Jagmeet’s first challenge.

The new leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party (NDP) has been busier than you think. Taking his party’s leadership was Jagmeet Singh’s easiest task. His journeys around Canada since then have been to convince the party members that an observant Sikh does not have two heads and can also be an effective politician. Now he has an excellent opportunity to show that he can lead his party. This coming weekend at the party’s annual conference in Ottawa is his first serious challenge. He has a badly fractured party to heal and bring together.

Unique among Canada’s federal political parties, the NDP is based on its provincial organizations. Two of these provincial bodies are at war. The B.C. and Alberta parties are well past the nasty names phase. This is a war over the delivery of bitumen to tidewater and you best not to get between protagonists in that war.

And this battle will not stay in the west. The entire party will want to take sides. The LEAP Manifesto, which is a problem in its own right, will be the battle flag for the anti-bitumen warriors.

The person watching the closest to see what Jagmeet Singh does in this situation will be Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He is caught up in the same war. Jagmeet’s only advantage is that he has yet to take a stand. The prime minister has already had his cabinet approve the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

Trudeau’s minister of natural resources has proposed new safeguards for our coastal waters and his environment minister has backstopped with more promises of environmental protection—to little avail.

The last thing that Trudeau really wants to do is to enforce the federal government’s powers to make the Trans-Mountain expansion happen. That would cost him most of his Liberal MPs in B.C. in the 2019 election. He can expect no offsetting gains in Alberta.

What Jagmeet needs is a solution that would stop the squabbling in his own party. He has been travelling in selected areas of Canada to ensure that he has the support within the NDP to even address the problem.

He now has an excellent opportunity to show his party that an effective politician can also solve the bitumen war.

We should all wish Jagmeet Singh well in this opportunity.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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