January 9, 2019 8:29 pm
Updated: January 10, 2019 1:49 am

‘He gets this one shot’: NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh faces potentially career-defining byelection

Jagmeet Singh and supporters campaign in Burnaby on Sunday, Jan. 06.

Global News

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is going to get his chance at a seat in the House of Commons. After months of waiting, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Wednesday that a byelection is going to take place in Burnaby South on Feb. 25.

Singh has been the NDP leader since Oct. 1, 2017 but has never served as a Member of Parliament. The byelection is needed to replace former MP Kennedy Stewart, who is now mayor of Vancouver.

WATCH: Jagmeet Singh comments after bye-election called for Burnaby South

There is a lot at stake for Singh. The federal NDP continues to struggle in the polls and Singh is seen as needing the platform the House of Commons gives him to boost his national profile.

Simon Fraser University political scientist Paddy Smith says if Singh loses the byelection he will have a hard time staying on as leader.

“He gets this one shot at this I think, I don’t think he gets another shot,” Smith said. “It’s up in the air. I don’t think there is any sense that he is close to nailing this down for himself at all.”

WATCH (aired January 6): Federal NDP leader rallies in Burnaby South while still waiting for a byelection to be called

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There is very little precedent to look at when judging whether political leaders can stay on as leader if they lose a byelection. In recent history Stockwell Day, Stephen Harper and Jean Chretien have all won byelections as leaders.

“I can tell you that throughout my political career I have never made a decision out of fear for myself,” Singh said. “I will be the leader that run the New Democratic Party into the next election without any doubt.”

Singh has moved from Ontario to Burnaby with his wife with the intention of making the community his long-term home. But there are questions about whether he has the ability to connect with voters in a place he has barely lived in.

“My sense is Jagmeet has not done a whole lot to connect with local voters,” Smith said.

READ MORE: Trudeau calls 3 byelections, including for seat NDP’s Jagmeet Singh seeks

When asked about whether not being from the riding will hurt his chances, Singh pivoted to discuss the political records of both Liberals and the Conservatives. The NDP leader says his party offers a better option in Burnaby for the voters than either the Liberals or the Conservatives.

WATCH: Jagmeet Singh comments after bye-election called for Burnaby South

“Let’s look at the options. You have the Liberal party who is telling people to wait on the housing crisis. They are telling the people of Burnaby South to wait,” Singh said. “We have been connecting with voters. I love the community. Incredibly diverse. I look forward to representing the people.”

The Conservative Party of Canada is running lawyer Jay Shin, while the Greens say they’ll extend “leader’s courtesy” to Singh, and won’t run a candidate against him.

READ MORE: Liberals pick daycare operator to battle NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh in Burnaby South byelection

The Liberals are running Karen Wang. The governing party was close in Burnaby South in 2015, falling 547 votes short of beating the NDP.

Wang, who owns Angels Playhouse daycare and previously ran in the 2017 provincial election with the BC Liberals, won the Liberal nomination in December. She has lived in the riding for 20 years.

“I am very familiar with our community and every day I am working with families and I have a strong connection with families in this community,” Wang said.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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