Sabine Singh does not appear daunted by the task ahead of her as the federal New Democratic candidate for Saanich Gulf Islands: to defeat incumbent Member of Parliament Elizabeth May.
For many Canadians, the federal Green Party leader is the face of environmentalism of Canada and enters the 2019 campaign as the two-term incumbent, having first won in 2011 with 46 per cent of the vote, some 12 points ahead of Tory incumbent Gary Lunn. In 2015, she increased her vote total, winning the riding with 54.4 per cent, 35 per cent ahead of Tory candidate Robert Boyd. In both elections, the New Democratic candidate won 11.8 per cent and nine per cent respectively.
Singh said that she would learn a lot of from May during the campaign. “But one person is not a party,” she said. “I believe in what I’m doing.”
When Singh accepts her party’s nomination this Saturday at Saanich Commonwealth Place, she will enter federal politics for the first time. A single mother of two, Singh said she entered in part because of concerns over climate change and its impacts on future generations.
“I fear for them and all of their friends,” said Singh, who has taught political science at institutions across British Columbia for 15 years, including the University of Victoria and Camosun College. (By way of background, Singh’s academic work explores issues of Indigenous governance, and she been involved in a number of political and environmental causes).
Canada, she said, needs to elect a New Democratic government under party leader Jagmeet Singh to combat climate change, a process that will require cooperation with other countries, as well as fix its political institutions, in reference to the SNC-Lavalin scandal that has robbed the Liberals of their popularity and rocked the political system at large.
Singh’s pending nomination unfolds against a narrative that sees Vancouver Island as a two-way battle between the New Democrats and the federal Greens, who are planning to turn Vancouver Island, especially Greater Victoria, into a beachhead for future gains across the country with a possible eye towards holding the balance of power in a potential minority parliament, a prospect dismissed by local New Democratic MP Randall Garrison.
Singh strikes a comparable tone, by noting that May essentially represents a party of one, whereby the New Democrats have a “very realistic chance” to form government under its current leader.
“I think we have a good very chance,” said Singh.
Observers of the New Democrats may disagree. While the Orange Wave carried the party to 103 seats and Official Opposition status in 2011, it lost 51 seats in 2015, and at least opinion poll predicts that party could end up with half of that number in the fall of 2019, with Conservatives leading the polls ahead of the ruling Liberals.
Observers have been especially critical of Jagmeet Singh’s performance. Since becoming leader, the party has struggled in byelections, most recently in Nanaimo-Ladysmith, a riding previously held by the New Democrats.
Singh disagrees. Jagmeet Singh, she said, is going to gain profile as the campaign unfolds and the public becomes more familiar with the party’s election platform, which it recently released.
While the New Democrats have always been supporters of the environment, it can also speak to other issues, said Singh.