Hélène Laverdière, his campaign team put an end about whether a Sikh could win votes from this state since Jagmeet Singh this week declared his acceptance from a Quebec MP.
Fat chance, at this point.
Concerns among New Democrats about Mr. Singh’s viability in the state that catapulted the NDP to its best-ever election result six decades back, which were generated voluminous punditry in the official languages because Le Devoir reported them earlier this month, are not likely to be abated by one of 16 Quebec caucus members coming aboard. Nor is Ms. Laverdière’s backing, useful though it can be, likely to change the minds of those Quebeckers — a vast majority of the electorate there, a recent Angus Reid poll suggested — that wouldn’t vote for a Sikh, or anybody sporting religious headwear.
The threat to Mr. Singh’s hopes of winning the NDP’s fall leadership vote isn’t so much that many Quebeckers could come out to cast ballots against him Despite Quebec accounting for almost half of the New Democratic caucus, the party doesn’t have enough members there to count for much in a one-member, 1 vote system. It’s that New Democrats elsewhere in the country could be skeptical of picking someone who would make it more difficult to return toward the 59 seats they won in 2011 in Quebec.
As clear as that worry could be, this could be a fantastic time for New Democrats to ask themselves: Is it really in their interests to attempt and remain in the good graces of individuals who would never vote for a proud member of a religious minority, even if this includes a reasonable number of people who voted for them at least once before?
To raise that question isn’t to discount as a bigot anyone who’s uncomfortable with the overt religiosity of someone like Mr. Singh. Without doubt, as press in the rest of the nation often bend over backward to point out, some of the distress stems from a liberal secularism that only intimate familiarity with the Quiet Revolution can describe — even when the giant cross in the National Assembly, and the exact same poll showing higher relaxation with evangelical Christians than with Sikhs or Muslims, suggest other factors are also at play for a few Quebeckers.
But setting aside the reasons for some Quebeckers’ sentiments, the problem for the NDP is compatibility between their fans in the rest of the nation and also there.
New Democrats have to have a chance of winning at least twice the amount of ridings in the rest of Canada as in Quebec, if they are to challenge for authorities. Yes, a chunk of the electorate in other states shares the distress with practising Muslims, Sikhs or members of prominent minorities in leadership positions. But those on the left side of this spectrum are likely to decide if the celebration is perceived by them as intolerant toward those minorities not to vote NDP.
That is true in the suburban and urban areas that dominate the map, where the NDP would like to challenge the Liberals’ dominance. And it applies to populations and growing minority-religion themselves, the NDP should work out the way to court if it is to prevent status that is perennial, and which are things in battlegrounds particularly.
In the conditions, the NDP could win over voters in Quebec and the rest of Canada who have views. That is arguably what happened in 2011, although gains in areas like the Greater Toronto Area and B.C.’s Lower Mainland were still short of what is necessary to win government.
However, the history of parties which newspaper over important ideological fault lines to create coalitions of Quebeckers and non-Quebeckers indicates it’s a recipe for long-term tragedy even if it attracts short-term achievement — Brian Mulroney’s alliance of Quebec nationalists and Western populists (among others), culminating in the collapse of the Progressive Conservatives and the increase of the Bloc Québécois and the Reform Party, being the most obvious example.
Those fault lines may change with time. It’s been long enough that federalism might not be as divisive a subject as it was. Minority rights, in a state continued to experience profound demographic change, today seem more like the type of subject where a party will suffer if it attempts to have it both ways — as the NDP got a whiff of in the last campaign, as it was able to cede defence of niqab-wearing girls to the Liberals outside Quebec and alienate Quebec fans by belatedly taking that side.
Because foregoing Quebec looks like a route to Official Opposition or back to authorities pessimistic New Democrats might see a Catch-22. But the Liberals demonstrated it is possible to acquire most seats in Quebec posing as a party aligned with minority populations and sympathetic to.
Whether the Liberals’ fans in 2015 were fully on board with accommodation, or simply ready to overlook it, a lot of them are available to a NDP.
It shouldn’t necessarily be Mr. Singh leading it. There are loads of reasons that are defensible, from lack of experience to thinking he lacks policy material to being put off by the manner in that New Democrats could pick he is not their guy.
But those winds up as their leader ought to be careful of trying too difficult to keep within the tent anybody who would deny Mr. Singh because he wears a turban. It’s a way to have the tent collapse.