Martin Singh has probably received less coverage in the mainstream Canadian media than any other NDP leadership candidate.
But he could turn out to be one of the kingmakers in Toronto tomorrow when the New Democrats choose their next leader. That's because Singh recently issued a statement announcing that he will support former Quebec Liberal cabinet minister Thomas Mulcair as his second choice. Singh will encourage his supporters to do the same.
Two MPs who dropped out of the race, Robert Chisholm and Roméo Saganash, have also endorsed Mulcair.
Singh, a Nova Scotia pharmacist, was the first Caucasian to head a Sikh temple in Canada. At this point, it's unclear how much support Singh has in the NDP contest.
According to a 2006 article in the Indian Express, Singh was raised as a Protestant before converting to Sikhism in the early 1990s after attending a Liberal party convention in Calgary.
“My dad was skeptical. He thought I had fallen into some cult," Singh told reporter Gurmukh Singh at the time. "But my mother was indifferent. She thought it was just one more of those weird things I did at that time. As for friends, I Iost none of them because of my conversion. They just asked me some inquisitive questions.”
He was baptized in Calgary in 1996 and went on to marry a well-educated Punjabi Sikh woman, Amandeep Kaur, and became president of the Maritime Sikh Society.
The World Sikh Organization of Canada website features an article submitted by a staff member, which describes how Singh, a reservist in the Canadian Armed Forces, invited military officers to an event in 2006. It was held "to expose the local Sikh community to the Forces, to show that different cultural groups are reaching out to the military". The WSO has been hosting annual dinners with parliamentarians for 27 years.
Meanwhile, Straight contributor Gurpreet Singh has written in the past that the WSO supports an independent homeland called Khalistan, which would be carved out of India. And that, according to Gurpreet Singh, rankles some moderate Canadian Sikhs.
Martin Singh, president of the NDP's faith and social justice commission, joined WSO vice president Gurdit Singh Rangi and Guru Nanak temple president Bikramjit Singh Sandhar in Surrey last October to discuss "faith, leadership, and the future".
Singh is one of two NDP leadership candidates who've never held elected political office. The other is Brian Topp, whom Singh has attacked for proposing changes to the tax system and for questioning why he's running.
"Brian Topp’s recent insinuation that I have been coordinating my campaign with Mr Mulcair’s is completely false," Singh declared in his statement. "It is insulting and demeaning to my supporters and me. I am running to win, which means my first priority is to defeat Mr Mulcair, Mr Topp and the other four candidates. Second choice is second choice."
So far, none of the other candidates has publicly suggested that Singh's candidacy is an attempt by the WSO to gain greater influence in federal politics by helping to coronate the next NDP leader.
But if Mulcair squeeks out a victory tomorrow, thanks in part to Martin Singh, this just might become a topic of conversation on the floor of the Toronto Convention Centre where the final result will be announced.
Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.