Poor Jagmeet Singh. The NDP Leader entered federal politics with a flourish, elected a year ago as the first non-white major party leader, and with style and charisma to spare. Since then, though, he has become somewhat peripheral to the national conversation.
As the Conservatives and Liberals fight red-hot battles over the environment, immigration and drug policy, New Democrats find themselves sidelined, their leader shut out of Parliament and struggling to find his voice.
This week, he is back in the news, but only to suffer another frustrating indignity: the government’s decision to hold off on calling a by-election in Burnaby South, the riding Mr. Singh is seeking to represent.
The seat has been vacant since early September, when NDP MP Kennedy Stewart stepped down to run for the Vancouver mayoralty – a departure he’d been planning for months. Mr. Singh said in August he would run there.
On Sunday, the government announced a by-election in an Ontario riding but not in Burnaby South, prompting accusations from New Democrats that the Liberals are using political tricks to keep a rival at bay. The elision was “petty” and “disturbing,” party regulars huffed.
Their ire is overblown. The seat in Ontario had been vacant for nearly six months, meaning a by-election was soon to be legally required there; the Liberals technically have until March to call a contest in Burnaby. Meanwhile, the government held off on triggering votes for two other recently vacated seats in Montreal and Southern Ontario, not just the one Mr. Singh has his eye on.
It’s also true, as the Liberals have not missed the chance to point out, that the NDP leader opted not to run in several other by-elections that could have given him a seat in the House since entering federal politics last year.
But these lawyerly arguments ignore the larger point: Mr. Singh deserves a chance to earn a seat in Parliament, where party leaders belong, and only the government has the power to grant him that opportunity. The Liberals have presented arguments for why they may deny him, but none for why they should.