Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is denouncing privileged New Democrats who have criticized his decision to bar Erin Weir from seeking re-election under the party banner, saying he won’t budge on the matter.
Mr. Singh made his comments on Tuesday as the NDP caucus gathered to begin a three-day strategy session that comes as the party is facing a number of challenges.
Asked during a news conference about NDP critics of the decision involving the Saskatchewan MP accused of harassment, Mr. Singh said: “I am not going to to change my decision because people in a position of privilege want to intimidate me.”
On who was intimidating him, Mr. Singh cited “some folks in Saskatchewan” where more than 60 former NDP members of the provincial legislature, ex-MPs and other supporters have signed a recent letter asking Mr. Singh to reconsider the exile of Mr. Weir because they do not think he has been fairly treated.
Mr. Singh said he made his decision to bar Mr. Weir from running as a New Democrat in next year’s federal election because he believes in a safe workplace. Mr. Weir was previously kicked out of the caucus.
The spokesman for the Saskatchewan effort to rally support for Mr. Weir was taken aback at Mr. Singh’s comments.
“We’re not trying to take advantage of Mr. Singh. We tried to point out what we believed was a flawed process. We acknowledge people feel they were harassed,” said Pat Atkinson, a former provincial NDP cabinet minister.
“That saddens me very much, that he feels that we tried to intimidate him. I thought this was a disagreement amongst friends.”
In an earlier interview with The Globe and Mail, Ms. Atkinson said she was concerned that Mr. Singh’s stand against Mr. Weir may hurt the party in next year’s election, cooling the enthusiasm of party members who support the MP.
During Tuesday’s news conference, Mr. Singh said he made a decision on Mr. Weir without considering the political cost.
“The political calculation never entered my mind. I stood by my principles, and my principles are clear,” he said. “I will not accept harassment in a place that I have control of as a leader.”
On Tuesday, dozens of female New Democrats – a group of former candidates and senior organizers – posted a letter on Facebook expressing support for Mr. Singh’s decision on Mr. Weir.
The signatories, including former federal interim NDP leader Nycole Turmel, said Mr. Singh shows he understands his legal obligation to provide a safe and healthy workplace when he had Mr. Weir removed from caucus.
An independent investigation upheld several complaints of harassment against Mr. Weir, first elected in 2015 as the MP for Regina-Lewvan and now sitting as a member of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, the social-democratic forerunner of the NDP in Canadian politics.
Mr. Singh was asked about being at odds with New Democrats in both Alberta, given his opposition to the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, and in Saskatchewan. He said the pipeline is his only policy difference with NDP Premier Rachel Notley – “We agree on 99 per cent of things” – and that he has a great relationship with Saskatchewan’s NDP Leader, Ryan Meili.
In a slight break with Mr. Singh, Mr. Meili told news outlets that Mr. Weir would be welcomed at provincial party events.
This week’s meeting comes as the federal NDP faces challenges in the polls, concerns about party finances, Mr. Singh’s lack of a seat in Parliament and a party effort to find a message to rally support among voters.
Several MPs have said they won’t seek re-election, but Mr. Singh said the party has prospective candidates in the wings ready to run for the party in 2019.