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Jagmeet Singh defends NDP's election showing despite little caucus growth

Jagmeet Singh says he feels secure in his leadership despite the NDP's seat count barely shifting after a pandemic election in which Canadians consistently ranked him as the most popular leader. 

"I’m really here because I want to make a difference," Singh said in Vancouver Tuesday morning.

The NDP leader said his team will still get work done in Parliament even though they hover within a few seats of their 2019 tally. 

The New Democrats had 24 seats in the House of Commons at dissolution and while some close races are still being counted it appears they have only gained a seat or two.

Singh said he was proud of his team and the campaign. 

"I am really proud that we were able to use the resources and the time that we had to hear from people," he said. "And more importantly to share their stories.”

He said he is disappointed that many of his NDP candidates who did not win their ridings will not join him in Ottawa.

The showing was significantly smaller than Singh's predecessor Tom Mulcair's 44 seats in 2015, which led to a leadership review.

Monday was an important election for the New Democrats after a difficult run in 2019. At that time, Singh was a new leader that Canadians didn’t know and the party was facing financial difficulty.

This time around the NDP spent a lot more money and Singh had name recognition across the country. He has consistently been found the most likable leader by opinion polls. 

But that didn't translate enough to bring out voters and the NDP was unable to make significant gains in key ridings in Quebec or downtown Toronto. 

Singh said it's an honour that people have a positive leaning toward him but his goal is always to form government.

"I know in my heart we could make this country so much better, we could do so much more good for people if we formed government," he said.

Singh criticized Trudeau for holding an election during the pandemic saying it appears to have resulted in long lines at polling stations, less accessibility and ultimately a low voter turnout.

The New Democrats, as the fourth party, are back in the position to hold the power in supporting the minority government following a 36-day campaign that largely focused on criticizing Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. 

Singh said he will continue to fight for people but have no intention to force another election.

"We used our position successfully to win really big victories for people, for Canadians. They were better off because we were there," he said. 

"We will do the same thing."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 21, 2021.

Kelly Geraldine Malone and Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press