NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has delayed calling a by-election for the federal British Columbia riding of Burnaby South because Mr. Trudeau is “afraid” of how the governing Liberals might fare in the race.
Mr. Singh, who has been leading the NDP without a seat since October, 2017, has been anxious to run in the B.C. riding in hopes of winning a seat in the House of Commons before the next federal election, and he says Mr. Trudeau has been dragging his heels on the issue for political gain.
“I think that they’re afraid of facing the electorate, they’re afraid of facing the people of Burnaby South, facing their record. Their record is going to be on trial,” he said in a telephone interview from the riding on Monday.
Mr. Singh said delaying the by-election call is not in the interest of people in Burnaby South – so it’s likely in Mr. Trudeau’s own political interest.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said that Mr. Trudeau had months to take action on this “and failed to do so," in a statement e-mailed to The Globe and Mail.
“Canadians deserve representation in the House of Commons now, not when it is convenient for the Prime Minister’s political agenda," said Mr. Scheer, adding that Mr. Trudeau has chosen to “play politics” with Canadians, calling it unacceptable.
Meanwhile the Prime Minister’s Office is rebuffing criticism from both Mr. Singh and Mr. Scheer.
“As the PM has said previously, the by-elections in Burnaby South, Outremont and York-Simcoe will be called in January with a February voting day. The Nanaimo-Ladysmith by-election will be called in due course,” said Prime Minister’s Office spokesman Matt Pascuzzo.
When asked if Mr. Trudeau would call a by-election for Nanaimo-Ladysmith at the same time as the other by-elections, Mr. Pascuzzo said there are provisions in the Elections Act regarding the calling of by-elections and the Prime Minister will abide by those provisions.
According to Elections Canada, the Chief Electoral Officer received a notice of vacancy Monday for the riding of Nanaimo-Ladysmith (with the resignation of NDP MP Sheila Malcolmson, who is running in a provincial by-election). The earliest the writ can be issued for the by-election is Jan. 18, 2019, which means a by-election could be held, at the earliest, on Monday, Feb. 25. The writ must be issued, at the latest, by July 6, 2019.
The Prime Minister is required to call a by-election within six months of an MP leaving a seat.
The Liberals have nominated candidates in Burnaby South and Outremont, but they have yet to nominate candidates in Nanaimo-Ladysmith and York-Simcoe.
This is the second time that opposition parties have shown a united front against Mr. Trudeau on the issue.
In October, Mr. Singh along with Mr. Scheer, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and the Bloc Québécois’s Mario Beaulieu sent a joint letter to Mr. Trudeau, criticizing his decision at the time to call one by-election of four vacant ridings.
Mr. Singh would not say whether he thought his chances of winning the seat were waning with time, suggesting that his primary concern is the people whom he hopes to call his constituents.
“I don’t think about the impact of my chances. I think about the impact on the people who do not have representation,” he said.