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NWT New Democrats applaud Singh's victory
Winning candidate brought in thousands of new members, says president of NWT NDP riding association

Sidney Cohen
Northern News Services
Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Northwest Territories New Democrats say Sunday's election of Jagmeet Singh as leader of the federal NDP marks a "new era" for their party.

NNSL photograph

Jagmeet Singh, shown here at Toronto's Pride Parade this year, won Sunday's NDP leadership election. Territorial NDP members are excited by the choice, seeing as his campaign brought 47,000 new people to the party, according to his own count. - photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

"He's the youngest leader in our party's history at 38-years old, which is exciting," said Shane Pike, president of the NWT NDP riding association.

"He is also the first person of colour to ever lead a major political party in Canada. I think that's long overdue."

Singh won 53.8 per cent of the vote on the first ballot, a feat previously accomplished only by NDP legends Jack Layton and Tommy Douglas.

With more than half the total votes cast in his favour, there was no need to advance to a second ballot, as per New Democrat Party rules.

A lawyer and former deputy leader of the Ontario NDP, Singh swiftly beat out his MP counterparts Charlie Angus, who took 19.4 per cent of the ballots cast, Niki Ashton (17.4 per cent) and Guy Caron (9.4 per cent).

The four candidates didn't differ greatly on policy, said Pike, but Singh was "clearly the growth candidate."

Indeed, the southern Ontario politician is credited with swelling NDP ranks by 47,000 members, according to his own count.

"Out of 124,000 in good standing, that was a huge increase in our membership," said Pike, who voted for Singh.

"Fifty-seven percent of all new members were signed by Jagmeet's campaign."

First elected in 2011, the MPP for Bramlea-Gore-Malton is fluent in French and Punjabi.

In a splashy, February profile in GQ Magazine, Singh was dubbed an "incredibly well-dressed rising star" on the Canadian political scene.

"In terms of the appearance - young and modern - he kind of mirrors (Prime Minister) Justin Trudeau," Rebecca Thompson, an NWT resident and long-time member of the federal NDP, told Yellowknifer.

"But what I'm really hoping people will see is that the NDP actually stand by their promises."

Trudeau broke a 2015 campaign pledge to reform Canada's electoral system. Singh has made electoral reform a key pillar of his platform too, along with reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, climate change and combating job insecurity.

Though Thompson said she was on "Team Charlie," she isn't disappointed by Sunday's outcome.

"With the kind of results he got, I'm hopeful that it's going to mean some very solid party unity moving forward," she said.

In Singh's campaign, Thompson said she "saw a little bit more of an urban focus."

She hopes the new leader can connect with smaller communities, "where we still need the support."

The new NDP leader has yet to visit the Northwest Territories.

Thompson said Singh needs to see "we can't just stick carrots in our back yard and grow them. Food insecurity is a big deal."

She added NWT needs resources to remedy the inter-generational trauma of residential schools.

"That's something that you can hear about but you don't really understand until you walk among it," she said.

Though Singh is an outsider in Ottawa, Pike is confident in the Scarborough-born leader's ability to succeed on the Hill.

"He's not afraid to take on big issues, globally," said Pike, adding Singh has a strong team behind him.

"Yesterday was very exciting," he said, and "a reason to be optimistic."

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