Former NDP MP worried about state of the party amid return to politics
Svend Robinson, NDP candidate for Burnaby North-Seymour, speaks during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Thursday January 24, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Rachel Gilmore, CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Thursday, January 24, 2019 3:51PM EST
Last Updated Friday, January 25, 2019 10:52AM EST
Former NDP MP Svend Robinson says he is worried about the state of the party he represented in the House of Commons for over 20 years.
"Am I concerned about the state of the NDP? You bet I am. I can read polls like anybody else can," Robinson told reporters in a press conference Friday.
The NDP has been performing poorly in both the polls and in their fundraising numbers. The blows kept coming when multiple high-profile NDP MPs announced they will not be running in the 2019 election, including two Quebec MPs, three from B.C., two from Ontario and the only Alberta NDP MP.
Former NDP Leader Tom Mulcair also said on CTV Power Play Thursday that "several others" have confided in him that they also don't plan to seek re-election.
Despite his concerns about the current state of the party, Robinson – who served as an NDP MP from 1979 to 2004 – plans to run as the NDP candidate in Burnaby North-Seymour in the federal election this fall. He says he holds on to hope that things will get better.
"I am confident that when Jagmeet Singh gets into the House and goes toe to toe with Trudeau and we put our policies up against their policies, it’s going to make a difference," Robinson said.
Singh is currently battling for a seat in the Burnaby South byelection. There were some concerns that former Liberal candidate Karen Wang could have given him a run for his money, but she withdrew her candidacy after coming under fire for a comment about Singh's race. Now both pundits and polls are signaling a likely NDP win on Feb. 25.
Still, Singh has also come under fire for a handful of high-profile blunders. In an interview with Evan Solomon for CTV Question Period, which aired Jan. 13, Singh appeared unaware of a major news story and was subsequently ridiculed online. In November 2017, Singh also said a judge who speaks an Indigenous language – but not French – should be allowed to sit on the Supreme Court. He later put out a statement to reverse his position, which had contradicted an NDP policy.
Robinson said he still has faith in Singh’s leadership and accused reporters of driving a narrative.
"I’m saying the mainstream media too often drinks its own bathwater," he said.
He drew a parallel between Singh and former NDP Leader Jack Layton, claiming that the media initially failed to take Layton seriously.
"That guy, Jack Layton, became an incredible leader that Canadians loved and respected and would have become prime minister. And with great respect, I say you’re wrong today. Give Jagmeet Singh a chance to show his stuff in Quebec and outside, and Justin Trudeau – watch out," Robinson said.
However, when asked in French if the NDP should afford Singh the same number of years the party gave to Layton as he developed as a politician, Robinson said: "No, no, absolutely not."
As for his own NDP leadership aspirations, Robinson said he wouldn't answer a hypothetical question.
"I would be proud to serve in a caucus with Jagmeet Singh as leader," he said.
But Robinson didn't rule out a future leadership bid.
"Down the road, many things could happen," he said.
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