POLITICS
02/17/2018 20:17 EST | Updated 02/18/2018 18:53 EST

Jagmeet Singh Survives Leadership Vote With Over 90 Per Cent Support

No House of Commons seat, no problem.

Justin Tang/The Canadian Press
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh speaks during the Federal NDP Convention in Ottawa on Feb. 17, 2018.

OTTAWA Jagmeet Singh has issued a call-to-arms against inequality as he sought to put his stamp on the federal NDP on Saturday by taking aim at the Trudeau government and foreign web giants while offering a full-fledged defence of taxes and public services.

He delivered the battle cry at the NDP's national convention and, as Singh's first major address to the party since he became leader in October, aimed to motivate delegates as they looked to turn the page on the last election and prepare for the next.

Justin Tang/The Canadian Press
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh invites his fiancee Gurkiran Kaur on stage after his speech at the Federal NDP Convention in Ottawa on Feb. 17, 2018.

The NDP has appeared stuck in neutral for the past two-plus years with public opinion polls and several recent byelection results showing the third-place party struggling to find momentum even after Singh took the helm.

Convention delegates had been anxiously waiting to hear from their leader in the hopes his address, which clocked in at close to 40 minutes, would provide the NDP with an injection of energy while setting the party on a new, winning course.

Singh says taxes are investments to build a fairer society, but says the tax system benefits the country's rich.

WATCH: Singh talks about taxes

The brunt of his attack was directed at foreign web giants such as Netflix and Amazon, many of which don't pay income tax in Canada despite repeated calls for the federal government to change that policy as a matter of fairness for Canadian companies.

Singh also blasted the Liberals' recent agreement with Netflix, which saw the online streaming giant pledge $500 million over five years to set up an office in Canada and create Canadian content, but which has sparked a massive revolt in Quebec.

It was perhaps for that reason that Singh's criticism of the Netflix deal was delivered in French, and came a day after the NDP leader spoke in favour of re-opening the Constitution to include Quebec and First Nations.

Details unknown for big promises

The NDP leader also stood in defence of government-delivered services, which he described as essential for a fair society before calling for universal pharmaceutical and dental care, free tuition, more affordable housing and internet service providers.

Singh didn't dwell on the details, including how the government would pay for those services, but those questions are sure to come as New Democrats look to begin building their campaign platform before next year's election.

The NDP leader, who is the first visible minority to lead a major federal party in Canada, concluded with a call for equality between all Canadians, no matter their gender, race, or religion, before exhorting delegates to spread his message when they return home.

The speech was delivered before a mandatory review of Singh's leadership, and there had been questions in the hallways outside the main meeting room over how much support he would receive, particularly given the party's apparent lack of momentum.

Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press
NDP delegates gather on the party convention floor in Ottawa on Feb. 16, 2018.

But Singh easily survived the test, as more than 90 per cent of delegates indicated they supported his leadership, meaning he will emerge from the convention and head into the party's election planning in earnest with a strong mandate.

The federal party appeared poised to emerge more united than after its last convention in 2016, which saw Tom Mulcair lose his own leadership review, even with deep divisions emerging over whether to oppose pipelines.

Pipeline debate barely makes debate

While the fight over pipelines has continued between the NDP provincial governments in Alberta and British Columbia, which are at odds over the Trans Mountain Pipeline, it barely registered during this weekend's convention.

Still, many delegates privately acknowledged that the party faces significant challenges before it is ready to fight for power next year, including how to raise Singh's profile, fundraising, and finding realistic policy positions that will resonate with voters.

Despite those concerns, Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath, who will be fighting her own election battle in the coming months, gave Singh, who previously served as her deputy leader, a vote of approval.

"It's a matter of taking the momentum that is building here and pushing that out to the rest of the country,'' she said.

"And I know Jagmeet has a lot of energy ... so I have a lot of confidence that he's going to be able to take that energy that's kind of bubbling around here and move it out to the rest of the nation.''

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