Jagmeet Singh launched NDP byelection campaign in wrong Scarborough riding
OTTAWA – When newly-minted NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh attended the campaign kick-off for his party’s candidate in the Scarborough-Agincourt byelection, he enthused that it was like coming home.
“This is incredible,” he told supporters gathered at the Black Gold Cafe.
“This is literally where I was born. This has a nice homecoming feel.”
While it might have been home to Singh, it was not Scarborough-Agincourt. The cafe is actually situated about a kilometre outside the Toronto riding in the neighbouring electoral district of Scarborough North.
A Singh spokesman did not respond to a request for an explanation.
But launching a campaign in the wrong riding might account at least in part for the NDP’s all-but non-existent showing in Scarborough-Agincourt on Monday. It certainly can’t have helped.
Liberal Jean Yip retained the riding that had been held by her husband, Arnold Chan, until his untimely death from cancer in September. She captured 49.4 per cent of the vote, followed by Conservative Dasong Zou who pulled in 40.5 per cent.
New Democrat Brian Chang wound up with just 5.1 per cent, down almost three percentage points from the NDP’s already poor showing in the riding during the 2015 general election. He scraped together fewer than 1,000 votes.
VIDEO: Conservative Rosemarie Falk wins Battlefords-Lloydminster byelection
The NDP share of the vote similarly declined in the other three ridings where byelections were held Monday, as it did in two October byelections held about a month after Singh took the helm of the party.
The most jarring result for New Democrats was likely in Lac-Saint-Jean, a Quebec riding in which the party had finished a close second in 2015 but wound up a distant fourth in October as the Liberals stole the riding from the Conservatives. It seemed further evidence that the tide has gone out on the orange wave that swept the province in 2011 under Jack Layton.
But at least in that case, Singh could argue he’d only taken the helm a month earlier, in the midst of the campaign.
In any event, New Democrats had gambled in choosing Singh that what they might lose in Quebec – where he was an unknown and where his turban was an issue for some – they would make up in ridings in with large populations of new Canadians in Ontario and British Columbia, particularly in the suburbs around Toronto where Singh had held a seat in the provincial legislature.
Which is what makes the dismal showing in Scarborough-Agincourt arguably more significant.
It is precisely the kind of riding in which New Democrats had hoped Singh could make inroads: predominant immigrant population, sizeable South Asian community and, as an added bonus, located in an area where the leader had grown up.
In an email blast Tuesday night seeking donations, NDP digital director Nader Mohamed had an explanation for the “hard losses” in Monday’s byelections.
“We had four great candidates with incredible teams and so many dedicated volunteers – but we were outspent,” he said in the email, headlined “This WON’T happen again.”
Quebec New Democrat MP Matthew Dube offered another reason: the party is still making the transition to a new leader and that will take time.
“Certainly, no one was under any illusion that yesterday even in a riding like Scarborough that it was going to happen overnight,” he said.
That said, Dube acknowledged New Democrats will have to “look at where things could have maybe gone better.”
Sending the leader into the wrong riding might be one of the things they’ll want to consider.