POLITICS
12/30/2018 10:49 EST | Updated 12/31/2018 13:28 EST

Gurratan Singh Helped Catapult His Brother To NDP Leadership. Now, It’s His Turn

The rookie Ontario MPP is the second Singh brother to represent Brampton at Queen’s Park.

GURRATAN SINGH/FACEBOOK
Gurratan Singh, Ontario MPP and younger brother of federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, poses in a Facebook photo.

TORONTO — Gurratan Singh dreams of a future where his older brother, federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is prime minister. Andrea Horwath is Ontario's first NDP premier elected since 1990, and Singh sits in her government representing Brampton East.

"These are dreams that I believe are going to happen."

The 34-year-old says his father taught him to follow his wildest dreams even if others dismissed them as nonsense.

"He dreamed, literally, the impossible was possible," Singh tells HuffPost Canada at his office in Queen's Park.

"People would sit him down and say, 'You are a Punjabi guy from the farm. You think you're going to go to Canada and be a doctor?' To them, it's like me telling you, 'I'm going to go to the moon.'"

People would sit him down and say, 'You are a Punjabi guy from the farm. You think you're going to go to Canada and be a doctor?'Gurratan Singh

Today, his father is a practicing psychiatrist with a son leading one of Canada's major political parties and another sitting in Ontario's provincial parliament.

When Singh and a group of friends pushed his brother Jagmeet to first run for office, it was unbelievable that the NDP would win a seat in Brampton, Singh says.

The brothers and their friends decided in 2011 that one of them had to run. They were disappointed in the area's provincial representation and wanted change. Jagmeet was best equipped to become a candidate, Singh says.

Watch: Jagmeet Singh credits brother Gurratan with convincing him to run for office. Story continues after video.

"I never saw any of us being politicians pre-2011 ... After I saw what my brother was able to do, it made it a much more attractive prospect."

The elder Singh sat in Ontario's legislature for six years before resigning in 2017, after he won the party's federal leadership contest. Sometime last winter, the younger Singh decided to run for his brother's former seat in the June election. Gurratan lives in Mississauga with his new wife Satvir, but practiced law in Brampton for many years.

He clearly doesn't mind following in Jagmeet's footsteps. Two years after his brother graduated Osgoode Hall Law School, Singh enrolled. He worked as a campaign co-chair on Jagmeet's provincial campaigns and bid for the federal leadership. The art hanging in Singh's Queen's Park office — a red, green and gold phulkari tapestry, an abstract splash of colours on a white background, a painting made by a Sikh artist in Brampton — was all left in the building by Jagmeet.

GURRATAN SINGH
Jagmeet and Gurratan Singh in a childhood photo.

But he says the decision to run for his big brother's former seat was about what the NDP brings to Brampton.

"It was a discussion right when my brother resigned," Singh says. "This is something we fought so hard for and the people of this community deserve to keep this representation."

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Singh says the issues he cares about — social justice, access to health care, making life more affordable for students — fit naturally with the NDP's platform.

The Liberals made lots of promises to Bramptonians, Singh says, but didn't follow through.

"I think that's why you saw three seats go NDP in Brampton. People saw so many broken promises by the Liberals."

The NDP now holds three of the five seats in Brampton, while Progressive Conservative members fill the other two.

In October, PC Premier Doug Ford made headlines for rescinding funding that would have built a new university in the city.

Brampton desperate for new hospital and university, MPP Singh says

"That university should have been in Brampton a decade ago," Singh says. "It was well overdue."

A new university may cost $90 million from the province now, but will bring decades of jobs and investment, he says. If Brampton or Mississauga had a law school years ago, Singh says he would have shaved hours off his commute every day and saved thousands of dollars on parking and gas.

The city also needs two new hospitals, Singh says.

While Ford's government voted against an NDP motion to budget for one hospital, Singh says the crisis is the Liberals' making. That government chose not to invest in Brampton for 15 years, he says.

An NDP government would bring Brampton a university, new hospitals, fair auto insurance rates and universal dental care, Singh says.

"They seem like bold ideas but in reality, it's just what the community deserves."

GURRATAN SINGH/FACEBOOK
Gurratan Singh celebrates with his parents after brother Jagmeet, second from right, won the federal NDP's leadership contest. "This picture captures the moment perfectly, not only the joy and the excitement of the victory. It also shows how much I've taken after our father, and how much my brother has taken after our mother," Singh wrote on Instagram.

Singh and his brother have had success rallying young people around these issues, but he says the solutions would benefit everyone.

"Ultimately, millennial issues are human issues. They're everyone's issues."

Young people and Bramptonians who don't feel represented by Ford need to stay engaged and support the NDP, Singh says.

"Brampton people do not want cuts. If you talk to Bramptonians, they want investment," he says.

You don't have to choose between bad and worse, you can choose better.Gurratan Singh

"People don't see brightness right now, they see darkness. It's our job to show them that it doesn't have to be this way. You don't have to choose between bad and worse, you can choose better."

He remembers a Sikh saying that his mother taught him. Chardi kala means that spirits can rise "exponentially," even in tough times.

"This is where we need to have some chardi kala. In the face of adversity, we need to have rising spirits, because that's how we fix it. By electing an NDP government in 2022."