Jagmeet Singh

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Jagmeet Singh
Jagmeet Singh at the 2nd National Bike Summit in Ottawa in 2018
Singh in 2018
Leader of the New Democratic Party
Assumed office
October 1, 2017
Deputy David Christopherson
Preceded by Tom Mulcair
Deputy Leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party
In office
April 20, 2015 – May 16, 2017
Leader Andrea Horwath
Preceded by Marilyn Churley
Succeeded by Sara Singh
John Vanthof
Member of the Ontario Provincial Parliament
for Bramalea—Gore—Malton
In office
October 6, 2011 – October 20, 2017
Preceded by Kuldip Kular
Succeeded by Riding dissolved
Personal details
Born Jagmeet Singh Jimmy Dhaliwal
(1979-01-02) January 2, 1979 (age 39)
Scarborough, Ontario, Canada
Political party New Democratic
Other political
Ontario New Democratic
Gurkiran Kaur Sidhu (m. 2018)
Relatives Gurratan Singh (brother)
Residence Brampton, Ontario, Canada
Alma mater University of Western Ontario (BSc)
York University (LLB)
Occupation Lawyer
Website jagmeetsingh.ca

Jagmeet Singh Jimmy Dhaliwal[1] (born January 2, 1979), professionally known as Jagmeet Singh (Punjabi: ਜਗਮੀਤ ਸਿੰਘ; /əɡˈmt/ jəg-MEET), is a Canadian lawyer and politician serving as Leader of the New Democratic Party since 2017. He was previously an Ontario New Democratic Party Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) for Bramalea—Gore—Malton in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from 2011 to 2017.[2]

Singh began his career as a criminal defense lawyer for different law firms. His political career began in 2011 where he contested the 2011 federal election in the federal riding of Bramalea—Gore—Malton which resulted in a narrow victory for Conservative opponent Bal Gosal;[3][4] he became MPP in the overlapping provincial riding later that year.[4][5] In 2015, he became Deputy Leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party, serving under Leader Andrea Horwath until 2017.

Singh announced his candidacy for the New Democratic Party leadership following a leadership review that resulted in a leadership election to replace Tom Mulcair. Despite entering the leadership race as a dark horse candidate who polled as low as 2% in early opinion polls,[6] Singh emerged as the leading candidate in the contest and was elected Leader on October 1, 2017, with a first round vote of 53.8% in a field of four.

Upon his election, Singh became the first person of a visible minority group to lead a Canadian federal political party on a permanent basis, and the second overall after Bloc Québécois’ former interim leader Vivian Barbot.[7][8] Singh is also the first turban-wearing Sikh to sit as a provincial legislator in Ontario. He has been recognized for his fashion and style sense in Canadian magazines and publications and is an active practitioner of Brazilian jiu-jitsu.[9][10]

Ideologically, Singh identifies as both a progressive and a social democrat.[11] He advocates raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, decriminalizing personal possession of all drugs, and supports eliminating several tax deductions available to the highest-income earners.[12][13]

Early life[edit]

Singh was born on January 2, 1979 in Scarborough, Ontario, to Harmeet Kaur and Jagtaran Singh,[14] immigrant parents from the Indian state of Punjab. His mother Harmeet is from Ghudani Khurd, in Punjab's Ludhiana district, while his father Jagtaran is from Thikriwala, in Barnala district.[15] His great grandfather was Sewa Singh Thikriwala, a revolutionary who fought against British occupation in India.[16] Singh grew up in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador and Windsor, Ontario,[1] and attended high school at the Detroit Country Day School, in Beverly Hills, Michigan, graduating in 1997. He obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from the University of Western Ontario in 2001 and a Bachelor of Laws degree from York University's Osgoode Hall Law School in 2005. He was called to the Bar of the Law Society of Upper Canada in 2006.[17] He is fluent in English, French, Hindi, and Punjabi.[18]

Jagmeet Singh has a younger brother, Gurratan Singh, who is also a lawyer and politician, and has been described as Jagmeet's "secret weapon."[19][20] Gurratan was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in the 2018 Ontario election, representing the riding of Brampton East.[21]

Singh worked as a criminal defence lawyer in the Greater Toronto Area before entering politics, first at the law firm Pinkofskys, then at his own practice, Singh Law, which he established with Gurratan.[1][22] During his time as a lawyer he offered free legal rights seminars across Ontario and provided pro bono legal counsel for people and community organizations in need. In a Toronto Star article published January 9, 2012, Singh stated that his background in criminal defence contributed to his decision to enter politics, particularly his work advocating for the protection of rights entrenched in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.[9]

Political career[edit]

Early federal politics[edit]

Singh provided pro bono consulting to an activist group that protested the visit to Canada of Kamal Nath, the Indian trade minister who had persecuted Sikhs and had allegedly led armed mobs during the 1984 Delhi pogrom.[23][24] After failing to get their views heard, Singh was inspired to run for office by the activist group so their concerns could be better represented.[23]

Singh began his political career with his decision to run for Member of Parliament in the 2011 federal election as the NDP candidate in the riding of Bramalea-Gore-Malton.[23] During the election, Singh stopped using his surname, Dhaliwal (which is connected to caste), because he wanted to signal his rejection of the inequality inherent in the Indian caste system. Instead, he chose to use Singh, which reflects the spiritual belief in an egalitarian society where all enjoy equitable access to rights and justice.[23] He was defeated by Conservative candidate Bal Gosal by 539 votes.[3][4]

Provincial politics[edit]

Singh ran in the 2011 Ontario provincial election as the NDP candidate in the overlapping provincial riding, and defeated Liberal incumbent Kuldip Kular by 2,277 votes.[4][5] Singh became the first Ontario NDP MPP to represent the Peel Region as well as the first turban-wearing MPP.[4][25] In the 40th Parliament of Ontario, Singh was appointed as the NDP critic for the Attorney General of Ontario and for the Consumer Services.[26] Singh also served as his party's Deputy House Leader.

In March 2012, Singh introduced a private member's bill called "An Act to Amend the Insurance Act" to address high auto insurance rates. This bill would have removed the industry practice of basing insurance rates on geographic location. The bill failed to pass second reading.[27]

In March 2013, Singh introduced a motion calling on the Liberal government to reduce auto insurance premiums by 15%.[28] Singh's motion was accepted by the legislature, and the 15% reduction was to be included in the Liberal Government's 2013 Provincial budget.[29]

Singh at a community BBQ in 2014

In November 2014, Singh voted against the government's legislation entitled "Fighting Fraud and Reducing Automobile Rates Act", after arguing there were major shortcomings in the legislation regarding the driver's right to sue auto insurance companies. Singh said, "removing more protections for people is not the right way to go, it's a significant loss of our rights, and this is not a good bill."[30]

In November 2015, Singh introduced a private member's bill to the legislature regarding Tarion. Tarion was created by the provincial government in 1976 to be the regulator of the province's homebuilding industry.[31] Singh's proposed legislation would give the Ontario Ombudsman the jurisdiction to investigate the practices of the corporation, as well as force Tarion to produce a detailed track record of their builds, and include all of their employees who make over $100,000 on the sunshine list. The proposed legislation would also subject Tarion bylaws to the approval of the provincial government.[32]

In December 2013, legislation introduced by Singh to have the month of April recognized as Sikh Heritage Month in the province of Ontario was passed by the legislature.[33]

Singh has called for greater police accountability and demanded the provincial government draft legislation to strengthen Ontario's Special Investigations Unit (SIU). He criticized the Attorney General after the release of a report by the Ombudsman André Marin that found the province had undermined the SIU. Singh said, "The comprehensive failure of the ministry to address concerns about the SIU and give it a proper mandate is simply unacceptable, and I expect immediate action from the new Attorney General."[34]

In October 2015, Singh introduced a motion calling on the government to instruct police services in Ontario to end arbitrary street checks, known as carding.[35] On October 22, 2015, the legislature unanimously passed Singh's motion.[36]

Singh was a critic of the province's handling of the Ornge Air Ambulance service and called for greater oversight of the agency. Ornge was the subject of an investigation that found the air ambulance service paid a $1.4 million salary to its president while failing to provide timely emergency services. Singh said, "No more flying blind at Ornge. The people of Ontario have been paying the bills at Ornge with scarce health dollars. They deserve the facts about what's happened. A key first step is making executive contracts immediately available to the public."[37]

In May 2012, Singh introduced a private member's bill called "An Act to amend the Consumer Protection Act, 2002" to address high fees on overseas money transfers.[38] The bill died on the order paper when the legislature was prorogued in September 2012.[39]

Singh sparked controversy when he introduced a private members bill to allow turban-wearing Sikhs to ride a motorcycle without a helmet, despite the fatal health risk that would result for motorcyclists. After the motion was denied, Singh released statement declaring "While the Wynne Liberals are happy to pay lip service to civil rights, when the rubber meets the road, this so-called activist premier is quick to deny the Sikh community rights recognized elsewhere". Wynne countered by stating that "Mortality rates have gone down 30 per cent and head injury rates down 75 per cent in jurisdictions with such (motorcycle helmet) laws" [40]

In June 2015, Singh was chastised by Ontario's integrity commissioner for the improper use of legislative resources meant for his constituency office for partisan purposes. The integrity commissioner's report found that in March 2015, Singh had improperly allowed his constituency office in Brampton to organize bus trips to take supporters to a partisan federal NDP rally in Toronto and that Singh's inclusion of a donation link on his constituency website contravened parliamentary convention. Because Singh did not intentionally break the ethics policy and had proactively acted to fix the breaches when alerted, he was not fined or otherwise punished, and the integrity commissioner only recommended that Singh's staff undergo additional training.[41]

In December 2016, Singh spoke out against the motion introduced by PC MPP Gila Martow, which called for the legislature to denounce the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign.[42]

On October 20, 2017, after winning the federal NDP leadership race, Singh resigned as MPP.[43]

Provincial politics outside Ontario[edit]

During the Alberta general election in May 2015, Singh campaigned for the Alberta New Democratic Party, reaching out to South Asian voters on behalf of Irfan Sabir, who was running in Calgary-McCall. Sabir was later elected, and was appointed to Premier Rachel Notley's cabinet as Minister of Social Services.[44] Singh also campaigned for the BC NDP and Nova Scotia NDP in those provinces' 2017 elections.[45][46]

Singh endorsed and campaigned for Wab Kinew in the Manitoba NDP's 2017 leadership race.[45]

Federal politics[edit]

Federal leadership[edit]

Jagmeet Singh in January 2017

After Tom Mulcair lost a leadership review vote at the 2016 federal NDP convention, Singh was considered a potential leadership candidate, winning the support of 11% of NDP members in a Mainstreet Research poll conducted in April 2016, and was statistically tied for second place.[47] Singh was considered a leading candidate to replace Horwath as NDP leader if she lost the 42nd Ontario general election.[24][48] He announced his intention to run for the leadership of the New Democratic Party of Canada at a campaign launch on May 15, 2017 in Brampton.[49]

In August, Singh created controversy when he claimed that his candidacy had led to 47,000 sign-ups for the party.[50] Several rival campaigns, most notably Charlie Angus', accused Singh of inflating party membership sign ups.[51] A poll by Mainstreet Research was released in September, showing Singh overtaking Charlie Angus to lead the race for NDP leadership for the first time with 27.3% of the vote.[52] Several days before the leadership vote, a video of Singh confronting a heckler, who accused him of plotting to subject Canada to sharia law, went viral leading to Singh getting praise for his handling of the situation and helping him win the NDP leadership.[53][54][55][56]

Singh was elected leader of the federal NDP in the New Democratic Party leadership election, 2017 on October 1, 2017, having won on the first ballot with 53.8 per cent of the vote.[57]

While normal practice in Canada calls for a newly elected party leader to enter the House of Commons by winning a by-election in a safe seat, Singh has declined to pursue this path. Since his election as leader, Singh has remained outside of Parliament and has indicated that he would prefer to run in a seat where he feels a "genuine connection." Singh has stated that he will most likely run in Brampton East, which includes the bulk of his old provincial riding, in the 2019 election.[58] Soon after his election as leader, Singh named leadership rival Guy Caron as parliamentary leader of the NDP.[59]

Shortly after his election as leader, CBC journalist Susan Bonner was criticized for appearing to mistakenly identify Navdeep Bains, a Liberal MP and Cabinet minister, as Singh on Twitter. Singh and Bains are both turban-wearing, bearded Sikh men of South Asian descent. Bonner later apologized for the misunderstanding and deleted the tweet.[60][61]

In an interview with Bloomberg, Singh explained that he would not rule out working with the Conservatives to topple a Federal government led by Trudeau if the NDP held the most seats in a minority parliament.[62]

In February 2018, Singh suspended MP Erin Weir pending an independent investigation made into sexual harassment allegations made against him. Weir was expelled from the NDP caucus on May 3, 2018 based on the outcome of the sexual harassment investigation, which found one claim of harassment and three claims of sexual harassment.[63] On September 6, 2018 Singh had rejected Weir's request to rejoin the NDP during a meeting in June; despite Weir stating that he had worked with a personal trainer to understand the issues of the complaint.[64][65]

2018 by-election run[edit]

On August 8, 2018, Singh announced he will be running in a by-election to replace Kennedy Stewart as the Member of Parliament for Burnaby South.[66] Singh vowed to relocate to Burnaby if elected.[67]

Political views[edit]

Singh has branded himself a progressive and a social democrat.[11]

Economic policy[edit]

Singh's economic policy states that "millions of Canadians are living in poverty."[68] Singh supports a progressive tax system[69] and supports eliminating several tax deductions available to the highest-income earners and redirect the money to low-income seniors, workers and disabled Canadians.[70] Singh's tax agenda during the 2017 New Democratic Party leadership election included creating new tax brackets for the highest-income earners and raising corporate tax.[71]

Singh supports raising minimum wage to $15 an hour.[72]

Singh supports a "Netflix tax," by imposing Canadian sales taxes on paid on-demand internet video providers.[73]

Social Issues[edit]

Singh is a strong advocate for equality. He has proposed a universal pharmacare system, stating "universal healthcare is essential when we talk about equality for all Canadians." The NDP have stated that closing tax loopholes on the ultra rich would fund a universal pharmacare program. After the Federal Budget of 2018 was released, Singh critisized the Liberal's plan for research into pharmacare with no funding behind it, calling it "not a plan but a fantasy."[74]

Recounting a personal experience where he was the subject of racial profiling, Singh has strongly supported legislation for a federal ban on carding. He has called the practice of carding a form of systemic racism. Singh also called on the federal Liberal government to scrap the mandatory minimum sentencing rules introduced by the former Conservative government, saying the legislation has not reduced crime and has a disproportionate impact on racialized communities.[75][76]

Singh has urged Justin Trudeau and The Liberals to allow cities to ban handguns.[77]

Singh at the Toronto Pride Parade in 2017

Singh supports LGBTQ rights.[78] Singh believes in training the RCMP in "LGBTQI2S+ competency training" to ensure interactions with law enforcement are not stigmatizing or traumatizing.[79] Singh also supports bringing a form of affirmative action for hiring of LGBTQ people and supports more inclusive shelter and transitional housing spaces in service of LGBTQ youth.[80] In terms of gender identity, Singh believes that gender is assigned at birth and supports self-declaration of gender on federal ID.[81]

Singh advocates for Health Canada conducting research on the health care needs and experiences of LGBTQ patients and advocates for policy changes allowing people to self-declare their gender.[82] Singh also supports immediately repealing the de facto ban on blood, tissue and organ donation by men who have sex with men and trans women who have sex with men.[83]

Energy policy[edit]

Singh wants to reduce the carbon emissions levels of Canada to 30% of 2005 levels by 2025. This would be done by assisting provinces with the 2030 "coal phaseout", implementing a zero emissions vehicle agenda, "greening" the tax system by adding subsidies to companies supporting ecology and building renewable energy supergrid.[84] Singh also supports creating more accountability around climate change by creating an independent officer of parliament mandated to report on interim progress on emission reductions (Climate Change Action Officer or CCAO), tasking the Commissioner of Environment and Sustainable Development (CESD) to the Auditor General with gathering data from each province and territory and appointing an advisory group composed of regional and topic-specific experts who will support the CCAO in interpreting data presented by the CESD and assessing implications for climate, energy, and economic policies and regulations.[85]

Drug policy[edit]

Singh supports decriminalizing possession of all drugs and treating it as a medical issue rather than a criminal issue.[86]

Quebec policy[edit]

During the Lac-St. Jean by-election campaign, he said he would respect the outcome of a Quebec referendum.[87]

Personal life[edit]

Singh practises Brazilian jiu-jitsu, having competed in submission grappling in the U.S. and Canada.[9][10]

Singh has been recognized for his fashion and style sense in Canadian magazines and publications. He was named by Toronto Life magazine as one of the five youngest rising stars, featured in the top 10 best dressed of 2013 and most recently one of the 10 style icons featured in the 50th anniversary of Yorkdale Mall. Toronto Life also recognized him as one of the top 25 most stylish personalities in Toronto in 2013, noting his ownership of "bespoke suits in the slim British style", two Rolex watches, a crimson BMW coupe, and six designer bicycles. In February 2017, GQ called him an "incredibly well-dressed rising star in Canadian politics."[88]

In January 2012, the Toronto Star named Singh one of Toronto's top 12 personalities to watch in 2012, calling Singh a trailblazer in Ontario politics.[9] Singh was recognized by the World Sikh Organization of Canada in their 2012 list of honorees for being the first turbaned Sikh MPP in Ontario.[89]

In 2014, Singh was denied a visa to India as the Indian government accused him of being sympathetic to Khalistani separatism.[90]

In a November 2017 episode of the TVOntario series Political Blind Date Singh was paired with then Toronto City Councillor Doug Ford. The pair explored different forms of transportation, with Singh taking Ford on a downtown Toronto bicycle ride while Ford drove Singh along the dedicated streetcar right-of-way on St. Clair Avenue.[91] Ford said of the experience that the two became friends, and Singh said Ford was "very warm and friendly".[92]

In January 2018, Singh became engaged to Gurkiran Kaur Sidhu, a fashion designer and co-founder of jangiiro, a Punjabi clothing line. He proposed to her at the vegetarian restaurant where they had their first date in front of friends, family, and members of the media that Singh had invited.[93] The pair married on February 22, 2018.[94]

Electoral record[edit]

2017 New Democratic Party leadership election[edit]

Voting support by ballot
Candidate Ballot 1
Jagmeet Singh 35,266 53.8%
Charlie Angus 12,705 19.4%
Niki Ashton 11,374 17.4%
Guy Caron 6,164 9.4%
Total 65,782 100%

Ontario elections[edit]

Ontario general election, 2014: Bramalea—Gore—Malton
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
New Democratic Jagmeet Singh 23,519 44.32 +6.68
Liberal Kuldip Kular 17,873 33.68 +0.75
Progressive Conservative Harjit Jaswal 9,403 17.72 -4.99
Green Pauline Thornham 2,277 4.29 +1.79
Total valid votes 53,072 100.0  
New Democratic hold Swing +2.96
Source: Elections Ontario[95]
Ontario general election, 2011: Bramalea—Gore—Malton
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
New Democratic Jagmeet Singh 16,626 37.64 +25.82
Liberal Kuldip Kular 14,349 32.93 -14.07
Progressive Conservative Sanjeev Maingi 9,896 22.71 -6.65
Green Pauline Thornham 1,091 2.50 -7.63
Libertarian Joy Lee 738 1.69
Independent Archie McLachlan 491 1.13
Family Coalition Linda O'Marra 381 0.87 -0.29
Total valid votes 43,572 100.00
Total rejected, unmarked and declined ballots 321 0.73
Turnout 43,893 40.68
Eligible voters 107,820
New Democratic gain from Liberal Swing +19.95
Source: Elections Ontario[96]

2011 federal election[edit]

Canadian federal election, 2011: Bramalea—Gore—Malton
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Conservative Bal Gosal 19,907 34.44 -2.68
New Democratic Jagmeet Singh 19,368 33.51 +24.49
Liberal Gurbax Singh Malhi 16,402 29.40 -15.65
Green John Moulton 1,748 3.02 -2.14
Marxist–Leninist Frank Chilelli 371 0.64 +0.02
Total valid votes 57,796 100.00
Total rejected ballots 454 0.80 +0.18
Turnout 58,250 54.75 +5.01
Eligible voters 106,395


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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]