Jagmeet Singh
Could Jagmeet Singh become the first nonwhite politician to climb Canada’s political hierarchy?

SAN FRANCISCO (Diya TV) — Despite the fact it rests as one of the Western world’s most diverse nations, Canada has not seen nonwhite politicians climb the ranks of its government very high.

In fact, no nonwhite politician has ever been elected to lead a Canadian provincial government — India-born Ujjal Dosanjh briefly inherited British Columbia’s premiership in 2000-2001, but was unseated in a landslide. Until Naheed Nenshi was elected in Calgary in 2010, no major Canadian city had seen a nonwhite mayor.

Jagmeet Singh is out to break that trend.

Last Monday, the two-term member of the Ontario parliament announced publicly his bid to become head of the New Democratic Party (NDP) of Canada. If successful, he would instantly become the first nonwhite leader of a major Canadian political party and the first Canadian of color to offer himself as a candidate for prime minister.

Singh’s jump to the national scene will introduce an unprecedented variable of race in Canadian politics. His status as a symbol of social progress has strong potential to undercut the narrative of the man who has, until now, been content to embody all that’s admirable about liberal Canada — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Even without his surname, he would have presented as a complicated rival for Trudeau. At 38 years old, Singh is younger than the youthful PM, and has a public brand equally defined by style, sex appeal and social-media savvy.

It’s impossible to grasp Singh’s disruptive power without appreciating his identity-politics cred in an identity-politics-obsessed age. Singh’s campaign launch speech put his status as a champion of the marginalized front and center, describing it as a natural outgrowth of his  difficult upbringing as a first-generation Canadian bullied for his “funny-sounding name, brown skin and long hair.”

Since Canadian politics operates under such a firm, three-party system, the dynamics of Canadian elections often feel like studies in game theory, with visibly zero-sum gains and losses. Because of this, a Singh-led NDP introduces a clear risk: In the 2019 election, he could undoubtedly hurt Trudeau’s Liberals but, lacking any obvious appeal to center-right voters, could also potentially polarize the entire center-left electorate.