OTTAWA — Nearly 18 months after taking over the leadership of the federal New Democrats, Jagmeet Singh made his long-awaited parliamentary debut Monday as he became the first visible minority to lead a federal political party in the House of Commons.
Escorted into the chamber by his NDP lieutenants, Singh waved to supporters in the public gallery before claiming the seat he won in last month's byelection in the British Columbia riding of Burnaby South.
That byelection — made possible by the departure of former Burnaby MP Kennedy Stewart — ended a 17-month exile of sorts for Singh, whose lack of a seat in the Commons made doing his job as leader that much more difficult.
Singh used his first question as leader to press Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the issue of housing, citing a mother from his riding who bought a home she can no longer afford and whose children are losing hope about their futures.
"The prime minister is telling families like theirs to wait for help," Singh said. "I believe better is possible. Will the government commit to building half a million affordable homes?"
Trudeau did no such thing, instead congratulating the NDP leader, welcoming him to the House and urging his party to support Liberal government efforts to reduce child poverty.
New Democrats are hoping Singh's presence in the House of Commons marks the start of a new era for the party and the end of a long, difficult stretch in the political wilderness that has been marked by fundraising difficulties and morale issues.
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