PM to call three by-elections, giving Singh chance to win seat

The by-elections will be called in early February

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will call three byelections, including in the B.C. riding where NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh hopes to win a seat in Parliament, early in the new year for votes in early February.

A fourth riding may yet be added to the mix but a fifth riding, due to be vacated on Jan. 22 by Montreal Liberal MP Nicola Di Iorio, is likely to remain without representation until the general election due next October.

Trudeau was criticized last month when he called one byelection in the eastern Ontario riding of Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes for Dec. 3, while leaving three other ridings vacant.

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Singh was particularly critical, accusing the prime minister of disrespecting some 300,000 people in the ridings of Burnaby South, where the NDP leader plans to run, the Montreal riding of Outremont and the Ontario riding of York-Simcoe.

At the time, Trudeau argued that the other three had only recently been vacated, whereas Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes had been without an MP almost six months, since the death of Conservative Gordon Brown.

Insiders now say Trudeau will set a date in early February for the other three byelections. He will wait until early January to call them so candidates won’t have to campaign over the Christmas holiday season.

If New Democrat MP Sheila Malcolmson resigns her British Columbia seat of Nanaimo-Ladysmith by the new year, Trudeau could call that byelection at the same time.

Malcolmson, who is making a leap to provincial politics, has announced her intention to resign once a byelection is officially called in the provincial riding of Nanaimo. The current MLA, Leonard Krog, was elected mayor of Nanaimo last month but has not yet resigned his legislature seat.

If Malcolmson doesn’t quit her federal seat until later in January, Nanaimo-Ladysmith could wind up in the same boat as Di Iorio’s riding of Saint-Leonard—Saint-Michel, without an MP until the Oct. 21 general election.

Bill C-76, which the government hopes will be passed by the end of this year, would forbid the prime minister to call a byelection within nine months of the day fixed for a general election, making Jan. 20 the last day byelections could be called.

RELATED: One year to election: Trudeau Liberals gear up for tussles on climate, premiers

Singh has struggled to find his groove since winning the NDP leadership a year ago and the party’s fundraising and polling numbers have dropped. New Democrats are hoping he can turn that around by winning a seat in the House of Commons and they suspect Trudeau has delayed calling the Burnaby South byelection to deprive Singh of greater visibility.

However, Liberals seem more concerned that Singh could lose the byelection, prompting the NDP to dump him and choose a potentially more appealing leader before next fall’s general election.

After weeks of debate in Trudeau’s inner circle, insiders say the prime minister has decided the Liberals will run a candidate against Singh, rather than stand aside to give him a better shot at victory. They say the decision is based on the wishes of grassroots Liberals in B.C., who have been nearly unanimous in wanting to put up a fight in Burnaby South.

The Canadian Press

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