OTTAWA - New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh is invoking the legacy of his venerated predecessor, hoping that the memory of Jack Layton — the principal architect of the NDP's best-ever showing in a federal election — would help separate him from a pack of rivals wooing voters in Quebec.
The province's volatile electorate could swing in any direction when Canadians cast their ballots Monday, with polls suggesting tight races between the Liberals and Conservatives and a Bloc Quebecois on the upswing.
Every federal leader save Elizabeth May began Wednesday in Quebec, with Singh making a pilgrimage to Hudson, Que., where Layton was raised, before heading for a walkabout in Montreal's working-class Hochelaga neighbourhood and a rally just blocks from the botanical garden.
Standing alongside Layton's widow, Olivia Chow, Singh said he wanted to build on Layton's legacy in the province, acknowledge the work the late leader did — some of it better than Singh's own, he admitted — and capture some of that 2011 magic for the party, which polls suggest could be down to one or two seats in Quebec after election day.
"The support that we're receiving on the ground is going to translate to support at the polls and I'm confident that people will see that we will fight for them," Singh said.
"We care about them, we share the values of Quebecers and we're going to make sure that they can count on us to fight for them in the next Parliament, no matter what the Parliament looks like."
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau started their day around the Montreal area as well — a rare campaign confluence where major party leaders were in the same area at the same time, and a clear sign of where strategists are focusing their efforts with less than a week to go.
During a morning stop at Montreal's botanical gardens, Trudeau urged Quebecers to support the Liberals so they can have a voice in progressive government, not a progressive opposition.
"That choice is a very stark choice. It is a very, very pivotal moment for Canada and for Canadians," Trudeau said.
Trudeau is campaigning hard in Quebec, making numerous stops to try to personally shore up his party's standing in his home province. He was scheduled to make his way east to Sherbrooke, pausing in a Legion hall, cafes and pubs with local candidates along the way.
Scheer stopped by a Tim Hortons in one of Montreal's northern suburbs with one of his star candidates, former Olympic champion Sylvie Frechette, after spending Tuesday barnstorming the province before moving on to southwestern Ontario, another vital battleground.
May, the Green party leader, is promising an announcement in Victoria, near her home riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands in B.C., while People's Party Leader Maxime Bernier focuses on keeping his own Quebec seat in Beauce.