OTTAWA — It might well be Jagmeet Singh's secret weapon: a seemingly bottomless well of positive energy that draws fans and followers like bees to a honeypot. Thing is, the new NDP leader doesn't always remember to tap it.
Enter Singh's other secret weapon: his younger brother, Gurratan.
"He's always like, 'Jagmeet, are you digging into that positivity?'" Singh said this week during an interview, Gurratan at his side, at NDP headquarters in Ottawa.
"'Make sure you dig into that energy that makes you, you.'"
Gurratan Singh can speak truth to power, an important resource for someone who is gradually transitioning out of Ontario provincial politics and into the hard-knock world of Parliament Hill, where the elder Singh has his sights set on becoming Canada's next prime minister.
In his first weeks on the job with the NDP, Singh has had his brother at his elbow — even though he's not on the NDP's payroll — at everything from scrums on Parliament Hill to the weekend Ottawa rally where he kicked off a national get-to-know-me tour last week.
He knows Gurratan — a lawyer who shares his older brother's penchant for colourful turbans and custom-tailored suits — won't hold back in assessments of how he's doing.
"He will not hesitate to call me out if I don't do well on something," Singh said.
"If I give a speech and people are like 'That was OK, that was OK', I'll be like 'Gurratan, tell me the truth.' And he'll be like 'It was horrible, man. You did a really bad job.'"
Staying focused on his natural positive energy is some of the best political advice he's ever received, Singh added —advice that the party he now leads would do well to follow as it seeks to turn the page on the disappointments of the Tom Mulcair era in favour of a younger, more energized future.
There's no question Singh brings to the NDP an entirely new, and decidedly younger, perspective, as well as that infectious energy, which is precisely what the party needs right now, said NDP national director Robert Fox.
"He is a different personality, has a different profile than Tom did and there are a lot of people who are interested to come and work with us ... under Jagmeet's leadership to elect more New Democrats," Fox said.
"There are a lot of seasoned veterans that are also excited about the prospects and that has nothing to do with Tom. We've been in a situation where ... we had a leader who we knew would not be the leader up to the next election."
The party is also hoping Singh can help attract fundraising to help pay off the party's $5.5-million debtload, and also bring with him the organizational prowess his team demonstrated during his successful leadership campaign.
"We very much look forward to ... raising more money to do some of the things we've been planning to do for some time, as well as some of the new, innovative ideas that Jagmeet brings to the table," Fox said.
Of course, all that bright-side stuff can be a little blinding to certain political realities.
Gurratan comes in handy there, too.
"Sometimes, I might be too light-hearted or too optimistic where I am missing there's something we realistically need to do right now," he said. "Gurratan will point that out and say 'Listen, OK, you can be optimistic, but we need to make sure we deal with this problem right now.'"
That candour is a comfort to the new NDP leader.
"It is having the support of someone (who's) going to be real with me ... at the same time, having the comfort of someone I get along with, one of my best friends," he said. "Maybe my best friend."
"That's cute," Gurratan said, grabbing Jagmeet's arm.