SURREY, B.C. — NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh tried to strike a precarious balance Sunday between his opposition to the Trans Mountain pipeline and the mounting possibility of a coalition with Justin Trudeau’s Liberals.
Singh is drawing a firm line: he said he will do whatever it takes — including a possible coalition with the Liberals — to keep the Conservatives from forming a government.
But he walked a finer line when pressed Sunday on whether, if the NDP did find itself holding the balance of power after Oct. 21, the Trans Mountain pipeline project would scuttle any co-operation with Trudeau and his MPs.
“I am firmly opposed to the pipeline. I’ve been opposed to it. I will continue to fight against it and it’s absolutely one of my priorities,” Singh told a crowd of supporters in Surrey B.C.
“I won’t negotiate a future government right now, but I will tell people what my priorities are and absolutely my priority is to fight that pipeline.”
Singh offered a first glimpse of the possibility of leaving the door open to working with the Liberals — in spite of his strong stance against the pipeline — following the French debate earlier this week. Since the Liberals had already purchased the pipeline, he said, he would “work on ensuring that we are as responsible as possible with moving forward with an asset that I would not have bought.”
Singh is also walking a political tightrope when it comes to where he currently stands on liquefied natural gas (LNG) development in B.C.
A single protester disrupted the beginning of his rally Sunday, shouting obscenities at the NDP leader and voicing his opposition to the $40 billion LNG project in northern British Columbia.
The project will see LNG Canada export natural gas obtained by fracking. It has the support of the provincial NDP government in B.C.
In January, Singh voiced support for the project. But several months later, not long after the NDP suffered a byelection defeat at the hands of the Greens in the riding of Nanaimo-Ladysmith, he came out against fracking — a position he reiterated Sunday.
Asked for his current position on the project, Singh sidestepped the question, saying only that he supports the B.C. government’s plans to reduce emissions as the “most ambitious climate action plan in North America.”
Singh was far less ambiguous about his plans to stop Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer from forming a government.
“We’re going to fight a Conservative government, we’re going to fight it all the way. We’re ready to do whatever it takes,” he said.
He also spent much of Sunday trying dissuade Canadians from voting strategically with a message that encourages voters not to settle for less, but instead to “dream big.”
The New Democratic leader is trying to counter a message from the Liberals that they are the only real option for progressive voters, as they have a better shot at forming government.
The Liberal push comes as the NDP has started to see its fortunes rise.
Several polls released over the last week suggest the New Democratic party has been gaining support, rising from around 11 per cent of decided voter support at the beginning of the campaign to between 18 to 20 per cent in recent days.
But, with the party still in third place and the Liberals and Conservatives deadlocked in a statistical tie, the Liberals have spent much of the election campaign warning progressive voters against voting for the NDP or Greens and to instead cast their ballots for the Liberals to prevent the Conservatives from forming government.
Singh made it clear his ultimate goal is not to be kingmaker in a minority government.
“I want to become prime minister,” he said earlier in the day in his home riding of Burnaby South.
“I feel like this idea of strategic voting has not allowed people to dream big…I want people to dream big. I want them to demand more and never settle for less, and that’s why I don’t believe in the idea of strategically voting.”
Singh voted at an advance poll Sunday in his riding, where he joked that it was a tough choice but he “went with Mr. Singh.”
His wife, Gurkiran Kaur, accompanied him to the voting station. While she was about to cast her vote alongside Singh, she paused.
“Let me just double-check,” she said, unfolding her ballot to take a peek — much to the delight of her husband — before the pair cast their ballots together.
Singh ended his day with a whistle stop in the riding of Port Moody-Coquitlam, where the party is facing a close race to hold onto this NDP-incumbent seat.
The New Democratic leader encouraged his supporters to vote early in advance polls to help give the party as much of an advantage as possible.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 13, 2019.
Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press