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NDP leader Jagmeet Singh tries to capitalize on post-debates momentum

One week before the federal election, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is walking back on comments he made over the weekend about a possible coalition but that hasn't stopped everyone else from talking about it. Jill Bennett reports.

Jagmeet Singh likes to dance.

The NDP leader often breaks into a groove if the mood strikes and there’s music playing, both in public and when he criss-crosses the country by bus or plane with his campaign team.

But he’s likely feeling a lot more like dancing in recent days thanks to the upswing his party has seen in the polls.

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The New Democratic leader has been bolstered by a recent shift in momentum — a phenomenon widely believed to have been sparked by strong performances in last week’s debates.

A number of voters who have approached Singh for a handshake or a photo over his last two days campaigning in British Columbia have told him they watched the debates and liked what he had to say. Some even quoted phrases he used.

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Federal Election 2019: Scheer says Liberal, NDP coalition something ‘you cannot afford’
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Campaign organizers say crowd sizes at his events have been getting progressively bigger, and people are more likely to recognize and approach him now than when the election was first called on Sept. 11.

“What you see in the polls about his favourability (going up) is absolutely reflected in his interactions with people since this began,” says Marie Della Mattia, Singh’s national campaign co-chair and a special adviser to the leader.

At a rally in Surrey, B.C., Sunday, a crowd of over 600 supporters crammed into the Grand Taj Banquet Hall to hear Singh speak.

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Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, the long-serving president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, climbed the steps of the stage with his wife, Joan Phillip, to deliver introductory remarks.

Given that his wife is running as an NDP candidate in the Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola riding, his speech was expected to be positive. But Phillip heaped an extra dose of praise onto the New Democratic leader as he explained why he and his wife drove all night from Penticton the night before to be present for the rally.

“We felt it was incredibly important to be here to give public expression to our heartfelt support for Jagmeet Singh and everything that he represents,” Phillip said, describing Singh as having a “sense of quiet dignity.”

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A fundamental tenet of good leadership is to inspire people, and Phillip says he’s inspired.

“We suffered through the Harper years, we’ve suffered through the phoniness of Justin Trudeau, and now, given the climate crisis, given all of the economic issues, given the human rights issues, homelessness… we need someone that is authentic, somebody that’s real, somebody that cares. And that person is Jagmeet Singh.”

Phillip added that in the last 40 years he has seldom been excited by the NDP. The exception was when Jack Layton led the “orange wave” of 2011.

Federal Election 2019: Responsibility to remedy Indigenous injustices should be acknowledged, says Singh
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“Once again that excitement is rising within us, it’s rising and reverberating across this great country.”

In Vancouver on Monday, Singh had several public appearances aimed at getting him out among voters in a province where there are a number of ridings that polls suggest are tight three- and four-way races, notably in the lower mainland.

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While walking along the boardwalks of Granville Island, Singh didn’t impose himself onto the shoppers and cafe patrons he encountered. Rather, he would wait for them to approach him.

In these interactions, if he detected an accent, he would ask the person about their language background and then exchange pleasantries in their own language. Singh later explained he knows at least a few words in around 45 languages and tries to speak to people in their own tongue, if he can, because he believes it shows them they “matter.”

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On Monday, he tried to connect with voters and convince them they matter to him in French and English, but also in Russian, Turkish, Tagalog, Portuguese, Spanish and Somali.