience in the post-secondary education system, unlike his colleagues in the political field. Singh also frequently worked with youth activist groups and workshops. Singh’s experience in schools has allowed for him to run policies that appeal to students. For example, Jagmeet Singh platform for job insecurity, the Better Work Program includes provisions such as support for a $15 minimum wage, policies that challenge temp agencies and internships, among others.
Singh is unique, however, in that his appeal is not limited to students and young people. Singh’s economic policies are also quite favourable to Canada’s middle class, including a progressive tax plan and special attention to social services, especially for seniors and those with disabilities. The tax plan that Singh’s campaign promises feature the inclusion of progressive taxation structures, new estate taxes, and high taxation imposed on corporations. A tax plan of this structure should appeal to middle-class Canadians. The social services also serve to draw support for the Singh platform. As the senior population grows in Canada, issues that affect seniors and their families will become more prevalent in the political scene. Singh’s platform gets ahead of this issue through the Canada Senior Guarantee, which dedicates $4 billion towards preexisting and new financial programs for seniors.
Singh’s political platform, which is largely based on his experience in law and social justice, is appealing to many who can identify with him and his experiences. Singh appeals to a wider range of people and communities including Indigenous Canadians and the LGBTQI2S+ community. For example, for the LGBTQI2S+ group, policies such as the Federal ID Initiative and support of a repeal of the blood ban are part of the new NDP platform. Within the Indigenous Justice Agenda, which is one of the most detailed proposals outlined on the NDP website at the moment, proposes to hold the Trudeau government accountable to its promises to the Indigenous community. Alongside, are various other important proposals such as promises to improve the reconciliation process and improve action on the cases of Indigenous women along the Highway of Tears and elsewhere in Canada.
Despite his mass appeal, there has been a lot of controversy following the election of the new NDP leader. Jagmeet Singh has become the first visible ethnic minority to become a party leader in Canada, and one of the five largest political parties nonetheless. Of course, a milestone of this degree does not come without controversy. While many Canadians celebrated the election of Jagmeet Singh, many are grappling with his background, or more specifically the potential political repercussions they think will arise from his religious background. Most Canadians agree that they are not concerned about political leaders’ religious and personal beliefs as long as they do not influence their political action. Others agree that political leaders should be entirely secular, in order to be able to best commit to Canadian values.
Thanks to Singh’s overall savvy and charisma, he has been able to delegitimize stereotypes about him and his background. His ability to do this not only contributes to important conversations about race and religion but it has also put Singh on the map. Many of these encounters have also become internationally known, calling attention to Singh and the NDP. For example, following his election, Singh participated in an interview for CBC and had been asked some questions that were formed on the basis of stereotypes and assumptions. Ultimately this encounter resulted in a media windstorm that involved criticisms toward the reporter and Singh. Meanwhile, the conservative party has a largely unknown party leader: Canadians admit only 33% knew who Andrew Scheer was.
More importantly, Jagmeet Singh’s election has become a key component and catalyst to several dialogues about leadership that Canadians have not yet had an opportunity to discuss on a national scale. These conversations, for example about the roles of religion and race in federal leadership are often times difficult and frustrating. However, these conversations are entirely necessary to the process of progress and evolution. The conversations and debates that will undoubtedly emerge as a result of Jagmeet Singh’s election, will influence the progression of policy in Canada moving forward.
By Stephanie Yaacoub
Please note that opinions expressed are the author’s own. They do not necessarily reflect the views and values of The Blank Page.