‘Beyond appearance’: Singh makes pitch to Quebec voters on shared values

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HUDSON, Que. — NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says he has seen a more welcoming attitude from Quebec voters toward him as the campaign has rolled along.

There is a spirit of openness that can be ignored in Quebec because of the focus on the province’s contentious secularism law, known as Bill 21, Singh said.

That bill bans many public servants from wearing religious symbols or garments at work, and would cover Singh if he ever wanted to work in the province as a teacher, for instance, because he wears a turban and a kirpan as symbols of his Sikh faith.

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The bill’s popularity in Quebec has raised questions about its influence on voters’ perceptions of Singh, particularly after a man in Montreal suggested the NDP leader get rid of the turban to look more Canadian.

Singh said Quebecers see past his appearance as he has talked more about his values and how they align with voters in the province.

“I certainly believe things have changed throughout the campaign,” Singh said Wednesday.

“I’ve seen the change. Quebecers are saying, ‘You know what? This is a guy who sounds just like us, he talks like us — his French isn’t that bad — and more importantly, he’s got the same values.'”

The NDP leader is spending the day trying to woo as many of those voters as possible ahead of Monday’s vote by spending time in the area where former party leader Jack Layton was raised.

The New Democrats have seen themselves getting an increasing share of support in public opinion polls, but the nationwide increase doesn’t appear to be translating into Quebec.

Layton led the party in the 2011 election to a 103-seat breakthrough, the majority of which was delivered in Quebec as the so-called “orange wave” swept through the province.


But polls now suggest the party is facing the possibility of two, one, or no seats in Quebec after election day.

When asked what separates the NDP from the Liberals in Quebec, Singh was blunt: “We are actually progressive.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Oct. 16, 2019.

The Canadian Press

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