Singh, who is Sikh, is the first non-white leader of a major federal party in Canada
Jagmeet Singh was declared the new leader of the NDP in a decisive victory after a single round of voting ended on Sunday.
The Ontario MPP was named leader with 53.8 percent of the vote at a Toronto convention centre, during the finale of a drawn-out leadership campaign that began after current leader Tom Mulcair lost a vote on a leadership review in April 2016.
Singh, who is Sikh, is the first non-white leader of a major federal party in Canada. He is also only the third NDP leader to have been elected on the first ballot, after Tommy Douglas, the party’s first leader, and Jack Layton.
In his victory speech, Singh said he ran a campaign focused on inequality, climate change, reconciliation and electoral reform. “To make progress on these issues, to truly make Canadians’ lives better, we owe it to Canadians to form a government. We owe it to them,” he told a cheering crowd.
Singh’s perceived rival, Ontario MP Charlie Angus, finished well behind him, with just 19.4 percent of the vote. Manitoba MP Niki Ashton won 17.4 percent, while Quebec MP Guy Caron finished in the last place, with 9.4 percent of the ballots cast.
In total, 65,782 of the roughly 124,000 NDP members voted, or 52.8 percent, slightly lower than the turnout during the Conservative leadership race, when about 55 percent of eligible voters cast ballots. Turnout for the first ballot of the 2012 NDP leadership race was about 51 percent.
In an interview, Singh said he hopes to inspire a new generation of leaders “who didn’t see themselves reflected in government. I’m only here today because people before me have broken barriers,” he said.
NDP national director Robert Fox called the victory for Singh, a 38-year-old criminal lawyer, a “game-changer” for diversity in Canadian politics.
“There are so many Canadians who sort of feel that they’ve been on the outside looking in, and he has kicked the door open and said, ‘Come on in,’” Fox said. “And for young brown men and women, for people of colour, for Indigenous Canadians, it really gives them a sense of opportunity, of openness, of prospects in 2019.”
Singh has positioned himself as a leader who can grow the party in the suburbs and among immigrant communities. Gurnishan Singh, a volunteer on his campaign, said the victory will bring people from minority communities to the NDP “in masses.”
“A lot of individuals, especially new immigrants, they always have a little barrier, they don’t have a sense of belonging,” he said. “Seeing an individual like Jagmeet up on stage … really makes them feel like Canada is an inclusive country.”