Singh support ‘solid’ says veteran NDP MP despite party losing 20 seats

NDP MP Brian Masse talks about the election results and how his party is looking to impact policy in a minority Liberal government.

Jason Unrau Montreal QC

Longtime New Democrat MP Brian Masse survived his party’s election wipeout last week and despite the NDP shedding 20 seats coast-to-coast, the member for Windsor West says the caucus is still behind its leader Jagmeet Singh.

“It’s solid,” Masse told The Post Millennial of New Democrat-elects’ confidence in Singh, whose party’s loss of 15 seats in Quebec alone means Singh will return to the House of Commons as leader of the fourth party, behind a resurgent Bloc Quebecois.

“There’s no doubt we would’ve liked to have had more seats but the way that our voting works, despite having nearly 17 percent of the vote, we only have 24 seats.”

By comparison, 7.7 percent of the popular vote garnered the Bloc 32 seats in Quebec.

But even in southwestern Ontario, a manufacturing and agricultural hub where local union membership has bolstered New Democrat support in the past, Masse watched as veteran NDP colleague Cheryl Hardcastle (Windsor-Tecumseh) was beaten by Liberal Irek Kusmierczyk.

On the other side of Windsor, incumbent-New Democrat Tracey Ramsey (Essex) went down to Conservative challenger Steve Lewis.

Masse blames Ramsey’s loss on an anti-Trudeau vote, while noting he was in tough against former Ontario Liberal MPP and cabinet minister Sandra Pupatello, for whom Windsor Star seemingly ran daily bugles, touting her return to politics.

But after the 43rd Federal Election dust settled, where Masse chalked up his sixth consecutive general election win, he believes Singh “was the star of the campaign”; a battle Masse said was fought with an inferior war chest and little preparation time.

“Jagmeet’s campaign was a good campaign given our resources and given the short runway that we had from transition of leadership, to the House of Commons to campaign mode,” said Masse.

New Democrat members selected Singh as their leader in October of 2017, but Singh led the party from outside of Parliament until he won the Burnaby South by-election in February 2019.

According to 2018 financial reports from the three main parties, Conservatives had $24 million in assets, Liberals had $21 million and the NDP were hovering close to $4 million.

But Canadian federal politics, particularly minority governments, never fail to surprise, and even with Singh’s NDP loss, the party held on to enough seats to potentially hold the balance of power.

“The Liberals have promised a lot when it comes to single-event sports betting,” said Masse, whose riding is a casino destination.

“Liberals also promised a lot when it comes to auto investment. And they’ve promised a lot when it comes to having a seat at the table; expectations are now for the deliverables the Liberals have promised.”

With potential leverage the New Democrats could have in a minority government, Masse wants Liberals to follow through on rebating tariff charges to companies affected by the United States steel tariffs briefly imposed on related Canadian product.

“(Local manufacturers) are in much more dire straights than just abatement of U.S. steel tariffs at the moment. It’s the amount of businesses that are actually exiting contracts or bidding,” said Masse.

“Companies will not bother going after certain types of business because it’s just not worth the risk and part of this is the unpredictability and the government not following through on its promises.”

The Windsor West MP also wants to see the government take a stronger approach to China, given its diplomatic aggression towards Canada – two Canadians detained over the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou last December remain in custody and agriculture embargoes continue.

Meanwhile, back in August the federal government lifted steel tariffs against cheap Chinese steel – provocation for US tariffs against Canadian steel as Chinese product was moving stateside via Canada – to fast-track to LNG projects in B.C. worth $40 billion.

“I think we’re going to have to take a tougher line eventually because there’s no consistency,” said Masse.

“There needs to be a much more cohesive strategy with China rather than just one-offs. Whether it be steel, telecommunications or whether it be manufacturing or energy policy. We need to have a comprehensive approach, not one that’s based on the crisis of the moment.”

While Singh’s rambling, quasi-victory speech in the wake of a losing campaign, caught flack from pundits and politicos alike – particularly the New Democrats who lost in Quebec –  uttering calls from the peanut gallery for him to step down, Masse sees the possibility of a resurgence.

“I’ve been around long enough, it feels similar to 2008; it was the solid campaign of Jack Layton that propelled us to basically a breakthrough in 2011,” said Masse.

In 2008, Layton had been NDP leader for four years and added seven seats to the NDP count in what was Conservative Stephen Harper’s second minority government.

Three years later, Layton would lead the party to a stunning victory, making the NDP Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition for the first time in its history.

“I feel quite confident in Jagmeet’s approach to politics and approach to the campaign and I think he’ll have a much stronger footing in the House of Commons. It’s unfortunate that we have fewer seats.”

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