NDP leader Jagmeet Singh eyes Brampton-East but 'open' to running in Windsor-Essex

Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is searching for an "authentic" seat in the House of Commons in a community where he feels a strong connection and his hometown of Windsor could top the list.

Singh says he won't force an area MP to step down

Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, centre, poses at BB Branded with MPs Cheryl Hardcastle and Brian Masse and during a visit to Windsor on Dec. 1, 2017. (Chris Ensign/Twitter)

Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is searching for an "authentic" seat in the House of Commons in a community where he feels a strong connection and his hometown of Windsor could top the list.

"I couldn't imagine a more authentic place than the city where I've lived most of the years of my life," he said during a visit Friday morning.

Without a seat, the party's new national leader isn't able to sit in the House. He maintains he's comfortable without one, but has he's indicated he's also open to running for a seat before the next election as long as it presents an "authentic connection."

Windsor-Essex MPs doing 'phenomenal work'

Until Singh does secure a seat, he will appoint a member of his caucus to lead in the House while he travels the country to build up his national profile.

Singh was quick to point out that all three NDP MPs in Windsor-Essex are doing "phenomenal work" and he doesn't want to push anyone out, but that doesn't mean the region doesn't present a possibility.

"If an opportunity arises that makes sense, that doesn't require me to have a sitting member [of parliament] that's doing incredible work step down, that's something I would be open to," he allowed.

Eyes on Brampton-East

Singh cemented his support for his colleagues Friday during an interview with reporters after wrapping up part of his tour of Windsor. 

"There's no way I would ever ask them to step down. So they're going to be here, great representation," said Singh.

"I couldn't do a better job than them anyway. We have the three best people doing the job here so I support them all the way."

He added his sights are set on where he recently served as a Member of Provincial Parliament. 

"It would probably be Brampton East," said Singh. "But again I'm open. I've got a strong connection in Toronto, I've done a lot of work in the core there."

Good friends and great pizza

Singh has also spent time in St. John's and Toronto, but lived in Windsor from the age of seven until he left for university at 23.

"I remember fondly the hot and humid summers, which I love," he said. "As opposed to Ottawa where I'm now learning there's a shorter period of warmth."

Biking with friends, watching fireworks on the riverfront and enjoying the city's Freedom Festival are all experiences he holds dear.

"Lots of great friends and great memories and great pizza," he added.

But not all of his memories are warm. As a Sikh boy, Singh's years in Windsor were marred by bullying and discrimination.

"I faced the type of bullying that resulted in people saying your skin is dirty, you haven't taken a shower, that's why your skin is brown, you have long hair so you're not a boy," he explained. "There would be some confrontations and I would get the sense there was something wrong with me that I didn't belong."

Singh said those experiences helped him develop a sense of fairness and have motivated him to help others across Canada who are facing similar discrimination.

"Bigotry exists everywhere," he said, pointing to issues around police carding in Toronto as an example. "That's why when I talk about justice or inclusivity it's so important to me."

Focus on connecting with Canadians

Still, with his dark beard and turban, Singh said it's a "real concern" not everyone in Canada will embrace him as a federal candidate, but he's relying on experiences from Windsor to help him reach out to people and show he understands their reality. 

"They exist and there are barriers, but I'm hoping I can overcome them and connect to the experiences that many Canadians face but beyond that, to rise above it and say, 'Listen, there is so much we share in common … I'm confident those will be the unifying factors.'"

with files from Peter Zimonjic