Singh says he's 'not satisfied' with NDP's election results, lone Quebec MP says party faces an uphill climb
New Democrat MPs are back in Ottawa today to discuss strategy
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said today he's standing by the election campaign he and his party ran — even though he's "not satisfied" with how it turned out.
His comments came as many New Democrats call for serious reflection on the hits and misses of the party's campaign strategy after an election that saw the NDP lose 15 seats and slip to fourth place in the party standings.
During a media event in Ottawa today, shortly before a meeting of caucus members and defeated candidates to discuss the campaign, Singh was peppered with questions about the role he might have played in the party's losses.
"That's life. Sometimes it doesn't work out. We fought hard. We're going to continue to fight hard," Singh said.
"Listen, I'm not satisfied with the results. If you're asking me about that, I'm not. I want more New Democrats elected."
Singh also has been criticized for dancing and celebrating with supporters on election night after watching a large number of NDP caucus members lose their jobs.
"We have to be cautious about the self-congratulations. We need to recognize that it was a tough election," said Matthew Dubé, who lost his seat in Chambly-Borduas.
"There were a lot of good things and some other things we need to reflect on, and that prudent approach is the best thing going forward."
Asked about the dancing, Dubé said he doesn't "want the leader to change who he is."
"But there's a time and a place for things and I don't think that was the time and place for that," he said.
Work to do in Quebec
The NDP's lone remaining Quebec MP says there's no denying the party has a mountain of challenges to overcome if it wants to win back the province next election.
"It's not a little one, it's maybe not Everest, but it's a big one," said MP Alexandre Boulerice ahead of today's party meeting.
"I'll have to recruit more Sherpas, I think."
The Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie MP was the only one of 14 NDP incumbents to be re-elected in Quebec.
While the NDP lost a lot of ground in Quebec to a rising Bloc Québécois, Pierre-Luc Dusseault, who lost his Sherbrooke seat to a Liberal, said strategic voting to block the Conservatives also played a role.
He also said he heard voters express some misgivings about Singh as party leader.
"Some people said, 'I can't stand voting for someone with a turban to be prime minister.' But only a few said that — it's not the majority. There are people who said that, but I don't put everyone in the same basket who didn't vote for me," Dusseault said.
"But certainly, it's a message we heard."
Boulerice said he heard similar messages during the campaign.
"Of course, the timing of the first visible minority leader with a religious sign as a federal leader, combined with the secularism debate and Bill 21 in Quebec, was not perfect. But I think Jagmeet seduced, charmed and surprised a lot of Quebecers," he said.
"This sympathy did not translate to votes this time, but I'm quite sure it will resonate next time."
Boulerice said he hopes Singh continues to make frequent visits to Quebec now that the campaign is over.
"I don't want to be alone," he said, laughing.
Defeated MPs attend meeting
Wednesday's meeting is the party's first as a team since the election. A spokesperson for the party said it's a chance for current and former MPs to get oriented and acquainted.
But Churchill-Keewatinook Aski MP Niki Ashton said they need to discuss why the party fell short — and where.
"Like Saskatchewan, which is the heartland of the NDP," said Ashton. Every riding in the province went to Conservative candidates.
"Part of the discussion has to be about what happened. After any election, there has to be a post-mortem. This is no exception."
While most pundits agree Singh's performance during the campaign exceeded expectations, he'll have to ride that momentum through the next few months in the House of Commons.
His leadership will be up for review at the NDP's next convention, which hasn't been officially scheduled yet.
The morning after the election, Singh said he was "not at all" concerned about possible questions regarding his leadership.
"I think what lays ahead is really not a question of leadership, but a question of engaging in a proper post-mortem," said Ashton, who ran against Singh in the party's 2017 leadership contest.
"That involves the party, that involves all of us and, most importantly, that involves hearing from people on the ground who were involved in the campaign."
Hopes to introduce pharmacare bill
While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hasn't reached out yet, Singh said he still plans to use any leverage his party might have with the minority Liberals to deliver on the NDP's priorities — a single-payer pharmacare system, for starters.
Singh said one of the first things his party will do when Parliament reconvenes is bring forward a bill to create a universal pharmacare system. He might have trouble getting it to a vote, though.
While most of the work done in the House of Commons is on government business, a chunk of time is allocated to "private members' business," giving MPs a chance to debate motions or bills proposed by individual members of Parliament.
A private draw is held to rank every MP who is not a cabinet minister or parliamentary secretary — about 260 people — in order of precedence for considering private members' business.
Singh said he also will ask Trudeau to drop a federal government appeal of a human rights tribunal ruling that ordered the government to compensate Indigenous children and families hurt by the child welfare system.
With files from the CBC's Ashley Burke