Jagmeet Singh, gathering campaign team, appears poised to enter NDP leadership race

Jagmeet Singh at the Toronto Region Board of Trade’s 128th Annual Dinner on Jan 18, 2016.

OTTAWA — Ontario NDP deputy leader Jagmeet Singh is building a national campaign team and appears poised to enter the federal party’s leadership race.

The 38-year-old Singh, who represents Bramalea-Gore-Malton in the Ontario legislature and who has drawn attention for his work on such issues as police carding in Toronto (and whose sense of style recently landed him in the pages of American magazine GQ), has not yet formally committed to a bid.

But a source close to the MPP says a core group of about eight people are organizing a campaign team, and have found a prospective campaign manager who is negotiating leave from their current employer so they can work with Singh. Another source told the National Post that Singh has quietly begun informing others in the political sphere that he plans to run.

While Singh told the Post he still hasn’t made a decision, he acknowledged “people are really encouraging me to take a step,” and “in politics, that doesn’t happen very often.”

He admits he’s been building the infrastructure for a potential run. “In order to put forward a national campaign, a part of what I’ve been doing is meeting with folks around the country to figure out what the support would look like. I’ve been honoured by the level of support that we’ve received so far,” he said, telling the Post he has received pledges from New Democrats who want to donate or volunteer.

“In order to run a really strong campaign I wanted to put together a national team, and I want to make sure that there’s great members of that team that can put everything together,” he said, though he wouldn’t identify any member of his team. “There are folks that I would love to be a part of the campaign.”

One factor in Singh’s decision is the perceived opportunity for the NDP to make gains in Ontario, where Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals are faring abysmally in the polls ahead of what is expected to be a 2018 election. For the first time in many years, Singh said, forming a government at Queen’s Park seems within the party’s grasp.

But if Singh wants to throw his hat in for the federal leadership he has until July 3 to complete the formal registration process, which includes paying a nonrefundable $30,000 registration fee and gathering 500 signatures from across the country, half of which must be from female-identifying members and at least 100 from “equity-seeking groups” (minorities, the disabled and those who dientify as LGBTQ). July is the only deadline he’s setting for himself to make a decision, Singh said.

The race is so far comprised of four candidates, all sitting federal MPs: northern Ontario’s Charlie Angus, Manitoba’s Niki Ashton, Quebec’s Guy Caron and British Columbia’s Peter Julian.

Singh said he paid attention to the two debates held in March and it’s good to see so much consensus among candidates.

“I think the cool thing that you’ll see with New Democrats is we all kind of agree,” he said. “By and large, we’re all in the same world. We all believe very much in social justice. The two biggest issues that are facing our country are income inequality and climate change. … New Democrat folks are going to keep those two issues top of mind.”

Two others are known to be considering declaring their candidacy in the coming weeks. Retired colonel and veterans ombudsman Pat Stogran told iPolitics last week he is planning a leadership run, and Ontario union veteran Sid Ryan recently told the Post he will enter the race if no candidates position themselves far enough to the left.

The next official leadership debate isn’t until May 28 in Sudbury, Ont. — a day after the Conservative party chooses its own new leader at a convention in Toronto.

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