TORONTO — Jagmeet Singh and the New Democrats may hold the balance of power in the next Liberal minority government by playing a key role in helping pass confidence matters and key legislation.
Singh, who won in his B.C. riding of Burnaby South, was steadfast throughout the campaign that he was running to form government, but the party was consistently running a distant third to Justin Trudeau’s Liberals and Erin O’Toole’s Conservatives.
“I want to say that Canadians know that you can count on the New Democrats to continue fighting for you. As we’ve fought for you in the pandemic when times are difficult, when people were struggling, when people were worried about their future. We were there for you,” Singh said in his concession speech late on Monday night.
“Friends, I want you to know that our fight will continue. We are never going to give up fighting for you and your families, as we have done in the pandemic as we showed you in this campaign, we will continue to make sure you are first, your families are taken care of, that your needs are met. That’s what New Democrats are all about.”
The party hoped to win more seats than it did in 2019 when it was dealt a major blow, losing 20 of the 44 seats it previously held. It was the party’s worst showing in more than a decade.
Despite those heavy losses, the party was able to play a pivotal role in the House of Commons, often propping up the Liberals, but also exercising their influence to press the Liberals on a number of issues, particularly during the pandemic.
Projections show the party could gain more seats this time, potentially giving the NDP greater influence negotiating with the Liberals.
In Atlantic Canada, the party lost the only seat they had in the region, with NDP candidate Mary Shortall losing to Liberal candidate Joanne Thompson.
In Alberta, NDP incumbent Heather McPherson won the Edmonton Strathcona seat, CTV News has declared.
With the pandemic casting a long shadow over this election, Singh’s campaign messaging highlighted his role in pushing Trudeau to deliver greater financial support to Canadians than what the Liberals had initially promised.
The NDP takes credit for pressuring the Liberals to double the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to $2,000 and raise the wage subsidy to 75 per cent, for example. On a number of other occasions, the NDP also hinged their support for the Liberals on key votes by negotiating deals such as paid sick leave. It was a message Singh reiterated again during his speech on Monday. Whether the New Democrats can claim all of the credit may be questionable, but the party was consistent in vocalizing their demands throughout the pandemic.
Grace Skogstad, a professor with the University of Toronto’s Department of Political Science told CTVNews.ca earlier this summer that Singh has been effective in a Liberal minority government by holding their feet to the fire.
A key issue the NDP will likely try to negotiate with the Liberals is on his campaign pledge to tax the ultra-rich. He told reporters over the weekend that his “number one priority” was to ensure billionaires contribute their fair share through an increase in taxes.