Singh gets 91% support in 1st NDP leadership review

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh's first leadership review vote ended positively, with 90.7 per cent of delegates at the convention in Ottawa voting against holding another leadership race.

NDP leader targets inequality in convention remarks

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh spoke to the convention Saturday afternoon, saying the party needs to tackle inequality. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh's first leadership review vote ended positively, with 90.7 per cent of delegates at the convention in Ottawa voting against holding another leadership race. 

Ballots were distributed immediately after he finished his keynote address at the conference earlier in the afternoon.

Attendants then voted to decide whether or not to support Singh as leader of the party — a sign of how members think he's handling his new role so far.

The outcome contrasted with the last party leadership vote in 2016, in which half of Tom Mulcair's New Democrats voted in favour of naming a new leader.

Mulcair's lacklustre result was the first time a federal party leader failed to secure the minimum level of support from his party.

Singh's results are par for the party, with Jack Layton securing around or above 90 per cent for each of his three reviews. Mulcair's first leadership review vote in 2013 was 92 per cent.

Generally, a well-liked leader will get results of 90 per cent or higher.  Results under 80 per cent have historically led to party leaders resigning.   

Speech tackled inequality among Canadians 

Tackling inequality in all its forms was Singh's central message as he addressed the national convention in Ottawa.

Housing, taxes, healthcare, wages and first-past-the-post voting are all flawed systems breeding inequality among Canadians, he said. 

All those sectors are on his radar. 

"It's possible to make better choices to get better results," he said. 

"The time for timid is over."

Indigenous issues, the #MeToo movement and anti-black racism need to be addressed so Canadians can "build a society where we celebrate everyone's identity," he added. 

In building Canadian infrastructure, everything from roads to the internet, people need to come before profits, he said. Singh elaborated that to put people first, infrastructure can't be privatized. 

Though he acknowledged the road forward will be difficult, a phrase from his childhood came back to him. 

"Chardi Kaala," or "rising spirits," was his mother's mantra growing up. That courageous optimism in the face of trials is a core value of the New Democrats, he said. 

Singh addressed serious topics, but often sneaked a joke into his remarks. 

Despite the lighter tone at times, he reiterated his main point. 

"We can't tackle inequality without naming the problems. We can't hide from the truth and we can't claim that things are good enough."

A party once divided

Shortly after delegates pledged their overwhelming support to Singh, a discussion of foreign affairs policy revealed some internal debate over the party's position on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. After some disagreement over process, delegates adopted a resolution that condemned President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The last election and the release of the controversial LEAP Manifesto revealed a deep split in the party that Singh will seek to mend as leader. 

Singh has distanced himself from Mulcair's notion that the NDP would stick to a balanced budget if elected, saying as recently as last week that he opposes "austerity" and supports stimulus funding when required.

The list of policy proposals being debated at the convention this weekend includes inequality, Indigenous rights, environmental sustainability, free university tuition and pharmacare.  

With files from the Canadian Press

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