OTTAWA — Few personal relationships are the subject of national media scrutiny, but NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and his new fiancee Gurkiran Kaur say they're up for the challenge.
Singh, 39, publicly proposed to Kaur, a 27-year-old fashion designer, during a celebration Tuesday night at the downtown Toronto restaurant where the couple had their first date.
The decision to make the proposal a public affair — and to invite media outlets to document the moment — signalled a different approach for Singh, who kept his personal life a closely guarded secret during last year's NDP leadership campaign.
Most relationships don't have to confront such issues, Singh acknowledged Wednesday in an interview.
"I think it is fair to say it is an additional thing that most couples don't have to really think about — what you should be open with the media about, or what parts should be public in your life, what parts should be private," he said.
Relationships, he said, come with their share of challenges at the best of times — but being a national political leader changes the game somewhat.
"I signed up to share some of my life," Singh said. "There's a certain social contract that I agreed to and my biggest thing was I signed up for that. My partner, I wanted to make sure she was OK with it."
After he popped the question in front of several dozen friends and family members, the social media-savvy Singh posted a number of videos of the couple dancing and showing off the engagement ring — the sort of sharing that's the new reality for young, prominent politicians in the Instagram age.
Singh has been dating Kaur for about a year, but the two have known each other since 2010. He said he wanted to keep their private lives private for as long as possible.
"I knew there would be a time when we would have to be more public," he said. "Striking that balance was part of why I thought about it that way."
Kaur has also had to adjust, she acknowledged — especially after rumours of an engagement began to circulate last month.
I signed up to share some of my life. There's a certain social contract that I agreed to and my biggest thing was I signed up for that.Jagmeet Singh
"I am so used to seeing him everywhere and I'm super supportive of that and now I am part of that picture," she said. "Now I feel there's a lot more responsibility on both of us together as a couple now. Initially, I was nervous. Gradually, as we are getting more into this, I am more excited than anything."
There will be "tons" of events as part of the lead up to the wedding, she added, noting that Sikh culture tends to involve celebrating "every little detail."
Kaur, who played a key role in outreach efforts during Singh's leadership bid, also said she has yet to contemplate the level of attention the couple will receive during next year's election campaign.
"To be honest ... we haven't really thought that far," she said. "As we progress more into this, leading up to the campaign ... I want to take an active role in this. I totally believe in the vision ... I will definitely be involved."