Here's why Jagmeet Singh and the NDP should not be written off in the Canadian election
Warning: I may have to eat this column at the corner of Burrard and Robson after the election if I'm spectacularly wrong!
Okay, with that caveat out of the way, I'm going to write something that goes against the grain of the Central Canadian media consensus.
Most political commentators think the federal NDP will be toasted in the October 21 election for the following reasons:
1. Leader Jagmeet Singh is in over his head.
2. Provincial NDP politicians like John Horgan in B.C. and Rachel Notley in Alberta are doing Singh no favours. They don't even want to be seen with him.
3. The NDP failed again in the recent provincial election in Manitoba, where it's often formed the government.
4. Most people in Quebec will not vote for a party led by a guy who wears a turban. The polling numbers are awful in La Belle Province.
5. The NDP is so broke that the leader has cut back on how often he'll be flying across the country.
6. The Greens are surging under Elizabeth May's leadership.
7. Justin Trudeau will siphon off NDP votes by turning the election into a referendum on whether Canadians want the Harper Conservatives back in power, even though Stephen Harper retired in 2015.
8. The NDP has lost many by-elections with Singh as leader, including Nanaimo-Ladysmith on Vancouver Island.
I could go on, but you get the picture.
NDP promises real change
In fact, I suspect that the NDP will wind up winning more than the 14 seats than the CBC poll tracker is suggesting today.
Here's why I think the NDP has a reasonable chance of surprising people.
1. Jagmeet Singh comes across as very authentic and actually, quite likable.
2. He's the first Canadian political leader who's made antiracism a centrepiece of his campaign by promising to put an end to federal racial profiling.
3. There are a lot more antiracist, young, liberal white people in this country than many older Canadians probably realize. And many of them are feeling dealt out of a reasonable future by pipeline-loving Liberals and Conservatives who haven't done enough to make education and housing more affordable.
4. Singh is putting items in the window for the public to vote for. They include a wealth tax, national pharmacare, and the possibility of dental and vision care in the future. Plus, the party's promising a Green New Deal modelled on a similar idea gaining popularity in the United States.
5. Singh talks a lot about housing, which is what helped the B.C. NDP form government for the first time in 16 years.
6. Singh's message that it requires courage to take on Big Oil, Big Pharma, and the telecommunications giants is very compelling. It leaves an impression that Trudeau doesn't have this necessary quality. Hell, Trudeau didn't even have enough courage to show up at the first televised leaders debate on September 12.
7. Singh is replicating some farther left-wing and anti-elitist policies of politicians like the U.K.'s Jeremy Corbyn and Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders in the U.S. It's an us-versus-them approach that's the diametric opposite of former U.K. prime minister Tony Blair's Third Way style of politics, which was embraced by Singh's predecessor, Tom Mulcair.
8. Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party won 262 seats in the 2017 election, a gain of 30.
9. A U.S. poll-tracking site has Sanders and Warren together at 34.1 percent support in the Democratic Party field of candidates for the presidential nomination. That's more than seven percent higher than centrist candidate Joe Biden.
10. The mainstream media applaud Blairite Third Way New Democrats, but this approach has often fallen flat in Canadian elections. That's because there's already a Blairite Third Way party in this country called the Liberals. The NDP has created more distance between them in the election.
11. The Conservatives will drive home the point that Trudeau can't be trusted. As a result, voters who dislike their leader, Andrew Scheer, could gravitate to the NDP, which is most people's second choice right now.
The federal NDP's slogan "In it for you" has an edge to it. It implies that the other party leaders are not in it for the people; rather, they're in this race for the elites.
It conveys the feeling that Scheer and Trudeau have more in common than each of them is letting on.
The federal NDP's policies reinforce this slogan.
Incumbent New Democrats like Don Davies, Jenny Kwan, and Charlie Angus are finally free to campaign for what they believe in rather than moderating their positions to appeal to the Mulcairian mushy middle.
This will make the New Democrats appear more authentic on the campaign trail.
If they gain momentum, they'll also become more polarizing, which could help consolidate the progressive vote.
I feel that the best NDP slogan in the past 30 years was "On your side". It was deployed by B.C. premier Glen Clark in the 1996 provincial election.
Clark campaigned in a bluntly anticorporate way, sending a message that his opponent, Gordon Campbell, was going to cave in to the CEOs. It's ironic now, considering that Clark is president and chief operating officer of the Jim Pattison Group.
Back then, everyone thought that Clark's New Democrats were going to get creamed by the B.C. Liberals.
It was later revealed that the NDP adopted this harder, populist edge to appeal to its base so it could retain enough seats to carry on into the future.
But in the end, that 1996 campaign slogan and Clark's scrappy approach led to a surprising come-from-behind victory.
I can still remember seeing the shocked faces at the B.C. Liberal election-night party.
I'm not going say that the Jagmeet Singh–led NDP will win the October 21 federal election.
But today, I'm predicting that his party will do better than expected as voters reflect more deeply on the past four years of Liberal rule under Trudeau. Who's side is he really on when he spends many billions of dollars to buy a pipeline system as we face the possibility of runaway global warming?
Singh surprised his detractors in the Burnaby South by-election in February. His decisive victory came because he listened to what people were telling him on the doorsteps.
Housing was their top concern, so that's what he talked about.
If he sticks to his message in this campaign, I expect he'll survive to run in another national election in four years.