Fed­eral by­elec­tion call ex­pected next year

The Prince George Citizen - - News - Joan BRYDEN

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.

CP PHOTO

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.

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