The NDP under leader Jagmeet Singh will be returning to Ottawa with its balance of power position intact, but the party’s hopes of major seat gains came up short.
As of Tuesday morning, the NDP was leading or elected in 25 ridings. The party held 24 seats in the last Parliament.
As was the case in the previous Parliament, the Liberals will need the support of at least one of the three other main parties – the Conservatives, the NDP or the Bloc Québécois – to win votes in the House of Commons. The Liberals frequently relied on the NDP for key votes in the previous Parliament and Mr. Singh’s party continues to have enough seats on its own to extract concessions from the Liberals in exchange for support.
“I want to thank Canadians for voting,” Mr. Singh said late on Monday at his party’s Vancouver headquarters. “And I want to let Canadians know that you can count on New Democrats to continue fighting for you. As we fought for you in the pandemic when times were difficult, when people were struggling…we were there for you.”
Anne McGrath, the NDP’s national director, said that Mr. Singh will continue to push the government on NDP priority issues. “He doesn’t hold back when it comes to the things that he thinks that we should be doing as a Parliament,” she added.
Canada's federal election: Join The Globe's Laura Stone and Campbell Clark for a post-election Q&A Sept. 21 at noon
“If we have the balance of power, we will use it appropriately,” Ms. McGrath said. “We’ve been very effective at holding government to account, at putting forward positive proposals and making sure that they get implemented.”
Early results would have been disappointing for the NDP as the party failed to make major seat gains and was shut out of Atlantic Canada after losing the Newfoundland and Labrador riding of St. John’s East.
Mr. Singh visited 51 ridings across the country over the course of the 36-day federal election campaign, his second as NDP Leader. He campaigned nationally on a message of positive change and fighting for Canadians, while also directing sharp attacks toward Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.
On major issues like child care, housing and climate policy, Mr. Singh consistently stated that while the Liberals “say nice things” and are making similar promises to the NDP, Mr. Trudeau’s six years in power show he can’t be trusted to deliver.
The added experience of having one national campaign as Leader under his belt showed in terms of appearing more comfortable in the national spotlight. Though Mr. Singh won the party leadership in 2017, the former Ontario MPP didn’t have a seat in the federal Parliament until February, 2019, when he won a by-election in the B.C. riding of Burnaby South. Just a few months later, he was representing the party in the fall election of 2019.
Since then, the NDP has focused on fundraising and paying down debts, which allowed the party to enter this campaign with extra money to spend. The party’s paid advertising has been more visible this time around. The colourful ads contrasted pointed critiques of Mr. Trudeau with positive images of Mr. Singh, and the party rarely focused its attention on the Conservatives.
The NDP dropped to 24 seats in the 2019 election, placing fourth behind the Bloc Québécois’ 32 seats, the Conservatives’ 121 seats and the Liberals’ 157 seats. The Green Party won three seats in 2019, and one independent was elected – former Liberal cabinet minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, who did not run for re-election in this campaign. Ms. Wilson-Raybould has made positive comments online about Anjali Appadurai, the NDP candidate in her former riding of Vancouver Granville.
One clear strategy for Mr. Singh in this campaign – and throughout his leadership of the party – has been a concerted effort to win over younger voters on social-media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram. At his campaign rallies, he encouraged supporters to jump and dance along to his upbeat campaign song, and join him in the refrain he repeats at each stop: “When we lift each other up, we all rise.”
Young voters are an important demographic for the party, but since they’re less likely to show up to the polls, the NDP made efforts to share messages of voter empowerment and educational resources on how to vote. This push for the youth vote may have been made more difficult by the cancellation of Elections Canada voting on campuses because of complications related to a snap election during a pandemic.
Throughout his campaign, Mr. Singh stuck to his message of taxing the wealthy in order to pay for the party’s proposed programs. At his final campaign news conference on Sunday, Mr. Singh said the NDP’s proposed wealth tax is the key issue for him in supporting a minority government.
Those simple, consistent pitches to voters were a strength of the campaign, according to NDP strategist Sally Housser. “The NDP has been really, really good at staying on message,” she said, “and that is often a large part of the battle.”
Ms. Housser also emphasized the party’s offensive strategy in the final stretch of the campaign, visiting ridings that the New Democrats thought they had the potential to flip orange. In the last weekend of the campaign, the party visited Saskatoon, Regina, Edmonton and Cranbrook, B.C., all locations where the New Democrats were trying to pick up seats. They also added a stop in Halifax at the last minute, and then spent Sunday campaigning in Vancouver’s Lower Mainland, targeting Liberal- and Conservative-held ridings.
Mr. Singh inherited a party that had fallen considerably from its 2011 peak, when the “orange wave” election under party leader Jack Layton saw the NDP win a record 103 seats. That result was driven by dramatic gains for the party in Quebec, where it won 59 seats. Mr. Layton died later that year and his successor, Tom Mulcair, was unable to maintain the party’s popularity in Quebec or nationally in 2015, when the NDP was reduced to 44 seats, including 16 in Quebec. By 2019, the NDP was down to just one seat in Quebec.