BURNABY, B.C. — Jagmeet Singh kept hopes high during a final push for votes in British Columbia Sunday, saying New Democrats will fight for people regardless of the results of Monday’s election.
He made the pitch to hundreds of supporters in the Lower Mainland, visiting eight ridings held by Liberals and Conservatives that the party is hoping to swing orange.
"No matter what happens tomorrow, we are not going to waver on our commitment to put people first," Singh said during his final address to the media in Burnaby Sunday morning.
People dressed in orange cheered loudly as they crowded the sidewalks during a later stop in the Vancouver Granville riding. The large show of support in the riding once held by former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould appeared to offer a morale boost for the party, which is tracking behind the Liberals and Conservatives.
The latest opinion polling shows another minority government seems likely, but Singh remained steadfast that he is running to be prime minister. He said Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole have teamed up in the past to make what he described as bad decisions for Canadians.
Singh said even if the election ultimately results in another minority government, the NDP will fight for people whether “it feels like Groundhog Day or not.”
"I'm looking to make government work for you," Singh said in Burnaby.
When asked what the key issue would be for Singh to support another party in a minority parliament, he said he's focused on making sure billionaires pay their fair share when it comes to the cost of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Zak Ludwig, 23, and Brooklyn Nielsen, 22, said they were still feeling optimistic during a stop with Singh in Surrey Centre. One of the most diverse ridings in Canada, people in the region heartily voted in favour of Liberal incumbent Randeep Sarai in 2015 and 2019.
"The polls will say whatever they want to say, but what matters is that we actually get there on election day to those polls to support our beliefs as Canadians," Ludwig said.
They added that if Singh ends up as the kingmaker after results come in they would understand if the party supported a Liberal minority.
"I think we should be trying to strive towards progress at every point, Ludwig added.
"If we need partners in that mission, if we need to make agreements with other parties, it should be the parties that hold those values as close as possible."
The party is optimistic it will grow the 24 seats it held in the House of Commons at dissolution.
Singh said the toughest riding races for the New Democrats have been in Ontario.
"Folks are used to the cynical arguments of the Liberals," Singh said, urging people not to buy into those ideas.
He said people believed Trudeau would bring change to Ottawa, criticizing his actions on housing and pharmaceutical coverage, and when it didn't happen they believed more wasn't possible. Singh said with the NDP it is.
But it's the Conservatives who are eyeing the region surrounding Toronto, often referred to simply as the 905 in reference to the local area code.
O'Toole focused his home-stretch campaigning efforts on some of those ridings on Sunday. Those seats will be critical for the party's path to victory.
Singh has rarely gone after the Conservatives or even mentioned O'Toole's name throughout the campaign. He's remained laser-focused on Trudeau to vie for progressive voters who are on the fence.
Trudeau has also started to target the NDP as the Liberals sprint to the finish line. He's said the New Democrats environmental platform is less ambitious and achievable than his own.
John Horgan, the NDP premier of British Columbia, tweeted out support for Singh and Cowichan-Malahat-Langford incumbent Alistair MacGregor, though the premier has not appeared at an event with the NDP leader.
Campaigning during the COVID-19 pandemic has been different, Singh acknowledged, saying he missed the energy of large rallies and meeting more people in person.
But he said he's certain his party was still able to connect with voters about their priorities: ending the housing crisis, environmental issues and Indigenous rights.
"We have been able to show Canadians a real choice in this campaign," he said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 19, 2021.
Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press