Jagmeet Singh opened the door Sunday to entering into a coalition government in order to keep the Conservatives out of power.
Speaking to reporters after a large rally in the B.C riding of Surrey—Newton, the NDP Leader was asked if he would push for a coalition government with the Liberals, the Green Party or the Bloc Québécois, in the event that the Conservatives win the most seats but fall short of a majority.
“Absolutely, because we’re not going to support a Conservative government,” Mr. Singh said, as the crowd erupted in cheers.
“We’re ready to do whatever it takes – I don’t know what’s going to happen so that’s a hypothetical situation,” he said. “In any scenario that happens whatever Canadians choose, I’m going to make sure Canadians get the best deal. I’m going to make sure we fight hard for the things that are our priorities. I’m going to make sure we deliver those things.”
In response to Mr. Singh’s comments, Liberal Party spokesperson Carlene Variyan said, “we are campaigning hard to stop Conservative cuts and elect a progressive government."
The Green Party noted Sunday that there are many governing options that parties can choose from if no party wins a majority on Oct. 21.
The Conservatives did not respond Sunday evening to a request for comment.
Since the leaders’ debates last week, the NDP and Bloc Québécois have risen in the polls. The Liberals and Conservatives are still polling well ahead of the NDP but are locked in a stalemate and, according to pollster Nik Nanos, if an election were held today, no party would win a majority government.
The deadlock is raising questions about which parties would be able to work together in that scenario. Mr. Singh has previously said that he would not support the Conservatives in a minority government but on Sunday he took it a step further by saying he is open to a coalition government.
While Canada has had its share of federal minority governments, where the party with the most seats governs by getting support from other parties on a case-by-case basis, coalition governments are rare. Under a coalition government, multiple parties sit at the cabinet table and the prime minister is the leader from the party with the most seats.
Since Confederation, there has only been one successful coalition – led by Sir Robert Borden – during the First World War. The last time a coalition was attempted was in 2008 between then-Liberal leader Stéphane Dion and NDP leader Jack Layton. But it disintegrated after the Conservatives prorogued Parliament.
With election day one week away, University of Moncton Professor Donald Savoie, the Canada Research Chair in Public Administration and Governance, called the speculation “premature.” He noted that with so much uncertainty left in the result, the NDP has no guarantee that it will get to play kingmaker.
“The leader of the NDP should cool his jets, frankly," Prof. Savoie said.
Voters, he said, will get to decide who will sit in Parliament on Oct. 21 and then the leaders will have to find a way to make it work. He added that with the volatility in the polls and the rise of the Bloc Québécois, many options are on the table, including the possibility that the NDP end up with a diminished place in the House, sitting in fourth place instead of third.
“It’s inappropriate for the leader of any party to talk coalition before Canadians have spoken," Prof. Savoie said.
In the first four weeks of the election campaign, polls reflected little change in support for the parties. But as the leaders enter the final leg, the ground is shifting beneath their feet.
Since the debates, the NDP has been on a “positive trajectory,” Mr. Nanos said. That’s resulted in a change in messaging from Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau who since Saturday has increased his focus on New Democrats, in addition to the Conservatives.
“The NDP wasn’t able to stop Doug Ford. The NDP wasn’t able to stop Stephen Harper. If you want to stop Conservative cuts, you have to elect a progressive government, not a progressive opposition,” Mr. Trudeau said in Toronto Sunday.
The Liberal Leader was campaigning with an increased security presence Sunday, after a Saturday rally where he wore a protective vest and was flanked by extra security. He said he was acting on the advice of the RCMP but declined to elaborate further.
Mr. Singh campaigned in B.C. on Sunday and voted in advance polls in his Burnaby South riding.
When asked about Liberals insisting that a vote for the New Democrats is a vote for the Conservatives, Mr. Singh accused the Liberals and Conservatives of taking voters for granted and said strategic voting "hasn’t made Canada a better place.”
“I want to say to people – you own your vote, you can vote any way you want," Mr. Singh said. "Do not vote out of fear. Vote for what you believe.”
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer took the day off from campaigning.
According to Sunday’s daily tracking survey from Nanos Research, the Liberals and Conservatives are deadlocked at 32 per cent support each. The New Democrats are up five points since Thursday and now sit at 20 per cent, with the Greens at 9 per cent, the Bloc Québécois at 6 per cent and the People’s Party at 1 per cent.
The poll was sponsored by The Globe and Mail and CTV, with a total of 1,200 Canadians surveyed from Oct. 10 to Oct. 12. It has a margin of error of 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Respondents were asked: “If a federal election were held today, could you please rank your top two current local voting preferences?” A report on the results, questions and methodology for this and all surveys can be found at http://tgam.ca/election-polls.