New leader has big job ahead

Popular opinion polls this week showed Justin Trudeau’s Liberals and Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives neck-and-neck — with the up-until-now leaderless NDP trailing in a distant third.

This is the NDP that now-former Ontario NDP MPP Jagmeet Singh takes over as leader after winning the job on the first ballot in a vote this past weekend. In other words, he’s got his work cut out for him.

It’s been a tough few years for the party after a period of unprecedented growth. Popular former leader Jack Layton pulled the party from its perennial third-party status in the 2011 election with a shocking second-place finish, built on a swell of support from Quebec. After Layton’s untimely death a few months later, the party turned to Thomas Mulcair who — particularly during the Mike Duffy senate scandal — shone as Leader of the Official Opposition. Heading into the 2015 election, it appeared as though Mulcair might become the first NDP prime minister.

The Liberals, however, led by their charismatic young leader, flipped the script. Once the dust settled, the NDP were back to being the third party; ultimately, Mulcair was shown the door.

At the time, we thought Mulcair’s ouster was a misstep by the party. Despite the disappointing showing in the election, Mulcair had proven his muster and, based on his ability to hold former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservative’s feet to the fire, could undoubtedly be counted on to make Trudeau and his government squirm under pressure.

Perhaps the NDP grassroots want to replicate the Liberals’ path to success. In Singh, the party has selected someone with a lot of Trudeau’s qualities. He’s young and charismatic (like Trudeau), he’s a relative rookie and a ‘blank slate’ (like Trudeau), and he’s effective at using social media (like Trudeau). These qualities, of course, are superficial. Perhaps the party sees more than just a Trudeau clone in the upstart Singh.

For Singh to make an impact, he’ll need to find himself a seat in the House of Commons as soon as possible. It’s in that setting that Singh will show Canadians whether or not he’s got what it takes to serve in the big job.

Based on his performance thus far, one quality he isn’t lacking is confidence. That will serve him well as he begins the job of trying to return the NDP to being a plausible alternative to the Conservatives and Liberals.

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