VICTORIA — NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has been unequivocal in saying he would not help the Conservatives to form a government in the event that no party wins a majority, but he won’t say if that means he’d be willing to trigger a snap election.
Opinion polls suggest many progressive voters remain undecided with only three days left until election day. They also suggest the Liberals and Conservatives remain locked in a tie among decided voters, and that Singh’s New Democrats remain in third place, but have made significant gains since the election began.
The numbers look increasingly like there could be a minority government.
Singh has been firm in saying he would be unwilling to prop up a Conservative minority government. While campaigning in British Columbia Friday, he reiterated his stance, saying he would be willing to work with any of the other parties in a potential minority scenario, including the Liberals, but never with the Conservatives.
“We’re not going to support a Conservative minority government. We’re not going to support in any way Mr. Scheer being put into the prime minister’s seat,” Singh said in Port Alberni.
“That’s something that we’ve ruled out entirely, unequivocally.”
However, when questioned by reporters whether this means he would be willing to trigger a snap election if the Conservatives win the most seats but not a majority, Singh remained vague.
“People should know that New Democrats aren’t going to work with putting in a Conservative government. We’re not going to do that,” he said.
“What they should know is the Liberals have let you down and the more New Democrats you vote for in this election … we’re going to form government. But if you vote for enough of us either way we’re going to fight for the priorities we put forward.”
The Liberals have spent much of the campaign warning Canadians against voting for the NDP or Greens, arguing that to do so would split the progressive vote and let the Conservatives, who have promised to eliminate the carbon tax and cut federal spending, take power.
Singh has used every public appearance — rallies, stump speeches, whistle stops, media interviews — in the last week encouraging voters not to fall for this push for strategic voting. He calls them Liberal scare tactics aimed at keeping themselves in power.
He has also added an another detail in his messaging over the last 24 hours — expressing disappointment at Green Leader Elizabeth May for saying she would be willing to work with the Conservatives in a minority government.
May’s own riding includes the southern tip of Vancouver Island and some polls suggest her party has been doing well in a number of ridings in the province that the NDP hope to capture.
On Friday, Singh pointed to abortion and same-sex marriage — issues Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has struggled to stickhandle politically due to statements he has made saying he is personally against both — as key reasons he has absolutely ruled out working with the Conservatives.
“Ms. May hasn’t done that and that’s one of the big differences,” Singh said.
“We don’t think you can negotiate with a woman’s right to choose, with same-sex marriage, with services.”
Conservative views on abortion and same-sex marriage also landed Singh an unexpected ally on Friday.
Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley said she will vote for the NDP candidate in her riding, despite disagreements with the federal party on energy policy.
Notley released a statement saying she was not planning to take a public position on the federal election, but the prospect of a Conservative minority government backed by the separatist Bloc Quebecois has her deeply concerned for the future of the country.
She criticized Scheer’s plans to roll back action on climate change and cut spending, as well as anti-choice, homophobic and xenophobic views within his party.
That’s why she said she is endorsing the NDP candidate in her riding of Edmonton Strathcona, Heather McPherson — the only candidate she believes can beat the Conservatives there.
Notley, a former Alberta premier, has clashed with Singh over the Trans Mountain oil pipeline and other energy issues.
They still don’t see eye-to-eye on these issues, “nor has my resolve to challenge him on these matters,” Notley said Friday. “However, it is also my view that there is no parliamentary makeup that will allow Mr. Singh to assert those views.”
Later at a rally in Victoria that drew an overflow crowd of more than 800 people, Singh got a more ringing endorsement from B.C. Premier John Horgan.
The New Democrat premier, who presides over one of three provincial minority governments in Canada, joked to the crowd that he feels an excitement about the party that he’s not felt in a few years — referencing the NDP’s electoral breakthrough in B.C.
“It was as if the mainstream media didn’t know he existed and now everyone in Canada knows the most compassionate, hardest working person on the ballot is Jagmeet Singh,” Horgan said.
Horgan also tried to counter concerns about the increasing possibility of a minority government in Ottawa.
“I’m here to tell British Columbians who know this, but most importantly Canadians: fear not a minority government. Celebrate a minority government.”
Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press