From Layton to Singh

The 20-year conflict behind the NDP's deal with the Trudeau Liberals

by Matt Fodor

An incisive analysis of the federal NDP since 2000, examining the ongoing, unresolved tension between the party’s idealistic grassroots base and centrist bureaucracy at its core.

On the surface the story of the federal NDP in the 21st century can be told as a story of its leaders — the optimism of the Jack Layton era; the disappointment of Tom Mulcair, the energizing popularity of Jagmeet Singh with young voters. But the real story is the ongoing internal power and ideological conflict between social democrats and Orange liberals. 

Author Matt Fodor describes how, over 20 years, centrists gradually consolidated their power, turning the party to the right. He highlights how the tensions have played out as activists drawn to socialist ideals contend with card-carrying party members chasing political power. 

The NDP’s low point came with the disastrous 2015 election when Trudeau’s Liberals outflanked the NDP on the left. Matt Fodor describes the impact on the party of Jagmeet Singh’s leadership, from its rocky first days to the campaigns of 2019 and 2021 and the role the party has played in minority Parliaments. He offers an account of the changes that would allow the federal party to hew more closely to the ideals and beliefs of its members.

Fodor bases his narrative on sources including party insiders and defectors alike.

About the Author

Matt Fodor

MATT FODOR is a writer, political strategist and PhD candidate in political science at York University. His research areas are Comparative politics and Canadian politics with a special interest in social democracy. Matt is a long-time observer of the NDP and has written extensively about the party at the federal and provincial level, including chapters in Party of Conscience (2013) and Tax is Not a Four-Letter Word (2018). He has contributed to NOW, Rabble and The Bullet. He lives in Toronto.


"Because of the volatile nature of politics in the post pandemic world nothing is absolutely certain and so From Layton to Singh offers important lessons for Canada’s major party on the left for when it’s time might arise again."

Paul Weinberg, Rabble

"...A readable summary of the struggles within the NDP since Layton was elected leader, in 2003."

Tom Jokinen, Literary Review of Canada

Subjects (BISAC)


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