Opinion: Why Trudeau's Liberals aren't exactly upset over Jagmeet Singh's historic NDP victory

Feb 26 2019, 5:26 am

No matter your political leanings, we all should acknowledge that the result of Monday’s Federal by-election in Burnaby South gives Canada a historic first. The win by NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh means he will take his seat in the House of Commons as the first major federal party leader who is a visible minority.

That’s pretty neat, even if long overdue.

Singh finished comfortably ahead of Liberal Party candidate and former MLA, Richard T. Lee, by nearly 3,000 votes. Although it certainly was a celebration for Singh, with ongoing concerns about his leadership and the fact he didn’t have a seat in Parliament before Monday, it was also the result that he desperately needed to silence critics and even potentially keep his job.

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But here’s the interesting catch about this by-election: As much as the Federal Liberals would have liked the idea of picking up another BC seat heading towards October’s general election – when push comes to shove, they are probably perfectly happy with this result.

Why, you ask?

Justin Trudeau and the Liberals know Singh. They know he hasn’t exactly lit things up as NDP leader, and they are confident that on a national stage, they can beat him. After all, Singh’s approval ratings are barely in the double digits in some parts of the country.

Given the SNC-Lavalin affair, the Trans-Mountain Pipeline, and other contentious issues, the Liberals would much rather go up against an opponent they know and are confident in being able to beat versus the potential of Singh being ousted as leader by someone more popular with voters. Not unlike what happened when (now Premier) Doug Ford unexpectedly became the leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party less than two months before that province’s provincial election in 2018.

There is also one other interesting political dynamic to pay attention to coming out of Monday’s Burnaby South result that is also good for the Liberals – the potential vote splitting problem facing the Conservative Party.

Conservative candidate Jay Shin finished in third place behind Singh and Lee with just over 5,100 votes. Except for the fact that he lost out on potentially another 2,400 votes that went to an even more conservative candidate from the upstart People’s Party who set out to outflank the Conservatives with more extreme right wing rhetoric around immigration and other socially conservative issues.

Had that vote split not happened, Shin and the Conservatives still wouldn’t have won, but it could have been a lot closer.