Politics

Singh urges team to 'double down' in months leading up to October election

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh urged his caucus on Wednesday to "double down" on their efforts to unseat the Trudeau Liberals in the eight months left to the next election.

NDP leader spoke to members of his caucus for the first time today since winning a seat

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh makes his way to the podium to deliver a speech to members of caucus and the party during a speech in Ottawa, Wednesday February 27, 2019. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh urged his caucus on Wednesday to "double down" on their efforts to unseat the Trudeau Liberals in the eight months left to the next election.

An enthusiastic Singh, who hugged, high-fived and spoke to members of his caucus for the first time Wednesday morning since winning a seat in the riding of Burnaby South, spun a message that the NDP is a party focused on people while the Liberals side with big companies.

Preliminary results from Elections Canada show Singh was able to win the B.C. riding with 39 per cent of the vote — a success that means he will now be able to challenge Trudeau in the Commons for the first time since becoming leader in October 2017.

"I'll be fighting for the things that matter to people," he said to a room of MPs and supporters visibly elated by his recent win. "But I need you all to be a part of this. Together, we can put Canada on a new course."

Singh said Canadians gave Justin Trudeau a chance, but the prime minister is too busy "doing favours for corporate friends," alluding to the controversy involving Montreal engineering giant SNC-Lavalin.

"From changing the law to get powerful executives off the hook, to giving billions in subsidies to the oil and gas (sector), to protecting the profits of pharmaceutical industries while keeping drug prices high," Singh said.

"It's clear: Justin Trudeau is not on our side, he's not on your side — he's on theirs."

Under pressure

Since taking over the reins of the NDP from Tom Mulcair, Singh has faced external and internal questions about his effectiveness as the NDP's popular support and fundraising slid.

Members of his caucus, however, were repeatedly on their feet in celebration of Singh during the part of Wednesday's meeting opened up to media.

Veteran B.C. MP Nathan Cullen said there was a palpable sense of relief and optimism in the room.

"There's a feeling that, with the kind of message that we have, the opportunity is there for us," Cullen said in an interview.

"It is beyond just the symbolism of him winning a seat. This is Canada's first racialized leader of a federal party. The new face of the NDP is diverse and strong and unapologetically progressive."

For his part, Singh told his caucus he didn't imagine that someone like him could ever run to be prime minister.

"My friends, we just sent a message to a lot of kids out there that yes, yes, they can," he said, prompting the room to burst into a round of applause.

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