Opinion

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh doesn’t have much to campaign for in Manitoba. It’s probably why it took him a week and half after the election was called to make his first campaign stop here.

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh doesn’t have much to campaign for in Manitoba. It’s probably why it took him a week and half after the election was called to make his first campaign stop here.

The NDP lost more than a third of its seats in the 2019 election, dropping to 24 from 39 under Singh’s leadership. The party has a long way to go to regain that support. However, it's unlikely they will find any of it in Manitoba.

Singh made two public appearances in Winnipeg Thursday, one that included a housing announcement and another to declare his solidarity with First Nations at the Oodena Circle at The Forks. It was a low-key affair, although the symbolic flight of a bald eagle soaring above, as Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief Garrison Settee reminded the crowd how Ottawa continues to violate treaties signed with First Nations 150 years ago, was compelling.

Singh says he plans to continue to use his position as a federal party leader to help give First Nations a voice, as he did Thursday. It’s commendable, but it likely won’t change his party’s fortunes in Manitoba in this election.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh declared his solidarity with First Nations at the Oodena Circle at The Forks.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh declared his solidarity with First Nations at the Oodena Circle at The Forks.

The NDP held three of Manitoba’s 14 seats going into the race. They will likely end up with the same three: Churchill-Keewatinook Aski, Elmwood-Transcona and Winnipeg Centre.

The party finished a distant second or third in every other riding in the province and has virtually no chance of winning any of them this time around.

There’s always some hope among New Democrats they could pry Winnipeg North away from the Liberals. After all, the riding has oodles of traditional NDP support. The party had its best showing there in 2019 outside of the three seats it won, garnering 26 per cent of the vote. But NDP candidate Kyle Mason was no match for veteran campaigner Kevin Lamoureux, who is one of the most effective and hardest working political organizers in the province.

Lamoureux took 46 per cent of the vote in 2019. Even with his party’s troubled campaign so far (including the backlash Prime Minister Justin Trudeau continues to face for calling an election during a pandemic), Lamoureux is not expected to give up much.

Kevin Lamoureux took 46 per cent of the vote in 2019.

ALEX LUPUL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Kevin Lamoureux took 46 per cent of the vote in 2019.

The only other riding in Manitoba that came close to that for the NDP was Kildonan-St. Paul, where the party finished third with 21 per cent of the vote. However, the NDP tends to split the vote with the Liberals in that riding and has next to no chance of unseating Conservative incumbent Raquel Dancho (who won with a 17-percentage point margin).

There's just not much reason for Singh to be in Manitoba right now.

Even the three seats the NDP has in Manitoba are in no danger of changing hands. Winnipeg Centre has been an NDP stronghold for the better part of 24 years, mostly under former NDP MP Pat Martin. It was held briefly by the Liberals under former MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette. But after he was defeated by NDP newcomer Leah Gazan in 2019, there’s virtually no risk of it going Liberal again this time around.

NDP incumbent Niki Ashton probably couldn’t lose Churchill-Keewatinook Aski if she tried. She won with 50 per cent of the vote in 2019.

Singh has bigger fish to fry in Ontario, and to some extent in Quebec. That’s where he’ll find most of the 15 seats (or more) his party hopes to regain.

And while NDP incumbent Daniel Blaikie had some competition from the Tories in Elmwood-Transcona in the last election (where he won by eight percentage points over Conservative challenger Lawrence Toet), he won’t need any visits from his leader to get re-elected there, especially since Toet isn’t running again.

Singh has bigger fish to fry in Ontario, and to some extent in Quebec. That’s where he’ll find most of the 15 seats (or more) his party hopes to regain.

More importantly for him, since the outcome of this election so far looks like either a minority Liberal or Conservative government, the NDP will likely hold the balance of power again in the House of Commons. With an increase in seats and a renewed mandate from Canadians to perform that duty, that’s not a bad place for Singh to be.

tom.brodbeck@freepress.mb.ca

Tom Brodbeck

Tom Brodbeck
Columnist

Tom has been covering Manitoba politics since the early 1990s and joined the Winnipeg Free Press news team in 2019.

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