Federal byelection call expected next year
OTTAWA — NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh learned he’ll get his chance in early February to win a British Columbia seat in the House of Commons – just as a friendlier riding on his home turf of Brampton, Ont., became available.
Liberal Raj Grewal announced Thursday that he is resigning as MP for Brampton East for unspecified “personal and medical reasons.” Party whip Mark Holland said Grewal’s resignation is effective immediately.
The surprise news dropped just as Liberal insiders were confirming that early in the new year Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will call three byelections – including in Burnaby South, where Singh has already been nominated to run – for early February.
Brampton East could now very well be added to the roster.
Trudeau could also schedule one more byelection in B.C. for the same date. A sixth 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 scheduled for next October.
When Singh was first chosen as NDP leader last fall, he said he’d like to run federally in Brampton East, the riding he had represented for six years in the Ontario legislature and which is now represented by his brother, Gurratan.
He initially intended to wait until the general election to seek a Commons seat but came under intense pressure to get into the House sooner after getting off to shaky start as leader. He announced in August that he would run in Burnaby South, where NDP MP Kennedy Stewart had announced his intention to resign and run for mayor of Vancouver.
Singh was nominated as the NDP candidate for Burnaby South in mid-September, for whenever the byelection comes.
Singh faces a much stiffer fight in the B.C. riding, where Stewart took just 547 more votes than the Liberal contender in 2015, than he would in his hometown of Brampton. Indeed, Liberals are privately concerned that Singh could lose the Burnaby South 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 standing aside to give him a better shot. 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.
A spokesperson for Singh did not immediately respond to a question about whether the leader might consider giving up on Burnaby South and running in Brampton East instead.
Switching would not be without consequences for Singh, who has gone out of his way to assure Burnaby voters that he’s not a political tourist. He’s said he and his wife intend to live in the riding and that he’ll run there in the general election as well.
“I am all in on Burnaby,” he said in August.
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 Burnaby South, the Montreal riding of Outremont and the Ontario riding of York-Simcoe vacant.
At the time, Trudeau argued that the other three had only recently been vacated, whereas LeedsGrenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes had been without an MP for almost six months.
Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh thanks people following a press conference in Toronto on Thursday. Singh will be seeking election in Burnaby South during a byelection next year.