, 12.04.2018 10:49 AM

How Jagmeet Singh can be saved from himself

PART TWO IN THE HILL TIMES’ ONGOING SERIES DESIGNED TO HELP OPPOSITION LEADERS TO HELP THEMSELVES

Dear Jagmeet:

By now, you would have seen the latest Nanos poll thing, showing your New Democrats at a titch under fifteen per cent. ‎By now, too, you have perhaps abandoned the fetal position you have adopted under your desk, which is nowhere near Parliament Hill because, well, you haven’t been elected to a seat in Parliament.

That’s one of your problems. You have many.

The regular Nanos poll, which is an opioid to many Hill folk, suggests the Conservatives are at or around 32 per cent nationally. And the Liberals – who daily give thanks to the gods for making you leader of the federal NDP – ‎are at forty (40) per cent, Jagmeister.

Forty per cent: almost three times as much support ‎as you.

Even worse – and don’t start hiding under that desk again, Jagmeet – Nanos says Justin Trudeau is the favoured choice of Prime Minister ‎by 38 per cent of Canadians.

You? Six (6) per cent. SIX PER CENT.

That means you are tied in the crucial leadership ‎horserace with Green Party leader Elizabeth May (who just got engaged, and best wishes from all of us here at the Hill Times, Liz).

It also means you are presently leading the once-proud New Democratic Party to its worst electoral showing in decades. The last time the NDP dipped below 15 per cent in popular vote was under the leadership, such as it was, of Audrey McLaughlin and Alexa McDonough.

What political challenge did Audrey and Alexa face in 1993, 1997 and 2000, you ask? Well, thank you for asking. They faced my guy, Jean Chretien. Le petit gars wiped the floor with Dippers, when he was leader. Your party only rebounded, and got past 15 per cent again, when Chretien resigned and Paul Martin commenced piloting the Liberal Party into the ditch.

The bad news: you can’t bring back Mr. Martin, ‎Jagmeet. The good news: Justin Trudeau ain’t no Jean Chretien. Take it from me, Jagmeister: Justin Trudeau will never be Jean Chretien.

So, how do you beat Justin?

Glad you asked. ‎You have it in your power to reverse your party’s present downward descent into obscurity and, possibly, invisibility.

Three points. Pay attention.

Number one: bring back the pros. Fire the amateurs in your office.

Brad Lavigne, Kathleen Monk, Karl Belanger, Brian Topp, Anne McGrath: those were among the strategists who lifted your party, and Jack Layton, to previously-unheard-of heights. That was the team who beat the Liberal Party of Canada in 2011 – the party that had previously been the most successful political machine in Western democracy – and consigned it to the ignominy of third place.

There are newer New Democrats, too, who you need to hire, and fast. Like, say, Michal Hay, the genius who leads Progress Toronto, and who was Chief of Staff to the aforementioned Jack Layton when he was a city councillor – and who was the woman who helped you win the NDP leadership. And who, upon winning it, you cruelly and stupidly abandoned. You need Michal back.

‎Number two: you are going to lose the Burnaby by-election. Let me say it all-caps so it penetrates your impressively-thick cranium: YOU ARE GOING TO LOSE THE BURNABY BY-ELECTION.

Don’t just take my word for it. A recent sounding by Mainstreet Research shows you running third, Jagmeet. That reflects the internal (and usually more accurate) numbers of both the Liberals and the NDP.

The insanity of running somewhere when you know you are going to be eviscerated: that’s bad enough. But it’s rendered even more crazy when there is a perfectly acceptable alternative available, in Brampton.

You know, the neighbourhood which you represented for years in the Ontario Legislature. And which you would easily win.

Look, maybe you’re tired of all this politics stuff, and you are looking for a dramatic and humiliating ‎way to exit public life. That’s possible.

Or, more likely is the possibility that your are stubborn as a mule, and you think losing is principled or something.

It isn’t. It’s losing. And it means the end of your political career, buddy. Lights out.

‎Number three: do what Layton did. Copy him. It made him the much-loved Leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition, among other things.

As my wife – a former Michael Ignatieff senior aide – recently reminded me‎: Jack Layton didn’t have a seat in the House for a long time, either. But no one off the Hill knew it. Jack scrummed as often as possible, en les deux langues, and was ubiquitous. You should do likewise, Jagmeister.

Policy-wise, too, you’ve been letting Justin Trudeau steal your leftie lunch money. Take it back.

The Leap Manifesto faction want to see Canadians living in huts, heated by windmill power, and eating stuff squirrels do. They are nut cases. Have nothing to do with them.

Do what Layton did. Do what Rachel Notley has done, too: ‎embrace the progressive centre.

Pledge to push for more doctors and nurses. Push for better pensions. Demand caps on credit card fees. Offer to spend more on post-secondary education, and affordable housing. Say you’ll craft a better tax credit for those who create jobs‎ and who care for their elderly family members.

Insist on lower home-heating costs. Recognize that pipelines are safer, and more environmental, than transporting trainloads of oil through places like Lac Megantic. Do better at helping small business than the Trudeau Party has done (and, as a small business owner, I assure you that won’t be difficult).

All of these things were advocated by the Layton/Notley tribe, over the objections of the Lewis/Laxer gang. And guess who clobbered Liberals in subsequent elections, Jagmeet?

The Layton/Notley NDP did.

You have it in you, young man, to do better. Way, way better. But only if you (a) bring back strategists who know strategy (b) run in that Brampton by-election and (c) ‎start crafting policies that are, you know, both progressive and popular.

Can you do it? Sure you can.

Will you do it?

I have my doubts.

17 Comments

  1. Matt says:

    Re the Brampton seat of Raj Grewal:

    1) Has he even officially resigned yet? I know the Liberals finally dumped him from caucus a few days ago, but last I heard late last week he hadn’t filed his resignation papers with Elections Canada yet and was reconsidering his options after suddenly coming up with multiple millions, in cash, over a couple days, to pay off his gambling debts.

    2) If he did resign, under normal circumstances, Trudeau would have 6 months to call a by election, no? That would take us to mid May at the earliest if Grewal were to resign now. But with the General election happening in October, would Trudeau even be obligated to call a by-election? If there was a by-election and Singh won he’d have a matter of a couple weeks in the HOC t make an impression before the house rises for the summer and the election.

    Singh has been a bust. Might be best for the party for him to run in Burnaby, lose, have him resign then have someone like Nathan Cullen or Charlie Angus lead them into the election.

  2. Strategists are a dime a dozen. I won’t use the V-word (cause I hate the V-word: it means old) but even seasoned strategists are and should be ranked by what have you done for me lately?

    In my book, if you won the last one, you’re in or should be. If you lost, moving on to someone else. I’m not age or experience-oriented. I’m results oriented, hence my low tolerance for serially underperforming strategists and advisors.

    But that’s just me.

  3. doconnor says:

    Dismissing effective solutions for climate change with ridiculous exaggerations is the new denialism.

  4. Gord says:

    Anyone see the by-election results in Gord Brown’s old seat? The Tories won as expected, but look down the ballot.

    I will preface this by saying that a) by-election results always have to be taken with a grain of salt and b) rural Eastern Ontario is not exactly hospitable territory for the NDP.

    That being said, the NDP vote was three (3) percent. THREE PERCENT. At 883 votes, they were just 24 votes ahead of the Greens. Perennial candidate John “The Engineer” Turmel even managed 111 votes for God’s sake.

    Those are some Natural Law Party numbers. The NDP is seriously flirting with oblivion.

  5. Ben K. says:

    This all assumes Jagmeet wants to win. Being in opposition is a cozy gig. One gets a nice salary, lots of perks, great pension without having to actually run the government. You know, deal with the economy, wars, environment, international relations, crime. It’s the political version of armchair quarterbacks – experts that never have break a sweat. About 1 in a million has right stuff for statecraft – which means in Canada there are about 35 who deeply understand the realm of princes…

  6. Gord Tulk says:

    As I commented before- right or left parties have to have far more concrete policy positions than the Center parties have. Mush doesn’t motivate. Centre voters crave mush.

    The NDP and to a lesser extent the CPC need to be more prescriptive than the libs. That’s because the libs are centre-left – the ndp has to get votes from the LPC. The CPC has the luxury of having no party to the right to compete against (I think Maxime will evaporate when he loses his seat).

    But Singh and his party seem incapable of taking a stand on anything.

    And that is very bad news for Scheer and the CPC.

    PS Layton won largely because of the collapse of the BQ – even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then.

  7. Jack says:

    Michael Balagus, who comes to Jagmeet from Manitoba by-way of Horwath, is no rookie. He’s been around forever.

    The notion that Anne McGrath or Brad Lavigne should be allowed within ten feet of any campaign is ludicrous. The decimation of the 2015 NDP campaign is a fault not only laid at Mulcair’s feet, but Anne’s and Brad’s as well. I could give a shit about how good they were back when people still used flip phones; it’s 2018 and these two offer nothing but a trail of more losses than wins to Jagmeet.

    I said this right after the 2015 election and it still holds true: The NDP didn’t just need a new leader, they needed new blood in the apparatus of the party. If there is one party that sucks at bringing in new people, its the NDP. They’ve been using the same washed up strategists in elections for a decade now and its left them completely brain drained.

    Jagmeet Singh’s problem is two fold: one, he jumped into the driver seat of a party bus that was already headed over a cliff and raised everyone’s expectations that he could turn things around; and two, the NDP doesn’t have the money to keep Jagmeet in front of Canadians in the way Scheer is managing to do.

    I just don’t think there is a solution to either issue.

    The fact of the matter is that while Jagmeet might actually be the things Trudeau portrays himself to be, Canadians aren’t looking for another young, good looking and charismatic leader to shake things up. The option comes down to either Trudeau, or that fat guy from Regina whose lived in Ottawa most of his adult life and is the human form of mayonnaise.

    • Campbell says:

      “human form of mayonnaise”

      I gave a hearty chuckle.

    • Gord says:

      “The option comes down to either Trudeau, or that fat guy from Regina whose lived in Ottawa most of his adult life and is the human form of mayonnaise.”

      You’re right, and I’m not so sure that’s a bad thing for Scheer. Harper had the charisma of a damp rag. Bill Davis got re-elected again and again on a “bland works” platform. As WK is fond of saying, if the election comes down to Tim Hortons vs. Starbucks, Tim Hortons usually wins.

      The road to a majority CPC government runs right through suburban Ontario. Scheer might be a boring pudgy suburban dad, but so are a lot of the voters he needs to win.

  8. Ned Ludd says:

    Your counsel is wise, but I thought politics was a blood sport.
    “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”-Napoleon.
    Personally, I hope Mr. Singh makes a speedy exit after his by-election defeat, so that the superb MP, Nathan Cullen, can step in and help save the NDP from itself.

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