Politics

Jagmeet Singh backs off punishment of senior MP after internal rebuke

After facing a rebuke from senior New Democrat MPs, party leader Jagmeet Singh has backed away from a punishment he levied against his party’s former deputy leader.

'I have decided David will return to his role as vice-chair of the procedure and House affairs committee'

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh backed off his punishment for NDP MP David Christopherson and restored the Hamilton Centre MP to his role as vice chair of the procedures and House affairs committee. (CBC News)

After facing a rebuke from senior New Democrat MPs, party leader Jagmeet Singh has backed away from a punishment he levied against his party's former deputy leader.

Singh removed Hamilton Centre MP David Christopherson from his role as vice-chair of a powerful parliamentary committee when the MP supported a Conservative motion protesting the Liberal government's changes to the summer job program.

"I have had several productive conversations with David Christopherson and various members of the caucus. Upon reflection, I have decided David will return to his role as vice-chair of the procedure and House affairs committee," Singh said in a statement.

"This issue surrounding the government's changes to the Canada Summer Jobs program and the resulting debate has been contentious and unfortunately it evolved beyond the contents of the recent motion raising legitimate concerns about its impacts."

Singh went on to say that his "approach" is to "encourage feedback" rather than "disregard voices with varying viewpoints."

Last week, Christopherson voted to support a Conservative motion protesting a move by the Liberals to compel any organization applying for funding under the Summer Jobs Program to sign a declaration affirming that their core work respects women's rights, including reproductive rights.

That declaration has been the subject of much controversy, with critics accusing the Liberals of imposing a values test on Canadians when they should be free to access federal services and funding regardless of their personal beliefs on abortion.

A harsh punishment

Christopherson was the only NDP MP to vote with the Conservatives. He was joined by Liberal MP Scott Simms and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, who said the government's policy went too far.

Christopherson's defiance and subsequent punishment by Singh prompted NDP MPs Charlie Angus and Romeo Saganash to speak out against the decision. In interviews with the Globe and Mail, the pair described the move as unfair and overly harsh.

Saganash described the punishment as "regrettable" and "unfortunate." Angus said the decision should be reversed immediately.

"People are really stunned, because they don't understand what the political agenda is by publicly attacking such a senior member of caucus," Angus said.

A strong leader

Facing public criticism from within his own caucus, Singh folded his cards Tuesday — a move that appeared to please Christopherson, who released a supportive statement shortly after Singh issued his.

"Over the last several days, Jagmeet and I have had in-depth conversations addressing all aspects of this issue," Christopherson said.

"Through this process I believe Jagmeet has shown himself to be a strong Leader, willing to listen to all viewpoints and come to a fair resolution. I have complete trust in his leadership."

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