OTTAWA, ONTARIO — NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was alone in the back of an echoing gaming studio in Vaughan, Ont. five nights before election day, while two computer displays and a ring light lit his face.
After that, he sketched an image of himself defeating Justin Trudeau in a vote.
Singh was spending his Wednesday night on Twitch, a live streaming site where users typically play online games together, with ten prominent streamers from throughout Canada and the United States.
The two other main party leaders, on the other hand, decided to spend their evenings with respective Quebec bases.
Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney gave an in-person support to Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole at a rally in Orford attended by more than 100 people. Late at night in Longueuil, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau gathered with supporters, drumming up support and snapping photos with people.
Meanwhile, Singh spent an hour and a half playing Gartic Phone, a game that combines Pictionary with telephone. Someone in the game provides a suggestion — one player, who wasn’t Singh, suggested “Trudeau losing the election to Jagmeet” — and another player draws it. After that, the image is presented to the next player, who provides a description of it, and then another player draws a new picture based on the new description. The game continues until everyone has had a chance to add to the chain – the results are frequently funny, and the end output can be light years away from the initial intent.
Singh wasn’t doodling crazy things on the internet just for fun, even though he was sharing laughs with gamers online while his opponents were socializing with Canadians in a sought-after province.
More than 60,000 people watched the livestream, which was fueled by Singh’s Twitch following as well as the millions of followers of the streamers he was playing with.
There was a steady stream of comments beneath the video’s chat box, with individuals praising Singh or expressing their support for the NDP, as well as the usual profanity that comes with internet interaction.
People were invited to text Singh at a phone number displayed at the bottom of the screen, and a QR code off to the right directed viewers to the NDP’s voting information portal. In the middle of the event, the NDP leader took a few moments to inform the crowd about his busy day and go over some of his party’s program promises.
Singh made the point earlier in the day in Essex, Ont., that knocking on doors or gathering with people late at night makes little sense, so why don’t you just meet them where they are?
Meeting people where they are is a tried-and-true campaign approach that isn’t exclusive to the NDP. However, the New Democrats have used online and digital platforms like Twitch, TikTok, and Nintendo, which are popular with the general public but remain niche in politics, in a manner that other parties haven’t.
Singh’s Twitch live on Wednesday was just his second appearance on the platform; the first was in late 2020 with U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Singh’s decision to use the platform is an intriguing one. Twitch is owned by Amazon, the e-commerce company the president has slammed during the campaign as an example of a business not paying its fair amount, according to him.
In March, more than 600 Amazon employees caught COVID-19 at a site in Brampton, where Singh had been rallying supporters just an hour before.
Singh told reporters that morning; “I’m going to utilize every platform that I can to reach out to people and to talk to them,” adding that he won’t stop criticizing the corporation.
While witnessing a federal party leader having fun online may appear at odds with the severity of Canada’s present political and public health situation, Amneet Singh Bali, the NDP’s digital director, believes that unusual methods should be used.
“All of the people are content during this pandemic,” he explained.
They said that they know Jagmeet did a good job last night if he could make someone laugh a little while also talking to them about some issues.
When we came to the prompt about Trudeau losing the election to Singh, it was one of the few sentences that everyone appeared to understand. A player named Northernlion read Singh’s depiction of Trudeau sobbing at the vote box as “the NDP wins all 338 ridings in a landslide” halfway through the round.
Anything is imaginable in the realm of online gaming, at least.