After a March break that included townhalls for all the party leaders, Singh returned to Parliament Hill this week looking increasingly like a man looking for a trial separation if a not a divorce.
He must decide whether to become part of the China election interference scandal or not.
On Tuesday he announced that he would vote in favor of a Conservative motion to force Trudeau Chief of Staff Katie Telford to appear before the Procedure and House Affairs Committee that is investigating Chinese interference in Canadian elections. Trudeau quickly agreed to allow Telford to testify.
On Feb. 27, Singh called for a public inquiry into the China scandal.
Since agreeing to prop up the Trudeau government, Singh has played the role of a man who can’t decide whether he’s an opposition leader or a member of a faux coalition that results in Singh rising in the House of Commons every day and lobbing softball questions to Trudeau and then retreating to his social media and doing his best to defy Trudeau with tweets and Facebook texts that suggest he is only supporting Trudeau to satisfy the greater Canadian good.
Although the marriage is on the rocks with Singh increasingly sounding like he wants out, a divorce is not imminent, especially since the NDP is not exactly being encouraged by the polls to fight a federal election. But he doesn’t want to go down with the ship along with Trudeau.
However, Singh has backed himself into a corner of late, suggesting that the NDP might not support the upcoming March 28 Liberal budget if Trudeau doesn’t agree to a public inquiry into the China abyss. That would be the end of the NDP’s alliance with the Liberals who would lose a non-confidence vote leading to an election sometime in the Spring.
What the NDP leader needs to know is how fragile is his party’s support among its core voters. A recent by-election in Mississauga might have provided Singh a look into the political crystal ball. Support for the NDP cratered with the Liberal candidate capturing 51 percent of the vote and the NDP running third with little more support than splinter parties.
Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre did nothing to enhance his party’s chances in the vote, not campaigning for his candidate and not really expecting to win.
But the real shock was how badly the NDP fared. The Liberal vote held but the NDP support was not much better than the Peoples Party of Canada. If that electoral phenomenon was a foretaste of what the NDP can expect writ large in the upcoming federal election, the numbers spell doom for a party that does not really own any province or region in Canada and relies on picking up seats in tight three-way races.
Some of the NDP support is undoubtedly going to the Liberals -- as it did in Mississauga – but a lot of the party’s traditional blue collar support is going to the Conservatives. When Poilievre expressed his support for the Freedom Convoy protest in February 2022, when truckers was across Canada descended on Ottawa to protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates, it was like a deep fissure opened up in the NDP vote and working-class people suddenly realized they had more in common with the Conservatives than they did with the woke socialists who are obsessed with gender pronouns, climate change hysteria and censoring “disinformation.”
So as Singh hosts townhalls this week, he won’t only look like a desperate man, he will be one. While he is shuffling nearer to really criticizing Trudeau, he still looks like a vacillating straight man for Trudeau.
Trudeau will be hosting his own townhalls during the March break and he will undoubtedly get an earful from angry voters who want to know what the prime minister new about Chinese interference and its direct funding of Liberal candidates. Both Trudeau and Singh are trying to buy time – but for what? Do either of them really believe the electoral choices will be easier a month or two from now.
China has become Trudeau’s Watergate and Singh has been so slow to transition from politician buddy to political foe that he could well end up wearing a large portion of the blame even if he didn’t apparently benefit from Chinese largesse in the 2021 election. It’s merely massive guilt by close association.
The only winners from the China scandal are the Conservatives who have rightly gone for Trudeau’s jugular from the beginning of the scandal. And with Trudeau down for the count and Singh looking like the listless, undecided and indeterminate leader that he is, this could all be sympatico for Poilievre who could well lead his party to a landslide election victory when the NDP inevitably pulls the plug on their alliance with the Liberals.
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Remind me next month