NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh 'not concerned' about holes in candidate nominations

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says he’s not worried about his party’s difficulties filling their remaining candidate vacancies before election day. 

The party has yet to nominate candidates for about half of the country's 338 federal ridings

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh reacts Friday night in Burnaby, B.C., after being nominated as the party's Burnaby South candidate in the upcoming federal election. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says he's not worried about his party's difficulties filling their remaining candidate vacancies before election day. 

The party leader spoke to reporters Friday night at an event where he was formally confirmed as the candidate for Burnaby South in British Columbia. 

Less than two months out from the federal vote, the NDP have nominated barely half of their candidates for the 338 federal ridings. 

"No, not concerned about it," Singh said at the event on Friday night, though he added he does feel some pressure to fill the remaining 163 vacancies. 

"Of course there's urgency because there's a lot of people counting on us."

He's still confident the party can deliver a decent result on Oct. 21. Singh was elected in a February byelection to the B.C. riding, which finally afforded him a seat in the House of Commons with his MPs.

The party's national support has plummeted. CBC's poll tracker shows the NDP are polling at less than 14 per cent nationally. 

According to the NDP's website, the party has yet to nominate a single candidate in New Brunswick, P.E.I., Nunavut or the Northwest Territories.

Sometimes good candidates take longer: Singh

Singh brushed off the bad numbers, attributing the slump in support the amount of work it takes to recruit the right candidates.

Sometimes courting diverse candidates takes longer because they don't see themselves reflected in politics, he said. But that slow vetting process led two NDP hopefuls to withdraw their candidacy this week, announcing their decisions on social media. 

"We know we've got to change the status quo," Singh said. "We want to get more women involved in politics. We want to get marginalized people in politics. And that takes work."

Singh stood in front of a banner that read "On your side" as he spoke to supporters just kilometres from where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had been holding events with other big-name NDPers just days before. 

Trudeau met with Vancouver mayor and former NDP MP Kennedy Stewart, as well as B.C. Premier John Horgan. 

The prime minister and premier announced a partnership to push for the electrification of gas industry to cut carbon emissions.

Singh said it's predictable that the prime minister is travelling the country making funding announcements to try to win people over before the campaign. 

"If you're the government and you have the privilege of being the people who come in and make spending announcements .... of course, it's a way to sweeten the pot." said Shachi Kurl with Angus Reid Institute told The Canadian Press after the announcement.

Singh took aim at Trudeau's record on the environment, criticizing him for buying the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline while saying he was serious about fighting climate change. 

"It's no surprise that the climate crisis is going to worsen under Mr. Trudeau, because the evidence is there."

Singh spoke to the crowd about the NDP's planned policies: affordable housing, environmental protection and health care. 

The Liberals and the NDP have both talked about plans for a national pharmacare system, though Trudeau hasn't said whether his government would make it a universal, single-payer system while the NDP are calling for full coverage.

Most of the other parties are nearing the end of the nomination processes. As of Thursday, the Conservatives' website listed 325 candidates ready to campaign, while the Liberals have 265 candidates. The Greens have chosen 257 candidates so far, while the People's Party of Canada has nominated more than 300 candidates.

With files from Catharine Tunney and The Canadian Press