Jagmeet Singh won’t seek federal Commons seat until 2019 if chosen as NDP leader – Politics

New Democrat MPs in the House of Commons could be without a permanent leader on Parliament Hill until after the federal election in 2019 if Ontario legislator Jagmeet Singh takes over at the party’s helm.

Should he win the leadership in October, Singh told The Canadian Press he would prefer to forego seeking a Commons seat until the next election two years hence, opting instead to spend time reaching out to Canadians and visiting different parts of the country.

Singh has spent much of his leadership campaign billing himself as a “growth candidate” whose fresh approach and lack of federal experience would ultimately attract a host of new supporters to the New Democrat fold.

“I would be happy to spend the time while I am not a sitting member to campaign across the country, to get to know the issues, to get know the different ridings … spending that time speaking with people, reaching out to them,” he said.

“I would run for a seat in 2019.”

Deputy leader could ‘hold it down in Ottawa’

Such a move would be reminiscent of Jack Layton, who was crowned NDP leader in 2003, but did not seek a seat in the House of Commons until the federal election the following year.

Layton died of cancer not long after navigating a milestone 2011 election campaign that elevated the NDP to official Opposition status for the first time in its history.

Singh said he’d be “open to hearing more advice” on whether or not to seek a seat sooner, “but personally I am not concerned.”

NDP international trade critic Tracey Ramsey, an Ontario MP elected in 2015 who threw her support behind Singh earlier this week, said she sees no issue with the would-be leader choosing to bide his time.

“I think his plan to be out in Canada — really building our party, building our membership, talking to people in their communities — is critical,” Ramsey said.

The caucus could easily find a capable deputy leader among its 44 members who could “hold it down in Ottawa” while Singh did the work of building grassroots support, she said.

“I think it will be the best of both worlds to have that type of model.”

Voting starts Sept. 18

Other members of the NDP caucus have lined up behind Singh recently, including Brian Masse, an Ontario MP elected in 2002, as well as B.C.’s Alistair MacGregor, Kennedy Stewart, Randall Garrison, and Jenny Kwan.

Guy Caron, left, speaks as Charlie Angus and Niki Ashton look on in the first debate of the federal NDP leadership race, in Ottawa on…

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